We’ve heard it. Probably at some point said it. “She’s an only child,” followed by some comment on a child being poorly adjusted. Selfish. Unable to cope in social settings.
Can we remove this shaming from our vocabularies? I’m wholeheartedly over the mess it stirs up.
We have all heard the stereotypes: the leader firstborn, the poor misunderstood middle child, the freespirited baby. Then, in a category all their own: Only Children.
We have set them aside as tyrants when their coping doesn’t meet our needs. Being an only child is not a life sentence. What matters more: healthy attachment, boundaries, ACES. How my child experiences the relationships with the people who love him matters far more than how many sibs he’s got. Just cause you have sibs, doesn’t mean they like you.
The truth is... the topic of Only Children weighs heavily on their parents. So many times have I heard parents say “He deserved a sibling,” or how “they’d have had a whole bunch if they could.” I’ve seen parents’ pain as they describe the shadowed place for the child they lost. There are so many circumstances.
Having postpartum, I couldn’t go sleepless again with another baby after my son was born. We always thought the time would come and we’d make this call. Now, as bodies do, mine may have other plans about feasibility. We don’t know how this will end. What I do know is that my child has been in daycare since he was one, and attends an excellent pre-school. He’s done music, piano, swimming, skating, and art classes. He’s had tons of age appropriate activities to socialize him. Please watch your judgments on having just one child. I assure you, the parents of an only child have been holding this weight on themselves without hearing these comments on the regular. The pressures. To set their child up for success. Your comments are loud in our ears.
Also: fuck the judgement. If I choose to just have one kid because that’s what’s best for us, judgment can bugger off. Daycare is costly. Bouncing kids around is a lot of work. It’s ok that we chose to not add more expenses and chaos to our worlds. Some people don’t want more than one. Some people can’t have more than one. So let’s get off our judgement horses when it comes to Only Children. Graceful dismount please.
How does it feel to the pre-teen girl when she hears comments about being an only child? Does she feel like she’s enough to her parents? She remembers asking for a sibling growing up. That’s a whole other post. Enoughness.
I raise a glass to all the families who are One and Done. By choice, by biology, by circumstance. Slainte.
Also: See the photo above of my poor, deprived only child? It's a helluva lot cheaper to bring one kid to Ripley's. Point.
My recipe for overnight oats has been requested by a few, so I’m sharing here. It’s perfect for new parents as it’s portable, watertight for the diaper bag, and saves time as you make a bunch at once. They’re delicious cold, though you can heat them with the lid off. Oats are great galactagogues to bring on more milk. Chia seeds are a healthy source of fat and fibre. Great for postpartum poops! After a baby arrives, lots of friends and family well meaningfully bring lasagne and dinner food. Breakfast is forgotten. New parents need fuel.
They’re good in the fridge for 5-7 days.
When I make for clients I ask their dairy preferences in advance. I prefer sugar-free vanilla almond milk.
I like using blueberries (aka: bluebs at our house) as they keep the best in the fridge when there is liquid involved. Any berries will do.
I prefer to use mason jars to make them in. They store and stack well in the fridge and they’re watertight. Buy a bunch at the end of canning season, or grab them from Canadian Tire/Grocery Store. They also do well to keep the nuts crunchy. That’s where it’s at!
1/3 cup steel cut oats
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/3 cup milk or milk alternative
2 heaping tbsp Greek yogurt. Any flavour.
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup of chopped berries or whole bluebs.
1/4 cup nuts
Top with shredded coconut if you desire.
Optional: add 2tbsp hemp hearts after the chia for more protein.
Realistically, simply you can just layer the ingredients. Starting with the oats, ending with the nuts.
What I have found that if you quickly stir the chia into the oats, the whole bottom layer hydrates better and you don’t get a big layer of chia with dry oats. Mix-er Up! Or don’t, and live life on the edge.
Mixing the maple syrup into the milk before pouring also makes a difference for uniform sweetness. When measuring maple syrup, spray your spoon with cooking spray first so it doesn’t stick . Or just pour from the bottle. Whatever. Pick your level of commitment. Choose your own adventure.
The oats soften overnight.
Try it and let me know how they turn out!
I'm not trying to nag him or tell him how to parent. I have to ask.
Did he poop today? Maybe he needs some more prune juice. Do we even have any?
How long did he nap for? Maybe going to bed early would be helpful.
Did you put the Vaseline on his face before bed? He's been so chapped. The wind is so cold. Did his snow pants come home from daycare?
How did bedtime go? What was his day like? Any peer stuff?
These are the questions I ask almost every day. I ask and wait for the eyebrow raises, and sometimes huffs and glares. I can't help it. I have to ask. I've tried not asking. Not possible.
The truth is, it's not that I don't think my partner isn't doing an amazing job with all of the in and outs of handling the day. I know he's amazing. Our child is happy, well fed, and his needs are managed.
This is about MomGuilt.
These questions and their answers are how I stay connected, involved and sometimes, express my guilt of working as much as I do. I work full time at a day job that takes me out of the house two nights a week, and one weekend a month. I also have my own business as a birth and postpartum doula. I LOVE what I do. With my whole heart. But ...I'm gone. Lately, a lot. It hurts my heart to be missing so much. I need to know if there are any bits of the day he's struggling with. And I need to say my two cents. In my guilt ridden brain, this is how I can contribute to my son's well-being when I'm not around. I need to hear about the little comments, quirky faces, statements he makes, and what cute things he said at bedtime. It helps me feel like I'm not missing so much. It's already like I'm missing my arm. I feel insurmountable guilt some days for wanting to build a business while I work full time. I LOVE my work. I'm kind of a workaholic. *cough* Ok, I am. My home time with him is precious. Though I admit, some days I struggle with connecting with him while I'm low on energy. I tend to want to cook with him, do crafts, paint, make airplanes. Watch a show. His Dad does the chasing, rolling, physical play. He loves it so much. Sometimes, I can't play at all.
"Play with me, mama!"
"We are playing, we just made airplanes and painted!"
"But we aren't playing!"
"Mama can't chase just now buddy, but we can do floor stuff."
"But, I wanna playyyyyy."
Do I feel as if I have something to prove? Is this about gender roles? Feeling like I SHOULD be the one at home with our child? Not in my husband's eyes. Maybe in the back of mine. Archaic. Chances are it comes back to feeling shame. Doesn't it always? Shame that I'm not the most connected human to our child in every phase? Shame that I can't do it all. If I can't contribute through "reminders" aka: nagging, I'm not contributing. In my head, I might not be needed.
I'm trying to do more focused connectivity with him. Of course I feel guilty when I can't. There are folks wiser than me who have written great things about intentional connections. Hygge time. Distraction free breakfasts. I'll say that adding another responsibility to parent in a certain way seems like another thing to feel guilty over right now. If you're like me on this one, I need to tell you that it's ok to just get through if everyone is safe. It's o.k that not every moment is flippin' magical. It's ok that your partner is holding down the fort so you can do what you need to do. If everyone is emotionally and physically safe, everyone will be ok. It's also perfectly ok if you need to ask a billion questions to quell your anxieties about your kids' day. At least these are things I'm telling myself.
Final note on Bedtime last night:
A: "Mama! I need you to come back to snuggle me!" (Heard over the "momitor.")
Me: "I'm here buddy," Crawling around the bedrails.
A: "Mama is for snuggling." Sweet boy. Sigh.
Me: "Right you are! Mama is doing the snuggling tonight, and Dada did the playing."
A: "Mama does the playing too, just different kinds." Oh love. You did hear me.
This morning at pre-school to his teacher after our "Mommy Morning."
A: "I was being so silly with my Mom."
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.