The One And Only

To the woman in Tesco's who just asked me if The Boy was my 'one and only';

Yes. Yes, he is.

I wanted to silence you with a retort about miscarriages, or infertility. But neither of those is true and it would have been a wicked thing to say. But then so is querying a woman's fertility, or her decision about the number of children she has.

"It's actually none of your business!" I felt like screaming.

Let's face it and if I'm honest, I wanted to slap you.

But I didn't.

I was polite, I smiled with a clearly forced and fake smile and said, "Yes."

Let's put aside the fact that you're also delving into marital affairs with my husband when you query if I only have one child. We'll disregard the judgement and pity in your tone. Let's ignore the fact that you have no idea why I only have one. Let's take no notice of the fact that I could have had a medical problem after labour. Or indeed have had another child and something dreadful had happened. We'll gloss over the fact that there are couples out there who struggle for years before being able to conceive with one precious child who means everything in the world to them.

We'll turn a blind eye to all of that.

It might be a conscious decision on my part to only have one child. I might have decided that there are enough children in the world, and not to add to the burden on resources. I might have split up with my husband. I might be about to adopt another child. I might be unable to go through childbirth again or to conceive. All of these things are potential situations, they are also deeply personal.

I wouldn't walk up to a near stranger, let alone my son's old teacher, and ask her how many times a month she is having 'intimate relations' with her partner. I wouldn't pity her with a comment about having an 'only' child.



And it's none of your damned business.

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  1. says

    I hear ya sister! It is bloody rude! Nothing to do with anyone else except you and your husband and it's rude to 'assume' that it's ok to question that. Feeling your pain and sending you hugs x

  2. says

    My eldest son was an only child for 10 years, I got sick of the questions. He had a lovely childhood and we were incredibly close and still are. I never thought I'd have more, I'm glad now I've had that chance but having seen it from both sides I think both are lovely. And as you say, no one else's business.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      There's a 12.5 year age gap between me and my eldest sibling, 5.5 years between my next sibling and I. I never intended to have such an age gap, but it is what it is, and if I'm lucky enough to have another then it certainly won't be a problem. Thanks for commenting.

  3. says

    Too bloody right – it is nobody elses business whether you have children, how many you have, if you have 2 of the same sex whether you will 'try for the other sex' etc etc, yet people see fit to come and ask all sorts of personal questions, and quite frankly it's intrusive. Well done to you for gritting your teeth and remaining the one with manners.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I fail to understand why people think they have the right to question our families, or pass judgement on the amount of children we have. It's wonderful to share the joy that people have children, and to empathise with them, but it doesn't turn every child into a collective family for people to have the sense they belong to them.

  4. says

    Sending all the support back at you you've given me lately x
    I wonder, I truly do at questions asked which would be so unacceptable if reversed.
    I have especially been in awe of the number of people who ask if the boys were 'natural'… I'm sure the words couldn't have even sounded ok in their heads!
    I wouldn't have expected anything else of you, as a considerate, wonderful being, than to have gritted your teeth, but I am so sorry you had to. x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Why would they question that? Why do they think it's ok just because they're twins?!

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  5. says

    Sending a hue squishy hug xxx It is none of their buisness and I hate the fact that some people feel the need to pry into others life's, make assumptions without knowing the facts xx

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      That's the issue isn't it? They don't know why I only have one child and so try and cover up their prying ways by making it worse, but it's not for them to even question one child as something wrong.

  6. says

    Yessssssss!!!! Why why why why do people think it's ok to comment? It's one of those things that's somehow become socially acceptable for some reason. I guess they think they're just making conversation. For the first time last week I had to say "we can't" in response to someone asking when a sibling was coming. :-/

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Why has it become socially acceptable? There are better ways to make conversation than query people's decisions about their family, or indeed it might not be a decision that they've voluntarily made.

  7. says

    Such a rude question. We have a four year gap between ours and were often asked when B would be getting a baby brother or sister. I normally laughed it off, but when an acquaintance asked me a week after I had a miscarriage, she got both barrels. Don't think she'll be asking anyone that question again in a hurry!!!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      And that's the issue; nobody knows why there's no sibling and it's none of their business. As I said, it could be something that has happened, or it could be a deliberate decision, either way it's deeply personal.

