There are topics we’re meant to avoid in polite company: politics, religion, money — and it might be time to add one more: when the next kid is coming.
Parents of only children will tell you plenty of people haven’t gotten the memo. They’re inundated with opinions. Strangers tell them their child will miss out. Friends say their kids will have difficulty coping. Family members share their worries about children being indulged. Lots of opinions, not a lot of substance.
Tips with facing so many opinions
So how do you deal with these judgments and questions? We have some ideas:
No one knows what your family needs more than you. “You can listen to people, and it’s OK to take what they have to say into consideration, but really deep down in your heart and your gut, you know what’s best for your family,” explains Jen, an only child parenting an only child. Trust what you know is right for you and stand tall.
Keep it simple
Sometimes less is more. If you don’t want to explain yourself, tell questioning strangers and loved ones, “Our family is complete,” as Ann, a mom to one, does. This straightforward way to tighten up unwanted questions will send the message that there isn’t anything left to discuss.
There are a multitude of reasons a family may have only one child — and the people asking questions about it might not realize this depth. If you have the capacity, feel free to share your story, or the general stories of others. You could help them understand the deep consideration, personal circumstances or medical issues that shape family sizes.
Follow the light
If you’d prefer to not get into the serious subjects behind your choices, you can always try for a laugh. Jen sometimes tells inquiring minds, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It implies you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it well — but without the tension of saying just that.
Remember that you don’t need all the right answers — or to answer at all. “No one owes anyone an explanation when it comes to bringing another human being into this world,” says Megan, an only child whose mother went through nearly a decade of IVF for a second child. Say what you wish and keep quiet about what you’d rather not.
Try for adults-only
This might not be a conversation you want to have in front of your child, so don’t be afraid to shut it down if it does. If you want to explain more, it’s perfectly OK to move the discussion to another spot. Or just use your kid as an excuse to avoid the topic entirely — just as you do when you want to leave a party early.
If you encounter a particularly pushy interrogator, you can pull out some research on how only children are faring. Counter their assumptions with details on the rise in families with only children, the educational success these children have found, and the data on whether only children are well-adjusted. (Spoiler: It depends on their parents, not their number of siblings.)
Find a crew
It’s tough to feel like you’re alone in defending your family. Finding other parents of only children can give you the boost you need to fearlessly tackle questions that might come your way. If there aren’t any local parent or play groups around, you can find plenty of one-child parents — and support — in virtual spots like Instagram.
Of the pressure, that is. People have a lot to say about other people’s parenting, but that doesn’t mean you need to take any of it to heart. “Listen to yourself first and know your limits and capabilities,” says Jasmine, mother to an only child and a postpartum depression survivor. “Raising a human is a huge undertaking and there’s a lot to consider.”
If you find the need to explain yourself, go ahead. When faced with rude commentors, Brittany, mom of one, says, “I had to go through years of fertility treatments to have my son. Not everyone can choose how many kids they have.” A refreshingly transparent response can be a great way to navigate a combative conversation.
How to tell someone to mind their own business
Unfortunately, there aren’t a million ways to kindly say “mind your own business.” Still, there are decent options. Here are some tried-and-true methods:
Shut it down
There’s a beauty in being blunt. Explain that this isn’t something you want to discuss. Tell them you’d rather chat about the weather than the size of your family. Say you’d really prefer to eat your burrito in silence. Bonus points for locking in your “don’t mess with me” eyes while you respond.
Smile and nod
This might be a good time for a slight head cock and little grin. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish with just the right look. If keeping still isn’t your style, just grin big and nod your head. Ann, mom to one, often cheerfully replies, “Yep, one and done!” Eventually, they’ll stop talking.
Question the question
Go ahead and throw this one back their way. Sweetly press them about why they think little Franklin needs a sibling. Or do they see some hidden issues with Susie that they believe are linked to her not having a sister? Bat that ball back at them and see how they hit it.
Bring out the data
I know we said that it wasn’t about justification, but the pressure might make you want to throw down some knowledge. Tell them about the link between family size and educational success — and explain that the direction of that graph shines a beacon on kids without siblings. Share how only children have been found to have higher IQs than those with multiple siblings. You shouldn’t need to pull out these facts, but they can’t hurt the cause.
Make them laugh
There are few awkward social situations that can’t be resolved with a good laugh. Explain that your lifetime diaper budget was blown on the baby you have. Say that your kid’s imaginary brother is really high maintenance. Clarify that your playdate group already has a waitlist. Make them chuckle and then move it along.
If you really feel like someone is interested or willing to have a discussion, you can share your story. “I usually tell people I waited so long for (my son), right now I want to focus my time with just him,” says Brittany, a mom to one who wants anyone asking to know that not everyone can choose how many kids they have. Once you get real, they’ll probably soften.
These questions might not end — even if parents wish they would. “As a rule, maybe society should just stop asking about things that aren’t their business,” says Jasmine, detailing why she takes these questions seriously. Still, you can be better armed to tackle them. And, just maybe, your responses can encourage a revamp of the list of unacceptable dinner party topics: politics, religion, and now … when the next kid is coming.
Note: Last names were not used at the moms’ request.
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.