Friday, July 16, 2010

Single Child Stigma

On Facebook the other day, one of my friends posed the question: "Is there a right answer to the question: 'Why do you want to have more kids?'"

Most people issued a statement along the lines of: 
"Of course you need to have at least one more child!  Your first child needs someone to learn from/help care for you in your old age/have company if something happens to you/etc." 

And of course, the only-child stereotypes were brought up--if you have only one, they will be socially inept, they will be spoiled, they will lack basic human interaction skills, and so forth.

These lines of logic really struck a nerve with me.  To address the stereotypes first, parents have a GREAT deal of control over how their child develops.  If they only have one child, they need to take steps to socialize that child and teach them how to interact with others.  And spoiled children are a direct result of permissive parents, not a result of being only children.

In my experience, the only children I know are wonderfully adjusted people with healthy and strong interpersonal relationships, jobs and productive lives.

In regards to the other arguments for having more than one child, the one that bothers me the least is the child needing someone to learn from.  I assume that, by this, the person meant social skills and interaction--which again, if the parents are doing their jobs, can be done through other socialization methods than sibling interaction.

As far as having another kid to share the burden of caring for aging parents, I have to admit that there is a certain anthropological logic to it.  However, you're assuming that both (or all) children will be ABLE and WILLING to care for aging parents.  That's not always the case.  Financial issues could be there, or health issues on the part of the kids, or, heaven forbid, a falling out in the family.  Or everyone might live in different states!  So, having another child just so that your first born doesn't have to care for you all by him or herself seems to be based on some pretty big assumptions.

Now comes the one that bothers me the most:  you need to have at least two children so that, when mom and dad are gone, they have someone.  Basically, as with the above reason, according to this logic you are bringing a second child into the world to fulfill the perceived emotional needs of the first.  That is one of the worst reasons to have another child!

Don't get me wrong--I have a little brother, and I would not trade Austin for the world.  We are best friends and I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like if he were not here.  BUT I also know many siblings who barely talk to one another, who cannot get along for more than a few hours in the same room, and who relate to each other only through the obligation of blood.  So assuming that having at least two children means that they are going to have some sort of emotional need met solely based on being siblings is, in my opinion, false logic.

Also, I have found that, in the absence of blood-siblings, life, fate or God (take your pick) often PROVIDES us with brothers and sisters.  Take Victoria and Bryanne-Michelle, my best friends.  We might not be related by blood, but they are my sisters.  My little brother's best friend Mike is his brother (and my little brother #2).  So even with Austin and I--who are siblings--we have others who fall into those roles.  So worrying that an only child will never know the sibling bond is not necessary--while not identical, they will form bonds that are similar in strength and composition.

So now that I've torn through the expressed reasons for having more than one child, let me clarify something:  I think having more than one child is wonderful, if it is right for your family.  Make sure that your family is emotionally and financially ABLE to add another child--working in a low-income public school district, I see the consequences of so-called parents who never took that into consideration, and let me tell you, they aren't pretty.  Also, I think that, if you choose to have more than one child, you need to examine your reasons--make sure you are bringing that next child into the world for the joy of who they will be, in and of themselves, as well as for the joy of adding to your family.

How does all this affect me personally, other than inspiring me to write a response?

Bryan and I will only have one pregnancy, so barring some twin craziness or somesuch, we will probably only have one kiddo.   Reading the aforementioned discussion reminded me of how much of a stigma there seems to be associated with that decision.  However, we have discussed this from every angle, and it is the decision that works the best for our family.

Part of the reason is that children are EXPENSIVE.  We would rather be able to provide our kiddo with many opportunities in life without putting our family through financial hardship.

A bigger part of the reason is my health.  Rheumatoid Arthritis is a progressive disease, which means there very likely will be a point when I cannot work.  Keeping that in mind, Bryan and I have decided to only have one kid so that we can afford for me to stay home, or work part-time.  Also, RA can come back much worse after pregnancy, and if I'm lucky enough to come out of one with the same health state as I went in, I won't be gambling a second time.  Why risk being able to be less of a mother to two than I could be to one?  That wouldn't be fair to the kiddos, my husband, or myself.

And honestly?  With all my health issues, I see having one healthy, happy baby as being enough of a blessing. :-)

So, when the time comes after our little one is here, and someone asks, "When are you having your next?" I will smile, say, "We're not.  Our family is complete as is" and shrug off the stigma.


  1. I agree with you all the way. I'm an only child.. Offcourse I am in no way perfect and I have issues but those have nothing to do with being an only child. Mu husband and I have this conversation many times too and he is from a big family and I'm so used to hearing all those stereotypes from people all my life. I think its wonderful and as most stereotypes go, its a result of pure ignorance. Only children grow up to be independent too, which I think is a better thing to do for your child. Everyone has what is right for them and what works for them, there is no right or wrong. We have to use our God given intellect and make our life work for us.

  2. Agreed! We have to think things through and examine our motivations before making such important decisions :-).


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