Am I Evil If I Only Have One Child?

This question has been playing on my mind rather a lot recently.

Our daughter is three and a half, and all sorts of people have been asking whether we're planning on having another child.

Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and people that we don't know at all are becoming increasingly concerned with our continuing reproduction.

You see, most people seem to start on their second child when the first child is approaching two, so that you get that "two-year gap". I don't know why the two-year gap is so desirable; maybe history has proved this to be the ideal. All but one of our friends with children have stuck to this formula. But for us this "ideal" has passed and it's clearly making people nervous.

On a recent trip with my husband's friends a young guy, (single and without kids), asked us if we are going to have any more children. When we replied that we're not sure, he said that it would be cruel of us not to have any more, for our daughter's sake. We don't know him too well, and were shocked that he could judge us like this.

And I have a family member who always greets us not with a "hello", but with "so when are you having another baby?" That's beginning to wear very thin, I can tell you. And he's even taken to asking our daughter if she'd prefer a baby brother or sister!

The worst thing is that our daughter does occasionally ask if we can have a baby. This is usually after she's been playing with a friend who has a younger sibling. While other people's comments may rattle us they are easy to dismiss. It's not so easy to ignore your little child's plaintive request, it really pulls on the heartstrings..

Only Child Natalie Portman

Only Child Franklin Delano Roosevelt

But is it so bad to be an only child?

Not being one myself I don't really know, and information that I find on the internet is mixed. Some, (for whom being an only child had been a positive experience), tell of how lucky they'd felt to have their parents' undivided attention, and not having had to worry about sibling rivalry. They were glad to have had their own bedroom and their own space, and none of the hassle that went with having a small baby in the house.

Others spoke of the loneliness and boredom, of feeling jealous of friends with siblings, always being surrounded by people much older than themselves, and the frustration of not having had anyone of a similar age to talk to. Something that really struck me was the person who said that they'd constantly felt the need to prove that they were not spoilt.

To me, the downsides of being an only child sound sadder and more significant than the upsides. Who wants their child to grow up lonely?

But did these people have close friends of their age I wonder, and does this fill the hole in some way? Our daughter has lots of friends her age who we see a lot, and I'd like to think (whether or not she gets a sibling), that she'll grow up with them and that they'll always be close, as well as the other friends that she'll make on the way.

Amongst the people that I know there are plenty who grew up as only children, and they've turned out okay. They are well-balanced and have close friendships and healthy relationships. There are a few for which this cannot be said - but who's to say that this is because they were only children?

According to Susan Newman, author of Parenting an Only Child and a social psychologist at Rutgers University, although the stereotype of the only child is somebody who's bossy, aggressive, spoilt, lonely and mal-adjusted,

"There have been hundreds and hundreds of research studies that show that only children are no different from their peers."(1)

So maybe it's not so bad. And how a child turns out surely depends on a lot more than whether or not they have brothers or sisters. I would guess that how you parent your child has a big effect - if you cater to their every whim and treat them like the stereotypical, "spoilt-brat" only-child then they are probably more likely to turn out that way. But if you set them boundaries, teach them to respect other people, and are sensible when it comes to buying them things, then there's surely no reason why you should end up with a monster on your hands!

Are they happier?
Are they happier? | Source

The question of happiness

But even so, I can see how having another child as a constant companion could have a sort of levelling effect for both children; to a certain extent they would be forced to learn about sharing and co-operation, something which you wouldn't get so much with no other children living in your house. I often wonder how much my own daughter's lack of generosity and stubborn possessiveness over her toys is due to her lack of siblings - and how much is due to her being three and a half!

I can also see that the presence of a sibling might have a positive effect on social skills and language development - although if the only child sees a lot of their friends this might not make a huge difference. I certainly know plenty of only children who have an extremely impressive grasp of language, some of whom (my own daughter included) never seem to stop talking! But there is probably also something positive to be said about the language development - (and perhaps the maturity) - of a child who spends a certain amount of time talking (and listening) to adults.

