I do believe I have the perfect number of children–four.
Four is the perfect balance between large families and small. Four seems just large enough that those moms with fewer children (especially just one or two) make much over my brood and my seemingly supermom abilities (ha!). And four is just enough to give me an ounce of street cred with the moms of the real large families. Four masquerades carefully between.
In truth, four is really no harder than one or two (especially since they entertain each other—even if it’s by fighting!) and four is just few enough for me to sometimes, though very rarely, see the bottom of the laundry hamper. We do have to be creative when checking into hotels. (“What? Another child? Oh, no, sir, that’s my daughter’s life-size doll.”) But we do not have to purchase a Suburban or even think about a fifteen-passenger van.
So having heard the refrain “I don’t know how you do it! I can barely manage two children!” more than once, I was intrigued by Simcha Fisher’s open letter “To the Mother of Only Child” in the National Catholic Register.
Simcha, who now has nine children, writes poignantly that the mother of only one child finds mothering hard because mothering is hard. And those first years, when a woman usually only has one child, when she is becoming a mother, are especially difficult. She says,
To become a mother, I had to learn how to care about someone more than I did about myself, and that was terrible. But who I am now is something more terrible: the protector who can’t always protect; the one with arms that are designed to hold, always having to let go.
Dear mother of only one child, don’t blame yourself for thinking that your life is hard. You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone. For what? Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left.
Simcha’s beautiful letter will leave you holding your child–or children–a little tighter and loving them a little more. And maybe you will find yourself loving them not just for who they are, but for who they have helped you become.