We’ve heard it. Probably at some point said it. “She’s an only child,” followed by some comment on a child being poorly adjusted. Selfish. Unable to cope in social settings.
Can we remove this shaming from our vocabularies? I’m wholeheartedly over the mess it stirs up.
We have all heard the stereotypes: the leader firstborn, the poor misunderstood middle child, the freespirited baby. Then, in a category all their own: Only Children.
We have set them aside as tyrants when their coping doesn’t meet our needs. Being an only child is not a life sentence. What matters more: healthy attachment, boundaries, ACES. How my child experiences the relationships with the people who love him matters far more than how many sibs he’s got. Just cause you have sibs, doesn’t mean they like you.
The truth is... the topic of Only Children weighs heavily on their parents. So many times have I heard parents say “He deserved a sibling,” or how “they’d have had a whole bunch if they could.” I’ve seen parents’ pain as they describe the shadowed place for the child they lost. There are so many circumstances.
Having postpartum, I couldn’t go sleepless again with another baby after my son was born. We always thought the time would come and we’d make this call. Now, as bodies do, mine may have other plans about feasibility. We don’t know how this will end. What I do know is that my child has been in daycare since he was one, and attends an excellent pre-school. He’s done music, piano, swimming, skating, and art classes. He’s had tons of age appropriate activities to socialize him. Please watch your judgments on having just one child. I assure you, the parents of an only child have been holding this weight on themselves without hearing these comments on the regular. The pressures. To set their child up for success. Your comments are loud in our ears.
Also: fuck the judgement. If I choose to just have one kid because that’s what’s best for us, judgment can bugger off. Daycare is costly. Bouncing kids around is a lot of work. It’s ok that we chose to not add more expenses and chaos to our worlds. Some people don’t want more than one. Some people can’t have more than one. So let’s get off our judgement horses when it comes to Only Children. Graceful dismount please.
How does it feel to the pre-teen girl when she hears comments about being an only child? Does she feel like she’s enough to her parents? She remembers asking for a sibling growing up. That’s a whole other post. Enoughness.
I raise a glass to all the families who are One and Done. By choice, by biology, by circumstance. Slainte.
Also: See the photo above of my poor, deprived only child? It's a helluva lot cheaper to bring one kid to Ripley's. Point.
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.