Owning My “Only Child Mom” Title :: Breaking Up with the Word “Just”

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only child mom - Boston Moms

I am an only child parent.

This was not a decision I took lightly, and there were many factors involved in coming to it — financial, environmental, and personal. 

I do not believe in or buy into the stereotypes of only children — that they’re bossy, lonely, spoiled, selfish, etc. I know plenty of people with siblings who fit those descriptions. And some of my favorite people are or have been only children (Betty White, Carol Burnett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hans Christian Anderson, my cousin, and James Dean, just to name a few). I should wear this only child status like a badge of honor. So why is it so hard for me to do that sometimes?

I recently took a virtual writing workshop, where the subject of balancing writing and parenting came up. As it turned out, all of us in the room happened to be parents. When I was asked about how many children I have, I responded without really thinking too much about it: “I just have one.” But internally, I regretted using that word.

“Just” is not a bad word.

It’s a perfectly fine, multi-use adverb and adjective. But there’s something very passive about it — which is why I have stopped using it in professional emails. “Just reaching out about this” implies, “Sorry to bother you, but could you please get back to me about this.” But the truth is, I’m not sorry. If I’m awaiting review and under a deadline, it’s part of my job to send out reminders that it needs to get done. I feel more assertive by instead saying, “This is due in a couple of days. Can you please review by the end of the day?”

At some point, I realized I need to apply that workplace assertion into my mom life as well. Some of the definitions for just include “by a narrow margin; barely” and “merely.” That is certainly not what I meant when I said I had “just one” child. I meant “exactly or precisely.” Just one, with the subtext “and that’s what I want.” However, there is always a fear that saying “just one” can be interpreted as the former and not the latter.

Like all types of parenting, having an only child is not without its issues. There are the only child stereotypes we have to work against. There are the questions and comments we get about having more kids. So the least I can for myself is to own my only child parent status. And that’s what I’m going to do.

“I have one.”

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