Sep 2, 2008

Parenting an only child

There is a lovely guest post at Rocks in my Dryer about parenting an only child. I'm an only child myself, and I can't help but wonder if my mom had these feelings. (Mom?)

From my own perspective, as an only child who always wanted a sibling, I am very happy to have two kids of my own. (Although I must admit that I had a very privileged childhood because I was the only child.) But I am glad that my children will have someone who understands how horrible Mom and Dad are (I am so not looking forward to the teen years). And I'm especially grateful that they'll always have each other - my greatest fear during my teens until I got married was that if something happened to my parents, I would be alone in the world.

Still, as an only child, and as a woman who suffered two miscarriages before Alex was born, I've never had a negative feeling toward parents with only one child. My first inclination is to think that perhaps they couldn't have a second child. And I have friends who've decided that one child completes their family, and it's the right decision for them.

What are your thoughts on "onlys"?


Christina said...

I'm an only child, too, and one of my best friends has an only. Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful post.... I get angry when I hear people saying that moms of only children aren't real parents... sometimes one kid can be more work than 3!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids, and had two siblings, but in my many years of babysitting, I learned one thing - two kids are actually easier to care for than one. Why? Built in playmates. Of course, when I was a babysitter, my job was to play with the kids, but I also had to do things like cook dinner, clean up after dinner, and often did housework as part of the job as well. With two kids, you could say "Hey, go play with your sibling in the other room where I can see and hear you." One kid didn't always want to play alone. Or the kid would play alone, but so quietly that I didn't know what was going on. With two or more, they were always loud, sometimes too loud, but at least I knew what was going on.

Denise Mall said...

Okay, I have to say I do disagree with Christina's "one kid can be more work than 3". I, as you know have 5. 1 kid is nothing from a parent position. In fact, we as parents tend to relate to a single child in more of a mature way. I have always thought, making them grow up a bit too fast.

2 children is still easy, to me. Of course, something happens when you hit 3. While I was pregnant with my 3rd, I had a senior woman stop me in the grocery store and say - "Honey, welcome to chaos. You can have as many kids as you want now it never is harder then 3." And I completely agree with her.

I can have a house full and it is the same as 3. Whether they are my children or not.

Like you - I feel content knowing my children will not be alone when I am gone. I have many memories of my Nanny (grandma) telling my brother and I to get along and that "we" were all we had. It took till adulthood, but appreciate my brother so much. He is the only one, who understands my past.

Then on the flip side, I have a baby sister. Half-sister, that my dad and step-mother had when I was 13. She is a brillant young woman now. Beautiful and very intelligent. But she lacks in many ways, that my parents do not see. Compassion, sharing and satisfaction with enough, to name a few.

She has been spoiled and it will be difficult for her to find a man that can compare to what she had at home. I see her often expecting such luxuries.

Of course, in the end all that will be worked out. Regardless of our up bringing we all succeed in our own time. What saddens me, is that she misses out on that bond that my brother and I have. I know my brother and I try extremely hard to provide this for her, but it isn't the same. We have the same past.

I don't judge folks for having 1 child. I completely understand this path. Sometimes it just is. I do always feel a bit sorry for the child. I can't help it.

As my kids grow, I love watching how they all go to each other and share their lives. Blood is so much thicker then water - so to speak. So, it works for us.

Anonymous said...

This is my first ever post to anything on the Internet. After reading Dedicated's diatribe, though, I just had to add a few thoughts. I am the mother of the dreaded "only child". Just to clarify -I did not have my son to take care of me when I get old. I did not have him to add one more spoiled, self centered child to our world. (There are plenty of children with siblings in other families that qualify for that job.) I did not have him to be brilliant, to be a tax deduction or too make me look good. I had him because his father and I were blessed with an unsurpassable gift which I gratefully received and which I am thankful for everyday. He is enough no matter who he becomes or what path he chooses.
I love it when people tell me they were work harder than me because they have more children. I believe they secretly regret their own choices of having more than one child. The excuse of not wanting their children to be lonely is just a rationalization and not based in reality. I can name a dozen siblings who never speak again once their parents have died. I can name twelve more who fought like hungry hound dogs over the meager property of the parents. I also know dozens of people who have no family remaining yet who are surrounded by a host of friends and an unshakeable faith in the abundance of this world. As you give so you shall receive. Leave me to my decisions and I will leave you to yours. If you are overwhelmed by the responsibilities you chose to take on then well - take a vacation or a nap or an aspirin. Don't lay your resentful prejudice at my doorstep.

Mercedes said...

I have three other sinlings and my husband has three. For the longest time I only wanted two kids. But when I lost an infant almost three years ago something changed.
I want my kids to have siblings, not just one sibling.

MetaMommy said...

This subject seems to stir some emotions. I guess it makes sense since some people feel like their decisions are being judged by so many people. Too many kids, not enough. It's hard to please everyone, so you might as well do what makes you and your family happy.

I'm sort of an only child (I have a half sister). I wasn't raised with her for the most part, so we have little in common. I can appreciate what Dedicated said about relating to someone else because of a shared history since I have those feelings towards other family members, but it's not the same as a sibling. As a product of our own histories, it makes sense that we would try to construct our families based on our own childhoods. That's certainly why I wanted two.

As for the amount of work that goes into raising a child, I'd say it's relative. When I had the one, I spent all day doing things with or for him. Diaper changing, dressing, playing, not to mention household chores, cooking, and errands, most of which were with him in mind (e.g., cooking for him, cleaning after him). Hardly easy. Now with a second who's only a few weeks old, I already see that having more isn't a matter of more work, it's a matter of changing what you do depending on changed priorities. Conflict resolution, teaching social skills, individual quality time, protecting them from each other, and so on. It hardly seems fair to say one person has more work than another since as an individual, you're as busy as you want to be, regardless of how many kids you have.