Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 20th 2013 Contents B13
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Here s what we don t talk about when we talk
about having it all: mothering less. Not willful child
negligence, but simply having one kid, and no more.
I ve watched most of my friends tread into the
tunnel of second children, few of them to emerge as
how I remember their former engaged selves. They
tell me there s hardly the time to even consider main-
taining a self. "You don t have any idea how hard it
is---it s more than twice as hard," many of them say
repeatedly, impatient and dazed. It s true.
Our family life, busy with plentiful travel, the delights
of urban living, late night rock shows and dinner
parties, and the frequent freedom to binge on a novel
over a weekend, allows as much freedom and pleasure
as parenting without a trust fund could possibly offer.
There s a reason that in a study of 35,000 Danes, par-
ents of only children were found to be happier than
We have the rich pleasures of parenting, time for
work, and also some measure of freedom for ourselves.
Researchers across disciplines and cross the world say
there s nothing but support for singletons
as the way to balance the profound joys
of parenting with the constant clamour
of the rest of our lives.
It seems the more of a parent you
are, the less you are of anything else
Women devote about 13 hours a week
to childcare, up from about 10.5 half
hours nearly a half century ago---when
they didn t work outside the home. Each
child adds no less than 120 hours of
housework a year. Meanwhile, over the
past century, adulthood has come to
promise more than just duty, but pleas-
ure. We envision a liberated existence,
one of satisfaction and fulfillment, a life
built upon intentionality and individ-
ualism rather than obligation and role
filling. This liberated adulthood exists
at odds with parenting.
It doesn t take forced population con-
trol to raise the number of a country s
only children---the relative incompati-
bility of parenthood and modernity has
taken care of that. We search for a part-
ner who will satisfy our desires, develop
a career that reflects our strengths, build
a life that suits not just our needs, but
our wants. Meanwhile, our bodies get
older, our fertility more fragile. We make
our sequential choices and often these
days, they add up to one.
The US has more only children than
ever before, now over one in five, which
is double the number since my mother
made the choice to stop at one in the
mid-70s. Last month s UK Census esti-
mate that an astonishing half of British
families have just one child; the same
count put Irish single-child families at
one-third. A global study found that
the lower the overall fertility of a country,
the happier its parents are.
Could it be that those of us who are
keeping our families small have
cracked the impossible code?
Dare I say that we might have it all?
I must amend that---in the US, I d sug-
gest that we come as close as we can
get. What it would truly take to reconcile
parenting, professionalism, and pleasure
is something even more elusive in this
When it comes to paid parental leave
and childcare, the US offers the weakest
support for parents of almost any coun-
try on earth. We re on par with Swazi-
land. To paraphrase parenting and hap-
piness researcher Robin Simon, we are
the country that offers the least systemic
support and simultaneously demands
we love parenting the most.
Without structural change,
what's a girl to do?
For me, the answer is to mother fewer
children, so I can better love my one
kid, and myself. Though in truth, even
if Shulamith Firestone were drafting our
nation s family policy. My daughter
would still wake me before dawn, and
have the periodic tantrum before school.
I d still miss her when I m not with her,
and occasionally long for freedom from
her when I am. I d still pay a price to
parent. And I d be happy to. Just as I
I respect myself as a mother for
straining at times against the myriad
limitations of a parent s life, and I think
my daughter does too. Because through
me, she s learning what it means to be
a mother and a worker, but also a wife,
and a friend, and deep lover of engage-
ment with the larger world. To me, that s
having it all. (Psychology Today)
Having it all with
A journalist---an only child---weighs up
the choice to have single-child family
Lauren Sandler, centre, Justin Lane
and Dahlia Lane at their home in the
Brooklyn borough of New York.
Sandler delves into the myths and
misconceptions about singletons in a
new book, One and Only, out this
month from Simon and Schuster.
Sandler says the choice of having
one child is often demonised and the
pull to have more is strong at times.
Based on scores of interviews with
academics and only children, the
book wasn't intended as memoir,
though Sandler's family of three, is
woven throughout. AP PHOTO
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