  8. says

    Very well said. I get it from the opposite end – questioned about having 4, like they must have been mistakes. Again none of anyone's business.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I'm the youngest of four and I'm sure my mum had what you experience. I fail to understand why people think they have right to assume it's their business just because we share the fact we're both parents.

  9. says

    Bravo! You know how I feel about this . . . I've started saying "I'm making the socially responsible decision to have one child, seeing as we are massively overpopulated already – reaching crisis point in terms of landfill space and school places, and very few people seem to care. No point having lots of kids if we're leaving them an inheritance of a ruined planet." That usually shuts them up. Xx

  10. kathleen says

    It's almost on the same level as asking a woman who hasn't had children why she hasn't or when she's going to have children. I have friends who have made the conscious decision not to have children and friends who have been unable to have children and it really frustrates them. I never hear of men ever being asked anything similar. As if all the fertility/child bearing burden is placed solely on women. And like you say it's nobodies business but yours and your husbands.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I have a friend whose first marriage ended before children happened, her second marriage was to a man with two daughters aged between 6-10 when they got married. By the time the girls were in a situation where they could have welcomed a younger sibling, it was too late for her. She accepts it wasn't meant to be and has had to move on. She still gets upset about it, even now the girls are in their 20s. We all have to make our own decisions for our families and it's really nothing to do with anyone else.

  11. says

    Totally agree, I'm an only child myself and it seems to shock people, and I've been asked why my parents didn't have another child, it's so rude and I think if anyone asked me the same question about my son I may not be able to act with the restraint you showed!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      It was all I could manage not to be rude, but I live and work in the same small town and she was the parent of an ex-pupil. I don't know why people have to think being an only child is such a bad thing anyway? Why does he deserve pity?

  12. says

    Arrrrggggghhhhhh She is probably the same woman that told me I needed to have a third in a hope it would be a girl. Where do these people get off?

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      See now why do people think that's the done thing? Why must we have to have one of each?! If I'm lucky enough to have another then I won't mind which gender it is! Ten fingers and ten toes that's all that counts.

  13. says

    i was, and occasionaly still get asked, if i would like another and try for a girl!!! IF i were to try again it would be for a baby and not a daughter!!

    You are correct, it is no ones business but your own x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      That annoys me too! Why is one of each the perfect combination? It's so silly and I get fed up with other people's opinions being shared and used as 'the law'. Thanks for commenting.

  14. says

    So true.

    I've not had many comments – I obviously have a face that says' don't even say it', but the worst was at my mum's funeral, when my Great Aunt asked me when I was due. Er, after I'd lost 2 stone, and thought I looked pretty good in my dress. Her reasoning was 'well, it's about the right length to have a second'. Hmm, inappropriate timing, and just interferring and assuming.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Oh my word, that's dreadful! You poor thing, at a time when you needed family the most to support and that's what they come out with?! I wish I had a face that says "Don't even think about it!" People can be so rude and inconsiderate.

  15. says

    "Ooh you've got three big boys and then a little one. Bet he was a mistake!"

    "Erm. No. I left an abusive relationship with three scarred children, met up with a wonderful man whom I knew intimately from my teens and once he decided me and my boys were what he wanted, proposed and we planned our collective futures, we suffered FIVE miscarriages"

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Why would anyone ever deem a child a 'mistake'? Such a cruel and dreadful word to use. I don't like 'accident' either. Pleasant surprise is possibly the best term for an unexpected child.

      However, yours is a prime example of what I mean above; the people commenting have no idea about your miscarriages or abusive relationship yet they feel that they have the right to discuss it just because they share being a parent with you. Wrong!

  16. says

    I was asked this recently by a work colleague and gave a protracted explanation because I felt I had to justify my choice. When I got home I thought of my awesome response I should have used "yeah, we got it right first time".
    For me it's not the question it's the loaded tone in which it's asked.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      And isn't that wrong? That colleague doesn't deserve your explanations, how many children you have is your choice, not his/hers.

      And I completely agree, it's the tone. Picture the look on her face as she looked at him after talking about her three 'wonderful' children, picture the glancing down and questioning, "Is he your one and only?" I almost could hear her thinking 'poor woman!'.

