Dear Lonely Mom of an Only Child,
I see you working twice as hard to keep your child’s busy mind occupied and challenged. Your partner works full time, so you take the weight of it all, not having nearby family or another child to help with the teaching or playing.
I see you take long strolls down the aisle at Target to help pass the hours. Often, you find long ways there and leave early just to get out of the house. You would do anything to move the time along until you don’t have to do it alone anymore.
I see you, still new to this game. Some of the challenge is just the practical new mom difficulty like being inexperienced and young. It’s the internal chaos that you’re doing this with unsplit time. Some of the heartache is that you can’t or won’t have the chance to raise a baby a second time, so you’ll never really be experienced in any age of raising a child.
So, you feel immense pressure to do it perfectly this time.
I see your child struggle to reach a compromise or diffuse a situation. Their only regular practice is with you. Just you and baby every day, all day. You count their frustrations when they don’t know how to share their toys, their feelings, or, God forbid, their mama. The number is infinite.
I share your fear that our children won’t be prepared for the realness of emotions and the challenges of a social setting; they haven’t had much firsthand practice. For a lot of us, our first crash course in social dynamics comes from growing up with siblings. It also seems that some of our strongest and most reliable techniques as parents come from refereeing those experiences.
I see you when you’re leaving the park with your screaming toddler, who doesn’t want to go because there is “no one to play with at home.” You walk to the car anyway with a stiff-legged doppelganger in tow and dodge judging gazes of moms who can afford a minute to stare while their children play together.
You scroll through photos of your friends’ children running together in the backyard. They don’t even have to leave the house to play. I know you wish your child could laugh happily with a built-in best friend, too. You work double time, so you can give them that on top of being their mom.
I see your puzzled looks when your kid asks you about siblings, wondering, “Why don’t I have one, Mommy?” I watch you grow a little smaller, maybe wishing they could have that, too, whether in another season, or for some of you, maybe a different lifetime.
A three-hour round trip to your kid’s closest cousin’s birthday party gives you a lot of time to think about the people your kids are growing up without.
You shrink when people say, “They’re ready for a sibling” or “Just wait until there’s two of them! That’s when it gets hard.” They may not even consider what your timeline entails or what stands in your way. I get just a little smaller too, sister.
I see you slink down when hard working moms of multiple children receive your feelings as insignificant. You have “just” one child, and you “just” can’t hang. So, you begin to feel that way: like you’re not significant. It can feel like the magnitude of your child’s life and the magnitude of yours is lessened because there is “just” one.
But, how you feel matters. You are not less. Almost every mom started with just one.
Some day, your child may not be your only, but this season they are. In this season, there is less laundry and fewer dirty dishes. There is much more time to cut the grapes in half and more one-on-one cuddles.
More quality time together will be had, discovering the nuances of this perfect person you created. In this version of your story, your child gets 100% of you, 100% of the time. And you get all of them, too. As moms, we get to learn more about ourselves throughout motherhood, and the resilience that we come with. In this chapter, there is more physical time and space.
Sure, we have to leave the house a lot more than if our children had built-in-buddies, but we get to go on adventures, enjoy live music, and have on-going momentum to leave or get outside…even when it’s easier to stay.
We can pull up to an event, and it only takes just one second to get out of the car and into the excitement. There’s just one car seat and that takes just one moment. There is nobody else to wait for, and we don’t have to slow down.
You don’t spend as much money on yummy treats or spend twice as much at Christmas time. There’s more routine, and with that, more consistent family traditions and scheduling. You only have to keep your eyes on one human in the chaos of life, and you can bet, it’s all eyes on them. All the time.
When you’re caught in defense of raising “just” one child, just know that they won’t be a child for long. As you teach them and grow with them through these first short years, you’ll learn that these first short years are “just” a season.
To the lonely mother of an only child, I’m in your corner. I know it’s just as hard for you as it is, and was, for every mom. Some day, this unsplit time becomes divided with independence, other children, and life’s experiences, and as parents, we’ll wish we could get it back. It won’t be like this for long.
I can hear you, and I promise, I can definitely see you.
Love, a Happy Mom of One