I've noticed in Catholic circles that no one ever wants to acknowledge that there are advantages to small families (or disadvantages to large ones). I can't tell you how many Catholic articles or blog posts I've read that have talked about the advantages of big families or siblings. I think these are beautiful, important, and very needed. But, on the other hand, there is not a single one I've come across written from a Catholic perspective that talks about the advantages of small families or only children (or families that consist of husband and wife).
Perhaps this is because it's assumed that our culture lauds small families and only children (or no children) so there doesn't have to be a Catholic voice for this. But from my experience, the secular articles and posts on the benefits of small families are anything but comforting to a Catholic mother. Inherent in those articles is the understanding that small families are superior, responsible, environmentally-friendly, etc. The overall tone seems to be anti-life and selfish; children are depicted as commodities to be obtained and enjoyed - thus, having one or two makes them easier to fit into a life full of other, equally important pursuits (career, travel, intellectual advancement, physical perfection, hobbies, etc.) To be lauded for something that is anathema to my beliefs is like a knife to the heart. I'm not "choosing" a small family in order to be a good citizen in the culture of death and self-absorption.
I think there is this fear that if we talk about the positives of small families (or the negatives of big ones) that we'll be promoting this mentality that elevates the small family for selfish reasons, and therefore will be steering Catholics away from being open to life or God's plan for our families. Instead, it alienates Catholic parents with small families and puts pressure on large families to always seem perfect. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both small and large families (and medium size, too) and denying that fact makes Catholics seem out of touch with reality.
Recently I've noticed that at church or other Catholic events, it's extremely rare for us to be told we have a "beautiful family". Extremely rare. And yet the large families all around us hear it several times each Sunday. I'm not sure exactly why that is. I have a handsome husband and adorable daughter and more than that, I think we radiate the joyfulness of Christ and family life. But we're a small family. We don't fit into the Catholic ideal.
I yearn for a large family. Not because it's perfect or I idealize it, but because I love children and love being a mother and because I believe that the joy additional children bring to a family is always worth the added difficulties. In addition to joy, it seems that there are also some very practical benefits to having more children. But since I have a small family (and perhaps always will) I want to stop being afraid to talk openly about (or feel guilty about having) the practical benefits of a small family.
So I'll say it: Having one living child makes many things easier. I have more time to rest, more time with my husband, more time for hobbies, more one-on-one time with my daughter. We have more money and less material needs. We can get by with a smaller apartment, a smaller kitchen table, and smaller car. We can get out of the door faster and travel easier. And it's ok if I enjoy these advantages.
Because I'm sure that while they are struggling with all the difficulties of having a large family, the moms of many are enjoying the blessings of their extra children. There is no need for me to be a martyr by suffering the pain of secondary infertility/recurrent pregnancy loss AND feeling guilty/unable to enjoy the advantages that come with my small family.
My family is small but beautiful. We may not have many children but we have more time and resources to spend on the one beautiful blessing we do have. I'm not ashamed of our small family and I'm not guilty that I have many things "easier" than moms of many. They have the blessings of their many children and I have other blessings that, while I don't think are equal in value because what can even approach the value of a human life???, I can certainly appreciate and enjoy.
Other, even better blog posts on this topic:
The Only Guilt (Annery at Home)
The Double Edged Knife: Guilt and the Small Family (Molly Makes Do)
Benefits of Larger Child Spacing (One Catholic Mama)
And while you're at it, read the beautiful post Molly just wrote On Miscarriage and Mordor (you don't have to be a Tolkien fan to appreciate it, but it certainly helps).