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“Why Do You Only Have One Child?”

By Elizabeth Jayne Liu

“Wow, that’s really rude, ma’am.” For the first time this spring, I finally said the words that have teetered on the edge of my lips since becoming a mother in 1999. People have asked in many different ways why I only have one child. Sometimes, the question is straightforward. Other times, it starts as a concerned inquiry about my reproductive health or my priorities in life.

I had imagined being bold dozens of times before it actually happened, so I was disappointed by the response. In my fantasy, the offender always apologizes and promises to be more sensitive and then her mouth disappears. But in reality, my comment left her unaffected. Even the addition of the word “ma’am” didn’t have the desired effect.

“Well, I’m sorry if you’re sensitive about it, but you really should consider having a spare,” the woman continued.

“A spare? Like a tire?” Clearly, I have a problem with knowing when to disengage.

“No, silly, a child. It’s really selfish to put all of your hopes on an only child. What if she can’t live up to your expectations?”

I wanted to tell the woman that my daughter, Cal, has already fulfilled all of my greatest hopes as a parent. She can do single digit addition and subtraction in her head; she whips up tasty, somewhat nutritious snacks using five ingredients or less; and she understands my complicated laundry system that involves three different detergents. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and walked away. I felt my insides boiling, and it would be a pyrrhic victory if I had broken through to this woman.

As a teen, I wrongly assumed that peer pressure exists only in the microcosm of high school. The desire to fit in led me down a dark path when I experimented with alcohol and drugs and boys. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t like what I was doing. I ignored the parts of my core that were my own personal truths and sacrificed what I believed in because I didn’t want to be different. The most valuable lessons I learned from those poor choices were to do what was right for me and to make important decisions based on my own timetable.

The peer pressure I feel from Occupy Uterus campaigners makes me doubt the choice I’ve made to focus on Cal for the time being. Doubt then spurs guilt and shame.

I bet your daughter is lonely. Our family didn’t feel complete until our second (third, fourth) child. You’re too young not to have more! Don’t you want a buddy for her? Are you afraid you won’t have enough love for two kids? Don’t you want to know what it’s like to have a son? Are you at least trying? Are you infertile? Is he infertile? Are you having problems in your marriage? Do you not like children? Are you afraid your body won’t snap back into shape? What if something happens to your daughter?

Since my husband adopted my daughter after we got married six years ago, I also get asked, “Don’t you think your husband deserves a child of his own?” It’s difficult for people to digest that Harv feels a deep connection with Cal and is perfectly content with our daughter being his only child. “He may just be saying that to take the pressure off of you, you know.”

Silence has become my companion during these awkward moments. I no longer offer excuses or an explanation. Restraint isn’t easy, especially during rough moments like my miscarriage, when I wanted nothing more than to say, “You don’t know anything. Be quiet.” But those who offer judgment often tend to be the loudest because they want to be heard; they need to feel heard.

I wish I could say that it doesn’t bother me at all when people make assumptions based on just one or two facts. That might not ever be the truth, but I can say this with certainty: There’s no such thing as the “right” number of children. We can only do what is best for our own family, and it’s okay if that vision changes along the way.

Also, it’s important to mind our own damn business.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jayne Liu

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she s...

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she survived, and now records a series of weekly challenges called Monday Dares. She fails a lot.

Elizabeth writes candidly about her former addictions, love of four-letter words, and her affinity for all things rap. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, whom she married after dating for just eighteen days, her 13-year-old daughter, and her complete collection of Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards.

Connect with Elizabeth on The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

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  • Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey

    August 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    SO WITH YOU!!! People finally stopped asking us around age 7 or 8 (he is almost 11).

    Seriously, making a playmate for my son is no reason to have a child – but thanks.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      “Having a sibling is like a built-in playdate!”

      Clearly, they didn’t see how much I bickered with my younger brother. My mother told us eventually that we weren’t “allowed” to play with each other. And then she set up playdates for us with kids who wouldn’t tear her house apart while arguing over the last Creamsicle. 