I suppose what I'd really like to know is whether an only child can be as happy as a child with siblings. The research results that I've flicked through online suggest that only children generally score well on the things that make up a happy person; things like achievement, intelligence, popularity and self-esteem. Beyond this and other people's (subjective) experiences it is an impossible question. Every family and every individual is different. And testing whether somebody growing up as an only child would be happier with a sibling, would of course require a parallel universe!

Raising an Only Child.

Reasons to maybe stop at one child

But enough about the child, what about the welfare of the poor parents?

I'm joking of course. Having children is a real blessing and a privilege, and their welfare and happiness are paramount. But when you're considering adding to your family there are some other things to consider.

Friends who have had more than one child tell me that at first it's very difficult to adjust to looking after two children. Having to get used to sleepless nights once more - especially if it's been a battle to achieve the nirvana that is "sleeping through the night" with child number one. The whole nappy changing thing which psychologically, you feel as if you're over if your first child is already potty-trained. And the difficulty of having to look after a demanding newborn while simultaneously running after a mischievous, adventurous and energetic toddler or pre-schooler. (And I'm sure that a larger gap between children comes with its own special problems!)

I can understand people who say that although multiple children might be a struggle in the early days, it all comes good in the future because having close family is so important during one's adult years. And I do appreciate this fact, as I am close to my sister and I'm extremely grateful for having her. But not everyone is close to their siblings, and some people are closer to their friends.

Another important consideration when you're thinking of whether or not to add to your family, is that children don't come cheap! Okay, maybe babies can do - at least when you're onto your second or more. (I discovered this in my hub investigating whether second babies are cost-free). But babies quickly grow into children, who eat food and need stuff, and may eventually go to college! Not to mention other really big expenses that you might incur by having another child. Maybe you'll need to buy a bigger car, or even a bigger house.

Then there are the non-material considerations. When you just have one child you can give them your undivided attention. You don't have to worry about showing favouritism or about sibling rivalry. And could you handle another child? One can be tough enough sometimes! And then there's my own personal worry about whether I'd be able to love another child as much as my first (- and how could another child be as lovable?) Do I have enough love to go around?

I know I'm not the first parent to have this worry, and I've been assured that the amount of love you have grows in proportion to the number of kids you have (which is clever..). But your whole relationship with the first child must have to change quite a bit.

And looking at the bigger picture, isn't the world full enough without adding more people? With the earth's resources depleting at such a worrying rate, even if you should decide that another child might be good for your family, would it really be good for the world? After all, each new child comes with their own carbon footprint. What's more, is it fair to bring a child into a world that is not doing so great these days; we're in the midst of a recession, terrorism is never out of the news and crime rates seem to always be on the up.

So, am I evil?

I don't think I am. I feel immensely privileged to have one child, and I'm sure that I'd feel completely overjoyed to have another one should we decide that that's what right for us (and if we're lucky enough to be able to have any more).

But if we decide not to, then that will be fine too. There are some darned good reasons for not having more than one child. And a lot of the reasons that people give for why you must immediately have another one don't necessarily stand up to the evidence. These are probably the same people who pestered you about when you were going to get a boyfriend, or get married or start your family (or any other landmark event that's none of their business whatsoever). They just make you feel guilty. But there's no reason to.

Creative and Bright
Creative and Bright | Source

Some Only Children Do Okay. (Yes, the Gilmore Girls is fictional, but Rory is a great role-model for only children!)

If you're an only child...

How did it affect your childhood?

  • I loved being an only child, no complaints at all!
  • I sometimes wished I had a sibling, but had a good childhood.
  • My childhood wasn't great, if I'd had a sibling it would've been better.
  • I hated being an only child and always longed for a brother or a sister.
See results without voting

The results of this poll are really encouraging so far.

Thank you for voting!

