Brenda Seltzer was still in the hospital, having just given birth to her son, when her family started asking when she was going to have another one.
“Everyone was like, ‘How long are you going to wait until you have the second one? Seltzer, 33, told HuffPost. “I was like, ‘He was fair born. What do you mean by a second? “
Before getting pregnant, Seltzer had assumed that she and her husband would have two children, but almost immediately she began to have doubts. Her birth was difficult and Seltzer required a blood transfusion. Finances also intervened. Seltzer and her husband both work full time, and her son’s full-time preschool costs almost $ 20,000 a year.
“We started to ask ourselves: why would we have two? I had a bad childbirth experience… we were working full time and didn’t have a lot of help with family nearby, ”Seltzer said.
By having a child, they were able to invest money in fun family activities, like a pre-COVID cruise and a family pass to Disney World. They can also devote themselves to playtime with their son when they are not at work.
“We can have a great relationship with him,” she said. “We love to be with him.” Having “just” a child was the perfect choice for her family.
And they are not alone. The number of American parents who have a child has been rising steadily for years. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the proportion of mothers at the end of their childbearing years who have a child doubled between the mid-1970s and 2015, from 11% to 22%. The high-profile COVID-19 baby bust could accelerate this trend as more parents postpone having children or wonder if it makes financial, logistical or emotional sense to have more than one.
For many parents, the choice to have a child really comes down to knowing – and honoring – themselves and their unique circumstances.
“I chose to give my child a healthy and happy parent rather than a brother,” said Amanda Pacovsky, 36, who has a 7-year-old daughter with her husband. She was struggling with undiagnosed postpartum depression and anxiety, which “really took a toll on my mental health,” she told HuffPost, and couldn’t imagine going through it again.
“What single parents are fed up with is seeing their choice looked down on or dismissing it as a passing phase. They don’t like the idea that they aren’t as happy about their family situation as a family of two or three or more children could be.
Her choice was also rooted in the desire to be able to pay for extracurriculars for her daughter. Currently she enjoys cheerleading and running, but they’ve also enrolled her in soccer and dancing without really considering if they can afford it.
“We are certainly not rich,” Pacovsky said. Having just one child gives them financial leeway – because as any American parent can attest, having children is extremely expensive. It costs over $ 230,000 to raise a child from birth to 17 years old, regardless of university education.
Pacovsky and her husband are genuinely happy with the decision they’ve made to have a child, but she’s struck by the number of people in her life who aren’t – or assume they can’t be.
Like Seltzer, she spent years seeing her decision overturned, with family and friends telling her that she would eventually change her mind. Or by noting the (debunked) stereotypes that only children are spoiled. Or even ask her what will happen to her daughter when she and her husband die. Pacovsky launched a popular Instagram page dedicated solely to single parent memes to, as she puts it, remove the stigma of being a single parent.
Single families say the stigma is real. Despite the steady increase in the number of child-only households, Americans still generally view larger families as “ideal.” About 50% of Americans say two children is best, while 40% say three or more is ideal. This despite research suggesting that having a second child doesn’t make parents happier – and can specifically lower women’s happiness.
Ultimately, what single parents are fed up with is seeing their choices looked down upon or seeing their desire to see a child rejected as a passing phase. They don’t like the idea that they aren’t as happy about their family arrangement as a family of two or three or more children might be. (Of course, some families have a child due to infertility or death or for other reasons beyond their control.)
“Our son is amazing. I know everyone says it, but our son changed our lives. He’s the perfect mix of the two of us, ”said Meredith Rufino, 39, who has a 6-year-old son. “It brings out the best in my husband. He brings out the best in me. It has truly been a blessing.
His friends and family were intrigued by how it is possible for him to be so overtly rejoicing in parenthood – thus enjoying the company of his son – but not wanting to expand his family to try and replicate the experience. .
Rufino, however, wouldn’t dream of it.
“I know myself. I know my own strengths and I know my own limitations,” she said, noting that she had been through depression and anxiety. “I’d rather be a great parent for one. rather than an OK parent for two. “