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17 Responses to The Only Child

  1. Karen  

    Thanks so much for this I am bringing up an only child not through choice but just because that is how life is. I am doing all I can to combat the negative side of this but I really need to take a good look at the positive side from someone who is one and has that insight.

    Going to print this off so I can keep reminding myself being an only child can be positive and OK and not a negative as I keep being told it is.

  2. Michelle

    Thanks so much for sharing this. We are raising an only child. We wanted more children but that didn’t happen for us. We have a well adjusted son who has come to accept the fact that he won’t have siblings. It was a hard corner to turn, but he has done it. He has close relationships with his cousins and with his “friend-cousins”…these are the children of our best friends. We work really hard at letting him be a kid and not a grown up in a kid body, since he spends so much time in the company of adults. He makes friends easily, but prefers small groups vs. big groups of kids. We have seen that he has a hard time fighting for attention in large groups of kids. Other than that, he does just great.

  3. Lauren  

    I really appreciate this. My niece is an only child by her parents’ choice, and I do get where they’re coming from. It’s good to hear the positives stated so clearly — thanks!

  4. Moorea  

    My parents always said they didn’t want to mess with perfection and I never forgave my parents for not giving me a sibling..but now that we have had one child with complications in pregnancy that would happen again, I am realizing that it may not be so bad to not have another. I like the freedom and my friends who have two little ones are so consumed by motherhood, I might be resentful of having less time to myself. I also enjoy deep attention and mindfulness with my one child.

  5. Michele

    Thank you so much for this. I am an only child raising an only child by choice and I can not imagine things any other way. I loved being an only child and can relate to everything you wrote.

  6. La

    Great piece and very hopeful.

    We have an only child who is nearly 3. My husband (one of two children) only wants one; I (one of three), on the otherhand, want two.

    While all the reasons you state are true and are concerns of ours (e.g. financial, time, opportunities for travel and education, attention, etc.), I do worry that as an older parent (I’m 42), that our son could be lonely without siblings as an adult. I love that my parents are healthy and are 70 and 68 years old. When my son is my age, I’ll be 79. Our family frequently travels together and I love the closeness we share.

    But in addition to possible loneliness, I also worry about the burden placed on an only child when their parents are older and illnesses happen. Both of my parents have had major hospitalizations and in both cases, my older brother could not be there (due to new job or other reason), yet my younger sister and I could be there (and we are both full-time professionals). I like that there are three of us, and, in an emergency, at least one of us can jump on a plane and be there for them… what happens to the only child who has older parents when there’s an emergency? I don’t want to be a burden to my son, and feel that if there are two children it’s a responsiblity they can share and be there for each other. Is this something we should consider when weighing the pros and cons of having an only child? I’d love to hear your view on this, because it’s something that keeps nagging at me.

    • Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama  

      Hi La! Yes, the whole “sole caregiver/emergency responder” weight is certainly something to consider. However, I have watched BOTH of my only children parents deal with their aging parents (all of whom are now deceased) and somehow it just worked. I think that it is important to have a financial plan in place so the financial burden is not on your child when your health fails. My father’s parents had money set aside for my father to use for their care. My mother’s parents did not. It was a struggle for my parents to pay the bills for my ailing grandfather but somehow they managed. They also made sure that they had “other” people who could be called on in am emergency. Neighbors, people from church, family friends, etc… were all willing to step in if my mom or dad could not be there. THAT was key! It lifted any guilt from my parents and there were always several people willing to help. I think that you have to work with your child to set up a plan for these exact sort of scenarios. Make your wishes clear, help set up an extended support system, and figure out how to ease any financial burden. Beyond that, there is no real “easy” answer. I hope that this sort of helped! My parents are nearing 70 and I am on them all the time now about figuring out how we will all handle declining health and age related issues. Communication is key – HONEST communication!

      • Momani

        I so relate to both of these posts from you and La, I can’t tell you. I come from three siblings, my husband from two, and we have a beautiful, vibrant 4 yr old girl. I so so appreciate your sage advice to have a network and a plan. You put into words things I’ve naturally begun doing but hadn’t been able to put all the pieces together to know why. I can make sure she is supported with a plan when her father and I get old, but making sure she has all the emotional support – the kind a sister or brother can provide – is much harder. My sisters and I are with each other through all the ups and downs in life – breakups, divorce, work and career upsets, and death. I will do my best but, I think in the end, it’ll have to be she who creates a strong emotional network for herself – as it is for all of us.
        I’m worried yes. But then I’m really not. How can I be worried about this sweet girl with a raucous laugh who hugs her friends in pre-school and looks out for them. Since she was 18 months she wouldn’t jump in the ball pit until the kid below her moved out of the way. At 2 she started telling me about the unhappy kid in the room before he’d start crying. Suffice it to say, I have to believe she will have a lot of friends and people in her life who she loves and who love her.
        So thank you for these posts! I wish there were more. 🙂

  7. Casey  

    While I realize there are many stereotypes out there about being/having an only child (which I don’t buy, by the way), I’m not sure that this list is necessarily all that objective. 🙂 It seems like there are assumptions made in the advantages of only children that could be considered stereotypes of multiple child families. The disadvantages of having only children reads like backhand compliments to only children. It sort of reminds me of someone saying in a job interview, “A weakness of mine is that I care too much, and I work too hard.” 😉

    While you and your family may have chosen an only child path and be very happy with it, I’m not sure that I consider this post to be much more than justification for a decision you’ve already made and are happy with.

