On Having and Being an Only Child

The pros and cons of having only one child.

only-child

As a PSP member writes to the group:

 

"I read this list regularly and have learned so much from other people's questions and sharing and am hoping I can find some answers for my own question now. I am a 42 year old woman with a 22 month old son who was conceived naturally after a miscarriage from an IUI procedure. Quite the miracle for my husband and I . When we began our journey for pregnancy we both agreed that we would only have one child. I was on bed rest for most of my pregnancy so that idea was confirmed becasue of all the complications. Now as all of those issues seem to be forgotten for me I have this idea that I want another child. The idea of becoming pregnant again at 42 and giving birth at 43 scares me more than giving birth at 40.

I also have a great fear that allowing my son to be an only child will be worse. I would love to hear from parent who have one child and their feelings about having an only child and the thought process you went through to come to that decision. We have an wonderful extended family and are quite social and he has alot of interaction with other chidlren but there is nothing like a sibling. There are so many pros and cons to both. We do not have a lot of money so we will be able to offer one child more than we would be able to offer two. We also live in a very small apt so we would have to move. Are these things enough reason to only have one child? There are so many pros and cons to both . I could really use some help."

 

Member replies:

 

“First of all, thank you so very much for your post. I am sure that the responses will be of tremendous interest and help to me too as we have so much in common in terms of this question!

I too am 42 with a little boy just one year older than yours (he just turned 3). I too have endlessly debated the question of having a second child, even though healthwise it's not a great idea for me to become pregnant again and we also have somewhat limited finances as my husband is a teacher and I am a freelance writer (working part time only until our son is a bit older). We too would have to move fairly soon after having a second child.

I too have concerns about raising an only child. Mostly because I have an older brother with whom I was extremely close growing up and I just hate for him to miss out on that kind of special relationship. But for what it's worth to you, I have discussed this at length with all of the parents of older only children I know (quite a few actually) and it seems to me that overall their kids are happy and well adjusted. Of course they work hard to ensure their children have lots of social contact with peers. What they tell me is that there are certain obvious benefits to being an only child--lots and lots of love and attention!—and to focus on this.

I've also asked grown up only children of our age about what their childhood was like and it seems that most people tell me that yes they would have liked to have had a brother or sister, but mostly they were very happy in their childhoods. They don't report feelings of extreme loneliness or constant boredom. It makes sense--if you've never had a sibling you wouldn't really know what you are missing... Interesting to me, these people from my observation do not seem to be anymore self-absorbed than other people, and I think this idea of the only child syndrome as spoiled and self-centered is largely a myth. Spoiling happens regardless of whether a child has siblings or not, so it really has to do more with a particular parenting style.

In studies I've seen only children tend to be very creative and imaginative (playing alone requires this and is one of the benefits), confident in the fact that they are loved and generally speaking have that firstborn leader thing going for them. They also tend to form very close friendships in life--both in childhood and as adults-- as these people take the place of siblings. The biggest downside that I am aware of seen in studies is the rather intense pressure that "onlys" can feel from being the only repository of all parents' dreams so to speak (does that make sense the way I've phrased it?).

I happened to notice yesterday that a new book has just come out called "Onlys" which is on exactly this topic--what it is like to be an only child. It is written by two women who were only children and were interested in finding out other people's experiences so it is a collection of grown up only childrens' experiences. An important book for many of us to read since only children are becoming more common due to the advanced age of first pregnancy in women today....

Anyhow, on a personal level, I do still grapple with this question. Babies and children are so wonderful, after all. We are so crazy for our son, it's impossible NOT to want another!

In case this is of any help to you at all, I will tell you what we have decided, for now... We are actually seriously considering adopting a child in 1-2 years. We would adopt a slightly older child of 1.5-3 years old, specifically because we know that these children have a more difficult time being adopted and also so that there would not be too many years between this child and our son. We also feel that although the finances of sending two children to college ARE daunting (!), we will most likely be in a better position in several years, and we can just somehow make it work! We are very excited about this idea, but it is very recent and we have not even begun to do all the research necessary, so it may not even be feasible for us on a practical level. Still, it is a new dream for us and it seems like a great solution to this heart rending dilemma. On top of being able to have another child and a sibling for our son, we would just love to know that we could offer a home and family for a child in difficult circumstances. I know that adoption isn’t for everyone, but I thought I'd share this with you in case our journey is eventually of interest/help to you! I wish you the very best in your decision making and I look forward to hearing everyones responses!”

