Parents of an Only Child, Your Mental Health Matters and That's Okay

by - July 22, 2020

Parents of an Only Child, Your Mental Health Matters and That's Okay

One of the many things that parents take for granted is their mental health. It's often considered "selfish" to put yourself first, even when you're mentally drained and burned out.

But one thing I learned the hard way is that a parent's mental health matters, far more than we realize. It's actually one of the many reasons that we decided to be an only-child family.

The Guilt When You Put Yourself First

Both my husband and I are guilty of occasionally putting ourselves first.

We feel guilty when we take a few minutes to rest while our toddler plays on her own.

I feel guilty when I leave our daughter at home with my husband sometimes just so I can go out for a cup of coffee and have some peace and quiet. 

At one point, we left our daughter at a daycare for a couple of hours so we can have a proper date after two long years, and we felt a tinge of guilt for that.

But you know? It's not selfish. Putting yourself first as a parent and caring for your mental health is perfectly okay.

As first-time parents, or even parents of multiples, finding time to take care of yourself is an elusive luxury. And what makes it more difficult is that parents are made to think that doing so is an act of neglect, or worse, child abuse. 

What's wrong with taking a little breather for just a few minutes or a few hours, while also making sure your child is taken care of by a trusted caregiver?

And what's wrong with deciding to be one and done if doing so gives you more peace of mind?

The Struggles of Being a First-Time Parent
Photo by Luma Pimentel on Unsplash

The Struggles of Being a First-Time Parent

Everybody will agree on this: being a first-time parent is hard.

And it's especially true during the newborn stage when your little bundle of joy turns out to be a little energy vampire who wakes up at the most inconvenient time.

The first three months when our daughter was born is still a blur to me—I can't remember much of it except for my husband and I being so perpetually exhausted and sleep-deprived.

Praise all the saints that when our daughter was 3.5 months old, she started sleeping through the night—or at least for around 4 hours straight before she cried and asked to be fed or held.

Our daughter is relatively an "easy" baby: She isn't colicky, she breastfeeds well, she sleeps through most nights, and is generally undemanding. 

My pregnancy was rather uneventful too (save for eight whole months of whole-day "morning" sickness), and I had a quick delivery (just one push!).

That's one of the reasons why I feel guilty about being one and done: I had it easy, while some others had it worse, but I chose to stop at one. Am I a bad mother for not wanting more children?

However, things were not always that easy. During pregnancy, I suffered from prenatal depression, to the point that there was not a day that I did not consider suicide.

I did not seek help, and this carried on for months and months.

Deciding to become a stay-at-home mom didn't make things better for me either. The loneliness and monotony of staying home 24/7 was just too much for me to handle, that most of the time, I was grumpy and easily stressed out. 

What made it worse was that I kept on thinking, "How the hell will I survive if we had a second child, or more?"

Only Child Family, mental health
Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

Deciding to Be One and Done

All the while, I felt guilty because our daughter couldn't get the best parts of me because the dark cloud of depression and the anxiety of planning for a second child was plaguing me. 

My mental health was going down the drain, until one day, I said to my husband in a fit of distress:

"I don't want a second child! I'm done!"

Then he said, "It's all right. I'm fine with just one."

All the while I was wallowing in my sorrow, I didn't even stop to think about my husband's mental health.

He was emotionally and physically drained too, and I didn't pay attention. If we hadn't opened up to each other that time, our marriage would have been inadvertently affected as well.

After a long talk and months of being on the fence, we decided that having an only child was best for all of us:

  • We can dedicate all our love, attention, and energy to our daughter.
  • We can have more time on our hands to fit in travel, mental health days, and simple family bonding activities, without stressing over finances and childcare.
  • We can have more money to save for our daughter's tuition fees and all her needs, as well as our retirement, mortgage, car, business plans, etc.
  • And most importantly, we can be happier and better parents for our daughter because we have more time to take care of our mental health.

Happy Parent, Happy Child

When we finally became more confident with our decision to be one and done, I also found it easier to deal with the stresses of parenthood.

I stopped putting too much pressure on myself because I didn't have to worry about preparing for a second baby. 

I coped with my depression better because I started to see the world more clearly, now that the dark cloud is slowly going away. 

Our house felt a lot like home because the tension between our marriage is gone, and this also meant a happier environment for our daughter to grow up in.

I worried less and enjoyed motherhood more: every smile, every laughter, and every moment was precious because our daughter will be our first and last. 

It's bittersweet, but it's also freeing. Indeed, a happy parent equals a happy child. 

The Bottom Line

So is it selfish to stop at one child to be happier and less stressed? Are we bad parents for putting our mental health first? 

The answer is definitely NO.

You May Also Like