  17. says

    I HATE this. Before we had children we would get 'when is it your turn?' and lo & behold, just like you have mentioned above, we (I) were infertile and in the process of fertility treatments! I just smiled politely and said 'not yet' but I wish I had told them different, when deep down inside I was breaking apart! And then we had J and it was 'when is the next?'. Then after my miscarriage 'are you going to try again?'. All SO very personal. Argh I'm getting angry and emotional just writing this.

    Great post.

  18. says

    Oh yes, that little gem. Been there, have felt like getting the t-shirt so very often and if they get me on the wrong day they do get the brutal truth – yes, I had a really crap miscarriage a couple of yearS after my son arrived. How about you? Other days, I just say, yes aren't I the lucky one.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I shall remember that gem and use it in the future. What gives people the right to query us?

  19. says

    I can see why this is a touchy Subject for you and why you are upset hut can I just ask, did she say anything more than 'is he your one and only?' it's just that I don't see that as a rude or horrid question filled with all the energy behind you you have. I expect she was just making conversation and passing the time of day. If you'd had three children running around she might have said 'do you just have these three?' or in another direction 'my, you've got your hand full'. I don't think people ever intent to be rude they just usually are marking time and being polite. It sounds as if it could have been no more loaded than 'lovely day isn't it' in which she would have meant the weather but said to someone having a crappy day wouldn't have been true for them. But that doesn't mean it was said without thought or care just one human wanting to communicate with another. If it's someone you know then it should matter but a stranger in the supermarket? Shrug it off… I suspect she really doesn't care how many children you have but looked at your boy and thought how lovely is he and just wanted to say something, anything? to just converse. If I get chatting to a new mum in the park it's a question I've asked many times although probably in different forms… 'is he your first?' ' do you have any older ones?' etc. It's really just passing the time of day with the topic of their children because look, they clearly have children. When the answer comes back 'yes' or 'no' I don't have any judgment or massive thoughts on their answer.

  20. says

    I get 'oh you've got 3, did nothing take your fancy on the TV then!' Or 'You don't need to have anymore now you've got a girl' and the best one I get is 'aww, you finally got it right then and got a girl, I bet it was disappointing when your 2nd was another boy!' – Erm no actually I didn't care boy or girl and LA certainly wasn't just an attempt to get a girl, and I'd have been just as happy had she been XJ our chosen boys name!
    I really don't get how it's anyone's business but the couples, and for the record I do want another just not as close in age.

  21. says

    Im with Tammy, I have 5 ( 3 I gave birth to and 2 I took on when their mother left them) but I have 5….I get the same….did you no have a tv hen, or you must have enjoyed it. I am saddened to only have the 5, I always wanted 4 of my own, 1 straight after the other with approx 18 months apart. Well 1 and 2 worked that way, then No3 took 4 years to fall pregnant with and after him No4 did not happen at all. I had 2 girls first and use to get oh you will be wanting a boy then…..No I wanted 10 fingers and 10 toes. (and yes on top of my lot I childminded and work as a creche leader and a play group leader, loved them at that age.

    I dont think it is anybodies business how many you have and why you have that number. But agree with Ruth maybe she just making conversation.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I was her children's teacher so we were having a brief 'hello' conversation. Yes it was the fact that she questioned if I only had one child, but it was the query 'is he your one and only?' in a tone loaded with judgement.

  22. says

    Very well said! It is no one else's business. I get all the time why I had such a big age gap between my children, they soon shut up when I tell them! So bloody nosy! X

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I'm the youngest of four with my eldest sibling being 12.5 years older than me, I'm sure my mum had questions about that. I don't know when it became socially acceptable to query family make up?

  23. says

    Be glad you are not an Asian! Lol. All the 'aunties' seem to think its their business to ask when you are going to have your next one and even go so far as to ask if your periods are normal!
    A few cutting replies made them realise not to ask me.

    Then when I went to see the in laws it was worse there as all the 'aunties' felt they had a right to tell me to go get checked

  24. says

    I am starting to get a lot of this myself. The hub and I are pretty sure we are only going to have the one and have already been called selfish.

    I would never dream of asking anyone about their child status, having been close to people with fertility issues, you realise how incredibly insensitive this one question can be.

