with Renee Reina, PhD
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- Knowing When You’re 1 And Done
- Everyone Feels The Need To Comment On Single Child Families
- Making The Decision To Be An Only Child Family
- Dealing With Other People’s Comments
Do you find yourself wrestling with whether to have more children? Many moms I work with struggle with this decision for a number of reasons such as finances, the ideal family they had envisioned, their past birth or postpartum experience, and the readiness of their partner.
While other parents may have come to the conclusion that they only want one child but feel pushed towards having more by the opinions and expectations of others. The choice to be one and done can come with a lot of guilt, shame, and pressure from others—but what matters is what YOU actually want for your family. Renee Reina, PhD is going to help us unpack how to know when you’re one and done and then feel confident in that decision.
“I loved school and stayed in school as long as possible. All of the sudden, I’m having my first child at thirty-four,” Renee said. She found postpartum overwhelming, and thought she was never doing that again.
But as her child became independent, she liked the idea of a sibling. “But when I actually sit and think about what that entails and how our lives would change with more children, I don’t necessarily want that,” Renee said.
Our motherhood roadmaps that we develop for ourselves come from our own mothers most of the time. Renee’s mom was a stay-at-home mom with three children, and her father worked out of the country for months at the time.
This led to Renee idealizing a family structure with multiple kids and a stay-at-home mom. When she realized she was so happy with her only child, she didn’t want to bring more kids into the picture. It was hard, because it meant going against what she’d always thought she’d want for herself. If you feel like your motherhood journey needs to be different from what has been modeled for you, I’ve put together a complete roadmap to help you find your way.
Everyone Feels The Need To Comment On Single Child Families
When people asked if she wanted more than one kid, Renee would say something like, “We’ll see what happens.” She was afraid that if she answered honestly and admitted she was happy with one child, people would think she didn’t like being a mom. She also worried friends with multiple kids might think she didn’t want what they had.
For me as the mom of three boys, people sometimes ask, “Are you going to try for a girl.” Umm—no. We are so done.
People seem to have all of these expectations for us—but what are our own expectations for us and are they rooted in our values? Other people don’t have to live with the consequences of those choices, or go through another postpartum experience for us. We have to make decisions we can be happy with for our lives.
Making The Decision To Be An Only Child Family
I often hear from clients, “I had a really traumatic postpartum experience, or it was so different from what I expected I just don’t want to do that again.” There are two ways we make decisions. It can be a fear-based or a risk-weighted decision.
If you know you really want a large family, but you’re afraid of reliving your postpartum experience, that’s fear-based. This is something we can process through in therapy, and you may decide you really want more children. Or you may accept that’s not for you, but either way, you’ve worked through it.
Renee and her husband discussed having another child. They really liked their three-person family and didn’t want to change it. They weighed their options and came to what worked best for their family.
Babies can be adorable, so she’s thought of having another one from time to time. “I just don’t see how that would make us any happier than we are,” she explained. Babies don’t stay babies forever. Thinking ten years down the road at what your family will look like and if another child is what you really want helps.
“I think some people are 100% certain. And some people are like, for example, if I were to get pregnant this weekend—because we’re going away—I wouldn’t end that pregnancy,” Renee said. “I would rather not, and I’m really happy with the way things are right now.”
This decision will be different for each person. But even if you weren’t one and done, this would be different for every family.
“A lot of people think about ages 1 to 5 when they’re in the baby stage, but I think about when they’re 20. We would have two kids in university at the same time,” Renee said. “I think about down the road.”
There are so many considerations beyond handling the pregnancy and postpartum. Choosing to avoid something you’ll never be 100% at peace with is a loving decision. You’ve decided not to bring a life into the world whose needs can’t be appropriately met.
Having a child whose needs can’t be met is a much bigger problem than not having a child. But sometimes people will call the parents of an only child selfish, because they assume you’re denying the child siblings. This isn’t the case.
Your child can have a complete and happy life without siblings. Some siblings don’t even talk to each other after their adults, and others add a lot of stress to each other’s lives.
Dealing With Other People’s Comments
“I remember telling my cousin who had three kids back to back to back that I was done with Milo. And she just looked at me and said, ‘Aww. You’re going to be that parent at the park who has to play with their own kid,’” Renee said. This is true. If you have an only child they want to play with you all of the time.
Sometimes when you have only one child you get comments from family and friends—even strangers—who feel you should have more kids, or you’re denying your child siblings, or whatever their take on parenthood is. But you also get comments from people who have multiple children and think your life must be easier because you only have one child.
Renee recently got a message that said something like, “You have one kid, and he goes to daycare. How relatable.” “You get into this thing which happens in mom culture for some reason where it’s like, ‘don’t complain. Your feelings aren’t valid unless you’re in the worst situation,’” Renee said.
But we only know what we see on the outside. You don’t know how someone else feels. Trauma is trauma. It’s in the eyes of the beholder. Our experience is subjective, and no one can tell us how that feels.
Renee is using negative comments for a TikTok series on toxic mom culture. She will video reply to comments like the one telling her one child who goes to daycare is unrelatable.
“I’m not responding for myself,” Renee explained. She’s not bothered by the comments from people on social media who don’t know her. But not everyone is as confident as her, and these comments can really upset them. “I’ll respond for you on my platform,” she said.
“There is no one way to properly raise a child. Sometimes I think so many moms are so insecure that putting down what other people are doing makes them feel like what they’re doing is best,” Renee said.
If you’re not sure your family is complete and still trying to work through it, reach out. A professional at the Happy as a Mother Wellness Center is available to help you process this, so you’re not trying to work through it alone.
Renee finished her PhD in psychology days before quarantine started. While in quarantine with her toddler she gained a large following on TikTok with her honest mom-related content and started The Mom Room Podcast. The Mom Room presents a no BS, real-life image of motherhood that moms can actually relate to and take comfort in. Renee wants moms around the world to feel a sense of empowerment in being a mom. She wants to help moms acknowledge and validate their feelings and inspire moms to start conversations with their partners that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Ultimately, Renee’s goal is to normalize the ups and downs of motherhood and change the narrative of what it means to be a mom.