Photo by: D. Sharon Pruitt

Only Children are Doing Just Fine

Photo by: D. Sharon Pruitt

Well, I am at that point in my life where pretty much, if I am going to have a second baby naturally, I better decide NOW. And after many painful discussions with my husband regarding time demands, health demands, employment demands and financial demands, we decided to pass on baby number 2. This decision for me has been burdened with much guilt, angst, and a little anger (at whom, I am not so sure). Perhaps there are a few of you out there who are parents of “Onlies” and have felt the same way. I am posting this to not only tell you- you’re not alone, but that your feelings are normal (deeply ingrained in our society, in fact) and that our only children (despite popular beliefs otherwise) will be JUST FINE.

My friend, Marianne told me it was Karma when we were at the airport after nursing our hangovers at the VIP lounge when we found TIME magazine’s cover story was focused on this topic. We were picking up some water after talking about both our decisions to have only children when she picked up TIME’s cover story about only children being on the upswing in families. She waved it at me and said, “HERE! This is Karma! You need to read this on the plane!” And I did, and I am so glad I did. The studies they had and the explanations of the deep seeded need to “Go Forth and Multiply” was explained. Much was explained, actually, that made me realize where my own guilt was coming from. It allowed me to take an objective look at my life and realize what my husband has known for a while-one kid is all we can handle right now- and that’s OK. (Sometimes I envy the male species’ ability to look at things in a very practical manner without any emotional ties.)

The first thing the article did for me was to address where my own guilt was coming from, and where the pressures that society creates for you to have more than one child come from. I have consistently had a questioning look after being asked if I had kids – “So, only one? No more for you?”. Typically this followed with “Well, You should have more!” This never helped my aching heart as I struggled with my own pressures of wanting a second child, running out of time as I turned 40, and asking myself if I really should put added pressures on our finances, marriage and time by having another (not to mention health-two miscarriages before finally becoming parents and Crohn’s Disease meant a hard road to baby #2).

The article mentions that our society as a whole believes that having more children for the survival of our human race is in the very fabric of our being since the dawn of time. The more kids, the more chances for your family and bloodline to live on. Coupled with that is the need for early civilization to have “cheap labor” in a way. The more children you had, the more help you had around your homestead to work the land and make sure you had food on your table and a roof over your head. Having one child was considered for decades not only taking a “gamble” but flat out irresponsible-no matter what culture you were in. Of course, there are historic religious undertones to having more than one child, as well as economic that the article touches on-all of which started to clarify for me why I felt guilty as well as why others were pressuring me to grow my family.

The bulk of my guilt came from not giving my daughter a sibling. I wondered if she would be lonely, antisocial and spoiled without having the forced reality check of sharing a household with a sibling. An old friend of mine told me once, “You have the first for you to fulfill your need for Motherhood, the rest you have for them.” Now, I don’t think this is entirely true–but I think she was trying to boil down a thought here. And it was this thought that has been tugging at me. Also, I grew up with siblings, and my sister is one of my best friends. Yeah, it was chaotic at times to have a house full of kids. We had to learn to share and take turns and fight for our Mother’s attention. But when my parents pass on, I will always have a connection to my family because of my brother and sister. We also can share the care for our parents as they age so it doesn’t land on one person’s shoulders. If I have just one child, its all on that child. And when we are gone, will our daughter feel alone in this world?

Basically, it sounds like all my fears were for naught. The article sites some recent studies that actually prove that “Onlies” are thriving and very social. Because of the focused parental attention they get (socially and academically) as well as the lion’s share of the family resources behind them, they are growing up with high self esteem and very successful. The article blames a couple of old studies, one in the 1900’s and one in the 1980’s, that were done poorly but were the driving force behind the perception that only children are antisocial, loners, odd and weird. The new studies out actually show the opposite. That’s not to say there is a double edged sword. “Onlies” have more parental focus which means more demands and pressure. They also socialize and play with adults, which makes them have to grow up a little faster. But on the whole, our “Only” decision was not going to cause our daughter years of therapy and antisocialness in her life! That was a relief for me!

The other stunning fact is that “Onlies” are on the rise. With the economy bumping along, trying to recover, many families are taking a hard look at the costs of raising a family. With job security non-existent and the rising costs of pretty much everything, many families are just stopping at one, whether they really want to or not. I thought that was very interesting-and I did not feel so “alone” and “weird” in our decision.

If you are as pressured and confused as I have been about having a second child-know that you are not alone. Also, whatever you decide, do it because it is right for YOU and your family in all aspects-your happiness, your finances, your marriage, your time. Try not to listen to the outside pressures around you. I know I will try, too. Ironically just yesterday I had a cab driver asking if I had children, and I said I had one. And he said, “Ahh, you are nice, you should have more! You will have more, you’ll see.” This time, I chuckled and just shook my head at the irony of it all.

