Do you ever get the feeling that other parents don't really consider you a REAL mum if you only have the one offspring?
"You don't know how lucky you are, just having the one," a mum said to me at the school gate last week, simply because I'd admitted I was a 'bit tired' when she asked how I was. "You should try having three kids to run around after! Then you'd know what hard work is!"
It was an off-the-cuff comment, but one that had me so riled that I had to walk away from her, pretending I could see my (ONLY) child emerging from his classroom.
Her words hadn't been delivered with malice, more a small slice of condescending arrogance. But it put my back up so much that two days later, I was still stewing over it and her misinterpretation of my 'tiredness' – which was down to a mega workload, NOT my son.
But it's not a new feeling. In the nine years I've been a parent, being made to feel that having just the one child is not PROPER parenting is something that has got my back up practically from the moment I got a blue line on the wee-stick.
From the ridiculous 'first pregnancies are a doddle – you REALLY know you're expecting when it's second or third time round!' to the 'just you wait until you've got two!' comments when he was barely a day old.
I feel that I have constantly been viewed by mums with more than one child as an inexperienced, ill-qualified, mummy-lite.
All the comments about how I HAD to have another baby (sub-text: and therefore be a PROPER parent) particularly made me see red. 'You HAVE to have another - and you'll be wanting a girl next, so you've got one of each' was a statement I heard at least once a week until quite recently.
Now my 'baby' is nine and I am 39, this has morphed more into wet-eyed, pitying glances, tight smiles and 'bet you really wish you'd had more while you could' low voiced sympathies.
No, what I really wish is that I had nipped this anti-mono-mummy behaviour firmly in the bud from the moment it started, perhaps with a curt 'Actually, I can't stand children, and he was an accident' or even a 'No, I've seen how feral and undisciplined yours are – and that's an amazing contraception!'
My friend Louisa shares my fury. She is mum to a boy of six, and has also been subjected to ridiculous statements and assumptions about her choice to have just one child.
"It's ridiculous," she says, "I've been told James can't possibly know how to share or how to entertain himself because he's an only child, and even had 'oh it's such a shame for him to be an only child' comments' when actually he is blissfully happy as one." (And happy or not, research has PROVED that only children are not the lonely, over indulged brats they are often perceived as).
Judgements are something I too have experienced – one relative would immediately put any negative behaviour or trait in my son down to him being a lone child. I apparently was 'selfish' and it was hinted that the hard work involved with two or three children was what put me off having more.
"It astounds me that people will say this stuff," says mum-of-one Jill. "I've been told that my son would not be a fussy eater if he was not an only child, that he doesn't know how to share because he has no siblings, and, astoundingly, that he'd be tying his shoes himself if it wasn't just him at home..."
Another friend told me of his outrage when a newly pregnant woman began regularly passing comment on his one-child-family – a situation borne out of circumstance, rather than desire.
"I'm not sure she heard my three protestations that I wasn't sure we could have any more because she was too busy telling me (a) if it was a matter of money, it just works itself out (b) only children get 'very lonely sometimes' (c) demanding to know whether we didn't like kids that much and (d) that while pregnancy was 'a lot of fun' for 'people like her' she understood 'other women might not like it'," he said, visibly bristling with outrage.
The best comment was directed not at a fellow mummy though, but to her child:
"Ask your mother when you're going to get a brother or sister."
"It does only get hard when you have more than one though," a close friend (and mum of two) said when I told her I was writing this article simply because I was so teed-off at not being regarded as a 'proper mum'.
"It DOES make you feel like you're not just playing at it any more when number two comes along. It kind of become less of a novelty and more, well, a job," she insisted.
I resisted the temptation to throttle her, but really could not have agreed less: having one child means no respite, no sibling to take the heat off the endless game playing, the endless conversations, the endless entertaining. One child is hard work because guilt plays such a big part: making sure they want for nothing, are not lonely, or in anyway compromised by not having brothers or sisters.
And far from being mummying-lite, I'd say it can be the toughest form of parenting there is: 24/7 and with no "go and play with your brother/sister" get out clause.
What do you think? IS raising one child riddled with issues you don't get with two or three? Or are you a parent-of-one who has endured snidey comments from multiple birthers?
More:Is It Just Me?
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