        August 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        I’m the oldest of 4..I wanted to be an only child ..I had so many things to do growing up like taking care of the younger, cleaning…yes!! I had resentment cause mom paid more attention to my sister and 2 brothers.. I really thought for a long time mom didn’t love me…I felt really depressed from it ..I always felt I did something wrong made me not want kids.but and I left home at 16 got married to the love of my life. It took us 6 years to have my son..and I wasn’t able to have anymore..yes people can be so friggan rude just don’t care about your feelings..they would even ask me before I had my son there something wrong with you.don’t you like kids.Chris my son would ask for a brother or sis ..we thied …I guess GOD just just wanted me to have a son..Whom I love dearly.Hes not spoiled we tought him you work hard for what you have ..its not just gave to you..I’m so proud of him..He now has 3 kids of his own.and happly married .an .has a great job as Corrections Officer.. I wouldn’t have it any other way ..he was a Special kid growing up..I enjoyed every moment we had with him…we were very close and still are…It’s known that ONLY CHILDREN GO FAR….just had to add that.

        • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

          August 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm

          Your son sounds like an amazing man. I really think that the most we can hope for as parents is to try and do the best we can with the kid(s) we have. It’s such a hard thing…helping a child become a solid adult…and it certainly makes the job harder with all of those outside voices who don’t really know the inner-workings of our family to comment and judge. 

  • Kjirsten

    August 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Well said, thank you. Our daughter is almost three and the comments and questions from others seem relentless right now. We only want one…we only ever wanted one. It’s strange to me that people can’t accept that we really don’t want another one…we’re not infertile, or evil. We’re just happy with one.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      I think it’s a shame when others try to dictate what should make us happy. 

      It’s hard to convince people when their hearts aren’t open to hearing anything other than what they believe. 

  • Cheryl S.

    August 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    One and Done here too. I HATE people that do that. I’ve been told it’s “cruel” not to have another. That my daughter is going to be a raging brat. That I’m being selfish. I know that we have made the right decision for our family, but it doesn’t make it any easier to have to listen to idiots.
    The worst part right now for me is that my DAUGHTER wants (or at least thinks she wants) a sibling. She’s 8.

    • Isabel


      August 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks for sharing Cheryl. I chuckled about your 8-year-old daughter “wanting” a sibling right now. I remember a friend of mine telling me about her 5 year old son who was insisting that he wanted an ink tattoo. She asked him what kind of tattoo would he get, hypothetically. He replied “Yo Gabba Gabba.” And that’s why they don’t let 5-year-old get inked!

      • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

        August 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm

        A Yo Gabba Gabba tattoo certainly beats out most of the ink choices I’ve made. 😉

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      My daughter recently brought up having a brother or a sister, but when we told her “not right now,” she then asked for a horse. When we told her “no, most definitely not,” she then asked for a dog. 

      I felt extremely guilty until I realized how much her desires change from minute to minute. 

  • grace

    August 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    believe me, it doesn’t matter what you have, people always have to play the devil’s advocate when it comes to children, it’s weird! when you have a girl, they ask if you’re going to try for a boy, if you have two of the same sex, they ask if you’re going to keep trying to the opposite. I have one of each and I always hear about how “lucky” I am that I got one of each without having to have extra kids of each gender lol.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      I try not to participate in games where there are no winners (except for Candy Crush). Everybody loses in the Baby Numbers game!

  • MR

    August 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    People can just be so stupid. The comment about the “spare” is ridiculously insensitive. I’d be inclined to reply, “we had a spare, it went flat.” and walk away.
    We have two kids. They are both girls though, so we are told all the time how we have to have another to try for a boy. I have a friend with 3 boys and a friend with 4 boys, and after two they stopped telling people the genders in advance because people got so sad, and they were quite happy with their boys. If this is somebody you don’t know, it is ok to be rude back. You could always say, “oh, but we had more, we just didn’t think they measured up to your expectations, so we got rid of them!”

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 19, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      I might just have to give up my commitment to remain silent so I can use your response. Hilarious. 

  • Dan Perez

    August 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I’m one of seven kids, my mom was one of fifteen kids and my wife and I only have one daughter. God knew I didn’t have the patience for more. But I do get the “She must be a lonely child” and “What a shame she doesn’t have a brother or sister to play with” treatment every now and then. Usually from lame parents who aren’t cool enough to bond with their kids so they leave it up to a brother or sister.
    You keep your gangsta chin up high and don’t let stupid people annoy you…

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Always keepin it real, Dan. 

