My daughter was all of one day old before a bumbling relative asked when I was going to “pop the next one out”.
It was a joke of course, but six months on and the joke’s wearing a bit thin. You see, we don’t actually want another baby. There, I said it. We’re quite happy with the one we’ve got, thank you very much. But for some people, it seems our decision to have an “only child” is somewhat clouded by my arduous five-day labour and Peggy’s birth. “Oh don’t worry, you’ll feel differently in a year”. No, we assure you, we won’t.
Unsolicited opinions can really hurt
It’s amazing how many people, some whom we know very well, and most whom we don’t, seem to find it acceptable to offer their thoughts on just why we should at least have one more child. The nurse who administered Peggy’s immunisation jabs seemed only too keen to offer a 20-minute lecture on the benefits of having more than one child. “But what about when you go on holiday? She’ll have no one to play with.” Oh well that’s all the more reason to have another one then. “Erm, I don’t know, maybe we’ll spend time together as a family, or just maybe, she’ll make new friends to play with.”
As the birth rate in much of the developed world shrinks, one-child families are actually becoming the norm, according to stats cited by the Financial Times. As many as 40 per cent of married couples in the UK have only one child, and factors such as rising house prices, cost of childcare and couples having children later on in life – all understandable and genuine influences – are contributing to parents’ decision.
We need to lose the 'only child' stigma
Of course, you can go round in circles for the arguments for and against having single or multiple children. After recently discussing the issue with an only-child friend, she agreed that, yes, there are positives and negatives. She reaped the benefits of having her parents’ full attention growing up and is grateful that her academic grades or how well she did in her extra curricular activities didn’t get compared to a sibling’s performance. Her parents could afford to pay for her university education, but she admits that it can sometimes be hard when you are always the centre of attention. But what gets her blood boiling more than anything is the ‘spoilt brat’ stigma that goes along with being an ‘only’.
Shockingly, not every ‘only’ is showered in Barbie dolls and Lego on a weekly basis. Some parents of only children actually raise their child to appreciate things like spending time together, instil in them a good set of manners and make their child earn their rewards just like other children who have siblings.
My husband and I have discussed this subject at length. We both have siblings and know only that upbringing. We have happy childhood memories and I, for one, don’t begrudge missing out on anything (time or material things) because my parents decided to have four children. However, we’re not a tight-knit set of siblings. I have always been better friends with my friends, some of whom I feel are my family.
Each to their own
Our hope for Peggy is that she will grow up to appreciate the world around her, treat everybody with the respect they deserve, have the confidence to know that she can do whatever she wants to in life and to have a heart filled with love for those around her. All of which is possible to achieve as an only child. As for being spoilt, yes, we will spoil her with love and time. As for being lonely, she will have enough courage and strength to make loving friendships that will last a lifetime. And as for us being selfish, well, yes a little bit because we get to have a ‘favourite’ child completely guilt-free.
So the next time you are about to ask someone if they are adding to their brood, think again. They shouldn’t have to justify their decision of having one or 15 children. Just make a nice comment on their obvious joy for what they have.