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Mothering › Child Articles › Parents who have only one child: Are you debating about whether to have more?

Parents who have only one child: Are you debating about whether to have more?

Lauren Sandler, a writer working on a book about one-child families, would like to hear about your personal experiences and the questions that arise for you in deciding how many children to have.

Are you concerned about economic circumstances? Managing your time? Your child’s lack of a sibling, if you don’t have another? What would need to change to make the choice easier?

Lauren is an only child who has only one child (a daughter, age 3), and has asked herself similar questions. She would love to hear from you, and is looking for across-the-board examples from around the world: rural and urban, religious and secular, mainstream and counter-cultural, of all races, ethnicities, orientations, education levels, and economic means. It would be especially helpful to hear from members of underreported communities.

You can read her article on the topic in a recent issue of TIME: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2002382,00.html

If you are interested, please contact Lauren at laurensandler[at]yahoo.com.

Melanie Mayo-Laakso


Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.

Comments (31)

I have 3 children, but having grown up as the eldest of 6, I can honestly say that my siblings are the greatest gift my parents ever gave me and I hope my own children will feel the same way some day. Siblings are friends that aren't allowed to give up on you. Who are there for you when things are great and when you screw up royally. We enjoy every holiday together and when we aren't together whoever we are with gets an earful about what so and so would do if they were here. Having siblings taught me leadership skills, negotiation and many other social skills. Yes, these could be developed other ways, but I am so glad I had my brothers and sisters!
I'm an only child, but have a half- brother & 2 step sisters that I wasn't raised with every day. I didn't want my daughter to feel lonely in the world. Wishing for a sibling to share great life moments especially if we, her parents, pass away at an early age. This happened to my husband and he has his siblings to fall back on.
As an only child, one of the best qualities I have is the ability to be alone and be fine with it. I love my alone time. It recharges me. Growing up I never truly missed having siblings, though I was surrounded by cousins who filled that "gap" for me. That said, as an only child, it could be intense at times being the only receiver of parental energy. When there was stress in their marriage, I didn't have anyone else in the house to bounce it off of. There was just me. And sometimes that was just plain icky for me. As a mother of two daughters, I am glad I have two. Seeing them play together and love eachother is just a glimpse of what I see their adult relationship evolving into someday.
I think that a lot of people make it about money, when really they just don't want more children. I wish more people would just say, "No, we are really just happy with one and don't have a desire for more." When people bring up the economics of raising a child, it often turns into a typical polarized debate where everyone begins arguing about the value of dance lessons, vacations, siblings, mother's happiness, and all the choices that parents have to make come under attack. We have one toddler. Right now, I am not ready for another. That time may come in a few years, but if in a few years I still don't want another, then I won't have more. If we decide to have more, we will find a way to afford it.
We currently have one child, a 2.5 year old son. My husband and I go back and forth all the time about if/when we will have another one. One reason we have held off is I have been in nursing school, but will be finishing in May. Money is somewhat of a concern of whether or not we can actually afford it, but it's not a major issue, as we feel that we could always find a way to work it out. Sometimes we are just so content with our family that it doesn't matter if we have another child or not. We are perfectly happy with the way things are. One thought that has been at the back of my mind is will I be able to love another child as much as I love my son now? It sounds silly, but I love my son so much that it's difficult for me to imagine that it's possible to replicate that. My mom says you do though(I'm a 2nd child). Other times I envision my son being this fantastic big brother, and teaching his younger sibling(s) all kinds of stuff. Both my husband and I grew up with another sibling, and I do feel like there is a special value to having someone else in your family to back you up and to teach you other lessons in life that only a sibling can teach. One thing I worry about is how far apart will they be by the time we have one (if we have another). Will they still be able to bond with each other or will it be too far apart? What will it be like for all of us to adjust since we have been used to this setup for almost 3 years now? In the end, whatever happens happens, and it will be good no matter how it turns out :)
