I love my daughter. I love her more than anything in the whole world. I love her warm breath and sticky little fingers. When we are eating dinner, she often smiles across the table and says “I love you so much, mama.” When she was a newborn, I would put her in the wrap, turn on Iron & Wine, and dance all around our kitchen. It was heaven. For me, being a mom exceeded my expectations in terms of fun and fulfillment.

I love being this girl’s mom, and I also do not want to have any more kids.

Choosing to be a one child family is rising in popularity for city-dwelling couples, and yet it is rarely talked about. The most common response I get when I tell someone that I am only planning to have one is “You will change your mind!” I’m only 30 and won’t rule out the possibility that 40-year-old me will choose another option, but I feel secure that we are a one child family. I want to tell you why.

When I was pregnant, there was an onslaught of excitement. Friends and co-workers were beside themselves. I was too! I have always wanted to have kids, and my husband was beyond stoked for fatherhood. I was struck though that other milestones in my life—buying a house, finishing my counseling license—were barely acknowledged by these people. Our society has conditioned us to make motherhood the end all and be all for women. Other paths often lack the celebratory following that pregnancy brings. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that if she decides to become a mom, that’s amazing! If she doesn’t, that’s amazing too! I want her to know that I value her place in this world as a possible mother, possible veterinarian, investment banker, chef, whatever it is that she wants. I also want her to know that she doesn’t have to choose.

I want her to know that motherhood can co-exist with ambition.

I love to work. I love having co-workers, the shared excitement over what we are doing. I love getting dressed in the morning, putting on make-up, and drinking coffee on my commute. I am passionate about counseling and mental health, and I cannot imagine not doing that. While I absolutely know that I could have another baby and go back to work, I do not want to keep stopping and starting. I want to focus on my career, and I want to live in a world where women are praised for that, not shamed or looked at as overly ambitious.

In Camille’s recent Sunday newsletter, she discussed the feeling of knowing her family was complete with her kids. This is a feeling that I relate to. Before I had my daughter, Mae, I always thought that my husband and I would have multiple children. We both love kids, love to play, and are so obsessed with our niece and nephew, that I assumed we would have at least three kids. But after Mae was born, I knew that our family was complete.

One night, when Mae was about six months old, I was day dreaming about our first family trip to Big Bend. It occurred to me that if we had more kids, these long trips that we want to take–trips through Sonoma, up the PCH, to Europe, down through Mexico–those trips could still happen, but would undoubtedly be more difficult with multiple kids. I feel confident to fly solo with Mae and to take her on road trips in a few years. When Adam and I go on trips, I feel free to ask my parents to keep Mae. With more than one kid, the ask is much greater. I am so happy that I made the choice to have one kid. The sleepless newborn days, my breastfeeding frustrations, the long days of tummy time and apple purees—I’m so thankful for every moment. But I can be thankful for every moment, and not long for those days to return. The three of us is the perfect family for me.

And lastly, a pragmatic reason why my little family has made this choice. Before having Mae, we bought a house in the Austin suburbs. It was a dream of ours to own a home, but housing costs in Austin are so exorbitant that I knew that living in Austin proper was not going to happen. After we had Mae, living in the suburbs started to make me feel isolated and claustrophobic. We sold our house in the suburbs to pay the inflated rent of a bungalow in the city. Adam and I moved to Austin, because we are crazy in love with this city. I frequently refer to Austin as my soul city. I feel a connection to it in a way I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Unfortunately, I’m not alone in that feeling, and a lot of people want to live here. Austin is quickly becoming one of the most expensive cities in the US. With my husband’s work in event production and mine in mental health, our income is never going to be exorbitant. If we ever want to own a house again and stay in the parts of town we want to live, our house will be small. Even a small, 2 bedroom house will stretch our budget. When analyzing if we wanted to have more kids, we did have to talk about the kind of life we wanted to live. We have designed a life that involves staying in the city, having careers we are passionate about, and traveling.

For us, another baby just does not factor into our design scheme, and that is okay. I am proud of us for outlining the life we want and not letting life happen to us.

I feel a certain air of disappointment in people when I talk about not having more kids. My hope is that when women talk openly about these choices, we will welcome more and more lifestyles into the mix. If you want to have 10 kids, I support you! If you want to go to med school, I support you! If you want to live off the land and take up painting, I support you! Indeed, every life is precious.

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Comments (18)
  1. 1
    Victoria Wood September 11, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing this valuable and seldom discussed perspective. Couldn’t agree more.

  2. 2
    Nalena September 11, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post! My husband and I have also decided that we are one child family for many of the reasons you outline. But whenever I share this I get the same type of reactions that you describe, I hate the feeling of having to defend our decision. I am going to make a personal commitment to also be saying more “I support you!” to those in my life.

    • Molly September 13, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      I’m so glad this resonated with you! I support you!

