Is it fair to have an only child? And what if you don’t have a choice? For those who’ve struggled with infertility, the whole issue of “only children” is a double-edged sword. Anyone who
chooses to have only one child has to contend with the stereotypes surrounding only children, but many of those struggling with infertility didn’t choose this option, it chose them. They face all same prejudices and myths, but without the upside of getting to decide what is best for their family.
After going through hell and back to get their first child, many don’t have the option of trying for a second. Maybe they are emotionally or financially tapped out after the roller coaster that is infertility treatment and adoption. Maybe they spent so many years on different treatments that by the time they finally had or adopted their first child they feel like they are too old to have another. Or maybe they desperately want another, but treatment is not working and adoption doesn’t feel like a comfortable option. They are “stuck” with having to make peace with having an only child at the same time they hear all the reasons why children need siblings.
Myths of the Only Child
Regardless whether you thoughtfully decide that your family is complete with one child, or you have accepted that you need to thank your lucky stars with the one you finally got and not try again, you will face the myths surrounding only children. We’ve all heard them—only children are lonely, selfish, and burdened. Only children need our concern, and their parents need our advice.
Our society still has a hard time accepting that a family with only one child is not an object of pity or the result of selfish parenting. We just don’t seem to believe that families with one child are a full-fledged family unit complete in all its wonderful glory–no more perfect or flawed than a family with 2, 3, or even 19 kids.
In researching for yesterday’s Creating a Family show interview with Lauren Sandler, author of One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One, I saw this great video on BuzzFeed: Signs You Grew Up As An Only Child. What I loved about this video is that it acknowledged the myths and realities of only children and where appropriate turned them on their head.
Realities of the Only Child
Sandler does a great job of covering the research on only kids in One and Only. In a nutshell, only kids are no lonelier, selfish, or burdened than children with siblings. Or to state it bluntly: you can find spoiled rotten brats in all family sizes. You can also find one child carrying the burden of older parents in all family sizes.
The fact that the myths of only children are just that—myths—doesn’t mean that parents of only children will not face disapproval and much unsolicited advice. The key, Sandler believes, is for parents to be comfortable within themselves of the advantages of only children, while being mindful of the disadvantages.
Therein lies the rub for many parents of only kids in the infertility and adoption world: they struggle with being comfortable since it wasn’t necessarily their choice. While this makes acceptance harder, I still think understaning the advantages is a good step towards acceptance. Listen to our interview with Lauren Sandler to boost your confidence and perhaps to start even reveling in your family size. The interview was as fun as it was informative. If you like what you hear, read One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One.
What do you think? Do you believe the myths of only children? Is it fair to have an only child or do you owe it to your child to at least try for another?
Image credit: World of Oddy