I have one daughter and that is the exact struggle I am going through. After I had my first, I KNEW she was going to be the first of many. I gave myself a window of time to get pregnant so lily could have me uninterrupted for the first 3 years. . . that time is now. I enjoy my daughter so much, I really like this age, I don’t want to have to share my attention. Also, I am only 23 and have taken a drastic change into motherhood- a job I truly love and respect. So now that she is at this older age, I feel I have a chance to reconnect with myself. If I have another child-I suspect that’s it for ME, it would just be about the kids. With one, we are more flexible, it would also be more economical as well. I am stuck. I still think it would be a lovely thing to have children running all over the house of all different ages, loving, playing, laughing.. . They live in the moment, those children, and each child can bring a special joy and teach you something that no one else can. All that only child thing sounds not so fun too. I think I might spoil her, just because I can. . . My husband also thinks we should wait to concentrate on our marriage, because we have been focusing hardcore on the babe for a while.
I find the title of this query interesting. "Only One Child" as if one just isn't enough or is deficient. I was just having a similar conversation with a friend about this very topic. I have one daughter, aged 4. I am one of five in my family. I feel that there is an interesting social perception (which I feel is unfounded) that single child families produce "spoiled" adults. In my experience, only children seem to be confident, focused, independent and capable. This is not a case for anything, except I feel that dispelling cultural mythos is of benefit. My youngest sister doesn't have a single memory of our mother playing with her, because, she didn't, she literally had no time to play. While it is not always the case, often times, the older siblings are the primary care and attention givers of larger families. I know, I am the oldest. :) This dynamic in fact robbed (too strong a word perhaps) me of an innocent childhood. I didn't have the right to be a child for very long, because there were kids to care for. My daughter does get my focused attention, and I do know her oh so very well. While I had hoped to have another child, things have not worked out that way. I think single children have strong leadership abilities, language skills, and confidence in the world of adults, those sound like excellent life skills to me!
My husband and I are having this discussion now. Our daughter is 20 months old and I will be 35 this year. My husband has found the process of parenting a child to be difficult and is enjoying our daughter much more as she becomes more verbal. He is not certain that he would like to begin that process again. I think I would like another child because I have enjoyed having our daughter so much. I am trying to remember that the relationships I now have with my husband and my daughter are more important than any other hypothetical relationship I might have with another child. So if my husband doesn't feel certain that he wants another child I really don't want to push that. Instead I am trying to remember to focus on and enjoy what I have.
We have a 3 year old and as older parents (early 40s), our window of opportunity seems to be closing quickly. I would love to have more, but don't know if it will be possible. With our first, I had 5 weeks of paid maternity leave and was able to take baby to work. We also had Grandma who provided child care. Since then, we've both lost our jobs and have had to relocate and start over financially. I have returned to school to get my Graduate Degree and plan on pursuing a PhD. I don't know if I will have an opportunity for maternity leave and I don't like the idea of taking a newborn to childcare that isn't family. Not to mention the added expense. I would be okay with having just one child, he is a great kid. It makes me sad that because of the crappy economy and our difficult life circumstances right now, we may not feasibly be able to have another.
I grappled in the last couple of years about whether I wanted to have another child. But that was based purely on the pressure to have more than one child--the stigma of having an only child, which I subsequently realized was just plain foolish. What it really boiled down to was that I am a happily married woman with a son whom I (and my husband) adore. We are all happy together. We have a great routine. My husband and I are able to flourish in our careers. We just bought a new house and are having it built. My son will have a great play area inside and outside the house. He exudes happiness. I feel complete. I don't look around the house or the dinner table and feel like someone is missing. This is how I envisioned my life with my husband when we got married. I am done and feel absolutely confident of that decision. If my son resents me down the road, so be it. I resent that my father spanked me, pulled my hair, compared me to more successful children; however, I love him and I had a happy childhood. So even if my son disagrees with some of the decisions I made, I will live with it.
