I cringed, like a whole lot of moms of only children, when I read that celebrity Elizabeth Banks of "The Hunger Games" told the staff of People magazine last month: "You don't realize how easy one is until you have two," she said. "Now I'm really a mom!" My first thought: Oh, no, you DIDN'T, Elizabeth Banks!
Days after reading that, a mom came up to me after a talk I gave about the work-parent juggle and said, "Thank you so much for saying that the juggle is hard even for parents of one child. People think I have it so easy as the mom of one. I feel like I'm not allowed to ever say it's hard."
Okay, here is the truth. In some ways it IS easier to have one child. There are less expenses for daycare, after-school activities, medical costs (probably, hopefully), saving for college, and so on. And there may indeed be less carpooling, lunches to prepare or pay for, school drop-offs, library books gone missing under the couch, and performances to attend. I have no problem admitting this is all true. Heck, it's part of why my husband and I wanted to have one child. Yes, wanted, people.
But being a parent is damn hard work regardless of the numbers of kids we have (and by the way, I don't hear parents of four saying to parents with two or three, "You have it so easy!"). A parent of one still deals with missing our child's soccer tournament due to business travel; rushing to the ER when the child sticks a raisin up his/her nose (twice); explaining at 2 AM that "the bear with the chicken beak under your bed was only a nightmare"; having heart palpitations when we can't see our child for a moment at the mall, witnessing our child get dumped over text by a first boyfriend/girlfriend, handing over the car keys when the permit is issued (gulp)...I could go on but I'm freaking myself out.
And the parents of one child I've interviewed over the past year will tell you in some ways it's harder to have one - such as Shelley R., who said, "There are no siblings to entertain an only child so we take on that role too! We're the ones playing endless board games." Leslie P. agrees: "I spent weekends practically pimping out my son because he was so social and there were no siblings to entertain him." We only parents are also labeled selfish routinely for "robbing our child of a sibling.'"
Please do not say we have it easy. It's dismissive, inaccurate, and demeaning.
The only thing worse may be saying that we are not mothers. I know Elizabeth Banks was speaking about her personal experience - that she did not feel like a mother until she had a second kid. She is allowed to feel however she feels. But when you put that sentiment out there publicly, you slam all of us parents of one, who, yes, are really parents even with just the one kid.
I am a journalist, filmmaker, author, wife, and mom to an 8-year-old daughter. My most recent project is I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms. Other projects explore raising only children, happily ever after, raising strong girls, and hot topics for Jewish women.
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