    • kim & family

      I tend to agree that the reasons stated in the article and the “tone” with which it was written is biased. I am raising an only child, married to an only and my father was an only, so I have experience as well. I had two brothers. I was just wishing for a better article then this as I forge ahead raising my only child.

  8. Jennifer

    Thanks for this article. Very relevant for me — I’m an only child and thinking about having more than one child.

  9. Cassie

    A bit late I know. But, having come to the end of my tether as an adult only-child who now has had to return to the parental home to live with and care for my elderly father, (who else is there to do it?), I couldn’t agree less with this article. It’s a very one-sided viewpoint, based on someone who had no potential problems to deal with in terms of purely being an only child, as her parents obviously were very loving people who made sure their daughter felt loved. Without that sense of ‘knowing you are loved’ inside yourself because your parents basically didn’t give you that, you have an uphill fight day-in-day-out, feeling like a cuckoo’s egg in the wrong nest, trying to do what they want to please them and make them love you for who you are or who they want you to be, only to find it doesn’t work. I don’t remember ever really FEELING loved by my parents – ever. And I only ever felt protected by my father from my mother’s mental torturing of me – once, (when she threatened to ram hot soup down my throat if I didn’t eat it within the next five minutes). Only then did he tell her to ‘lay off’ me, and that was the only time I ever felt protected. And on top of that I had to deal with all the stereotypes from so-called friends who called me ‘spoilt’ and such.
    Consequently, as an adult, I have problems with all my relationships, have therefore not even got close, (I am 45 now), to having the sort of loving relationship that would lead to contemplating nurturing a child, because there were so many hidden emotional problems I had to endure as a child, which all the therapy in the world would not heal, (been there, done that, doesn’t work).
    So this article only applies to those only-children who felt loved, and it is indeed irrelevant whether you have one or eleven children, (my father had ten siblings in a tiny house). If there’s a sparsity of love, it life is difficult for you as a child of one or ten. Equally, if there is love, then one or ten makes no odds. Love is truly all you need, and if you’ve never known it as a child, then everything as an adult is a struggle. I’ve ended up feeling that the entire purpose that my parents had me was to have someone to take care of them when they are old. Did they ever consider who would be there to help me with this?

  10. nitya

    excellent point Cassie. A loving upbringing is the heart of the truth! If parents are going to fight with each other, they are not going to have time for an only child or children. I experienced this, my brother was 8 years younger to me. My brother and I were apart most of the time – but I relate to him better as a sibling than I did with my parents. We, understand each other and know what not to do when we bring up our children. He has two and I have one.

  11. Blair Scheepers  

    As I have struggled for the last two years to fall pregnant with my second child, the reality of only having one child is starting to sink in. I am the youngest of four and my husband is the youngest of three. One child had never crossed either of our minds. So as biased as many of you might see this article, I want to thank you for it. It shows that with love and dedication from parents, only children can be just as “normal” as children with siblings.

    • Sandra

      I tend to agree. Having one pregnancy loss then finally my daughter made me appreciate having children at all. It is god’s will what our fate will be and to thank him for one child or many after. It’s up to him ultimately as he knows what we can handle.

  12. DeeJ

    I liked this article, I was an only child for eight years and have a brother who is eight years younger than me, and sister who is ten years younger than me. My husband and I have a son who is 5 who we are raising as an only child. We are all reading this article because we clearly have some questions or interests in different perspectives of being an only child and raising an only child. How can a person write an article on something that they have not experienced? This article was written by someone who is saying that she is an only child and she turned out great, so OF COURSE the article is a little biased. She is able to speak on her experience of raising one child also. There are advantages to having one child and there are disadvantages to having more than one. I was an only child long enough to remember my life before my siblings and I remember the financial struggle that hit my parents after my brother and sister came along. There is no right or wrong number of children to have, each family has to determine what they are able to do emotionally, mentally and financially when it comes to raising a family, no matter or small or large. We all can hear other opinions but the ultimate decision is up to us. A child(ren) need loving parents who are willing to spend time with them, that is the most important. Thanks for writing this article.

  13. Ariel Rodriguez

    My husband and I are contemplating on having more than one child. Right now, we have a two year old and some days I can see us having one more and other days I feel having just one is what we should do. All the articles I’ve read had made excellent points on both sides. How do you know when having an only child is right for you? Is it a feeling? How well you can logically explain it? I’m don’t want to figure out 8-10 years down the road that we want more kids, they would hardly be raised together. And the flack we get for just having one, even though he’s only two, is sometimes overwhelming. Obviously, you can tell how utterly confused we are. Some days you know for certain and then others days it’s the complete opposite.