Parenting is like wearing a sari. Some of us wear it like we can run a marathon in it, others need a lot of practice and many safety pins to keep it on. If you don't feel guilty about not being able to wear a sari, you shouldn't feel guilty about not wanting a second innings at parenting.
I know a lot of mums that are a little obsessed with doing the right thing, parenting-wise. Actually, that's not true. ALL mums are a little obsessed like that. I know a mother who diligently spends 45 minutes, three times a day, attached to the breast pump in her office—even though her milk had begun to dry up well before she went back to work. Why? Because she had set the magical date of weaning at one year and she was determined to get there. But that isn't out of the ordinary, is it? That's how hard all parents try to be 'a good parent'. Because to be anything else would be criminal, right?
According to the definition decided by her social set, Amrita Shastri from Delhi is a 'bad, bad parent'—Because she and her husband have a four-year-old daughter and don't intend to have any more kids. "The questions started about a year ago," admits Amrita. "Suddenly, everyone wanted to know when I'm having another kid. 'When', but not 'if'," she says wryly. It doesn't help that Amrita is an only child. "Many people assume that I'm projecting my own issues on my daughter," she says. As far as I know, Amrita's issues begin and end at fierce possessiveness of her books. She's normal and nice, so I don't see why her daughter won't be the same.
It's a story I hear from a lot of mommy friends. And there's one standard response to all of them: just ignore what people say and do what's best for you and your family. I believe many families expand before the couple has a chance to figure out what is best for them. You might be convinced that one is best one day and feel terrible about the decision the next. "It's a tough decision. Every time I hear friends talk about their siblings or neices and nephews, I feel a pang of guilt. Am I denying my daughter something important? I see her playing with other kids at the park and well up. At that moment I'm convinced we should have another."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it. When the guilt threatens to overwhelm you, think of all the reasons you decided you want just one. Make a list and carry it in your wallet, if you have to. Sometimes it's a financial decision. But even if it's not, and you made the decision so that you have time for yourself and your partner, it's OKAY. Not all of us can wear saris everyday. Some of us need the jeans too!
Whatever your reasons, if they're good enough for you, the rest of the world will take care of itself. Even if you have the means and are young enough, it's okay to want just one. Like every other parenting decision—weaning, working or staying at home, boarding school or day schools—'how many kids to have?' is an extremely personal one. And like every other decision, this one comes with copious amounts of unasked for advice and opinions. You just have to develop a thick hide and get on with it.