 

“I'm sure this topic will be well-addressed, but to offer my two cents (as an adult only child).one of the biggest cons to being an only child is that as your parents get older, the burden of caring for them falls squarely on your lap and nobody else's. Growing up, I hated being an only child, mostly because there was nobody on my level to appreciate my parents' strangeness with me, nobody I could "roll my eyes" with. As I got older, I hated being the sole repository of their dreams, a pressure that you feel in everything from school to finding a job to finding a life partner to having a family. But now I realize that the weight of responsibility associated with my parents' aging is definitely the most challenging. My husband is wonderful and supportive and I have great friends, but (I imagine) there's nothing like being able to call your brother or sister and asking "What are we going to do about Mom?" (or whatever).

I know there are plenty of people who don't actually get along with their siblings, or whose siblings are no help anyway, but I can't help but feel like at least if you have a sibling, you have a shot. What if your only child doesn't find a wonderful and supportive life partner? At least they'd have a sibling.

Anyway, I know that there are many people who choose not to have more than one child, or who can't for one reason or another. OF COURSE only children are happy and well-adjusted and life goes on, and I'm not by any means trying to make anyone doubt their decision or feel regrets. I guess all I'm saying, is that if you find that you are the parents of an only child, be aware of the aging burden now (while you can still hear and you still have two working hips!) so that when the time comes, you've eased the burden for your child, because there's no guarantee he or she won't be handling it on his or her own.

I can't speak to having one child or being an only, but I read a great new book on the topic - Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo.”

 

“There must be others out there who remember the discussion about this on the board that took place about two years ago, when someone asked adult only children to write in about growing up without siblings. About two dozen of us adult only children complied with the request. Our experiences ran the gamut, but one rather odd fact stood out: Every single one of us had a minimum of two children ourselves! Anyway, it was a fascinating discussion, and I'd urge you to look it up.”

 

“ I’m in a strange position of having been an only child since age 12, when my 14 year-old brother died. I also have 2 half-brothers whom I’ve never known well (I didn’t meet them until I was in my 20s and we are quite different).
I’ve considered myself an only child for much of my life and not many days have gone by when I didn’t wish I had a brother or sister. The logical, rational side of me knows that not all siblings are close and that wishing for something impossible is fruitless. Nevertheless, I have always felt a sort of dull ache for someone who came from the same microcosm that I am from. This ache may not have been so strong if I’d never lost my brother, however.

I wholeheartedly agree with the previous poster who mentioned something about the difficulty of caring for aging parents as an only child. My parents are divorced and my father is not married. by far my heaviest psychic burden as an adult has been the thought of him growing old alone in a city far from where I live with my family. To be fair, this burden probably has more to do with our personalities and the choices we’ve made than with the fact that I don’t have a sibling, but i still think it would be easier if I had a brother or sister to share the load – both emotionally and financially.

There are so many factors to consider when deciding whether to have another child. I don’t want to give the impression that I think all parents should have more than one. we have a 2 year-old and although a large part of me is terrified of going through it all again (lactation consultants, colic, sleepless nights, labor AND delivery [ow], not to mention the risk of recurring postpartum depression), we’ve decided that we’re going to do it because we want our son to have a sibling.”

 

“I would like to add my two cents to this very interesting conversation, My mother is an only child, when she got married she had 14 kids, I am number 8 in our family. Coming from a family of 14 kids, there is nothing more fun than getting together with my siblings,,,,, we are one huge army, (especially now since most of us are married and have our own families) I know my mother did not enjoy being an only child, (she felt very lonely, over protected and spent most of her social time around adults, aunts & uncles etc..) I always feel sorry for her that she has no siblings to lean on, in a sense we fill that void for her, but I believe there is nothing like siblings.”

 

“It's interesting cause i too grew up in a big family not as big as yours but i was one of 5 my mum came from one of 2 and her dad came from a family of 16(those that survived i think they were 18-19 total) I felt that we missed out on alot of stuff friends who came from smaller familys did like foreign holidays extra ciricula activities and such cause my parents couldn't afford to do anything. We really are not close now and my older sister who acted as my caregiver and had to take me everywhere with her still treats me like a small child and i still feel very motherly towards my younger brothers as i was the one that had to take them everywhere with me(i really resented that as I really wanted just to be with friends rather than them tagging along withme. My husband who is one of two is super close with his brother. Something i really like and wish for my children. Coming from a big family has totally put me off having a big family. I have 2 children and am stopping at that. I love having 2 as i know that they will have each other, but i really don't feel the need to have any more especially in New York city as i feel we are stretched space wise as it is.”