      Cal, by default, has to spend a lot of time with me. I try to make it worth her while by introducing her to the wonders of life like Hardcore Pawn, but she hasn’t taken a liking to it…yet. 

      I’m keeping my gangsta chin high on that too. She’ll come around. 

  • jill

    August 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Wow, that spare comment is totally rude.

    It happens no matter how many kids you have. I have four and I CONSTANTLY get comments everywhere we go. “Are they all yours?” “Did you want them all?” “Are you done yet?” “Why stop now?” “How do you deal with it.” “You are brave to go anywhere with all those children.” “Go let that lady take care of you – she obviously likes children, she has enough” and then the opposite rude personal questions – “Are you really religious?” “Do you use birth control?” “How do you feed them all?” etc, etc.

    People need to just learn to let others’ choices be.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      WOW. Thank you for introducing me to the flip side. I had not thought about the ridiculous questions that might be thrown at a mom who has more than one (working on that self-involvement thing, clearly not going well). 

      And, AMEN to letting others’ choices just BE. 

  • Alison

    August 20, 2013 at 1:46 am

    When i read this line, “Well, I’m sorry if you’re sensitive about it, but you really should consider having a spare,” the woman continued.

    I actually pulled away from the screen like I had been slapped, it was such a shock to me that someone could be so obnoxious, then again they were rude a third time by say you were ‘silly’ by saying, what a spare tire, Of course you understood and were politely giving them an out, a way of them to laugh it off and apologise.  I’m an only child and I get asked all the time what it is / was like, what was my childhood like, that they are thinking of having a single and what do I think.  Well I think they should do whatever they like.  Blergh.  I think people have too many children and I don’t go around commenting that perhaps they have over done it!!!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      The “silly” part was the most offensive part of it for me. Anyone who’s ever met me will testify that I am one of the most uptight people they know. I mean, honestly, the nerve. 

      I have a younger brother, but I have plenty of friends who grew up as an only child, and they aren’t any unhappier/ maladjusted than anyone else. 

  • Becca

    August 20, 2013 at 7:47 am

    This is so interesting. I’d never ask a person this kind of question, because of posts like these and because the reason may be sad or medically sensitive, but I’m always interested to hear the reasons why people make whichever life choices they do – many children, no children, deciding never to marry, living off the grid, preferring dogs or cats… Whatever. 

    It’s a great gift to learn about perspectives different from ones own. I just wish that asking questions didn’t always have to be considered a negative thing. Not everyone wants to change your mind – sometimes they want to be open to changing their own!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 12:21 am

      I’m always interested in knowing the back story to a situation. My friends get on my case. For me, it’s in the details and I want the details. Unlike you though, I don’t know where to draw the line sometimes and get myself into trouble because I can be hurtful or offensive without even realizing it. 

      I learned only recently that whatever my intent, if someone is sensitive about the subject, it won’t be taken positively. So there are some things I just don’t ask about. Even when i want the details. 

  • allison

    August 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Ugh. We’ve been mostly spared from it so far but I hate these kinds of comments. Like having a sibling guarentees that you’re going to be best friends! I have 3 (half) sisters. One of whom I’m really close to, but she lives far away, the other I’m fairly close to but we don’t see each other much even though she lives close to me, and another that hasn’t spoken to me in 7 years because I’m queer and she’s an asshole.

    • Suburban Snapshots

      August 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      “I’m queer and she’s an asshole” 
      BAH! Obviously, she’s totally missing out because you’re queer AND hilarious.

      • allison

        August 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm

        She is TOTALLY missing out. I’m awesome.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 12:25 am

      I had to read your comment twice because I laughed for too long and totally forgot what i read in the beginning. 

      I love my brother but he and I are very different people with very different perspectives on….well, everything. So, we aren’t as close as I’d like for us to be. Having a sibling doesn’t guarantee anything. 

