Bracing myself, I paste on a smile and try to think of what to say as the question is asked. The inevitable one which rears up like a two headed snake whenever the conversation turns to kids and I say that I have one. Or, as it's commonly commented on "only one." Normally asked in public of course, or, in front of a group, for maximum awkwardness.....
"So, when are you having another" asks the woman. This one's had a few glasses, too, so it's followed up by "you can't just have one."
It's always a woman. Normally one who has grown up kids and has, I think, forgotten what hard work it can sometimes seem to be to have a child now that those busy years of being constantly needed are behind her.
And, I know, sometimes people don't mean anything by it...maybe they are just trying to be friendly, make conversation, break the ice.
If I had a pound for every time this question has been asked, I wouldn't be driving around in a second hand Peugeot estate, I'll tell you that much.
I never know what to say. So, I politely end up justifying my whole life, often to someone who I wouldn't consider myself to be close to. Then afterwards I feel frustrated with myself for being like that, just to be polite. After all, I wouldn't tell someone I didn't like their outfit, or that they looked awful. It's just too personal, isn't it?
So, why don't I want another child? (At the moment) . I'll come to that later. But firstly, can we talk about rudeness? Or more precisely, why do you think it's okay to ask? Why do we feel need to offer comment at all? On anything? Not just kids.
I've been guilty of it myself. I once saw a guy I know at our local swimming pool with his brood of three energetic kids. It was post swim and instead of carrying 3 bags filled with arm bands and sodden towels, he was lugging a gigantic plastic basket.
We exchanged greetings, and he and the kids headed out. "Wow" I said as he walked out. I really don't know how you do it with three." What a bloody stupid thing to say, looking back. What I meant was, I think you're fantastic. You're doing a great job. You've got it all together.
But, let's face it. Did he really need to hear it? How many times had he heard it before? He knows he's busy with 3 kids. He doesn't need reminding. And neither do any of my friends with three kids, or two kids, or four kids or five kids, or no kids. It's none of my business. What they might like is a positive comment. Or not to talk about it at all.Imagine if we all did that in support of each other's choices. Wow.
My point is, being blunt, that we have no right to make comments to other people about subjects which may be sensitive. Routinely, people don't ask me what I earn, what my house is worth or what savings I have, but my own experience is that when it comes to kids, all bets are off. Manners can go out of the window. And above all, you could really, really hurt someone's feelings.
Here's the thing. That woman you are quizzing about having no kids, one kid, two kids, three kids.....you get the idea. Maybe she has one longed for child and would dearly love another, maybe she's endured rounds of emotionally draining Ivf to get her adored baby. Maybe she can't have more. Maybe she has had miscarriages or endured the pain of a stillbirth which she hides behind a smile while bringing up her child or children. Maybe she's put her dreams on hold to care for a seriously ill family member.
Perhaps she has two kids and would love more. Maybe she has none and loves the freedom of that life. Yes! Not everyone wants kids!
And maybe she has none and yearns to be a mum more than anything. Maybe she can't afford to have kids, maybe she has many and worries herself sick every night about how to feed and clothe them. Maybe she's unexpectedly pregnant again and secretly isn't glowing and thrilled. Or maybe she is. The whole point is, we don't know what is going on in someone else's world. So we shouldn't try to guess (and potentially wound) with heavy, clumsy words.
I was shocked once by a story a pregnant friend told me. She already had an eighteen month old daughter and was happily expecting her second. When I congratulated her I was amazed that not everyone had been so positive. In fact, friends who had been pregnant at the same time as her with their first had been downright rude. "Rather you than me" said one. "You must be mad having them so close together" said another.
Fucking hell. Just say congratulations. Or "I'm so pleased for you." It's so easy. Imagine if we all did that every time some one had some great news. The world could be bathed in kindness.
Before I go any further I want to be clear that this post isn't about the fact that I think people with more than one child need to defend that decision, just as I shouldn't need to defend mine, that at the minute, in my gut and and in my heart, one child feels right. She's enough for me. My heart and life is filled with love for her. All I can say is that I don't feel a need, or a longing (at the moment) to do it again . And I'm equally supportive of people who want to have as many - or as few - children as they want.
I'm lucky enough to have good friends with more than one child who have told me that honestly, sometimes having more than one child is double the work. Yes, it's amazing, but it's tough. I just don't see a way, at the moment, in my life, to make two children work. In truth, the idea leaves me feeling slightly panicked.
That's what I tell people when they ask. "You can't just have one" said one woman, when I told her that I was happy with my one lovely girl. But I can. And, I will. Because for me, at the moment, one is enough. And whatever your enough is, I celebrate it with you. Enjoy it, it's fantastic. And it's your business.