This is what a mum of an 'only child' would like to tell you.

I am mum to one happy-go-lucky, funny little five-year-old boy and while my husband and I always planned to have another baby we haven’t as yet for a few reasons. I have had three miscarriages in as many years and we have also taken time-out from what became an emotional and frustrating baby-making journey.

As I approach 40 we are coming to terms with the fact that we may only ever have one son, but after our grief and our losses and so many conversations about what makes a family, we are okay with being a family of three.

While we might be okay with our small family status, having only one child invites a lot of questions and comments from friends and strangers along the lines of ‘when are you having another one?’ or ‘wouldn’t he like a sibling?’.

Today’s remark from a mother of four who I had just met might be my favourite yet, ‘well I guess you only have what you can cope with’. Yee-ouch.

In spite of their insensitivity, these comments aren’t generally meant unkindly but I am tired of explaining why I have only one child. It’s awkward and seriously, do people really want to know my personal fertility details?

Here are a few thoughts I (and maybe many other parents of single children) have that I wish I could say but don’t always feel I can…

1. We are not the ‘average family’ but we are still a family and I am still a mum

Some days I literally dread the small talk that regular school pick-ups and drop-offs brings about family life. I stand mute for what seems like hours as the mums with at least one other little person on their hips converse about how the second kid does this differently or how it so much harder when number two comes along.

Author, Laura Jackel. Image supplied.

I feel like an impostor in my gym gear or heels and handbag with two free hands as toby trots off to class. I ‘mmm’ and ‘ohhhh’ along sympathetically in conversations about sibling fights or bed swapping with kids in the night but I feel that as a mother to only one child, my stories or experiences are considered lesser. I am not as tired or as stressed as a mother to multiple children (which is probably true depending on the day!) And so I don’t feel like a fully paid up member of the ‘mum gang’ and it can feel lonely.

Over the years I have got used to just letting these conversations wash over me, knowing that no malice is meant, but a dash of sensitivity from my fellow parents is always appreciated. I also tend to gravitate towards other single child families purely for the reason we don’t have to explain ourselves to each other.

2. Just because we have one child, we are not unhappy or selfish!

Of course I feel sad about Toby not having a sibling, but I resent the fact my family is seen as 'unfinished' because we ‘only’ have one child or that it was a decision made because we are selfish, lazy or just couldn’t ‘cope’ with any more.

I have many friends who have one child for lots of reasons, some because of fertility issues, miscarriages, some because of financial choice, some because they literally just wanted only one. Whatever the reasons, it is personal and shouldn’t require explanation.

While we always wanted two kids, having one has in lots of ways been unexpectedly fun. Toby and I have travelled all over the world, he's flown to the UK every year since we had him and he's had lots of adventures here in Australia that we couldn't have afforded or managed with more kids in tow.

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I love the precious one-on-one time I get with him, we talk a lot and go on ‘adventure walks’ and I have loved getting to know him as a person. He is a good kid with plenty of feist and attitude but from what I can see he is no more spoilt than any other five year old I know.

I also really appreciate the low stress bedtimes/breakfast times that I know are much more challenging when you add in more kids and a dash of sibling rivalry to the mix.

Having one child also means I have more time for my work, hanging with my husband and my hobbies, and I am grateful that I can have the time to be a mum but also just to be myself.

3. Trying is trying and one day we will stop.

While we will carry on trying for our elusive baby number two a little longer, age is not on my side and miscarriage is not something I want to deal with time and time again – there will be a time to draw the line.

I also don't want to spend the next five years counting my monthly cycle and watching my alcohol intake and only having sex on certain days. It is a stressful and emotional rollercoaster of hope, fear, elation and crushing disappointment.

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I hope one day when he is grown up, Toby will understand that our baby-making journey was a complicated one, and if we don’t successfully conceive again, it was because it just wasn’t meant to be.

Whether or not we have any more children is no one else’s business and how and when we decide to stop trying will be up to us.

We might ‘only’ have one child and while sometimes I wish it were different, ultimately we feel really lucky just to have him.

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