Writing by Freya Bennett // illustration by Andrea Valdivia
I’ve officially reached the age where concerned family members/strangers on trams have started worrying about my ovaries. What started as little comments about what age they had finished having all their children by has become straight out questions like ‘Are you concerned about your fertility now that you’re 35?’.
The thing is, I already have a daughter. She’s five and delightful (as delightful as a five-year-old can be), but after chatting to a few women of similar ages and in similar circumstances, it got me thinking, is having only one child the new having no children?
As a card-carrying member of the only child club, I find this somewhat amusing. Is my existence not real because I have no siblings? Is Angelica Pickles a figment of my imagination or did she make Rugrats the generation defining show it was?
Growing up in a single-parent-only-child situation, it was just mum and me and there were times I felt like we didn’t count because we weren’t seen as a “proper family”. I felt like that sad old man in Christmas specials walking around the neighbourhood on Christmas Eve, looking in windows as families gathered round the piano to sing off-key Christmas carols.
I longed to fight with a sibling as I saw my friends doing. “You’re so lucky you don’t have siblings,” they’d say as they gave each other arm burns but I’d always notice the aftermath of the fighting, the shared bowl of tiny teddies and the compromise on who had to be the baby in the next game of ‘mums and dads’.
There were positives to being in a two-person family of course. We had a lot of freedom other families didn’t. We could decide to do something and just do it – we didn’t have to consider anyone else’s preferences. Drive to the beach at 7pm to swim at dusk? Yes please! Spend three hours in the library in our preferred sections? Easy! Get one pizza with a split down the middle of toppings? Done. I’m talking Christina and Josie Alibrandi from Looking for Alibrandi and their unbreakable (if sometimes explosive) bond.
And while I still don’t know what my plans are in terms of having another baby, I want all the only child (and child-free) families to know they are just as valid as big families. There is a different kind of strength in the small family. Okay, so I may not be great at sharing my food and I may get overwhelmed easily at loud gatherings, but I am very good at being by myself and my creativity is pretty dazzling (spend enough time alone pre smart phones and you too could’ve had oodles of creativity).
So next time I sit down on a tram next to a lovely nonna who asks for my complete fertility history, I’m going to tell her my ovaries are still deciding what to do next. And if they decide I put good enough use to their one (pretty cute) egg then I will be completely satisfied with my little, but powerful family.