Mushroom is an only child.
For now, anyway. What was the first thing that came to mind as you read the first sentence. Did you think. “So what?” or “Oh no, the poor boy!” or “How selfish of you!” Simply “Ok…”? Or something else..?
I only ask because since Mushroom was about a year old I have been asked many, many times, “Do you think you’ll have another?” I don’t mind this so much. It’s a fair question and does not presume to know what my answer might be. However, I have also been asked “So, when are you having the next one?” and “you better hurry up and have another one soon!” and even “One child is no child. You have to give him a brother or sister.” Really, I have to? Why…?
Ok, I do get the argument that when Mr B and I reach the end of our lives, if Mushroom is still an only child (he’s not even three yet, why assume things won’t change?) grief is a heavier burden to bear if there’s no-one to share it with. My brother, sister and I leaned heavily on each other when our Mum passed away. We are lucky we get on so well. However, I also received a massive amount of support from friends who I leaned on just as much and I know some who are not even in touch with their sibling/s so it’s no guarantee of future help (if caring for elderly parents) and support. The point is, I understand this argument.
However, other beliefs that I have less time for include:
Only children are spoiled
Only if you spoil them, surely? Sure, if you pander to your only child’s every whim and give them everything they want all the time, then they will develop a sense of entitlement. But if you can afford it, you can just as easily ‘spoil’ two or more kids the same way.
Only children selfish
Only if they are not taught otherwise! All toddlers are selfish at times – it’s part of their development. However, this applies as much to toddlers with siblings as to only children. Mushroom, for example, is not yet three. Of course he has his moments but he is very aware of others’ feelings – often asking ‘what’s wrong’ if he senses someone is upset. He’s also pretty good at sharing and taking turns, often offering younger children a turn first.
Only children are clingy
Sometimes, maybe. But not always. Again, children with siblings can be clingy too! Besides, studies have shown that only children are in fact more independent and self-reliant as they don’t have siblings to lean on.
Only children will find it hard to make friends
Well, Mushroom is popular at nursery and the adult only children I know personally are confident and popular with wide groups of friends. However, I don’t have personal experience of being an only child so I asked around (isn’t social media great?) and here’s what two adult only children have to say about their experiences:
Clare Levett (@belledidyoutell) says, “I was my parents’ sole focus, their absolute single adoration. [They] poured themselves into encouraging my education, my extra-curricular activities and my talents. I couldn’t have been any more nurtured than I was as an only child. I was lonely though. I did struggle to make friends as I was painfully shy and not having any other children in my family, was unsure of how to interact.”
However, Ericka Clay (@tipsylit) who says of only having one child herself, “I see nothing wrong with having one child because I know I’ll be able to concentrate on my writing and raising my kid (emphasis on the singular). I see nothing wrong with knowing you’re not equipped to take on more than you can handle,” says that she loved being an only child.
Of course there’s a flipside to every argument. As with most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to being an only child. I guess then, what’s most important, is what is right for each individual family.
Whether Mr B and I want or will have another child is nobody’s business but ours. If we do have another, it will be announced after 12 weeks of pregnancy and not before. If we don’t, we don’t.
If you have a large family, that’s great. I agree that there are many life lessons that can be learned from having siblings and have experienced the benefits first-hand myself. However, before you ask anyone with one child when they’re having another, it’s worth considering the various reasons they might not be.
Here are a few possibilities:
- Maybe they’ve been trying for another and the question will be a painful reminder that they’ve so far been unsuccessful
- Maybe they have health reasons for not wanting to risk another child, like Tessa (@ThePumpingMama), who says, ‘Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) and postnatal depression mean I won’t risk another child. I’ve had to be really frank with people about it as they can’t understand having [only] one,” or Amanda Fisher (@amandaspatch), whose experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) meant that her family’s decision to remain a one child family was not an easy one
- Maybe they want to wait until they can better afford to support two (or more) children
- Maybe they simply don’t want another (and better one child than one loved and one unwanted, surely?)
- Maybe that they can’t have any more for whatever reason and they don’t want to share this (deeply personal) information. Would you?
Are you/do you have an only child? What are your thoughts one-child families? Do comment below, I’d love to hear what you think.