Motherhood, Ambition, and the Decision to Be a One Child Family

Another take on the baby debate.

By Molly Kendrick
family and friends celebrating holidays

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.

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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.

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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.

family vacation

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.

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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.