Comments 32 comments

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

I loved this! Deciding how many children to have is such a personal issue. My personal standard was to not have more children than I could handle. I hate seeing kids run wild in a store and parents standing there, looking bewildered. We stopped after five, because we knew we could do well with this many, but were not sure about more, especially since each new baby made it harder and harder for me to stay connected with the older ones. Now that my youngest is two, I look forward to doing many more activities with all of my children.


earner profile image

earner 6 years ago from United Kingdom

I think one is enough. You can devote your energy into supporting one child fully and they can have as much space and attention as they need. There's nobody for them to fight with and they'll become self-sufficient more easily.

Just think, if you had 2, 3, 4, more ... where would they all live in 20 years' time?


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Ivorwen, thanks! Wow, five, I'm very impressed that you can handle that many and NOT have them all running wild in stores! I imagine that having several children would make it difficult to keep that bond with each one, but sounds like you're doing well and are confident you can do it! It's nice that you'll have some time soon to spend with all of them.

earner, thanks for your comment. Yes, I can see how having just one child can have all sorts of advantages. So far my daughter does seem quite mature and independent for her age, which might be due to her being the only child in the house and having all the attention, (although I can never know this for sure!) How many children to have is certainly a difficult decision, and yes, it's important to think of the future implications.


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

I've never seen two years as the "ideal". I wanted to have at least three or four between my children in order to be able to give each plenty of individual attention while they were in "brain-development" stage. There's five between my elder son and younger one (but only because of a miscarriage when the elder son was three) and three between the two younger kids. I thought it worked out really well.

As for having additional siblings for one child or another, I always thought it was crummy that my daughter doesn't have a sister. She grew up and said, "I'm glad I don't. I see my friends with their sisters." I don't think we can ever know what our kids will be happy with or not happy with.


Actingperson profile image

Actingperson 6 years ago from Southern England

I have one and wondering whether to have another. I am one of five and that has definitely come with its problems. Good hub. Thanks


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thanks Lisa HW. It's refreshing to hear somebody else say that they don't see a two year gap as the ideal. It just seems to be what people do around here. It's great that you planned three or four years between children, and I like your reasons for doing so. I'm sorry to hear about your miscarriage.

Yes, you're right about how we think we know what will be best for our kids, but at the time can never really know for sure. Kind of nice that your daughter hadn't secretly wanted a sister after all!


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thank you for your comment Actingperson. It's a difficult decision! I can imagine that being one of five would have its good and bad points.

And it's interesting how our childhood experiences often lead us to do the opposite of what happened the generation before. I know that in my grandmother's generation people had huge families (she was one of 10), and as a result most of them went on to have much smaller families.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago

I think that you are a wonderful caring parent! You are seeking to make a decision based on what you think is best for your child. It is important that you have as few or many children as you want to raise. Children are a huge responsibilty when raised properly. So it is quite wise to think out your decision and what is best for your family and your household. There are many factors to take into consideration..

We had five children and I must say I am quite thankful that overall they were great and are still great friends as adults. I also realize that for many this is not always the case. They are all married now ...

If you choose not to have more children make sure that your child has balanced social time with children of her own age. You can still teach her to share if she is an only child. However, please Make sure that she is confident and secure in herself and does not only see herself as an extention of her parents! So she will not get pulled along with her peers..

I am sure that you will make the decision that is best for your family!

Thank you for sharing! Blessings


chefaija profile image

chefaija 6 years ago

I think how much family you have is a personal decision. If you love your child that is all that matters Take it from a mother of three the more you have the more time, sharing and energy it takes. I would not give mine back but it gets hard dividing energy


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thanks for your kind words Deborrah! There are indeed a great many things to think about. I do admire you for being able to raise so many children, and it sounds as if they all get on well and you've done a good job!

Thanks also for your advice on raising an only child (if it turns out that she will be one). And that's a nice point about making sure she's not an extension of us, she needs to be her own person and have self-confidence. You've given me something to think about there, that's just what I would like for her. I hope I will make a good decision!


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

chefaija, thanks a lot for your comments. I can imagine that having three children would be hard work, it's tough sometimes with just one, lol! I can tell the you think it's worth it despite the amount of energy that it takes.


