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

I felt as if this article was written about me! My husband and I have a son who is seven and I'm about to turn 40. I get so tired of hearing the comments that we should have another child or that we can't do that to our son, it wouldn't be fair. I have struggled with this issue and am glad to know that everything I'm feeling is valid. Part of me wants another child, but I know deep down inside one is best for us. Thank you for sharing!

While I understand why some couples may want to have only one child, I have to voice my opinion on this because I am an only child. Maybe while children are young its easy to say that only children are doing just fine, but I don't feel 'just fine' as an adult. I feel as though I missed out on the love you can have with a brother or a sister, the bond you have when you need someone or something to go to when you just can't go to your parent(s)...

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A friend and I have been talking about this lately, as we both have only one child due to health problems with our pregnancies. My son is 4; hers is 7. And as children do sometimes, over the years her son has asked for a sibling. They have presented the tradeoff that a sibling would be there all the time, unlike a friend who comes to stay and then goes home. And of course he would have to share mom & dad with a sibling...

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I had my first child at 43. For all the reasons described in this blog, we decided to stop at 1. It really felt like the right decision but it was difficult. Of course, a week after we made our "last and final" decision - no more kids and husband to go see the doctor for a vasectomy - we found out we were pregnant with number 2! I can't even tell you the shock and dismay but of course, now that he's here - and just celebrated his 2nd birthday - we couldn't be happier...

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I come from a very large family and have 3 cousins who are only children (due to infertility issues).

All three of them have said they would have no children rather than have just one. Interesting perspective.

Thank you! This has been something I am trying to sort out. My husband and I had a miscarriage and then a few years later were blessed with our daughter. I've had several issues that has kept us from adding to the family, but there is still hope and we are still young (late 20s). There are days when I think that our daughter will be an only and that is just the way it is and then there are days when I know that the dream of having 3 kids will somehow happen...

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I think it is time we all stop analyzing every decision we make or looking to so called "professionals" to validate our choices. Live long enough and you will find the next scientific study will contradict this one. The only opinion that is important is yours and your husbands.

Of course an only child will likely be fine emotionally. As well there is no guarantee that a child with two or three or more siblings won't have emotional issues.

Life comes with intrinsic risk...

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I understand that a parent's decision to have as few or as many children as they want is a very personal one; however, it seems more often these days that people are making these decisions on things that shouldn't matter much; like "Can we afford a minivan payment?" Of course, you should be financially stable enough to be able to feed and provide other basic necessities but hinging this very important decision on whether or not your home is big enough to give every child their own room, seems a little misguided to me. If those are your reasons for deciding against another child you would otherwise want to have, there is good reason for guilt.

As for the author's decision, it sounds like you have done much soul searching and it's just not for you. I'm confident that because you are concerned about your only child being spoiled or lonely, you will conscientiously make every effort to make her an example of a socially well-adjusted and considerate person.

Thank you for writing this article. It is exactly the dilemma I'm facing. I seem to keep forgetting that I'm an only & turned out alright, why shouldn't my daughter be the same?

I am the mother of an only child who is now 22. Looking back, I see that there are qualities about my daughter that come from her being an only...

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Thanks so much! I read the article too. And it made me feel a little bit better. But still dealing with the sadness. Every month that goes by the farther away that possibility of another gets. Most of the time I'm happy with our decision, because right now, I'm thoroughly enjoying my one-year-old. And I don't really want to chaos and stress of having another. I really want to just enjoy my son. I'm 41, so for me also, it's now or never. I think that's what I struggle with the most...

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Well written! As parents of one child we seem to get bombarded with everyone elses opinion of what we should do as parents. My response to anyone saying that we should have more is "Why should we do that...we got it PERFECT the first time" We have one amazingly perfect, funny, happy, and independent young lady. Am I sometimes worried about her having a sibling(yes) but if you ask her she does not want one.

While there are still days I wish I had "given my son a brother or sister" I know for health reasons that was not an option for me. I lost the my first son late in pregnancy and nearly lost both of us 9 years ago when I had my son. What I havent' done to help my son is put him in an atmosphere where he can get the good ole antagonizing that a brother or sister would give him. That makes him seem more "fragile" or spoiled or whatever you want to call it.

I am a 61yr old only child! My father is still living and I am always having difficulty making decisions for him. I have wonderful friends and extended family but for me it is not the same. I understand that siblings are not always close but at least I would have someone to complain about!! It is lonelier the older i become, When my dad passes on I fear I will question all I did, feeling very much alone...

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I am currently struggling with this decision I have a 9 year old, and she is begging for a sibling. Here is the problem I have Crohn's disease and polysystic ovaries, I feel I was blessed with the one. But it still is an aching I feel to want another one. The doctors don't feel it would a good idea for me with all the problems I am facing.I am a very emotional person and do question if I should just try, thinking of my daughters emptiness she's feeling...

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