 

“I really think that this is a classic case of the grass always being greener on the other side. I am one of four children and while I would not wish my siblings away (at least not as an adult) thinking that they are always going to commiserate with you over your parents or be able to lend aid or support when the tough decisions are made is idyllic but far from what actually occurs. Without exception it generally falls on the child who has the sort of tendencies to lend aid, and most often it never seems to fall on those who have the greatest financial ability to do the lending. As adults everyone gets wrapped into their own lives and families spread out across the country. One sibling is extremely successful but oblivious to the struggles that take place in other parts of the family. One sibling
struggles daily to stay afloat. One sibling will always feel the pressure more than the others. It's part of the family hierarchy.

Growing up the older siblings helped to care for the younger siblings. There was absolutely no privacy since we lived in a small home. Arguing was commonplace, and most of us have wound up in the emergency room at least
once when roughhousing/fighting got out of hand. There was always the feeling that one was loved more, got more, deserved more than the others, (no matter how close to reality this may or may not have been).

Please do not misinterpret all of this as poor family dynamics or a lack of love. Compared to other families we know this was all very commonplace. The best part of having siblings was that there was always someone else to blame
for broken or missing items. At one point we decided to take turns taking the fall. If one sibling was already on thin ice, someone else would lay claim to their error. This was short lived, and we quickly returned to every person for him/herself. My parents often joked that the success to their long marriage was the agreement that whoever wanted out had to take the kids.

We lost a sibling a few years ago and just for the record, no matter how many other siblings you have, it does not fill the void left by the one that is gone. Due to my own health issues, my one little miracle will likely not having siblings. To me, it is most important to recognize this and fill in some of those 'missed' experiences by building relationships with other families with children and his cousins. We also are making sure that our living will is as up to date as possible and planning for our old age to help eliminate the burden of our son having to make difficult decisions for us.

I also think of all of those things that having one child means. He gets all of our attention. We are more likely to plan those big trips (like the African Safari we want to take) and take him along, something we would not be able or likely to do with a larger family. One child or more, it's never going to be perfect. Each scenario is wracked with possible issues, all any of us can do is the best we can.”

 

“I was an only child growing up and now I have 2 kids and want one more. I did felt lonely growing up and I see my first cousin as my sister, we spent summers together and I Love her TONS! It is true that by being only there's nobody to help you as you grow older. My mom divorced when I was 2 and never remarried, she got too attached to me as I was the only one close to her (she has a sister but can't stand her) she feels resentful of my husband for "stealing" me and her grandkids from her (although if it wasn't for him she wouldn't have grandkids) and it's tough. I wish I had more siblings not only to have someone that's close to me, but also so that my mom wouldn't be so lonely (she lives in Puerto Rico) I also think it depends on the personality of each person, I was very content staying alone in my room reading books and watching tv all by myself, but my first daughter was asking for a sibling since she learned to talk. She has the kind of personality that needs to be active and needs to be with other people, children particularly, and would never be content being by herself”

 

“I am also an only adult child (raised by one parent) and I can second the burden you feel as you grow older of taking care of your parents. My mother has had several medical crisis and it was really difficult. My husband is
also an only child. Both of us definitely felt a sense of loneliness growing up and were also overly 'mature' for our ages. That said, even after we went through fertility treatments it has always been a priority for us to have two children despite any financial burdens (we're both freelance). Now that I have two I can also say its one of the most difficult things ever, emotionally, physically, and financially. I have never regretted it but I do think one needs to think really carefully about why you want another child.
A book I read (I think it was Brazelton) said 'An only child lives in an adults world, siblings live in a childs world'. I totally agree. Best of luck whatever you chose.”

 

“I too am an only child and also feel this strain. But I don't think it's half what my friends feel who have syblings with whom they don't get along or who don't take on the obligations of aging parents. I think that it may be even lonlier to feel abandoned by those upon whom you'd like to lean than to not have anyone in the first place.

I do want another child but it is because I have so enjoyed the joys being a parent - something I didn't expect. I don't think you can have a child for any other reason. You don't know what a second child will be like, how your children will get along or anything else that comes with more children. I don't think it's right to have a child to fill a role that you'd like it to fill. And it may end up a big disapointment. It may not.

