one and done

How I Decided I’m Done Having Kids

Photo: Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot: Am I going to have a second child? Deciding to have my daughter — my first child — wasn’t exactly easy, but it wasn’t hard either: I put it off until I didn’t, and then, about a year later, we had a baby. But it’s fair to begin any discussion of my reproductive state of mind by admitting that I wasn’t in a big rush to become a mother.

But my lack of urgency doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy motherhood once it happened. It was, in fact, everything everyone says about it and more. Which isn’t to say it’s easy: No, everything about motherhood, the “most important job in the world,” must be fully caveated. It’s really hard sometimes! In fact, it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done, because I care more about the kind of job I’m doing than I ever have before.

But I’m about 99 percent certain that this is it for me: I have decided that I don’t want to have more children. I’m not 40 yet, but I’m close, and I have worked very hard at having a good career and also a strong, vibrant relationship with my daughter. We spend all of our free time together. I’m here in the morning to take her to school, and home every night to put her to bed. I spend almost every waking hour of every weekend with her. She is amazing, and only getting more so with each passing day. Now that she can speak in full, original sentences, she is also quite a companion. She is funny and entertaining, and the three of us — my husband/her father, Zelda, and I — are very happy together.

So why not add another, one might ask? Let me tell you, because I’ve thought about this a lot.

And the answer, like all of these answers, is quite personal. There’s the selfish reason: I was 36 when my daughter was born, and I did take off the greater part of her first year to be with her. I wouldn’t say she hurt my career, though she certainly changed it: I write about motherhood almost exclusively now, something that obviously never would have happened without her. I work exclusively from home — a mixed blessing if you’ve never done it. But I did lose time, and a lot of me doesn’t want to lose it again in the process of having another child.

More important, though, my daughter is more than I could have hoped for in a child: She was an easy and wonderful baby and is a warm, intelligent, and hilarious child. Why ask for more? Isn’t it okay, sometimes, to be happy with what we’ve got? As time wears on, I convince myself that my answer, I’m almost certain, is yes.

And finally, I must admit that having a child was hard on my marriage, and that only around the two-year mark did it rebound. Having a small child is exhausting for two people who also have careers — any parent can tell you this. But I know that for us, it took a long time to find space for our relationship, for discussions other than ones about our daughter that sometimes resolved in an argument because the stakes seemed too high. Going back — even if the second time might be easier — doesn’t sound like fun to me now that we’re in a good place. And it doesn’t seem like it would be good for the three of us who already exist, either.

In other words: I’m happy. I’m happy with my kid, my career, my marriage. Actually, I’m probably happier than I have been at any time in my adult life.

Those are the reasons. But saying I don’t want another child isn’t the same thing as saying I haven’t enjoyed the first one. And though of course one shouldn’t follow from the other, I have found that saying out loud, “I’m good, I don’t think I’ll have another,” usually must be followed by assurances that I really have enjoyed the complex, exhausting journey of the first.

“Motherhood not for you?” a friend — who doesn’t have any kids at all — said to me when I told her I thought I was likely finished. “No! I love it,” I said. “I just think I’m good with the one.”

What is it about single children that we find disconcerting? I don’t know. I love having just the one to spend my time and attention on. I can’t imagine having less time with her because a new baby arrived. Even thinking about it makes me sad. And sure, maybe that’s selfish: Maybe it would even be good for her to get less of me. I get that: I am a second child of four. I never got my mother all to myself except on the rarest of occasions, and I remember those times like they were weddings or holidays. And for all that, I think it did me some good: I don’t want to raise a spoiled, coddled child.

But if what we mean by saying a child is spoiled is that they get too much attention from their parents, then so be it: I guess my daughter, who is and always will be my No. 1, will be spoiled. I accept it, even as I accept that I am a strict and sometimes bossy parent. I’m doing the absolute best that I can, and she is already proving herself to be strong, independent, and anything but coddled.

Yes, I’m done having kids. And no, it’s not because the first one is bad. It’s because she’s too good, if anything. She has spoiled me. And we’re happy with it.

How I Decided I’m Done Having Kids