We can't have another child. We tried. We stressed ourselves financially and emotionally to try. Then one day I realized I was content and happy with the family I had- and they were also content and happy. I was trying to "give her a sibling" because that is what society says you need to do. The truth is, kids do just fine without siblings. Study after study after study shows it. Our daughter is a happy, social and well adjusted child. She doesn't have problems making friends. She isn't bossy. She shares! She has asked about siblings but has never asked FOR one. She is too busy enjoying life. Because she is our only child, she is able to do as many activities as she chooses, go on extra playdates, have sleepovers whenever she wants. But at the end of the day it is just the three of us snuggled up on the couch and we are all happy that way. The other day we went to see my friends new baby. She had fun playing with him. On the way home I asked her if it made her think of me having a baby, she said "Why would you mommy, you have me!". Exactly sweetie!
I also wanted to add that I am not an only child. I have a brother who has never really been in my life. He is definitely not "a gift". We grew up in the same house but have never been friends or "had each others back". He moved out of state years ago I see him maybe once every few years. He has seen my daughter exactly 3 times in her life, I barely know my nephews. So I know firsthand that having a sibling doesn't automatically equal life long best friend.
We have one son who is four. My husband and I both go around and around about whether to have another child. When I was pregnant I was pretty certain that he would be our only child. Then my father passed away. I cannot imagine dealing with the death of a parent without my sister. Then our son started pretending that he has a baby sister. He wants to buy gifts for her, tells people that she exists, etc. which is heart breaking and makes me feel like we are denying him the experience of sibling love. Then there is this urge I have to be pregnant and have the opportunity to have a positive birth experience. On the flip side, we function really well as a family of three. As our son gets older it is increasingly difficult to imagine starting over with all of the baby stuff. As he gains independence, so do I and I am not sure that I am willing to give it up. My husband and I had a difficult time adjusting to being parents after being together for ten years before having our son. We have been better together in the past year than we have been since expanding our family. The thought of possibly starting the process of re-learning how to relate to one another over again is daunting also. Finances are also a concern. My husband and I feel that it is important for me to be home with our son while he is young and would want to extend the same to another child. However, things are tight and would get tighter with an additional family member and with me being home for another five years. This is a much more difficult decision for us than deciding to try for a baby the first time. For the sake of information gathering, we live in a medium sized city in Wisconsin, we are a secular family, we aren't radically counterculture but definitely lie outside the mainstream, my husband is caucasian and I am an enrolled member of a Wisconsin American Indian tribe, I am a stay-at-home mom with a college degree, my husband has a high school diploma and works in manufacturing which puts us firmly in the lower middle class/working class largely by choice (if we chose for me to work our income would more than double).
We have a daughter who is 2 1/2 years old. I think I always knew that if I had kids, it would just be one. I do not enjoy the chaos that comes with having more than one child or the bickering; hearing "He hit me" or "She took my toy" endless times a day, would drive me over the edge. I think there are many benefits for our family in choosing to have just one child. We are both in our early forties, so we are established in our careers and we do have a lot of patience BUT we are also pretty financially secure and with that, I like that we can give our daughter experiences as a three person family that we probably would not be able to do if we had two or three kids. We are contributing to a college fund for our daughter, and our hope and goal is she won't have to take out any college loans for undergraduate college. I am the youngest of four but was almost like an only child because my siblings are ten and seven years other than me; my husband is an only child. We are both happy with our decision to be one and done! It is not for everyone but it is what works best for us.
My husband and I have 3 children (7 yr old girl, 5 yr old boy and 3year old girl). I was the oldest of 3 and hubby in the middle of 8! I love that my children have each other. It would be simpler maybe to have 1 or even 2 but I love the energy and love that 3 bring to our home! While there are pros and cons to every lifestyle choice, I believe there is nothing else that can replace a sibling relationship. My kids are close in age and in each others lives everyday, who else knows them better? My children learn compassion and sympathy from each other. When they are on a playground with a zillion kids, they are my extra set of eyes on each other. My son literally stood in front of another boy who was trying to hit his sister. Things may change as they get older but hopefully they will always know they have 2 people besides Mom and Dad on their side no matter what. It also reassures me that should anything happen to my husband or I, or even caring for us as we age, the kids have each other. I am a 34 year old caucasian stay-at-home mom married to a hispanic 35 year old demolition worker in a NW suburb of Detroit. On a tight budget for now but being here with my kids while they are young is worth it! I may not be perfect but my kids will know I loved them enough to give them my best!