When I was growing up I sometimes wanted a sybling, and sometimes not. But in the end, I'm really fine and I've got friends with whom I have extremely close and long relationships. If you choose to have one child, your child will be fine.”

 

“I have a younger sister. we fought constantly as kids. we were never close. and we haven't spoken in years. so there's no guarantee that a sibling will turn out to be a good thing.”

 

“I finally decided to weigh in on this one. I come from a family of 4 kids. Today, we range in age from 47 (me) to 56 (my eldest sister.) We were all very close growing up, with the exception of my middle sister who was always "odd man out".

Today, my eldest sister is closest to everyone - this despite the fact that she was our caregiver when we were growing up. She is particularly close to my brother and me, even though she bitterly resents how much responsibility my parents gave her in taking care of us. Somehow, that doesn't color her adult relationship to us at all.

This past October, my dad died. It was good to have my siblings around at that time, and we all did band together to deal with it, even my middle sister who is usually a pain. (And she was still a pain at the funeral home, almost driving the funeral director crazy, but in the rest of the time, she was really great! We all really hung together!)

I now have two kids of my own. I don't see having more, since we are already older parents, but also because it's hard enough giving my full time and attention to the two I already have. But I'm glad I have two and not just one. My relationships with my siblings are special, even when we don't all get along (which is frequent.) And I
find it reassuring to have other people out there who remember stuff, now that my dad is gone and my mom's memory isn't what it used to be. It's good to be able to share the old times with somebody.

And one other thing - several people said that they couldn't have one more due to medical reasons, but, as I adopted both of my kids, I don't feel that way. You can always have more kids, you just might not give birth to them.”

 

“This all so SO depends. I have 2 sisters and love them very much and we are very close. My husband has one brother and they never got along, always fought, hated each other. Now they are strangers. They live in different
countries and only communicate through their mum.

My son is an only child, which is not my preference, but that's the way it turned out. I feel sad at times that he will never know the joy of siblings and my husband thinks he's fortunate because he he won't know the pain of being estranged from one and doesn't have to share his parents' love and attention with someone he dislikes.

I know a lot of people who hate their siblings and also a lot of close families. I know loving siblings who are also very contentious. I like to think that if we had had more children they would love each other, but I really don't know what would have happened.”

 

“My husband and I are also trying to decide whether or not to have another child. I'm quite anxious about bringing another child into the world considering the state of the environment. I'm generally an optimist but there is no way for me to look at global warming and convince myself this planet is going to be a nice place to live pretty soon (sooner than later, if this "winter" weather is any indication). I've always wanted to be a mother and always thought two kids and two parents was a nice family size but now I'm just not sure. My husband and I have started a conversation about adoption, it's just too early to tell what we'll decide. This is probably not helping anyone make up their mind, I'm just curious to see if anyone is grappling with the same issue.

 

“I'll add to the choir of only/single children....sort of. I have an older half sister (15 years older) and an older half brother (5 years older). But, neither of them lived with me growing up, and I don't feel really close to them.

I completely agree with the poster who said that you are in an "adult's world" if you are an only child. I was constantly considered a lot older than I was growing up. I was always around adults, and actually felt very comfortable with them, from a very young age. I have to say, at times I feel I do wish I had a close sibling, but overall I feel like I have a very fulfilling life. But, I did learn very young, that my friends are a big part of my family. I'm still friends with people who I knew in grade school.

That being said, I have one child so far, and my husband (who has an old sister he's not close to) and I are planning for at least one more....maybe 2 more, if we can swing it financially/physically, etc. It's a tough decision, and there's trade-offs to both, clearly. And, ultimately, you have to go with your gut. But, being an only child was a lot of fun and I did things a lot of my friends with multiple siblings didn't get to do (great trips, special "days" with my mom, etc.)”

 

“I’ll weigh in on this one, too. I have a brother who is two years older than I am, and we were fairly close growing up. Now we are superficially friendly and even affectionate, but when my mother died the onus was on me to
take care of making the arrangements and cleaning out the family apartment. My husband took care of all the paperwork. This was partly because my brother lives in another state and I was close by. In many ways having a sibling who didn’t come through when I needed it added to my sadness. I often said at the time that even though I had a brother, I felt like an only child because I was taking care of it all myself and didn’t have the shoulder of the one with whom I shared that family history.  And although my husband and his brother are very close, it has fallen squarely on my husband’s shoulders to take care of his aging parents. I know that there are many families where siblings are very close and have wonderful, affectionate relationships. I’m just saying that in making a huge decision like this, I don’t know if it’s wise to think only in terms of who will help take care of aging parents, because it’s very hard to know how those things will go when the time comes.”