    Fab post x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      People think it is one of those things that is ok to talk about, it's not. It's a deeply personal thing. Thanks for your support

  25. says

    Lol. I get the opposite – all the 'don't you have a TV' etc. I did once turn round to a woman in a supermarket and say "I just love sex, I can't stop, we're shagging like rabbits constantly. I expect no.8 will be along any minute". That got it out of my system, it really did. And once she'd walked away stunned the lady behind the till said "I've got 7 children too" :D

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Ha! I love it! People are so quick to pass judgement upon everyone else, because children are visible they think it doesn't matter.

  26. says

    Hear hear!

    When pushed to give a response to the same question, I simply say that I'm too old to have another one. But I am often sorely tempted to slap people across the face and shout that it's none of their business.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      It's just so intrusive and I have no idea when it became socially acceptable to pry like this.

  27. says

    This really grinds my gears – but people judge whatever your situation. It is none of their business, but they still do.
    I was pregnant with my youngest when a supermarket checkout assistant said "Oh well, better luck next time" because I told her I knew it was another boy.
    I felt like punching her in the face. I was having a healthy baby. How could she commiserate with me like I should be disappointed?
    There was every possibility we might have decided to have just one child. We'd had two miscarriages before Brodie was born, and I suffered badly with PND after he came along.
    Everyone has their own decision to make. No child, one child, lots of children.
    And some have decisions made for them by Mother Nature.
    But making people tell you about it – and almost feel like they have to justify themselves – is crass and insensitive.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I think you've hit the nail on the head, it's the making people feel like they have to justify it. I shouldn't have to explain anything to anyone. Thank you for commenting.

  28. says

    Well said!

    I saw a picture doing the rounds on Facebook and it went something like this:

    Single: When are you getting married?
    Married: When are you having children?
    One Child: When are you going to have another one?
    One Boy, One Girl: Perfect, you don't need anymore.
    Two Boys or Two Girls: Ooh, are you going to try for a boy/girl? (delete as applicable)
    Three Children: Was it an accident?
    Four or more: Something else totally derogatory.

    I had one boy and one girl… I wanted another because I knew I wasn't 'done'. I now have two boys and a girl… and no, my baby wasn't an accident, he was very much planned.

    I hate how judgemental perfect strangers are about how many children you do or don't have… they seem to think they have the right to judge us… The one that is really getting my goat at the moment is "you have your hands full, don't you?" It makes me want to scream (either that or turn into the incredible hulk).

    We all make our own decisions based on what is right for us, I just wish some people would respect that freedom of choice… x

  29. says

    This question, along with the accusation of now being 'too skinny' (imagine if I turned around to a friend on a night out and said 'I think you are a by too fat now'), get my goat. Not to forget the 'so when are you having kids' to the newly engaged/married/living together out there. Give it a rest people! Let's just start with being kind and supportive to each other and take it from there.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I could not agree more. I'm heavily overweight and have those questions, along with (of course), "You'll need to lose weight to have another child!" Double-barrelled insult there.

      Why can't we just be kind to people?

  30. says

    However these comments are meant, it's hard to hear them over and over isn't it? Even though I have asked some to stop asking (I have not explained why to anyone as like you say, it's no-one's business), friends (usually those with more than one themselves) keep asking 'when' I am having my next, as though it's assumed I will. I know they are only asking as they assume there is no reason I shouldn't and they want me to share their experience etc. but…. I have now started to just say 'I don't know' and change the subject quickly and hope they get the message! I have blogged about this too… It might resonate with you!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I was asked by a colleague the other week, to which I replied, "I'm trying!" She told me to, "Try a bit harder then!". Words completely failed me.

      It is incredibly hard to hear them over and over again, people can be so very thoughtless.

  31. says

    There was a graphic I saw on a friend's Facebook profile joking about how people respond to you when you have different amounts of children. It's bang on.

    I found last year really difficult when people were constantly asking me when I was going to have another, warning me of the gap that there would be etc. What they didn't know was that I DESPERATELY wanted to be pregnant this time last year. I desperately wanted another child but as a result of having a tumour and surgery, I was told to hold off for a year. Thankfully, I fell pregnant as soon as I was given the all clear. I found the comments last year so hurtful at a time when I was really struggling with coming to terms with possibly not being allowed to ever have any more.

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