I am an only child, but I’m not a weirdo. So how come it sometimes feels like it would be considered selfish of me not to have more than one child?
I grew up in England where small families were normal. In my class at primary school I think the biggest family had four children, and I think that was only because they had surprise twins.
There were several only children, including three on my street alone. I had plenty of friends, including one best friend who came for regular sleepovers and on holidays, so I was never lonely. I participated in lots of play groups and learned to share so I don’t feel I missed out, or turned out odd. I did occasionally have conversations with my teddy, but who didn’t?
Now I live in Ireland where larger families are much more common. I have a work colleague who is one of nine (Christmas must be expensive), and my husband is one of six. Even amongst parents our age the average family size seems to be three or four kids.
There is almost an assumption here that you will have more than one child. People say things like “when you have a second” without even realising they are doing it. A GP even said it to me at the two-week baby check-up which I thought was a bit unprofessional, when I was still getting over the birth of my first.
You often overhear conversations about only children being spoilt or lonely, so it can feel like pressure to have more than one child, even if that isn’t anyone’s intention. I have a friend who is perfectly happy with her decision to just have one child, but is fed up of having to feel the need to justify that decision or give an explanation why.
That sort of talk also assumes people have a choice in the matter. Lots of people want another child, but can’t for various reasons, and it’s not nice to be reminded constantly of it.
When I was growing up and I saw friends fighting with their siblings I was actually glad I didn’t have to put up with that sort of nonsense.
Now as an adult I can see the advantage of having a sibling who would be a friend through thick and thin. It’s really sweet seeing all the little cousins on my husband’s side of the family playing together, and I like that my daughter will be part of that, and it would be nice to think it will continue to the next generation.
But having another child is a huge decision, and one that’s on my mind at the minute as it impacts on so many things.
For example, my baby is outgrowing her newborn crib and clothes, so I need to decide whether to keep them in storage for a potential sibling or look at selling or donating them. We don’t have a lot of space, but I’d be kicking myself if I got rid of them, and then had to buy them all again.
Also as I am buying new things for her it makes a difference to the spending budget to consider if this is something that will be passed down and loved by a few children, or going to a charity shop in a few months. I don’t need an excuse to spend money, but so far I have been justifying buying nice things on the rationale they might get re-used. It also impacts whether to buy pink and girly or keep things gender neutral. Personally I have no objection to a boy in a pink highchair, but I’m always a bit conscious of what other people would think.
The biggest financial consideration is where to live. Our current two bedroom house is fine for us and one child. We always hoped to move somewhere bigger (everyone needs space for their mess), and started looking but got fed up of the shenanigans of estate agents so put it on pause when I became pregnant. If my child is going to be an only child we can wait a few years before looking again, but if there are other siblings planned we are under more pressure to upsize.
The biggest factor for me is considering how much time I have and whether I will be able to pay enough attention to more than one child, who is currently the centre of my world. On the one hand it would be nice for her to have company and a sibling, but on the other hand she’ll get less attention from us. I guess the problem is, like most things with parenting, you don’t know until you are actually doing it.
There are a lot of factors to weigh up before me and my husband make a decision. However, the one thing I am sure of is that I want it to be our choice and what is best for our family. I don’t want it to be something we do because we feel we ought to. So whenever I hear someone talking about an only child and how sorry they feel for them I need to remember it’s not aimed at me. I need to remember all the wonderful mums I know who have happy only children. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, whatever we decide we’ll still be doing our best to raise a happy child.