By Heather O.
I ran into an old acquantaince the other day, a guy I dated briefly before I got married. He and I exchanged awkward pleasantries, and then he re-introduced me to his very pregnant wife,and introduced me to his 2 children. He has been married roughly one year longer than I. Then he said, “What about you? Do you have any children?” I smiled and said, “Yes, one. He’s three.”
“Oh, just one?”
“Yep. Just one.”
This conversation is not unique. I had a similar conversation when I ran into an old girlfriend last month I hadn’t seen since Jacob was born. She asked me if I had 2 kids yet.
“No, I just have Jacob.”
“Oh, just one?”
“Yep, just one.”
These people are not bad people. They are old friends, inquiring about my life in a pleasant, friendly manner. And yet there is always an awkward pause when I tell people who know that I’ve been married for a while that I just have one child. I’m not sure what they are thinking, but I think their thoughts must fall into two categories:
Oh, she wanted to finish graduate school and get her career going before she started having kids. That’s why she only has one.
Maybe she had problems having children. Poor thing, and look at me with my brood of offspring. What do I say now? Do I ask her if she’s having problems? What if she’s not having problems and she just wants a small family? How embarrassing to ask her about infertility if she’s really just putting off having kids!
Hence the awkward silences when the answer comes back, “Yep, just one.”
Inevitably I feel like telling my whole story, that somehow that will redeem me in their eyes. I feel like they need an explanation about why I don’t have the ideal Mormon family. (Not that I really know exactly what that means, but ideally, it means more than one.) Not that it’s really anybody’s business, and certainly stories about miscarriage almost inevitably lead to more awkward silences, but still, I feel the need to defend the fact that I only have one.
DH and I were talking about a family in the ward who is struggling to have even one. The wife is a super-sharp, kick-butt attorney who is working in a high power law-firm downtown. I have to admit, my first thought when I found out that she didn’t have any kids was, “She wants to get her feet wet in her career first. That’s why she doesn’t have kids.” I also didn’t think she’d been married all that long–a year, maybe, at most. Turns out she’s been married close to 4 years, and they’ve been trying desperately for over 2 years to have a baby. But they are fairly private about it, and I don’t know if everybody knows their struggles. DH said, “Do you think that it would redeem her choices in the eyes of the people in the ward if they knew they were having problems? Do you think she’s glad you know, because that means you can stop judging her?”
I had never put it in those terms, but I think DH is on to something, this idea that we have to explain and defend ourselves for not having what other people have.
Maybe it works conversely, too. I know some people who feel they have to defend their decision to have 10 kids. Somebody said to them something like, “Don’t you know anything about birth control?” When this family assured her that yes, they not only knew about birth control but used it regularly, and chose to have this many kids, she rudely said, “All this time, I thought you were just ignorant. Now I know you’re just stupid.”
Well, people can be rude and harsh, and I know that’s the exception, not the rule. But I wish that we could all rejoice in the blessings that the Lord has chosen to bestow on all of us, rather than trying to figure out why we’re not all the same. We just have one child, but oh, such a one! He’s currently actively killing the monstors with the help of Superman, doing his part to keep the living room safe. Maybe I should start answering the question, “oh, just one?” with “Yes, one super hero who has saved the world many times over with his super cute powers.” Of course, with a description like that, who needs more than one?
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