An Only Raising an OnlyThis post has a picture of my daughter as the main picture, but really this is a post about me. Many people assume that our daughter is an only due to my “advanced maternal age” when she was born (I was 38 at the time). However, my daughter is an only child by choice, and this choice is largely formed by my own experiences as a single child and my husband’s experiences as a younger child separated from his brother by almost 8 years.
Social Myths of Single Child FamiliesWhen I was growing in the former Soviet Union, about half of my classmates were only children. I never thought myself “deprived” or “different” when growing up, but then I moved to US at 24 and found that “normal” family size expectation is at least 2 children. There is a perception that families with a single child have something “wrong” happening with them – infertility, divorce or marriage troubles, money troubles. Or perhaps they are simply too selfish to have another child and got the first one as the “last toy for adults”.
Similarly, there are perceptions about single children – mostly that they are lonely, selfish, and will do anything for attention. Sometimes these perceptions are driven by infamous singletons with poor judgment like, say, Octomom.
Good Parts About Being an Only Child
Parental Attention. Parental love is unlimited and can stretch to many kids, but time limits are the same for everyone. Even with two parents working full time I was getting plenty of individual attention, sometimes too much.
Positive Feedback. All children thrive on positive feedback. Unless parents are “detached”, single children have more positive interactions with parents (after all, parents don’t need to stop sibling fights and discipline the offenders). The danger here is for positive feedback becoming an indiscriminate praise, but I think my parents were quite realistic in their expectations, and we are working hard to have the same in our family.
Developing Competence. Positive feedback lead to developing competence – both in academic subjects and in life skills. My parents expected me to take some responsibility for family chores, and we do the same with our 7 year old.
Enjoying Solitude. I always liked having time to myself and still crave it as an adult. It’s really a flip side of “loneliness” – being on my own never bothered me when I was a child – I had a lot going on in my imagination, including a story line about me having multiple brothers and sisters of about the same age as I was. Just as my daughter, I was a voracious reader, and you can’t be lonely when you have friends in books.
Confidence. In my mind, confidence is a flip side of “bossiness” and “selfishness”. I am not afraid to speak up my mind even when my opinion is not popular, and I recognize the same trait in my daughter. Both of us need to work on whether expressing our opinion is always necessary or important.
Bad Parts About Being an Only ChildSelfishness. I think I agree that the only children are “selfish”, but selfishness can take different forms. Yes, I consider myself selfish, because I put my own needs high while considering any sort of change or proposal on my plate. When we were discussing the number of children for our family, I considered my own desire to have time to myself, to spend time as a couple, the fact that my husband and I are raising our daughter at least 3,000 miles away from the nearest relative. I considered my career, the cost of raising children in US, and, yes, I considered my age and increased chances of pregnancy complications. So this is why I am an only raising an only, and I am comfortable with my choice.
Resources About Only Children
- Famous Only Children
- Only Children: Lonely and Selfish?
- 10 Amazing Things About Being and Having an Only Child
- First Child vs. Only Child
Your TurnHow many siblings do you have? Did it affect your decision on the number of children in your family?
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