I’m sure you will agree that raising a child is both a joy and hard work. Whether you have one, two or five, the impact on your life is the same. You love intensely, sleep erratically and become poor quickly! If you take the decision to stop at one however, it is viewed negatively by our society. So we are here to look at the benefits of having only one child.
My son has not always been a single child. When he was three, the days of him being an ‘only’ were over. Or so I thought. With a whole lot of pushing, screaming and bad language, his sister came into the world.
For two tiring and busy years, I had two children. The ironic perfect family. Mum, dad, son and daughter. Middle-class, suburban us. Yay! Then, it all crashed like a castle made from playing cards. My daughter contracted meningitis, my relationship broke down and suddenly my son was an only child and I was a single parent.
That’s the history behind this post. Years later, the reality now is that both my son and I have a great life together but he is now a single child. Having experienced the joy of two children, do I look at the benefits of having only one child and would I go on to have any more?
What is a nuclear family?
A nuclear family is seeing as ‘having it all’. Mum, dad and two children. However, this set-up is not as common now as is portrayed. It started to take off about a hundred years ago when people started living longer, became wealthier and also moved further away from extended family. Before this, more generations of families lived together. Now, however family structure is changing yet again. Hence, your type of family and mine.
In my life and hopefully yours, we need to ignore any silly comments and stereotypes. I find that there are many about single children being spoilt, lonely, or missing out on the joy of siblings. If I paid attention to all that western society believes, I would feel like a big fat failure. And I’m not! Like you, I’m happily single, adore my one child and realise the benefits of having only one child.
Conflict resolution for families
The truth we should all live by is that whatever structure causes the most individual harmony, support and love for us is the one to live by. If a nuclear family is filled with strife, tension and bad feeling, then it is not healthy for anyone. If a single parent family structure is filled with caring and is nurturing, then that is healthy. It is not the structure type that is important, it is the relationship between the family members.
The lack of a second adult in the family often means there is less conflict. Parenting can cause many arguments as we were all bought up by families with different points of view. Making decisions for our own family together can be tough. When there is just one adult making decisions, there is harmony. Making all decisions by ourselves can be stressful in itself but we do at least know everything will be done our way.
Pros and cons of having an only child
This is a thought process faced by numerous families. As we have the stereotypical nuclear family staring back at us with their perfect smiles from billboards, we have been brainwashed into believing that we are harming our child if we do not give him/her a sibling. But when making the decision, we need to focus on the following.
Do you actually want more than one child?
It is you who will be bringing the child up, so take more than a moment when deciding whether to have another. Once you have experienced being a mother, you have first hand knowledge of what it is like. Along with the love and joy comes the sleep depravation, potty training, tantrums etc. To decide if you really want another one, you need to focus on both the highs and lows so far and think whether you want to go through these stages again whilst also having an older child.
Can you afford another child?
In 2020, the basic cost of a child was £71611 for a couple and £97862 for a lone parent. If housing and childcare is factored in, the cost rises to £152747 for a couple and £185413 for a lone parent. The cost for a second child would be slightly less than the first but they will definitely not be cheap. Whereas you do not need to be rich to have a child, it certainly makes life easier if you can afford to give your child a decent lifestyle. With a second child, your income will suddenly seem a lot smaller and opportunities a lot less.
Is it responsible to have another child?
We are always being told to ‘reduce our carbon footprint’. The single biggest way we can do this is to do our part with population control. Not to have more children. Overpopulation is the root cause of climate change, a very scary concept. According to a study by Oregon State University in 2009, one child over the course of its lifetime can leave a carbon footprint of over 20 times than would be saved with measures such as recycling, cars, conserving resources etc.
When I think of all I hear in the news about climate change and population, I hear Greta Thunberg saying ‘The real power belongs to the people’. It is your choice when you decide how many children to have but the implication belongs to the world.
Will my only child be lonely?
One of the biggest stereotypes of having an only child is that the child must be lonely. In fact, this was one of the issues on my mind when I decided to have another. But I have since realised this is a massive over-simplification of something all children will go through at some point or another. From time spent with many, many children over the past twelve years, I have seen in equal amounts, sibling rivalry and sibling love. And equal amounts of boredom and loneliness in both only children and those with brothers or sisters.