 

“I am an only child, however, my traditional Latino upbringing meant that I was raised with all of my cousins (My mom's sisters children) all of whom lived within a few blocks from us. In Spanish there is a term "primo-hermano" which speaks to the fact that your cousins are around so much they may as well be your brothers or sisters. I mention this because it made a difference and I work hard on developing close relationships for my kids with their extended family.

I think when you have only one child, as a parent you do need to work harder to make sure your kids spend a lot of time with other kids. I have two boys of my own and the difference in social skills between my older son and my younger son I think is due to the fact that the younger one was born sharing. My older one is still working on this.

That said I think that the "only's don't share" myth is untrue. I find that people with siblings are a lot more clear on "what belongs to whom". I think only's have a tendency to be more "what's yours is mine" because there are less
hang ups from childhood about carving out what's yours within a bunch of siblings. Also there is the desire to make friends and have good playdates. I would always give up my last m&m if it meant there was someone else there to
turn the jumprope!

As an adult I've also found that my closest friendships have been with fellow only's who put the same weight on friendships and loyalty as I do. People with siblings have the luxury of writing others off because they know there is at least one person in the world who has to put up with them.

I had a great time as an only. I was aware of how lucky I was. I got tons of attention from my parents and as a family we were able to afford things my cousins sometimes could not.”

 

“I read your post and just had to comment. You said: "I'm quite anxious about bringing another child into the world considering the state of the environment" I have always thought that this generation of children if brought up right can do so many good things for the world. I like to think of my children as future pioneers, not to put too much preassure on them, I don't really push them into it, I just feel inside that they will do great things and them, along with future generations will make way for better things.

But for those of you trying to find a good reason to or not to have more children, I think for me it was an easy choice because my 6 year old daughter has the kind of personality who craves a sibling. I don't know if any of you have experienced this from their own children, but my daughter was one to ask for a little sister since she turned 2 and learned how to babble her first words. She wanted a baby! And after 3 more years of thinking about it we finally gave her what she wanted and we really wish we had done it sooner so that they could be closer in age and stuff.

To all of you thinking about it, take a good look at your own children and their personalities, are they content playing by themselves or do they crave the closeness of a sibling, sometimes the answer will be very obvious, sometimes it won't. But I know that if you look closely into your family you will be able to find the answer you seek.”

 

“My sister, who has two children, said to me when I questioned her on the topic, "the decision to have another child should be based on whether or not YOU really want another one, and not about providing a sibling for your existing child." I thought this was sort of an unusual response. Most people I know say they want to have another one to provide a playmate/companion for their child. But as my observations and many of these posts have illustrated, it is not a given that siblings will be close or even friendly. I think a lot has to do with nature -- i.e., what personality children are born with and how it meshes (or doesn't) with their sibling.”

 

“I kind of think that how siblings get along has more to do with how parents set up the dynamics at home: How parents handle sibling rivalry and competition. My friends who are not close to their siblings seem to come from households where one child was favored or there was a competitive atmosphere. Having fraternal twins, I think personality is definitely more nature then nurture but that doesn't mean opposite personalities can't be close.”

 

“Further to this post, there's a book out there by Susan Jeffers (who wrote Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and is fairly respected), called I'm OK You're a Brat, that is basically an argument against having more than one child for the sake of giving kids siblings. In fact, it's almost an argument against having kids at all unless the would-be parent REALLY wants them. I think she thinks too many people out there don't realize how hard parenting is and don't weigh the pro's and con's of becoming parents - just do it because you're supposed to, in many circles - and thinks it's a recipe for unhappy parents and unhappy kids. It's an interesting book although fairly discouraging about parenting - and I think she has at least one child. But it might be worth a read for those of you who are weighing whether to have another child. It also is validating about the negative feelings people may sometimes have about how parenting has changed their lives.”

 

“In light of the recent discussion of being/having an only child, which I followed with interest, I wanted to recommend a just- published anthology of essays with the self-explanatory title, "Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo." I haven't read the whole thing, but what I have read is great. You can find it on Amazon.Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo Edited by Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller.

Only children don't have to share bedrooms, toys, or the backseat of a car. They don't have to share allowances, inheritances, or their parents' attention. But when they get into trouble, they can't just blame their imaginary friends. In Only Child, twenty-one acclaimed writers tell the truth about life without siblings—the bliss of solitude, the ache of loneliness, and everything in between.

