In the life plan of mine (you know, the one I created as a pre-teen before truly understanding the complexities of this world and relationships) I had always told myself I would meet a man, get married, then have two kids. That would complete my family: just two…maybe room for one more. However, as I sit here being a newly minted mother of only just 2.5 months to my beautiful, smiley and active boy I have put some real thought into what it would mean to add another child into the mix down the road.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a new mom and much like the first year of teaching, I’m just “surviving” until I reach those milestones where my son will eventually sleep through the night (does that ever truly happen?) or he won’t need to be on my chest all.day.long (will I every truly want that to end?) and I begin to be an individual adult again and not just the life-force that is part milk machine and part comforter of all things. I love my new role as a mother as it’s definitely made me a stronger person through and through. I’ve learned a lot about myself these last couple months and pride myself (and my husband) on our parenting abilities…since there’s no perfect way to do it. We’ve managed to start getting Greyson on some kind of a schedule both with feeding and sleeping, we make for a great team, and we’re on the same page about maintaining our pre-baby life but just with some adjustments now that we have him in the picture.
But, no matter how together we have it now we always get “the look” when we mention to others that Greyson just might be our only child. Somehow we’re crazy that we’re not “giving it some time” before we make any kind of decision. We get bombarded with questions as to “why not have another?”, “don’t you want Greyson to have a sibling to grow up with?”, or if we’re worried he’ll end up like “one of those kids.” We also get the other spectrum of unsolicited, but well meaning, advice on how only children are lonely, spoiled, and socially inept and that we should have more children so that Greyson is more well rounded or adaptable to the world. Having been a teacher I completely understand that side of the Only Child Debate as I’ve had plenty of students that have fit the bill. However, I ask that, with an open mind, you walk with us through our own thoughts on the subject:
“He’s going to want someone to play with growing up.”
Being social is an inherent part of being human and having an only child means they’re growing up in a household without other children to interact or play with right there in the home. However, in today’s culture there are plenty of social opportunities for young children such as play groups, mommy and me classes, parks, preschools, and play dates with other children. Just because there’s only one child in the home doesn’t mean they’ll be missing out on play with other kids their age – it just means that the parent needs to be active about providing new opportunities for their child to be around other children much more-so than a home with multiple children.
“Only children are used to getting what they want and end up becoming spoiled brats.”
It’s a well known fact that when a child is given every opportunity with little challenge, struggle, or frustration they end up spoiled and little appreciation for the hard work of others. Parents of only children often have the time, money, and energy to devote themselves completely to their child and thus the seed is planted for a spoiled child later on. This all comes down to parenting and how one approaches setting boundaries, praise/consequences, and learning opportunities for their child.
My stance: it shouldn’t matter if you have only one child or ten; parenting should be equal across the board with setting examples of proper social skills (like sharing, waiting turns, and even losing in a game), setting clear boundaries and following them up with the right kind of praise or consequence. Another huge piece of successful parenting is encouraging independence in their child and not making them the center of their world (I learned a lot about this in my book study of Bringing Up Bébé). Greyson is my entire world, but he’ll never fully know it because my husband and I plan to teach him that there’s time both for him as well as us adults and other people.
Keeping our child un-spoiled also refers to how we spend our money on him or otherwise indulge him. Especially since he’s such a good kid already, I know this part will be a bit of a challenge because we all associate indulgences when our kids do something well such as good grades. But, what about the kid that always gets good grades? I will for sure be proud of Greyson for his good grades, for example, but for me this is also an expectation. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m buying him a new toy every time he does something that’s expected of children. So, rewarding/indulging, or however you’d like to look at it, is something that parents of only children just have to keep in check and always have an awareness of.
“Only kids end up being weird and have difficulty making friends.”