  • IrishCream

    August 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Sometimes people are the worst. I have two girls, and I get asked all the time if we’re going to try for a boy. Or worse, if my husband wants to try for a boy. That one covers two squares on the Rude Person Bingo card–overly personal AND sexist!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Sometimes, I get “you should have a son so your husband isn’t outnumbered.”

      Hm. That would be an awkward conversation when the son gets older. “Well, boy, we had you to even things out.”

  • Nennie

    August 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Like you said – it’s no ones business! And for people to prod is downright rude. I have my now 2 year old son. I get asked ALL the time when I’m having another. I can’t – I had to have an emergency hysterectomy a few hours after my son’s birth. I shouldn’t have to explain that. But I do because they made me uncomfortable trying to be nosy so I make them feel uncomfortable right back.

    You don’t know if one kid is by choice or for other reasons. It’s just best not to ask.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 1:03 am

      I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through such an ordeal right after giving birth.

      I find that when I give vague answers, people always want more. More explanation. More details. Which is why I don’t say anything at all now!

  • KEK

    August 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I’m an only child, and have a little boy (with no plans for any more children).  It baffles me how invested strangers are in my (lack of) future procreative plans.  So, I borrow from my mom’s reactions to comments she got when I was a kid – my 2 favorites:

    We stopped with perfection.

    We’re waiting to see how this one turns out before we decide to have another.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 1:09 am

      With your permission, I would like to “borrow” these. 

  • Amy

    August 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Made me smile and cry at the same time – thanks for sharing this post – no one knows the choices you make or the road you travel – what’s important is the love you provide to the children you do have.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 1:14 am

      Thank you for the support…and for the understanding. 

  • Victor

    August 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Because my wife had a 9 year old kid when we married. It’s been a three adventurer’s troupe since then. I get these kind of stupid comments every now and then (ok, sometimes they really intend to care for my family and me… but even then…) but we’ve learned that it’s our path to open and follow. 

    And thanks because I teach at a university here in Peru. The “spare-child” argument  shocked me… but I guess it will be very interesting to discuss in class.


    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:21 am

      I had heard the saying “the heir and the spare” before, but hadn’t given it much thought until I had the interaction with the woman. 

      When I brought it up to my husband (who has a brother), he told me that his parents had a similar way of thinking and would never let both boys ride in the same bus on the way to camps and retreats “just in case.” It totally blew my mind to hear this. 

      People fascinate me. 

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:22 am

      Oh, and I didn’t know you lived in Peru!

  • Ashley

    August 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    It’s funny how people think they know what is best for you and yours even when they don’t know your name.  We have 3 children, I am still asked when I am having my next????  My biggest problem is that my kids are close in age and so I got the judgement of “Don’t you know how babies happen?”  and “are they all yours?” The number of children you have is not a measuring stick of your success in life.  Have as many or as few as you want, be happy, and enjoy life.  

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:24 am

      It would take a lot of restraint not to say (at least once): No, please tell me. How do babies happen?

  • Jennifer

    August 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    You’re so much nicer in your response to obnoxious people. I’m pregnant with our one and only child. Everyone looks at me with this smug face and says that I’ll change my mind once I have one. I tell them I’m not nearly stupid enough to have any more biological children. I hate being pregnant and I do NOT believe the hype about forgetting labor pain. If we ever feel the need to have more in the future, we’ll be adopting!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:27 am

      I sometimes wonder what age I need to reach to stop hearing, “Oh, you’re young. You’ll change your mind.” 

      Do you think the answer is “menopause”? That would be rough. 

  • Jessica

    August 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    At first I would get self-conscious about only having one child. Now I’m not. People get sort of taken aback by my frankness. I do also think that sometimes it’s just a conversation starter… People aren’t meaning to be rude. They just want to make small talk. 

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:30 am

      I can’t tell all the time, but sometimes, I see that it’s just a casual thing thrown into a lull, and then there are others who are, um, passionate about the issue with a lot of follow-up questions and/or monologue. 

      Those are always more irritating. 

  • M

    August 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Very well said. Now, can you tell me what my daughter’s retort should be when other kids say “oh, you’re an ONLY child” as if there’s something wrong with her?