In this unprecedented collection, writers like Judith Thurman, Kathryn Harrison, John Hodgman, and Peter Ho Davies reflect on the single, transforming episode that defined each of them as an only child. For some it came while lurking around the edges of a friend's boisterous family, longing to be part of the chaos. For others, it came in sterile hospital halls, while single-handedly caring for a parent with cancer. They write about the parents who raised them, from the devoted to the dismissive. They describe what it's like to be an only child of divorce, an only because of the death of a sibling, an only who reveled in it or an only who didn't.

In candid, poignant, and often hilarious essays, these authors—including the children of Erica Jong, Alice Walker, and Phyllis Rose—explore a lifetime of onliness. As adults searching for partners, they are faced with the unique challenge of trying to turn a longtime trio into a quartet. In deciding whether to give junior a sib, they weigh the benefits of producing the friend they never had against the fear that they will not know how to divide their love and
attention among multiples. As they watch their parents age, they come face-to-face with the onus of being their family's sole historian.

Whether you're an only child curious about how your experiences compare to others', the partner or spouse of an only, a parent pondering whether to stop at one, or someone with siblings who's always wondered how the other half lives, Only Child offers a look behind the scenes and into the hearts of twenty-one smart and sensitive writers as they reveal the truth about growing up—and being a grown-up—solo.”

 

“Thank you for the book recommendation. About a year ago another thread like this went around. I found the e-mail I sent then and have pasted it below as I feel it is certainly still valid in this discussion. The only difference is that my father passed away a few months after I wrote the post. I will say that dealing with his death as an only child seems very lonely. Although both his siblings (who are 7 and 14 years his junior) have expressed how lonely they feel as well. I guess every relationship is so different that when you loose someone it always feels lonely.

As an only child that grew up in Park Slope/Windsor Terrace I'll tell you it's not a bad life. Yes, I missed out on having a sibling and all that comes with it. But I always had my own bedroom, got tons of attention, felt VERY special all the time and loved being an individual that didn't have to follow anyone else or be the example to anyone else.

My parents never made me feel like I missed out on anything, nor did they ever talk about wanting another child. I think this made me feel like my situation was absolutely normal, which it is, but I know some people that would argue with that. When I lived in Park Slope I was among many only children, but when I moved to Windsor Terrace things were quite different. I got a bit down about not having a sibling then. Yet there were so many things going on that I can't say it was all about being an only child. We moved when I was in 6th grade. I went to public school whereas all the neighborhood kids went to catholic and my mother was the only divorced person on the block. I'm sure all that, with a pinch of puberty, would lead anyone to dislike their situation.

As an adult there are things I sometimes feel I miss out on. I have no one I can say 'Mom' to, it's always 'my mom'. When my parents are really getting hard to deal with, poor hubby has to be my surrogate sibling and listen to all my rants... But when they die I get everything! Too bad none of them have money... LOL! Also there is a lot of prejudice against only children. When we told my mother-in-law I was pregnant with our second she said she was so glad Chloe wasn't going to be an only child. "Only children are just weird!" A cousin said she thought it was the cruelest thing you could do to a child. And I was at a party where a teacher said she could always tell the only children in her class. She was shocked to find out I was an only child!

I have a great relationship with all of my parents (there are 4 since they both remarried). I know very few people that can talk to their parents they way I can. My husband and I hang out with my dad and his wife on a regular basis because they are cool like that. Not to mention they don't have to split their time between me and a sibling or 2... My
mother and I used to sit up at night and talk like friends for hours. When my heart got broken in high school my mom was my saving grace. She cried with me, cursed out my ex and even said she would rip up pictures with me!

I've decided to have two children. There was a time I thought I would have a huge family with 4 kids or more! But as an adult I've realized that my parents really made sense having one child. I don't think I could give attention to more than two now and I am perfectly content with that decision. Actually I'm really happy I feel 100% sure about
something! It's funny, when I told my mother I was pregnant again she said 'Wow! That's great! I'm so happy...' then she took a breath and said 'What's it going to be like with two?', having only had one child herself.

All in all, each has good and bad. I truly think it is up to the parent and how they feel they will deal. It's better to have one child you know you can handle than 3 you are not sure about... I was lucky to have parents that made me feel comfortable being an only child with no regrets!”

