The Stigma of Only Children

The Stigma of Only Children

It is not the presence or absence of siblings that makes a child into a well-adjusted human being.

We didn’t choose to have just one child. We had our son in 2005, no problem at all, and that was it. I never got pregnant again. Despite years of testing, drugs,  procedures, obsessive charting, prayer, prayer, and more prayer, it just wasn’t in the cards for us.

Before being faced with the probability that my only child would stay an only child forever, I never gave much thought to the stigma of having an only child. It didn’t seem to pertain to me. I just knew I wanted to have another baby. But as the years passed and our son got older, and the gap between him and a potential sibling lengthened, it became very evident that there was still a major stigma surrounding only children.

There was always the question, “Are you going to have another?” (Because why would someone stop at just one, amiright?) Some people felt the need to say, “He’ll be alright, he’s not going to be like other only children” or “You know, having siblings isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” … I suppose in an effort to make me not feel bad for having an only child? When people learned my son was an only child, I’d often hear “Oh, really? He doesn’t seem like an only child.”

I’ll admit, this worried me a bit! I was aware of the stigma of only children: self-centered, spoiled, socially ill-equipped — and I definitely didn’t want my son to become like that!

At the same time, I was confident in the parenting style and techniques my husband and I had chosen. We would never raise our son to be self-centered. And now that I think of it, I had seen plenty of kids with siblings who turned out to be spoiled and self-centered.

It hit me: this is not an “only child” issue. This is a parenting issue! (And truly, a temperament issue too.)

Kids who are a-holes are a-holes because they are. Not because they are only children, and not because they have siblings.

This notion that being an only child automatically turns you into a spoiled brat is simply ludicrous. (LUDA!)

Imagine going up to a mom who’s pregnant with #2 and saying, “Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll turn out okay”. We would never say that because there’s no stigma attached to having multiple children. Having more than one child is socially acceptable – even expected.

When there’s an only child, people assume that it couldn’t have been a choice. And if it is… why would you choose that? Don’t children need siblings in order to learn how to get along with others and share toys and realize they’re not the center of the universe? (Who are these people that never leave their house to interact with others?) Or what about the bond that siblings have? Don’t you want that for you child? (As if bearing multiple children automatically ensures they’re going to be best friends.)

I’ll admit I have always felt the urge to let people know an only child wasn’t our choice either. At the same time, I feel super defensive of parents of only children, and of the only children themselves. Because now I see that one child is a perfectly reasonable, wonderful choice! And trust me — it’s wonderful if you didn’t choose it, too.

My only child is a miracle! And yours is too.

Now my son is going on 14, and I’ve had the privilege of watching him grow into quite a remarkable young man, and I realize: what a great only child he is. He’s kind, well-rounded, well-adjusted, well-mannered, socially mature, empathetic, caring, a good friend, thoughtful, generous, down to earth, and more. And you know what? He’s not alone – I know so many other only children (kids and full-grown) just like him!

Whether it’s your choice to have an only child or that’s just the way it works out, don’t listen to what people say. Raise your kid to be kind and empathetic and generous, and they will be. Raise your kid to be an a-hole, and they’ll probably be one.

And if you’re the proud parent of more than one child, same goes for you. Raise your kid right and they won’t be spoiled or self-centered.

Bottom line: A kid’s success or likability or emotional IQ has zero to do with whether or not they have siblings.

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