  3. 3
    Arisbel Almonte September 11, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Same exact thoughts!!!
    Excelente post

  4. 4
    Sarah September 12, 2020 at 10:38 am

    My husband and I have a four year old daughter. Our decision to have just one child took time and has been bittersweet but I do feel it is the right decision for us. As you express, I have loved every second of motherhood and so much of me would love to add more children to our family. Yet I also have an incredibly rewarding and challenging career that I love. I am an immigration lawyer and run a small law firm which, as you can imagine, is incredibly challenging and busy these days. I don’t want to give up my career which demands full time work and I just can’t imagine adding another child to my already very full life. It feels like I’ve finally hit my stride now that our daughter is older. With one child I feel like we have a good balance in our lives. I can have my career and also spend quality time with our daughter. And most importantly my daughter will have happy and fulfilled parents! I was talking to my therapist about the fact that our daughter won’t have a very large family and she pointed out that if our daughter desires a large family, that is a choice she can make for herself. I thought that was so wise and am more assured than ever that doing what feels balanced to me is the right decision for all of us.

    • Molly September 13, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Thank you so much for this reply — and for the important work you are doing! What wise words from your therapist. I love the idea that I am designing the world I want to live in and my daughter will get to design the world she wants to live in. Empowerment for me means empowerment for her. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  5. 5
    NK September 13, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Love this post. It definitely needs to be talked about more.I have a question – did you ever consider that your child may need a sibling long after you’re gone? I have a daughter too, and last few yrs as she has become more independent, i have been able to focus back on my career . And for many reasons, I feel that – yes , we are good with one child … but from inside this throught is always gnawing me that I am not able to give her another sibling to play with , or just be there for her, when they’re all grown up,,and be connected to. Especially when we aren’t there anymore. ….

    • Molly September 13, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Absolutely. Thank you for sharing! I love my siblings more than anything (Camille is my sister!). I literally cannot imagine life without them, and thankfully my family has made a conscious decision to raise our kids as pseudo siblings. My brother’s daughter is four weeks older than my daughter, and my sister’s kids live just a few miles away. I think that Mae will feel a sibling connection in that way. One thing that helped me with this is that my mom reminded me when I was trying to make the decision about having another baby that there is no guarantee that if Mae had a sibling they would even be close. I had lots of friends growing up who were not close to their siblings as kids and now are still not in adulthood. Best of luck to you, and thanks again for sharing!

    • Annie September 14, 2020 at 8:00 am

      This was my question, siblings for your daughter. Thanks for addressing it. Lovely solution.

  6. 6
    Yp September 13, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    Cheers to this!

    One kid and like two pets – perfection.

  7. 7
    Candice September 13, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    Have been so inspired by Camille’s newsletters and grateful you shared your perspective, too. 1,000 things to say but mostly – thank you!

    • Camille Styles September 13, 2020 at 11:16 pm

      Thank you for that sweet encouragement, Candice — sending hugs.

  8. 8
    Nancy September 14, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I think in these times with cost of living increasing and environmental reasons one child is not only the right decision and least selfish for the world. I enjoy we have extra income, I can live in the city and we can travel. My daughter in now 15 and sometimes I second guess, but I may have done the same had I had another child and loosing more of myself. Eventually all children leave the home whether its one or five and when my daughter leaves we will be more financially stable and able to pay her college to ensure she has a great start to adult life.

  9. 9
    Jaye September 15, 2020 at 12:58 am

    I do appreciate that we can all talk openly, and i admit what’s hard for me is the assumption that everyone has a choice… we had to wait so many years for our child. A second child seems almost impossible.
    And then also I openly ask if anyone who is an only child is making the choice to be a one child family? Someone who knows what it means to be an only child and is choosing that for their child? Mae is blessed to have pseudo sibling cousins. My child has no cousins, and won’t ever have them. Yes it’s true that siblings may not be close, but there is value to a shared experience. “Remember when Mom did this? Remember how Dad always said that?”
    No one shares that childhood experience with me and I feel like my memories of my parents are disappearing.
    I fear this future heartache for my child.

    • Molly September 15, 2020 at 9:10 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience, and I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling with this. I will say that I absolutely do not believe that one child is right for everyone, only that it is right for me. Do you follow @mamaful on Instagram? I enjoy her posts, and she recently did a post where she asked only children to comment with their experiences. To my delight, almost everyone reported a positive experience and said that they too only plan to have one child because they felt so loved and nurtured by their parents. That was encouraging for me!

    • Katie September 15, 2020 at 11:32 am

      Hi Jaye – I am an only child of an only child, my mother. I also have one daughter who I plan to be our only, in part due to infertility struggles (it isn’t going to happen by accident), but also because it’s the right choice for our family. I have never wished for siblings, and I feel like I have childhood friends and other family members who have those shared experiences with my parents. I think views on this are very personal, and it depends on your experience and concept of family. Though I understand the fear for your child, I can say my feelings around being an only were heavily influenced by the way my mother felt about it.

  10. 10
    Amanda September 16, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks so much for this. I also only have one child by choice and sometimes feel societal guilt.

  11. 11
    Audrey September 16, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    I am an only child. No regrets. There is a lot that can go wrong in life. Being and only child is NOT one of them.
    As long as you love your child (or children), it’s all wonderful. LOVE. It’s what we all want and need.