Everyone has an opinion about my husband and I having only one child. From my mother to the clerk at the corner store, everyone needs to explain to us why having an only child is the best or worst decision of our lives. I usually smile and nod, knowing no matter what I say, they’ll remain firm in their opinion, despite it being our lives, our family.
I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, I devoted an entire essay to this in my first book, and have since had many parents of single kids confirm that I’m not alone in having oh-so-many people chime in on our family size. And I know it’s just not us parents of one. Folks with more than two or three kids will also receive plenty of input on their family size. But, having grown up with one sibling and having only one child (and yes, we’re happy with the one), I can only speak for those of us with smaller families.
Like any family, there are pros and cons to having an only child. Here are mine:
1. My card and board game skills have improved tenfold. Yes, having an only child does mean playing with your kid a bit more than kids who have siblings. After all, it’s a big bummer to try and play Monopoly with the family dog (spoiler: he wins every time). It helps that my husband and I are both super competitive and enjoy playing these games, and it helps that my son is a quick study, so I don’t have to pretend to lose, since that’s a pretty crummy life lesson for your kid anyway.
2. Travel. Travel is a lot easier with only one kid. It’s more affordable when you only have to pay for one child, it’s easier to decide to pack up and go on a whim when you’re only dealing with one child’s schedule/life, and we’ve been able to get into places/restaurants/etc. because having to accommodate three people is usually easier/faster than larger groups.
3. No sibling fights. I love, love, love my friends with more than one kid. I swear. But as a person who actively avoids conflict whenever possible, the idea of constant bickering causes me to break out in cold sweats. OK, even occasional bickering. That’s not to say that my son doesn’t get into arguments with friends or with us, but it’s not a regular enough occurrence that it leaves me feeling slightly panicky. Also, as both my husband and I do have siblings, we’re intimately aware of sibling fights (both as children and adults…).
1. Everyone who thinks they know better will tell you why having only one child is a HUGE MISTAKE. You’ll hear this more than once. It will probably annoy you each time, but because you’re fairly polite you’ll learn how to just nod and grin/grimace and move along. To be honest, this is probably my number one gripe about parenting in general—that everyone knows what’s best for your family, even though they don’t live your lives.
2. I know my son will miss out on some awesome things. We didn’t come to the decision to have only one child easily. A lot of thought went into it. We knew that our son would miss out on some of the majorly positive parts to having a sib, especially eventually becoming an uncle. While that part is a bummer, there’s never any guarantee he’d have adult siblings who wanted kids (or that he’d have healthy relationships with his adult siblings). Plus, we really stress the importance of chosen family in our house, which leads me to hope that he will be an uncle to plenty of kids when the time comes.
3. He doesn’t really have anyone to bitch about us to. This might seem like a strange one, but it’s true. Despite building a layer of chosen family into our related one, my son simply won’t have anyone who was also raised by us to compare notes with and complain about us. I mean, the dog isn’t much for conversation. As a kid and adult, it helps to have someone who has been there, experienced that. Friends are absolutely wonderful for venting to, but there’s nothing like a sibling when you’re mad at Mom or Dad.
But here’s the reality: Parents (and kids) can write lists upon lists of the best and worst parts of anything family related. Having an only, being an only, having many, being one of many. It’s not a contest, there is no right answer, and everyone will be OK in the end. One, two, three, four, or more. Truly.