Even though we spent five years feeling perfectly satisfied with having an only child – and, in fact, for at least four of those, thought we’d stick with just the one – there was one thing that always rankled. And that was the way that other people seemed to consider us ‘less of a family’ than those with two or more children.
No one ever said it outright, but it was implicit in people’s attitudes. I felt they didn’t consider me a sufficiently experienced mum because I was raising a single child rather than a brood. I often felt we were expected to go further out of our way for get-togethers and outings than other families, because it was theoretically easier for us to get up and go. I found myself giving endless lifts to parties and playdates just because there was more space in our car, and no younger sibling to make alternative arrangements for.
I suppose in some ways, I could see where they were coming from. The occasional Christmas card addressed to Mr and Mrs D ‘and family’ just sounded wrong, for example. In that context, the term seemed weird applied to my only child. But on the whole, I liked our little family the way it was, and felt more I had every right to use that title.
Now, 16 months into being a mum of two, I’ve done a bit of a U-turn. I look back and realise that although I had no plans to have another child, I never really felt like we were a ‘proper family.’ Not in other people’s eyes, and not in my own heart, either.
This was the moment when we really, truly became a family. After five and a quarter years of life with The Boy, The Baby made her appearance and changed the dynamics in our house forever – and, in other people’s eyes, finally earned us Family status.
I’m speaking personally here, of course. I’m very blessed to have my two children, one of each sex, a nice, balanced unit, but I know all too well that families come in different shapes and sizes. There are no doubt plenty of couples out there with two, three, four kids and counting who don’t feel their family is finished yet. Equally, I know from experience that it’s possible to feel entirely fulfilled with just one child. I don’t look at single-child families and consider them in any way less valuable, less worthy of the ‘family’ title than us.
But given how long I sat on the fence about having a second baby, and how many times I wondered whether we should stick with what we had, even while we were trying to conceive, I’ll never cease to feel amazed by how ‘right’ it feels to be a family of four. Whereas before The Baby, there was always that element of ‘never say never’ about our plans for future children, now, I can put my hand on my heart and say we’re done, with 100 per cent conviction.
I feel we’re a proper family. I feel complete.
This is my entry for this week’s Gallery.