The famous quote ‘You can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends’ is very apt in this conversation. Just because you decide to have more than one child does not mean they will get on with each other in life. It does not mean they will want to play together when they are little or stay in regular contact when older. Something to factor in when deciding on the benefits of having only one child.
Will an only child shoulder the burden of looking after elderly parents?
This is a real issue and a reason why China recently decided to allow couples to have two children, instead of just one. The population was ageing and with people living longer, there would have been no-one to look after the elderly. But is it a child’s responsibility to look after their parents when they are no longer able to take care of themselves?
This is another loaded question and one with good points on both side of the conversation. Think about your parents, how you feel about them and how you feel about taking care of them when they are infirm. Now think about your child and whether you want or think they should do the same for you. Tough decision, isn’t it?
These people brought us into the world. Nurtured us through our formative years and loved us unconditionally. Well, that’s the theory anyway. So shouldn’t we show that in return by returning the favour when they are not able to look after themselves?
If we had two children, then they could share this responsibility, both the physical and mental work. But it is also true that whether or not your child is an only child or has a sibling, the majority of elderly people are ultimately cared for by professionals. We have to work and we may have children of our own. Having parents cared for by professionals means you have time to visit them, are less stressed, know your parent is being looked after and have more money to take them on days out.
More time for a single child
I am a single mum and work full-time. The spare time I have is proportioned out during the week. Certain days have more free hours in them but they are nearly all taken up with activities that involve my son. School, clubs, friends, days out etc. I look at friends who have more than one child and see that their lives are no longer their own. They are consumed by schedules, hours spent ferrying to this club, to that tutor.
My son and I have time after all the activities to just be together. To cook together, play games together, read together etc. And, very importantly, we both have time to be by ourselves. He learns to be bored and not have to be entertained all the time. He learns to enjoy his own company and not sit in the car constantly being ferried somewhere. And I get my own time. Time to spend with friends or on my own activities. Such as this blog!
The benefits of only having one child
Maybe you are close to deciding if you want to stop at one child or go on to have more. There is not right or wrong, just what is right for you and your family. Although my decision was made for me, my time with my son is precious and I relish every minute of it. Now I am a single parent and we are a one child family, we face silly stereotypes but the best way to overcome these is to ignore them and get on with being the best parent I can.
More opportunities / benefits of having only one child
With just one income, we have to be able to afford everything, twice over. For you and your child. If you have more children, this would need to be factored in. With just the one, I am able to take my son out for cultural trips, where I have to pay for entry and on holiday to other countries. He can go for exciting days out with his friends and can have a certain amount of ‘not cheap’ clothes.
Although I am not always working, there are times I cannot spend time with my son. Housework, cooking, paying bills all take up my time. As does having my own personal time and space. Hence, my son has learnt how to think for himself and to entertain and amuse himself. As he is now 12, he now has to structure his homework as well. Having the peace of a house with just one child helps. When he works, I make sure I am working too so it is a quiet home. If he needs adult help, I am available to give it but he also does a lot of learning by himself.
The bond between an only child and a single mum can be a pretty intense one. You are each others company and sounding board. If my child is hurt, physically or mentally he comes to me. If he is in a temper, it resonates on me. When I am happy or sad, he knows it. There is no one else there to diffuse the situation or to talk to. Now he is a pre-teen, he is starting to be more independent but I am confident knowing we have forged a tight bond and that those invisible strings between us will always be there.
Higher self-esteem in only children
Only children tend to have higher self-esteem and better mental health. There is no other child to compete with for their parents affection or to pit their intelligence against. They have all of their parents attention and will never wonder who the favourite is.
As only children tend to be more confident, they are also higher achievers. In their family of three, there is no other child to compete with so their confidence pushes them forward. With their parents attention focused on them, they benefit from the extra attention of being an only child and will attempt to achieve more.
The decision to have just one child is sometimes a conscious one but can also be one that is made for you. Fertility issues, older parents or a breakdown of relationship can cause an only child family. Whatever the reason, it is a family type to embrace. Are you currently looking at the benefits of having only one child? I hope this has helped you in your journey and that you cherish whatever family type you end up with. If you want more tips and stories on everything ‘family’, I’d love to have you join me here.