Hanna Bambina profile image

Hanna Bambina 6 years ago

yes you are evil; only children are social retards. I'm an only child and I can't maintain a friendship for the life of me.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Lol! I'd better go and have another child right now.

(At least I hope you're joking...)


Sage Williams profile image

Sage Williams 6 years ago

Wow, you have covered every aspect in making your decision. I myself believe it is a personal choice. One that only you and your spouse and possibly asking for input from your child. A very difficult decision, but in no way should you think of yourself as evil. Just by your writing one can see what a very caring person you are and how much thought you have put into this.

Perhaps writing this whole hub has brought you closer to feeling comfortable with your decision. Nonetheless, thanks so much for sharing with the rest of us. You did a really great job on this hub.

Sage


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thanks for your comments Sage. (Great name by the way :)

I appreciate the nice things you've said. And yes, researching this hub definitely made me realise that whatever choice we make it can be a good one.


the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

i knew before my child was born id only have one. its not selfish...look at it this way, one less carbon footprint.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thanks the pink umbrella. It's good that you were so sure of how many children you wanted. I'd like to be more decisive! You're right about the carbon footprint. :)


MotherHubber profile image

MotherHubber 6 years ago from Southern California

Interesting Hub, Moon Daisy. What resonated with me the most was the part where you mention how downright rude people can be about your personal reproductive life. I had a bit of a hard time getting pregnant with #2, and every time somebody said "So, when is Jack getting a little brother or sister??" I wanted to direct them to a link on secondary infertility. It does happen. And as you mentioned, some people choose not to have more than one child. :) Either way, people can (usually unintentionally) really strike a nerve on this topic!


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London Author

Thanks for your comments Motherhubber. Yes, that is a very good point. It also took me a little while to fall pregnant, so I experienced this too to some degree. It's really strange how some people don't even consider, when they're badgering people about having babies, that they might just not be able to.

I think it's very insensitive to ask people about their baby plans at all, because it could easily upset them. There is a lot of insensitivity around, people just don't think!


swapna123 profile image

swapna123 6 years ago from India

Loved reading this. I am in the same situation as you. I plan to have a kid only if me and my husband think we need one, not because my child needs a sibling or because my inlaws or others feel that I want another ! I think it should be a personal decision. I am not really bothered about carbon footprint and all..but, am just not willing to go through the diaper changing routine again.. atleast not till my kid becomes 8 or 9 and can take care of herself. And yes,I do have lots of friends who were single kids and they've grown up just fine.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

I am an only child. Dearest Moon Daisy, only children are great. When you have one child, you are less stressed than when you have more than one child. My mother always said that she "enjoyed" me. How many parents said this? Very few, studies show that the more children a parent has the more stressed the parent is. Have you ever seen parents with a brood of children? It is not a pretty sight with the mother screaming at the children all the time and carrying a switch. Also, my grandmother who had ten children was not at all happy with her situation. One of my aunts stated that she screamed all the time and was impatient with the children. So rejoice in having only one child-that child will not be a bother or have behavioral problems like children with siblings do. The only child is the only civilized and humane way to go and is the wave of the future.


Alisse 5 years ago

I wished to be an only child and that never happened. I feel that having only child is your choice and no one has the right to criticize you for maikng the decision to use your power of population only once. The power is in yours hands use it how you want.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 5 years ago from London Author

Swapna123, gmwilliams and Alisse, thank you for your lovely comments. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to some of your comments, have got busy with study recently.

Swapna123, yes, I can see that if you decide to have another child, a bigger gap can definitely be an advantage. So many people frown upon the larger age gap, but it has a lot of good points as far as I can see. And glad to hear your only-child friends have grown up good. :)

gmwilliams, I loved what you said about how your mother 'enjoyed' you. How wonderful. I can honestly say that I also thoroughly enjoy my daughter. I have been lucky enough to be able to really get to know her well, and she's great company. I can see that the more children you have the more stressed you would be. My grandmother also had 9 siblings, and as the oldest girl, she had to raise most of them, and had a terrible childhood. One child seems civilised indeed!