This argument can be easily made with many adults today with our incessant need to be on our phones or use social media to have relationships with people. I ask you to recall a time when you went somewhere in public and found that everyone who is in the company of their friends or family were actually engaging with them – and no phone in sight. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen that. However…
…this combines my first two points about an only child possibly being lonely or spoiled. If the first two rungs of the parenting ladder are met then Greyson should have no problems being confident, outgoing, and equipped with social skills that will make meeting (and keeping) friends as easy as it is for other children with siblings. Exposing him to other children at a young age, teaching and modeling proper social skills, establishing rules and committing to them will help him in his social adaptability in the long run.
So, raising an only child isn’t a condemnation to a life of entitlement for Greyson, but makes for active parenting on the part of my husband and I. We have to begin to take responsibility for our role as parents and how that relates to Greyson, the child. I don’t believe we should consider having another child JUST for the sole reason of keeping Greyson busy or giving him a friend to play with at home. It should be a mutual family decision that fits with our lifestyle, budget, and overall ability to raise another tiny human.
+ personal recovery: childbirth is no joke and the result of pushing a tiny (and in my case a not so tiny) human out of my body took a lot out of me during the actual delivery process, but also the recovery. Immediately afterwards it was difficult to do basic things like stand up, walk, or use the restroom on my own. I had to take stool softeners for weeks due to how terrified I was to poop. And from having an episiotomy, that was an entire OTHER healing process for my body. As much as childbirth is a beautiful thing I am not sure if I will be ready to do that all over again and having only one child guarantees me to heal one time only.
+ not missing the newborn stage: just as childbirth is beautiful, sleep is even more-so and it’s been a while since my husband and I have had a good nights rest. Now that Greyson is slowly moving through his newborn stages such as sleeplessness, constant neediness, no sense of routine…or wearing clothes for that matter, we are beginning to regain our sanity as new parents. With each passing day he’s learning more and more about this world and becoming more comfortable (and curious) in it. I’m not sure we are ready to begin this process all over again with Greyson as a toddler and a newborn in the house.
+ financially friendly: we’re two young adults with a dog and now a newborn living on one income due to our strong feelings of me being home to raise our son. If we were to add another child into the mix it would most likely require me to go back to work full time and miss out on everything I get to enjoy about being home with Greyson now. And we all know how much daycare costs…but, it doesn’t end there. Across the board only having one child is exponentially cheaper than having multiple children. Yes, we already have the baby things so if we were to have another it would cut most of the upfront costs. However, the cost of pregnancy (all those diagnostic tests and doctors visits), delivery (still paying off our delivery), and everything under the sun like diapers, wipes, and food just keep adding up. The thought of doubling this number is mind-numbing.
+ fostering development: again, with me being able to to be home to raise Greyson I am here to encourage his development by reading and singing to him, dancing with him, going on walks outside, playing on his floor gym with him, and preparing him for new routines like feeding and sleeping. Eventually when he’s getting ready to enter preschool, and with my education background, I am excited to begin introducing him to the alphabet, language, colors, and other skills that will better prepare him for school. Also, with me being home it allows me to have the time to involve him in social activities so he’s not, you know, lonely.
+ travel! my husband and I love to travel and that has always included our traveling companion, Murphy-dog, and this won’t change even with our little guy around. The joy of having only one child is that we get to still enjoy what we love about traveling but with less stress and stuff to tote around. Besides, Greyson will have so many more opportunities to experience the world around him with us since we’ll be financially able to travel more with only one child.
+ family bond: of the friends I have that are only children (and very well rounded I might add) they have an extraordinary bond with their families/parents. Due to being there to dedicate ourselves, within reason, to Greyson I’m hopeful that our little family will have a tight bond and that will be a positive influence in his life later as an adult.
+ no guilt: guilt is a strong thing and I would never want to feel guilty that I’m keeping Greyson from a sibling experience or the feeling of him missing out on something. With that said, I also don’t want us to be guilted into having another child for the sake of all the things we are now discussing. I know my husband and I will be amazing parents, even if our son is our only child. We entered into parenthood together and we’ll stand together as we try to ensure Greyson has the best upbringing we can provide him.
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