    • Ashley

      August 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Have her say, “yeah, and it’s AWESOME.”

      At least that’s what I did. Because it’s TRUE.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:33 am


      I wonder if this has ever happened to Cal. 

      Love Ashley’s response. I wish I could think of one equally as good. 

  • Brooke

    August 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks for this post! Although I know I have never said some of the absolutely rude things you cited, I have probably casually asked “Do you think you’ll have another?” before in the way of small talk. Now that I see the judgment and abundance of ignorant comments surrounding this subject, I’ll bring up the weather instead. The last thing I would want to do is leave the person feeling judged or prodded on a subject that is so understandably sensitive to some people. I appreciate your candor.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:37 am

      Sometimes, it SO hard to know what/what not to bring up. I don’t touch on the “more kids” topic but I once was trying to make small talk with another mom, asking which neighborhood they lived in (our school has kids from all over), and she got very defensive. 

      I’m going to stick to strictly weather conversation too. Even *I* couldn’t goof that up. I hope. 

  • RookieMom Whitney

    August 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Liz, We shared a taxi in New Orleans during Mom 2.0. I love this post and have been meaning to address the topic on my site as well. It is SO rude for folks to suggest your family is the wrong size or shape. Especially the comments about your husband and a child of his own. (Note to the world: Relationships between biological family members are not guaranteed to be more meaningful than adopted ones.)

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:42 am

      Hi Whitney, I was so grateful to share that cab with you and Heather. It was my first conference and I didn’t know a lot of people, so the conversation was most appreciated. 

      I couldn’t agree more…a family by chance doesn’t trump a family by choice. Love is love is love. 

  • Britt

    August 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I am an only child myself, and I remember my parents getting asked this question. I always found it hurtful – were these people saying that I wasn’t good enough? As much as I can totally understand the deisre to snap at those nasty creatures (I personally have a very short fuse!), just know that every time you don’t let it ruffle you, you’re showing your daughter that those stupid people don’t bother you. If she doesn’t think that they bother you, that demonstrates to her that you are secure in your decision, and that she is plenty good enough. (Maybe every time you answer nicely, you get an extra piece of chocolate?)

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:46 am

      I’m working on my own short fuse. Incentives like chocolate or that stray Jelly Belly I found in my purse this morning which I totally ate (no lint, no shame) are a good motivator. 


    August 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    You can’t win. I get asked all the time if I’ll have a third- TO TRY FOR A GIRL- because I have two boys. Never mind I’m now a single mom and a third pregnancy nearly killed me years back (both of which I bring up if they’re insistent), MUST. HAVE. GIRL. Kill me. Bitches.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Oh my god, you’re not going to try for a girl? Forrealz? Are you sure? 

      Please don’t hit me the next time I see you. xoxoxo

  • Robin

    August 21, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I like this…thanks for sharing. I have an “only” and it’s so hard where I live–in a rural setting where basically EVERYONE has at least 3 kids! I took time off from my career to be with him but feel a little extravagant with my “only” to focus on when all the other women have a string of kids following. Honestly, one intense kid is enough! My hubby is older, and has a daughter in her mid-twenties who is married. He wasn’t really into having many more kids, and I realized after my first that was enough. Although I adore my 2 brothers, having kids for the sole purpose of giving them siblings later in life is not a reason to add more…..

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 2:56 am

      I was at the park (I don’t know why because my favorite outdoor activity is going back inside) and overheard a mom ask another mom with a nanny in tow “You have a nanny? You don’t work and you only have one kid.” 

      I thought the woman’s response was perfect: SO?

      Everyone has different ideas about what is “too extravagant” (stay at home vs work outside the home, 1 kid vs more than 1 kid, nanny vs no nanny) but…..SO? We just have to do what is right for us. 

      • Caterina Thrace

        December 1, 2017 at 9:05 pm

        I know this post is really old but your comment that ‘your favourite outdoor activity is going back inside’ was the first thing to make me actually laugh out loud today 🙂

  • Trish

    August 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I am an only child. I never found there was a big difference between me and kids with siblings. But as a maker of the occasional insensitive comment myself, what surprised me is that the offender in this story doubled-down on the insult. Every time I overhear people talk about how sad only children must be, I want to laugh. Don’t buy it, parents of only children!! The kid will be just fine.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 3:00 am

      Thank you. Whether we have more kids or not, I’m happy to know that Onlys (Onlies?) can become happy adults.

