The One Question You Should Never Ask Parents of an Only Child

“Aww. Your little one’s precious! 

So when’s the next one?”

Happy family

For anyone who’s had a less than Lady Madonna experience of labour, the newborn phase, and every parental milestone thereafter, the subtext of this far too ubiquitous question sounds more like —

“You’ve just survived being near split-apart like a (more) obscene version of that chest-burster bit in Alien, not quite died – yet – from getting only the amount of sleep a bionic android could get by on, and your now National Geographic body will never, ever, be the same again.

So when’s the next one?”

When it comes to pet peeves I’ve only had the pleasure of cultivating post-birth, the capacity of this question to invoke my vitriol is closely followed by the infuriatingly invalidating “You think you have it rough now – wait until you have more than one to run after!”

Both utterly ridiculous, yet for some mind-boggling reason commonplace, conversation-fillers grate on my ovaries because they are so essentially thoughtless. They negate the very real, precious experience of a first-time (or only-time) parent – every tear, every joy, every hardship and hard-won lesson learned.

There have been many times when my decision to join the ranks of the “one and done” mums has seemed purely instigated out of a rebellion against such ignorance.

Of course, I’m more sensible; my reasons for sticking to raising a singleton (were) far more personal.

Six months into my second pregnancy, I’ve obviously changed my mind about what I’d like my future to be.

But that doesn’t make those ‘well-meaning’ individuals right.

It means it’s my right to change my mind. And it’s nobody’s business if and when I do so.

If you find yourself about to enquire on the family-plans of another, stop.

You very likely don’t have all the information – and why should you? At best, your intrusion will be met with polite deflection. At worst, you could dredge up some pretty painful feelings; you don’t know whether being parents to ‘just one’ has been a choice or a situation with no alternatives.

I totally get that the fuzzy feeling a cute baby illicits is infectious – who can get enough of that newborn smell?! – and that big family get-togethers come Christmas mean a Monopoly game that’s not brain-atrophying-boring.

But procreation en masse is not for everyone. (It wasn’t for my own mother, and, frankly, I’m just as occasionally happy and very often screwy as my husband who grew up in the company of siblings.)

Ultimately, what you choose to do with your uterus has nothing to do with anyone else.

Not even you, Grandma.

So just stop asking.