By: Amiee Cantrell-Webb, Contributor
It's sad but true that we have become a society full of shamers. We shame people over their political choices. We shame people over their religion, or lack thereof. We slut shame. We shame women if they breastfeed in public. We shame women if they don’t want to breastfeed.
But lately I have noticed a whole new shame game: womb shaming.
I am not sure when it happened, but our society has taken it upon themselves to become the procreation police. In doing so, we've decided that A) women need at least one child; B) women with one child need another; but C) parents shouldn’t have too many kids.
As the mother to an only child, I not only feel it is odd when people tell me I “need” another kid, but I also find it intrusive. Trust me when I say – there is no better judge of what my uterus and sanity can handle than ME.
You see, I made a conscientious, educated choice. After one miscarriage and then a horrific pregnancy, I chose to say that one is enough for me. I shouldn’t be shamed into pleading my case to people who “think” I need another.
Just a few weeks ago I was in the grocery store and this sweet old lady I had never met told me how cute my son was. She then asked, “Is he your only one?” I smiled and said yes, and she smiled back and said, “Well, you better give that boy a sibling. You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
Yep, I am aware, but I am perfectly content where I am.
I have also had people tell me (I am not joking) that I need at least two kids so my son will have help if I am ever sick or crazy in my old age. But lets face it: I could have five children and still end up with a scenario where none will want to take care of their mother in her old age.
But that's not where it ends. A reverse shaming also happens to people with multiple kids or no kids at all. A friend of mine who has several children tells me that people (many of whom aren’t friends of the family) often say, “You aren’t going to have anymore, are you?” or “You know how babies are made, don’t you?” And childless women are constantly subjected to “Are you ever going to have a baby?” or “When are you going to make your mom a grandma?”
My pregnancy was a legitimate nightmare. I had low odds for a successful pregnancy. I spent over four months on bed rest. I had two surgical procedures. I spent three weeks in a hospital, and eventually gave birth six weeks early. Yet, people still lightheartedly joke around about how my son needs a sibling. I always have a sense of humor about it, but I assure each one of them that after the experience I had, my womb is like a University of Kentucky basketball recruit: one and done.
But even without the traumatic pregnancy, I still understand the case for having only one child.
Let’s be honest, it is expensive raising a child. Truthfully, I like that I will have to buy only one car, pay for one college education, and help pay for one wedding. I pay a fortune in medical bills on my one accident-prone kid. At Christmas I don’t have to worry about which kid feels like they got the shaft because they had less presents even though theirs cost more. It may sound weird, but I appreciate the economics of one child versus two because I am a practical gal who believes you never spend more than you have.
Emotionally, I also feel one child is enough. I don’t mind that I had to do potty training and bottle breaking only one time. I definitely don’t mind suffering through toddler tantrums only once, and I am glad I won’t have to split ballgames or recitals with my husband because we have kids in different activities at the same time.
I also love the focus having one child allows me. I can do for him without feeling guilty or feeling like I have to do something additional for the sibling. I can help him with homework or issues in his life with my undivided attention. My time is there for him, and he doesn’t have to fight anyone else for it.
I am certainly not negating the fact that siblings are great – I have one and love him more than life. But the number of kids we decide to bring into the world should be our own personal choice. It's simply not up for debate for anyone outside the immediate family.
We live in a society where everyone has an opinion on everything, but how many children a woman chooses to have should not be one of them. If you can afford and have the time for six kids, then by all means, have your own basketball team; however, if you can have or only want one, just have one! If you break the norm and don’t want children, that's ok too.
None of us should feel shame over how many kids we do or do not have- including us moms of only children. Because it truly isn’t a crime to make your child an only child. After all, sometimes the people with just one kid feel like me – lucky to even have one.
Amiee Cantrell-Webb is one of a growing number of women who waited to begin a family until after the age of 35 (she was 38 when she had her son Abe). She is a former SEC golfer who now teaches high school English and journalism in eastern Kentucky. Amiee and her husband Chad are proud parents to a feisty red-headed son, who never allows for a dull moment in their house.