 

“Wow, have I ever started to feel defensive since beginning to read this thread. I was 37 when I finally managed to have my son, who is now almost 8. He cost $48,000, some of which was covered by insurance. I had to take mega-time off from work for sonograms and emergency inseminations, had a miscarriage which almost made me suicidal, suffered migraines so bad that I frequently wore a morphine patch, and once when I told a co-worker that at age 44 I
didn't think I was going to have a second one, she said, "It's a sin to raise an only child."

He seems perfectly happy and told me "I want all the attention for myself," when I asked him how he felt about not having a brother or sister. He shares enough at school.

I echo the sentiment of distance between siblings. I have two brothers, one of whom I only see or speak to at Christmas and the other, never. They are only a source of sadness to me and my son. We count on our friends. There was a time when we worried about the population explosion. The burden on the earth and that whole thing. I guess I'll start working on that angle. And please be gentle on those of us who may not have had a choice about the size of our family.”

 

“I have encountered the stigma of being an only child, both when I was younger and as an adult. I agree with the above posters co-worker, it's not a sin to raise only one child. I think if you look hard enough, you'll find people who were happy or unhappy with their siblings and people who were happy or unhappy without them. The most important aspect, I think, for the original poster and for others contemplating family with one child is that the situation works for your family and not what you feel compelled to do because of society. It seems to me that only children are much more prevalent in society than when I was growing up.

I am asked frequently when we are having a second child for our son, often by strangers. When I give his age people feel compelled to add comments like, oh, that's the perfect age for a sibling, or, you wouldn't want him not to have any siblings, would you? (Not that I asked for their comments either.) My husband and struggled long and hard to have our son and it pains me when people flippantly inquire about a sibling without being conscious of the fact
that many people have difficulty bringing a child into their family in the first place.

When I was growing up I was conscious of the fact that I did not have any siblings. At times, it felt as though every commercial featured a family of four, not three. Eventually I came to appreciate my family for what it is and not what is was expected to be. Sometimes it bothered me but mostly it didn't. I do worry about caring for my parents as they age but I know people with siblings who worry about that as well. Their role in their family is the care taker and they know they'll be caring for their parents just as much as I do.

Growing up my definition of family encompassed not only my parents and me but my nine first cousins who I saw very frequently at family picnics, vacations and holidays. I remain very close with most of them and still vacation
with one of them. I grew up on a suburban block with many children close in age. My parents were generous with their time and resources not only with me but in terms of including my friends on family outings. They gave me the gift of their attention and devotion. I may not have had to share them with a sibling but I still learned how to share pretty well and I'm sure if you have one child he/she will as well.”

 

“I actually didn't have any cousins growing up. I mentioned before that I've made up for that with friends but I got a bonus in the end... my husband is one of 3 brothers, he is the youngest of 12 cousins (almost all of whom have 2 children) so I've got a big family after all. (Though I'm pretty sure that shouldn't be the criteria for marrying. It's just a nice bonus. You never know how life will turn out.) And I married a man who will help me take care of my parents, cause he's like that.

I think everyone has raised positives and negatives about being an only child (and a sibling) but I have to say, not in defense of myself as an only but in defense of those who have chosen to have onlies: leave them alone. It's a fine choice, it helps all of those of us who have (or hope to have) more than one by adding to the parent/child ratio in the world... and it's really none of anyone's business.”

 

“I've been meaning to add my 2 cents to this thread, as an only child myself and a parent of one contemplating a second... First of all, as previous posters have mentioned, this is an intensely personal choice.

Although I understand the admirable desire to tread lightly on the earth by reducing one's use of resources, I'm not sure if limiting family size purely for this reason makes sense to me. I haven't read the literature on this movement, but I'd think there are other ways to minimize one's impact. I'd probably first put solar panels on my roof and compost--two things I'm seriously considering at present. To opt not to have a child if that's something you want for other reasons, seems dire to me.

To share my personal experience, I was a lonely only child. My parents divorced then married other spouses, my father's household came to include two step children and later a half sibling. However these kids weren't close in age to me. We always felt like we were more different than alike. (I don't recall if other posters have mentioned divorce/remarriage and onlies, but that's a whole other set of issues!) No cousins close by, good family friends did help, though.

I do also worry about my mother's aging, as other posters have mentioned. Luckily, she's still in good health and has always been a planner and a saver, so this isn't an imminent concern

Once again, PSP, thanks for discussing what's been on my mind, too.”