Alisse, I'm sure lots of people (especially as kids), wish to be only children. I'm sure I also had a few moments like this! I agree it's a really personal choice, and it makes me very angry when people don't see this, and criticise this decision. Thanks for your comment.


trusouldj profile image

trusouldj 4 years ago from Indiana

Cool stuff. By the way, I love the Gilmore Girls too. I just finished watching Season 3 for the 2nd time; waiting for 4&5 for Christmas.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 4 years ago from London Author

Thanks trusouldj! I'm glad you rewatch the Gilmore Girls too. It's one of my favourite programmes. We have a channel called E4 who have been showing an episode a day for years, and once they finish all the episodes they just start again! So I've seen each one countless times, and I never tire of it.


Taylor 4 years ago

BEING AN ONLY CHILD WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME!!!!! I want to have an only as well.. why would anyone want to have more than one child?! It blows my mind.. i feel like you can create such a special bond with you child if that is all you have to focus on. My mother is my best friend and i wouldn't have my life any other way. If everyone had just one child the world would be a better place IN MY OPINION :))) xoxo


VendettaVixen profile image

VendettaVixen 4 years ago from Ireland

Personally, I think it's more likely that parents have a child, start spoiling him or her, and get so wrapped up in attending to their every whim that they wouldn't dream of having another kid.

Therefore, they have an only child because he or she is spoiled, it's not that the kid is spoiled because he or she is an only child.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 4 years ago from London Author

That's great to hear Taylor! I agree that this special bond exists. Thanks for your comment.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 4 years ago from London Author

That's an interesting way of looking at it VendettaVixen. I can see how the parents get so used to giving the one child all their attention, they just can't imagine adding another one into the mix. Food for thought...


Rh 4 years ago

This is such a touchy subject. I am constantly thinking if we should add another baby to our family but I just do not know what the best solution is. Our daughter is already 4 and sometimes I feel that the ship has sailed. Other times especially right now I am longing for another one but mainly because I am scared to get older and not have that experience again. My husband had a vasectomy so that makes it comicated. At the time we both agreed that this might be the best decision considering we are not financially stable. Many people say well you dont really need money to raise kids but I disagree. I want her to see the world and to have a good education. I see you posted this article 2 years ago do you still think about adding a baby or have you commited to an only child? I think its easy to make kids but to raise them and offer them the best is difficult.


AspyMommy profile image

AspyMommy 3 years ago from North Georgia

My boyfriend and I are contemplating on having another child. Well actually, I am contemplating. I can empathize with your daughter pulling on your heartstrings about having a sibling because my son is the same way. My heart breaks every time that my son begs for a sibling because he's so lonely and never has anyone to play with (our neighborhood is scarce of children). Unfortunately, he's 6 years old and about to be 7. I think we've passed the window personally, but he still begs for one almost daily. I can't tell you what to do, no one can, but I was an only child and I was so so so very lonely and I had a problem with socializing because I was so nervous because I was used to being alone. This is what is prompting me to really go forward with it, disregarding the age gap. I love my son and I would give him the world, but I might just have to settle for a brother or sister haha!


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 3 years ago from London Author

Thank you RH and AspyMommy. To answer you question RH, we decided not to have another child, (mainly for health reasons). We still have a tiny chance to change our minds (I think anyway!), but don't think we will.

I agree that it is important to be able to afford to bring up your child/(ren) properly. So many people don't think about this aspect. I'm sure you'll make the right decision for you, whatever you decide.

AspyMommy, personally I don't think that's a too big age-gap. I have friends who have kids that far apart and they seem to make it work. I'm sorry that your experience of being and only child was a bad one, that's bound to influence your thoughts.

Saying that though, I wasn't an only child, yet I was the most nervous child that I knew! I was terrible at socialising and only got better once I had children myself.

I hope that you get your wish of having another child, but if you don't, then I'm sure that will be ok too, and your son will be fine.

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