"my children learn compassion and sympathy from each other" And my child learns compassion and sympathy from her parents, playmates, schoolmates and extended family". I think it's great when people want more children and have more children, but it's insulting to think my child will never learn basic human behaviors because another child doesn't live in our house with her. She is actually very compassionate and sensitive to the feelings of others. Or that she will never have people who love her and will be there for her. I have known my BFF since 2nd grade, I am in my late 30's and I still talk to her almost daily. She is like a sister to me. She is more family than my brother. My daughter already has a great inner circle of friends- a few of them are onlies themselves! I am willing to be most siblings play together basically because they aren't given a choice, she chooses the people she wants to spend time with and really enjoys that time with her friends.
We are a happy family with a 5-year-old son. We know a lot of successful, satisfied adult onlies, and we've always known that we wanted to have an only too. We feel good about our decision and are able to give our son the time, attention and resources he needs. If we had more children it would be challenging for us to afford to have me stay home with him while also paying for enriching activities, college, etc., not to mention that he gets to have both of his parents present at all of his sports games and class parties. We respect every parent's decision to choose the family size that is right for them and would never judge their decision whether they have 0 kids or 20. We hope that everyone can be just as accepting of the benefits and joys of having a small family. For us, 3 is a magic number!
My husband and I always thought we'd have two, but after we had our first, we changed our minds. Neither of us has good relationships with our siblings and all the only children we know are very happy, successful, and well-adjusted. We realized that we liked our little family the way it was. We like being different from the "typical" two child family. We like not having to worry about our finacial plans or me taking more time off work to raise another child. Though I enjoyed taking off three years to raise her, I'm back in my career and very happy now that our daughter is five. We are also very cognizant of the terrible impact that humanity is having on this planet and feel the need to do our part to mitigate it, while still experiencing the joys of parenting. I actually don't really understand why people feel the need to have more than one kid, other than to satisfy a very intense biological need. I feel like I have all the benefits and none of the drawbacks with my one child. I don't have to break up fights and she won't have to compete with her siblings. I hated feeling like I was in competition with my brothers growing up. I hated being compared to them by my parents (even when it was not explicit). I simply don't see any real drawbacks to having an only child.
As a mother of one 4 year old I also teeter back and forth as to whether or not we want a second. I agree with Susan in that having a child leaves a huge carbon footprint even if you do all the right things any human will still impact this planet. I also feel it's only going to get tougher in the economy as far as having your own house/land and paying for an education. I think there is something quite lovely about the small families of 3. I must admit too that life with one is simple and easy. I love that I can go about my day and bring my daughter everywhere. With 2 or more suddenly a quick trip to the grocery store or market takes away from the easy fun and can make things more stressful. I also feel I'm finally back in a space where I can enjoy myself and the things I want to focus on. My partner and I can focus on our relationship more too now that our little one is getting more independent. I can't say I'm certain we won't have another but right now life is pretty happy with one.
I am an only child and my husband and I have an only child. She is 3.5 years old and we feel that our family is complete. Even though I did enjoy being an only child, before I had a child I swore that I would have at least 2 children but after our daughter was born I can honestly say I do not want more children. I cherish the time I have with my daughter as well as the experiences we are able to provide her. Our family dynamic would completely change if we added more children and I think our family is perfect the way it is. Even if we had unlimited resources we would not have more children.
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