      Some very small part of me finds it almost respectable that she chose to be offensive and just committed to it 100%. 

  • Leigh Ann

    August 21, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I’ll never understand why people think it’s any of their business. I had the flip side of the coin where people outright asked me if I was crazy, seeing me pregnant with not even 2 year old twins. It was either keep my mouth shut, agree with them, or make them really uncomfortable by telling them how it was unplanned and I cried for 3 days straight when I found out. 

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 3:05 am

      NU UH. Rude. 

      Girl, I’d rather be crazy than insensitive like that any day. 

  • 2 cents here

    August 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Well, it probably wouldn’t be as big a question if the world wasn’t filled with so many spoiled only children who grow up to be incredibly spoiled adults who expect to be spoiled by everyone in their lives. Even worse when they have aunts and uncles who have no children themselves, then it’s like 3 or 4 sets of parents all spoiling the only child instead of just one.

    This is not to say that every only child is like this, but to not realize the corollary is being dishonest. Having dated only children in my life, and knowing people from college who lived with only children. They have all been horrible experiences and it’s a screening question both in dating and when I was looking to live with a roommate, if you were an only child, you were automatically excluded after awhile.

    Of course, this comment likely won’t ever make it to show up on this site because people only like to get virtual hugs and high fives when they write these “whoa is me” “why is everyone picking on me” type of posts.

    and for the record, people with no kids or only one kid often say the same thing to parents with 3, 4 5 or more kids. How do you handle it? Why did you have so many? Wow you must be so wealthy, etc etc etc

    Stop being so offended, people are curious and want to understand something they don’t understand. I also suspect that a lot is lost from tone of voice from some of those conversations you have had while being translated to solely text by you.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      August 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      you sound angry. want a hug?

    • Suburban Snapshots

      August 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      It’s “woe is me,” not “whoa”. And if you’ve dated only children in your life, that could be the root of the issue. You need to try dating adults.

      • MR

        August 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

        Hahahaha!! Suburban Snapshots: Best response ever!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 12:47 am

      An attention-seeking comment like this seems spoiled to me. 

      Let’s only point fingers when we aren’t guilty of the same thing, yes? 

  • 2 cents

    August 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    looks like I was right about you only wanting warm and fuzzy hugs and condolences for your post, it’s a shame you want to squash someone’s post when it doesn’t suit your own agenda, it’s also lacks journalistic integrity.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      August 21, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      i have no idea what you are writing/ referring to.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 12:59 am

      I hope you’re not this aggressive in real life. Yikes. 

      I’m happy that you were able to unload some of your angst online. Every little bit helps. 

  • Meg

    August 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

    people are just plain rude…and not limited to people who have one child. I have five and someone asked me “if I knew what birth control was..” Silence is usually the best response to ignorance

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      August 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      AMEN. I’ve learned to squelch my desire to make people understand. Some people just CAN’T and WON’T and DON’T DESIRE to understand. 

  • Kat

    August 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I’m guilty. I have totally asked casual friends about the desire to have more/have any (I don’t think I have ever been rude, more along the lines of “do you think you will have another/do you think you want children”). We have one, and have kind of sort of been thinking of having more but most likely won’t. More often than not, I am just curious how other people made the decision to have none/one/more than one (knowing full well it isn’t always a decision in the strictest sense of the word – ours was a surprise). I will keep this in mind next time I am tempted to ask what prompted someone else’s reproductive decisions.

    • MR

      August 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Asking if they think they will have another is not rude. You are asking their opinion, and it isn’t assuming anything. What makes the comments like “When are you having another?” or “Well, you have to have a spare!” rude is that the other person is making an assumption for you. Growing up, my mom always told us, “you can’t think and feel for anyone else”. Making decisions for other people about how many children you should or shouldn’t have is trying to think and feel for them and passes judgement on the decisions they have already made. And that is rude. Simply inquiring about their thought process is inquisitive, and doesn’t presume anything, nor passes any judgement.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Not just with this topic, but just generally in life, I am always curious about the details. it’s all about the details for me. And I totally don’t mean any offense by what I ask, and am sometimes surprised by the reactions I get. 

