“I just have the one child, but…”

one child

It’s a phrase I must’ve been saying for years, but I have just recently started to notice. I love that my job as a doula allows me to talk with so many mothers. But early on in parenthood I had few meaningful conversations with other moms. I was missing out on the beauty that is another mom validating what I go through every day. This is an important relationship. We need to vent! We need to laugh and we need to cry. So if we need to not feel so alone and feel like someone understands us, then why do we naturally start to compare?

I have spent several years unknowingly reducing my role as a mother when talking to others. After a friend with more than one child shared her experience, I commonly prefaced my response with the phrase, “I just have the one, but…” I wanted to agree and commiserate, but somehow my story didn’t seem as relevant or convincing because I have just one child. The problem with that sentence is that it demeans me as a mom. It demeans the struggles I go through on a daily basis as a parent. It perpetuates a negative voice in my head. I inadvertently tell myself that they have it worse than me, they do a better job, they’re happier, and I’m not a very good mom.

With that phrase I am telling myself that I have no right to feel tired, alone, afraid or stressed.

I’ve learned to catch myself and reframe this hidden, negative opinion. Some of us feel this way internally, and most of us are used to some external opinions as well. After all, parents of one child are often asked when we’re going to have another, as if one is not complete or enough. I think the key is reminding ourselves that parenting is very difficult work no matter how many children you have. It has beautiful rewards, but it does take full effort, all the time.

When talking with other moms, the key is active listening. Not comparing. If we listen with an empathetic ear and put ourselves in their shoes, then we have a greater understanding of who they are as a mom and as a person. We validate them; then it’s our turn to be validated. But if we listen just to reply in comparison, then we are likely to assume that what we go through is lesser than someone with multiple children.

one child

I know at some point we want to have a second child, and I recognize that shift will take a lot of patience and adjustment. But it won’t make me a better mother based on sheer quantity. I’m sure if I have more than one child in years to come I might reminisce about the “ease” of just one. I’ll think back on chasing just one, bundling up just one to go to the grocery store, and worrying about packing just one backpack each morning. I might remember worrying about just one child crossing the street, just one eating all their vegetables, and just one child going to bed on time. I might be tempted to think how easy that was in comparison.

But I will know that the mom with one child sitting next to me is just as much a parent as I am. She is going through the same struggles as me, maybe easier or maybe harder. She is feeling the need to vent after a long day, week, or month. She wants to share her motherhood triumphs, too.

The truth is, we’re all in this together and she is enough. I am enough, even if “I just have the one.”


Kellie Osler
Kellie received her BA in Psychology from the University of Iowa and stayed around after college instead of returning home to SW Iowa. She went to high school with Mike and they met again downtown after her college graduation. They’re now married and live in rural Riverside with their son Calvin, age 4. She owns Motherly TLC as a birth and postpartum doula, and is an active member of the IC Doulas. When she’s not building her business or chasing her son you can find her making vegan recipes, hunting for deals, volunteering at her bi-monthly eating disorder group, or putting in sweat equity on home remodeling projects. If she had spare time she’d love to write a book, do craft projects like hand decorated birdhouses, volunteer more and curl up to watch a favorite show with a hot cup of tea.


  1. Thank you for this! Everyone’s story is valid and unique. Funny thing is I found myself doing this when I just had my doggies, “I know you can’t compare having dogs to children, but…” I know a couple moms who would get angered by people “comparing” having dogs to children, even though I saw that the two talking have different stories, different lives, and they just want to try to connect.

  2. I can totally relate to this. I always feel that I need to qualify my opinions on motherhood because I only have one. Like, somehow this lessens all of my knowledge and experience. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I only have one but it is not necessarily by choice. I would have loved to have more children but we were not able. I am not less of a mom because of it. I homeschool and people often think I have it so much easier. We all have “those” days no matter how many children we are blessed with.


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