Let me start by saying that I am the luckiest person in the whole wide world. I have a beautiful daughter – she is everything to me as I knew she would be, and I could not be more thankful. And believe me I know how lucky I am. Like so many women I hurtled into my late 30s with the biological clock ticking so loudly in my ears it was deafening. And when I found myself in a position to follow my maternal dream, mother nature, the big mother herself, inevitably threw me a few fairly devastating curve balls. So when I finally held Ella in my arms, it was more than a dream come true – it was a miracle.
And when I talk about life in the One Bub Club it is just to explain to people how life differs when you have one child. It is not to complain about my lot, have you weeping in the aisles, or seek sympathy. It is just to tell it how it is.
Some people choose to be in the One Bub Club. I would have loved to have had another child, for Ella to have been a big sister, but when the first one is so hard to come by, and you are saying those prayers to whoever might be listening, the thought of number two doesn’t even enter your head. It is only when you are sitting cross-legged in a circle of mums in a village hall, with your 2 year old, singing ‘Wind the Bobbin’ for the umpteenth time that you start to notice that you are surrounded by an ever-increasing number of bumps and tiny babies, and plenty of questioning glances. That glance says – ‘so when are you planning to have another?’ And that is when you start to realise that maybe you are in a smaller club than you’d realised.
Because when you join that most exclusive and aspirational of clubs, the big kahuna, the mother of all clubs, the hardest club of all to join, you think that that is it – that you have finally got there – job done, place in life found. But that’s not quite true. Because The Mum’s Club is complicated and has sections, and sub-sections, chapters and divisions, and the One Bub Club is one of the smaller ones. It is also one that is increasing in size because so many women are leaving it late to do the baby thing. But what does it really mean?
Well first a confession. I’m afraid that most members of the One Bub Club will tell you that they can’t help but feel a little bit envious of friends and acquaintances as they trot out numbers 2 and 3. It’s only natural after all. Compared to the first one, it all looks so easy. They all look like they know what they are doing, their picture is complete. But we all have to adjust our hopes and dreams, and no matter what you go through, it is hard to kiss them goodbye completely. So aside from the uncontrollable organic reactions within, what else is different about the One Bub Club?
For a start, most of the time – it’s just you and them. Any time not spent at nursery or now school, is spent almost exclusively in each other’s company. Which is great. Mostly. But it does mean that you have to be inventive in terms of occupying your child, and finding things to do on a daily basis. One Bub Club members are usually very very social – play dates are a way of life for the sake of mummy’s sanity, and hosting play dates is something that tends to fall upon the one with the least amount of children to deal with, so we’ve got pretty good at hosting them too! Of course, any mums who have had two very small children running them ragged will think that sounds fantastic, and it is, because trust me, I never envy those of you peeling a toddler off of a kitchen table, or refereeing another sibling spat. But my reality is that I don’t have second child to occupy the first. I have a spaniel. But that is not the same.
Secondly, your child will more than likely suffer from ‘only child syndrome’. I’m not sure if that’s an official term, but in my experience it mostly consists of mum picking up after child much more than they would if they had other children to take care of. Thus only child is a little lazy and spoilt and it’s all my fault! Although she is very good at sharing because of the multiple mass play dates that we have endured, I mean enjoyed over the years. But she still doesn’t know how to put a toy in a box or a felt tip pen lid back on! C’est la vie.
Thirdly, when you go on holiday, it really isn’t much of a holiday, because guess what – there are even less playmates around for your child, and no play dates at all. Only children are also far less amenable to being dumped in strange ‘Kids Clubs’ so that’s a non-starter, although frankly my conscience doesn’t allow it anyway. But I have spent many hours freezing in a swimming pool and arguing with my husband about whose turn it is to be in the pool, play noughts and crosses, or get up at 5am to do jigsaw puzzles. Usually mine I might add. Of course, with Ella now at school we have just had our first holiday during school holidays, and it was great – lots of kids for Ella to play with, and lots of poolside reading for mum! Life evolves all the time.
And finally, they start school – all that ‘me’ time – happy days. For me, having moved to a new village just a few months before Ella started school so that she would have playmates around the corner, I thought it was an opportunity to finally get to know the mums in my village. Yes, that’s how big those only child decisions get. Moving house to live in close proximity to potential playmates. But guess what – all the school mums either have older children at the school and have already got very used to one another, or have smaller children at home. They get together for play dates and cups of tea, and I slink off home to walk the spaniel. Happily I am not the sole member of the OBC in Reception at Ella’s school, but we make a fairly obvious double act. She is my spaniel’s vet though, so that is handy!
Of course, there are many positives to be being a member of this exclusive club. Ella and I are already have more than a mother/daughter relationship because we have spent the best part of the last 5 years together almost exclusively. My husband often tells us off for arguing like we are teenagers. I have been lucky enough to just focus on her, and have the benefit of knowing her inside out, never missing a thing, never missing a milestone. I had no idea what hilarious, insightful, remarkable people small children can be – far more entertaining than the best book in the world, and when you’ve got just one, you can really enjoy who they are. And of course, she is a girl – we like doing the same things, – colouring, eating cake and shopping, so all is good. Gin drinking will come later.
And frankly, now Ella is at school, I have my life back. I can plan what I am going to do with the ‘rest of my life’ in my ‘non-Ella time’. Like so many of us who left it so late, I found it hard to leave the productive working life behind and I struggled to be a stay at home mum as much as I had craved it. So now I can focus on a few of my other hopes and dreams whilst also being mum to Ella.
We do still get those questioning glances – it is a questioning glance that I am often guilty of myself – but in my defence, I am usually seeking some common ground. And yes, I do get asked outright – ‘are you going to have any more’ on a very regular basis. And it’s not always easy to answer. But first and foremost, I am the luckiest mum of the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world. She exhausts me, she completes me, and we are what we are.