      Recently, I read an article someone shared on social media. I think it was from Harvard Business Review (I’m not sure) and it talked about intention vs consequences. It was truly eye-opening for me on the way we mean things and the way they are received. 

  • Susie

    August 22, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    My favorite people to pop those questions- my inlaws. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my MIL, but if she asks me one more time when we’re going to start thinking about kid #2 my response will be “Isn’t 10 grandkids enough?” If it’s a SIL, my response will probably be more along the lines of “Sure! Right after the bank loans are paid off. Speaking of which, I’m taking donations…” 

    Fortunately, they get me, and it’ll be funny. I have no idea what I’ll say when my mom starts in on me again…

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      All I can think after reading this is…I wish I had in-laws I could be funny with. I totally love my MIL and FIL, but they are…serious people. 

  • Karen Cz

    August 23, 2013 at 1:59 am

    I had my tubes tied when I was 23 before ever having a pregnancy because of a genetic disorder I have. Pregnancy itself would have been risky for me and the baby and there was a 50% chance of passing my illness on. The illness is practically a full-time job for me. And yet, close friends, co-workers, family members, near strangers…you name the subset of humans and I guarantee, both I, and my husband have been asked why we don’t have children yet and when we plan on making it happen. There are never any follow-up questions because we make it pretty clear (he does so with a little less finesse) that it’s none of their business. It’s quite painful still when someone asks me this as though they’re asking me whether I prefer mustard vs ketchup on my hotdogs. If you don’t know me well enough to know my situation, you can’t ask such personal questions.

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Living with an illness is already tough without the judgment of others who don’t know enough to be opening their mouths! I am so sorry to hear that you deal with that kind of insensitivity, but I think it’s awesome as f*** that your husband does it in a hardcore way. I wish I had a little of that. 

  • Amy

    August 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

    To strangers, I like to respond with WOW, what an incredibly personal question! Then silence.

    To neighbors I just give them the truth. I just turned 44 and I’m grateful for the two we have.

    But we get this a lot since our neighborhood seems to be the first stop on the baby making train. So I’m guilty of it too. I just make it a yes or no question. “So are you (pause) done?”

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      I had to think about this for a minute to make sure I really meant it..but I would totally be okay with a question that was presented like that. Most likely…unless it was just a total stranger in the coffee line. It sounds like it’s coming from a place of non-judgment, and I’m down with non-judgement. 

  • Bean Bytes 52

    August 26, 2013 at 12:49 am

    […] terrifying fear is actually a good thing 10 tips for keeping your valuables safe while traveling Why do you only have one child Family of boy with autism receives shockingly offensive anonymous letter 7 tips for kicking your […]

  • Lainey

    August 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

    We’ve just had our first, 6 weeks ago. A gorgeous little boy who took 6 long years to arrive.

    People are ALREADY asking when we’re having another, and act shocked when we tell them we have no plans for another child. We want to enjoy the one we (finally) have!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm


      I am so happy for you! Like, SO happy. 

  • Jessica

    August 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    One of the very delightful things living in China is that NO ONE asks if you’re having another 🙂  No, kidding, they do, but they also totally are fine with it if I say ‘no, I’m not.’  
    Obviously there are many women here who would welcome the chance to have another, but it’s a very normalized thing here, so it doesn’t get mentioned often.  

    I actually get surprised when I go home and people are much more adamant about me having another one.  Frankly, it seems like the ones who want me to have another one most are the ones who are least involved.   i mean, sure, ask.  But then yeah, back off!

    • Elizabeth Jayne Liu

      September 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      I am so fascinated by China’s former One Child Policy and the shift it’s caused in our current generation. I was born in Korea, but moved to the US as a young child, and when I visited again after HS, I was surprised by how forward people were with their questions. (also, lack of personal space, but that’s a totally diff post) 

      I’m glad to hear they aren’t all up in your business for too long after the initial question/answer. 