Here is the article in full if you want to read it-there are very interesting comments to it as well. Enjoy, and BRAVO TIME!

The Only Child: Debunking the Myths

Flora Caputo is a mom of a precocious daughter, a VP, Executive Creative Director and everything in between (including a blogger!). She grew up with “off the boat” parents from Italy, and it has contributed to a grounded, domestic foundation for her life. And she tries to balance that with a high-pressure career in advertising. From cooking, gardening and motherhood to business, marketing and career–join her journey to keeping it all together…as gracefully as possible!

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125 Comments

Well said! While my husband and I have 2 children because that's what was right for us and our family, we know that it's not for everyone. I say on my blog and in articles I write here and elsewhere, parenting decisions are some of the most personal choices you'll ever make. They are intimate and private and yet of all the things in life, they are the ones that are most openly discussed amongst those who don't need an opinion...

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I am an only... Then my parents divorced and I "inherited" 4 step brothers. So, I've lived both ways. May I just say... I LOVED being an only. Did I learn to be independant? Most definately.

Thank you for sharing this. I too struggled with this decision and felt pressure from society as well as from within about this.... In the end I could only do what I thought best for my family, and try to deal with the guilt as best I can.

After a serious bout with PPD, my husband and I made the conscious decision to have only one child. It drives me nuts when people insist that we should have more kids - they have no idea what I went through! I am so glad I'm not the only one going through this!

I've never understood the debate. Everyone knows that parents can spoil or neglect their kids no matter how many they have, and there have been all sizes of families since the beginning of time...

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I am an only and thought it was just fine. When I was little I once suggested stopping by an orphanage to get a little brother or sister, and said, "because you can take them back if you don't like them, right?" Even when I was little I was none too sure I wanted siblings. As I got older I thought it would have been nice to have an older brother...

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I also want to thank you for writing this. I have been asking myself this question forever now, and you have shed some light on it for me. I have 2 step children and one of my own. I wanted to give my son a sibling closer to his age; I felt maybe I was making this choice out of some push from societal norms or guilt from within. You hit on every idea swirling in my head about it. Thank you so much. Maybe I will be able to make a clearer decision now, pressure off a little.

I appreciated your article. I believe that we have come to the decision that we have only one after going through some life changing events due to the economy last year, which included being laid off, losing our home to short sale, which affected our credit. Spending our savings, having to move to another state for employment. Job security does not exist. It was hard enough going through that with one child to take care of...

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I have recently thinking that there has got to be a support group online for parents of only children...and then I found this. My husband and I are struggling with the decision of whether to have a second. People around us try not to pressure us, but my inner desire to have another makes me sensitive to every little comment, look, suggestion. A great book for seeing all the reasons to have one is called _Maybe One_ by Bill McKibben. It is of print, but available used...

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My husband and me had the same experience as Rachelle both of us were laid off me in 2001 and my husband in 2003, both of us were in the telecom field. We had to do a short sale on our home, both our cars repo'd with only 3 months to go before ownership, savings drained to handle basic living expenses and our credit was ruined. We struggled for years doing many part-time jobs to make ends meet until my husband found another job in 2005...

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My son is an only child (he's 30 now). I was a single mom from the time he was 2. We had the closest relationship ever, and he was/is the joy of my life. He learned to talk, walk, read, write, draw, etc., years ahead of other kids his age...

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Thank You, Thank you for this article! I saw that article in Time too and it was wonderful to read. I still feel like I am one of the few out there as that in my community it is baby central with most families having at least 3 and its amazing how many women think I need more. I swear there needs to be a support group or a club for moms of onlys. My husband and I came to the same conclusions plus I had sever PPD, but I still feel the guilt of not giving my daughter a sibling...

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thank you. I feel like this opened my self to greive. We were waiting for #2 because I had ppd, and a very clingy baby who never stopped being clingy and I am still waiting for a break to get pregnant. But lost job last year, short saled house, moved to different state for new job, just to get bought out by new company with layoffs happening soon. The world is a mess right now, its not the right time for us now for#2. I know
we'll know when the right time is, but know that time may never come.

hi I am a mum from Australia. Is there a similar site for teenager issues. As I have a 13 and 15 year old. Would love to share strategies with other parents.
Thanks

I am an only and even though for me I wanted 2 and have them I have had an incredible life. One that I may not have had if I had a sibling. I am fiercely independent, strong willed and highly successful. I think either way people turn out to be who they are. In the end my mom felt she didn't have enough for 2 and maybe she did or she didn't but I am no worse for the wear!

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