 

“Thank you so much for all the emails and posts regarding my question. There were so many people who shared their personal thoughts and experiences. I appreciate all that took the time to do that . I am not going to post to the list the response because many people asked me not to and I saw that some people who responded to me also posted to the list so I felt those people wanted their info shared. The conclusions I have come to ... I think that the worried about my child suffering as an only child as far as being lonely or not being able to share or wait are things that can be rectified. I cannot have a child just for my son. I have to make the decision to have another child for myself and what works for our whole family.

If money and space are a factor I must consider them and not think that all will work out. Many people shared the strains on their marriages that all of these things can cause. It came down to not having guilt that I am doing my child a disservice by not giving him a sibling. The funny thing is that many people wrote about not being close with their siblings. Both my husband and I aren't close with ours and in fact my brother did not share in the responsibility of my sick mother so having another child for those reasons may not work out as planned. The bottom line is that I have to decide if it works for my family not just to have a brother or sister for my son. That is a great realization for me . I have to know he will be fine as an only child. I know he will. Thanks to all of you who helped me come to realize this.”

 

A similar thread on a baby group:

 

"I cannot even IMAGINE a second child now. And I had previously thought I would want two. Now, when I tell my husband that a family we know is expecting a second, he blurts out, "That sounds horrible!" and we both crack up laughing.     
Here are my reasons for being one and done:    
Age. I could maybe consider another one if my daughter were in school. I see 5-year-olds who are such sweet older siblings... but I have watched friends deal with the terrible twos concurrently with a newborn, and never have I thought, "Sign me up for that!" I could maybe have another in 4 years... but then I'd be 44. Yes, I have friends who've had kids at 45, but I just don't think that's for me. If I'd had my first at 35, I'd be more in the, "wait and see how I feel when she's in pre-K," mindset.     
Health. I had a low-risk and uneventful pregnancy, and a natural birth. That does not mean I enjoyed being pregnant or giving birth... or the shit-show to follow. I am lucky that I didn't experience postpartum depression, but I would feel anxiety over feeling like my body was weak and broken during a time that the newest and most important person in my life needed me to be strong. She was a terrible sleeper, which meant we barely slept. I had previously been gluten-free, but due to exhaustion, just grabbed whatever food was easy, which was not good for my health. And I had no energy to exercise. (Previously a distance runner with a vigorous, bordering on acrobatic yoga practice.) A month ago, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease (autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism.) It's common for the onset to happen after childbirth. (It's common for the onset of a lot of things other conditions to occur after birth.) I'm managing it holistically, which means cooking takes up so much of my time. No more quick croissants, making quick pasta, or ordering delivery when I'm tired. And I need to sleep to keep my symptoms from flaring up. I can't imagine going back to frequent night wakings and nursing.    
Finances. Sure, we could make it work with two. People manage. But we'd have to move somewhere much cheaper (and less desirable to me.) We'd probably have to stop traveling too... and we love traveling and want our girl to see the world. Or we'd have to work like crazy to afford Brooklyn, but never see our kids. I only work part-time so I can be with my daughter most of the time. We couldn't afford that with two.     
Political climate. After the election, I started to have even more apprehension about adding another member to our family. Our health insurance already isn't all that great, I can't imagine what we'll be left with soon. Dealing with that with one kid will he hard enough. And who knows what the economy will be like soon.     
I am an only child and so is my husband. We turned out... semi-normal. I wanted a sibling when I was very little, my husband never did. But then when I started spending time at other kids' houses, I realized my fantasy of sibling life wasn't reality. Kids were picking on each other, fighting, and the parents were always yelling. It felt like chaos to me. I don't know if our only-child sensibilities could handle yelling over multiple kids' voices. I told my mom recently that I wished I'd had a sibling to share the responsibility of caring for her when she gets older. She pointed out that her sister does not help her take care of her father, and my own father never helped his brother care for my grandparents. So having siblings doesn't mean they'll help each other or even necessarily get along.     
Sorry if that's a bit Debbie Downerish, but I guess sharing my story is my way of saying I totally feel everything you're saying even though our experiences and reasons for feeling that way are different. Just enjoy the kid you have for now. Maybe things will shift and you'll want another, but remind yourself that it's ok if you don't. I actually have said to people who prod me about having more, "Can I just enjoy and get to know the one I already have without planning to make another one?" Also, it's really no one else's concern, so they should shut it.    
No matter what, second kid or not, it's all going to be just fine."