I know some of my regular readers and friends are either only children, or parents to only child families. This post is my thoughts and rationales, and in no way a judgement I pass on you and your circumstances. I know that whilst at this juncture it may seem for me to be a choice, it may well become out of my hands what the size of my future family will be. That being said, I enjoy my views being challenged, and welcome healthy and respectful debate!
I grew up as the eldest of three, with the second sibling being born when I was two. That is to say, I’ve never (really) known what it’s like to be an only child. So I think the circumstances of your upbringing can have a large impact on your choices. I had a happy childhood, and didn’t suffer any great injustices from having siblings. I believe having siblings helped me to learn (and re-learn) to share, that life’s not fair, to wait my turn and so many other things. That being said, those things can be taught in extended families and close friendships with other families.
However, I think the key reason I’d not like an only child is that one child means an ability to provide undivided attention to all ages and stages. One of the detrimental parts of parenting is that the second child never gets quite as many baby photos. And the eldest never gets the luxuries and indulgences that the ‘baby’ does (enjoying all the work the elder child have done to wear down the parents!). Having parents that need to cater to the needs of more than one child is ultimately incredibly humbling – to realise you’re not always the most important person. I don’t think any level of socialisation with cousins or peers will ever quite achieve the same level of split attention. Certainly not unless the non siblings live in, and are around the clock demanding the same level of care and comfort from the same two people as your child.
Do I think only children are spoilt? Yes and no – again it depends in the context of their extended family and social networks. Just like a ‘baby’ of an extended family (ie a child born a decade shy of the nearest cousins/siblings) will always enjoy more spotlight than broods, and then yes, they are spoilt in the sense that they bathe in attention. Of the newess of youth to the community. However, does an only child mean those around it have the means to provide more to the one, than if there were more children? Not necessarily. One child may in fact be a function of a financial imperative. An inability to stretch the budget any further.
I would expect that some only children are the result of painful and horrible pregnancies or births, if not critical natal health issues. In this sense, it makes the life of the only child held incredibly high – lauded for surviving against the odds (or the agony). (And since I first drafted this, one of my regular readers has shared this in fact was her experience)
Lastly, and perhaps most devastatingly, is that some sole children families end up as sole children, sole parent families. In these instance, I grieve heavily. There is no simple solution, although ‘have another kid’ is hardly a simple process, nor a ‘solution’! The challenge of childrearing is difficult, and to do it alone is that much harder. Would I wish children outnumbered the parent, singular? In an ideal world, no I wouldn’t. No matter the circumstances of the sole parenting arrangement, there’s a great burden on the parent that does need to be added to by another child. That being said, the social stigma that can be attached to sole parents with children from multiple partners is particularly gruelling. Whilst it may be no one’s business, like so many things, that does not silence people from passing hurtful judgement. And even if nothing is verbalised, I know I would struggle with the stigma of having children from multiple fathers.
What are your thoughts, wiser and older readers? Young readers – how do you feel about this?