  • Jessica

    September 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I have to say that as a child, I had the best of both worlds. I had two older half-siblings who lived across the country. I would get to see the for a month or two out of the year. When they were here we had fun, enjoyed each other, and would fight like any other normal siblings. But when they would leave I would get to be an only child again. I loved it both ways. Being with siblings was but I loved it being only me too. I got to experience and do a lot of things that I would not have been able to do with a larger family. It also taught me to be self reliant and not have to have others around to have fun. Anyone who says that a family should be a certain size has no clue what they are talking about. Both ways have their good and bad qualities just like anything else.

  • Laura

    September 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    People are so nosy when it comes to pregnancy/family planning. I’m currently pregnant with number 3. My first two are 23 months apart and baby #3 will be 18 months younger than the second.  With each pregnancy I’ve been asked if it was planned, even by people I barely know.  This time people just assume it was an accident.  It really throws me off when someone I just met thinks it’s ok to ask me if I planned to get pregnant.  So far I’ve resisted the urge to give a snotty response, or get defensive and try and explain our reasoning, and have just said “yes” with no more details.  On the flip side I’ve been surprised by how many women have casually mentioned that a pregnancy was an accident.  I don’t think I’d want the whole world to know, even if I did have a surprise pregnancy, given that one day that pregnancy will be a person an might have…you know…feelings about that information.

  • Randi

    October 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for your article. I plan on my daughter being an only child but it has been a difficult decision to get to for a myriad of personal reasons. Your sentence, “We can only do what is best for our own family, and it’s okay if that vision changes along the way” is very helpful and meaningful for me.

  • Amanda

    January 29, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Thank you! After being badgered by my own sister to have a child because my husband is my daughters step dad I finally snapped and googled “why I’m only having one child” what a relief to find this.

  • Tabby

    March 19, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    I get asked this constantly by friends and family. I had two still births and two miscarriages and my OB told me I was not to have anymore. We went to a high risk clinic for two week ultrasounds and I was induced a month early due to complications. I used to be polite when people would tell me I was wrong to say I wouldn’t want another one. So I started being rude back, family, friend or stranger. Now I say “well after having held my dead child in my arms I do not in fact want another baby or pregnancy, thank you for thinking you know me better than I do tho.” that usually elicits a silent response

  • Gloria moffit

    March 5, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t know how old this post is but as the oldest of four I have to say that having siblings (whom I would not be without, of course)…isn’t always the skipping through roses-built in bestie for life-always there for you- thing it’s made out to be! My one brother, who is autistic and very hindered socially, I am probably closest too. We are just under two years apart, my other bro and sis, I’m lucky if I get birthday txt! Txt, not card or anything! After a family argument two years ago in which he assaulted our stepfather and i called the police, other bro told me he never wanted to see me again and thus far, I have a nephew who’s 18 mths that I’ve never sis, it’s not that we’ve ever fallen out, in fact- once, over a pair of shoes is it! It’s not that we don’t get along when were occasionally together (like twice a year or so!) We do, we converse and laugh with each other very easily, but that’s as far as we go. Were just totally, completely different people. Different interests, different lives. I would go as far as polar opposites.I have several only child friends who say-well they didn’t know any different, for one thing, and secondly, are all happy, well adjusted, social and generous human beings. Personally, I think I’d like raise one myself,, not just because of my experience but so I can just focus all my love and time on them. It’s quality, in my opinion, not quantity! I know folks with three, four, five, kids who are spoilt. It’s a stereotype that I think is beginning to date. Sadly, nosy, small-minded assholes never seem to date!!?

  • conniecqu

    March 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I have one child, I have no clue if my husband and I will have more in the future, but I think it’s extremely messed up when people say their family wasn’t “complete” with their first child. What, the first kid wasn’t good enough? I don’t understand that at all. I adore my husband and child, the three of us have a very special relationship with eachother, and adding another person isn’t going to somehow make that better or more fulfilling– it’s already fulfilling. It’s already complete. If we end up having another child in the future, great, we’ll love that kid too, and our family will still be complete. I feel bad for kids whose parents use them as some kind of tool to make themselves happy, it’s highly insulting to who they are as people.