One slice or two?

Parenting a child is a wonderful experience, and parenting one child has many positives. For some these reasons are compelling enough for a growing number of couples to choose to have one child only. I even found a book about it in the library! It was called ‘The case for having an only child’ or something similar. I couldn’t help but feel the title had a sense of the author needing to convince readers it was a good thing though. Maybe because general public opinion seems to lean towards a belief that giving a child a sibling is the right thing to do?

Having one child means you can focus as much time and energy as you want on them, without siblings also demanding something from you. I watched a young mum struggle with three very young children in a car park today. Seriously, how does anyone cope with 3 children who all appeared to be under 4? It was chaos! Mostly because she was also talking on her phone, but hey, it may have been a crucial conversation so we won’t go there. They all got out of the car and went in different directions, and she unsuccessfully tried to herd them all into the same spot, whilst holding the phone to ear with her shoulder. I realised how civilised it is bringing up my only child in comparison. Hats off to you car park lady, you must be so tired! And thank you for giving me a small and rare moment where I appreciated having the ease of one and felt like the lucky one. I should clarify here (because I have SI guilt) that I feel lucky every waking moment for the gift of my daughter, I just feel unlucky that I haven’t been able to have another. I think of them as separate lucky dips. I struck gold in the first pot, I’ve come out empty handed from the second.

Financially, having one child leaves you a bit better off, and gives parents a greater ability to finance a child’s interests and education. And perhaps a bit more selfishly, one child families will be able to afford a few nice holidays. But is this what is important to that only child? Sure, we would all give our children everything if we could, but even if we could afford to give them everything, should we? In this modern world, many mums have to work to make ends meat, not just to give their child the best education. Many have careers that are very important to them, and feel another child would mean time off work which they can’t afford financially or for the future of their career. We are in a new era where mums have to balance family with work, and for some, having one child balances their maternal instinct with their feelings of identity and value as a person through a career. A friend of mine opted to stick with one child as she didn’t feel she wanted to take more time out of her career. For me, career wasn’t as important as being a Mum, but the irony is we can afford for me to be at home raising the kids indefinitely, but we just don’t have the number of children necessary to keep me at home much longer!

The stresses of parenting are apparently leading to a rising number of one child families. Parents are feeling under pressure to be perfect parents, and there is an argument suggesting some couples stop at one because they feel they can do a better job focusing on their only child. Woah! That is a controversial suggestion. Personally, I understand the pressure a parent puts on themselves to do a perfect job, but I know many AMAZING mums (and dads) who do a pretty awesome job with more than one child. And if I’m anything to go by, having one definitely does not protect you from the pressure of being a good parent. I think I would put that pressure on myself no matter how many children I had, although I’ve been told you relax much more with the second child. Really, I wouldn’t know (said through gritted teeth). In a ridiculous way, I feel sometimes it puts more pressure on me having one, as I only have one chance (at the moment) to get this right! I’m going to let you in on a secret here. I nearly didn’t because it’s crazy, but this is a place for me to explore my thoughts so here goes … I’m frightened beyond belief of anything bad happening to Little One because I think, get this; that I only have one and can’t be without her because what would I do?! This it totally crazy because having more children wouldn’t make things any better if something bad happened. But hey, infertility sends you to dark places and this is one of my fears I’ve brought back from a dark corner of my mind. Anyway, back to the topic in hand … I don’t think parenting is black and white? How do we measure a good parent? I’m pretty sure the number of children they have is irrelevant to their capabilities. I think modern day parenting is in a pressure cooker situation. We analyse to great depths, the decisions we make and the strategies we use. We feel our children’s emotions to such an extent that we take it personally, and take away opportunities for them to learn about dealing with negative emotions and challenging social situations. We are frightened of our children being unhappy, and jump to attention to give them their smiles back even if it isn’t actually the best thing to do for them. I think parenting is not about making your child happy, but rather teaching your child how to be happy. I hope I would do that whether I have one or two children.

Some believe only children are more likely to be spoilt brats. Always expecting attention or material possessions. I guess there is potential for that, but it really comes down to the parenting. I would like to think if Little One ends up eternally “only” she will continue to be kind and loving and not too selfish or demanding of others. I try to give her lots of opportunity for interacting with others, and she shares really well considering she doesn’t have to whenever she is home.

I think the bottom line is this: the number of children you want is your choice, the number of children you have is up to the universe. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how many children should occupy one house, and there are positives and negatives that come with any number of children.

I have to focus on the positives of having my ‘only’ Little One, and I say only in a sarcastic tone, as yes, she stands alone but she certainly is not solitary, or not enough as the term suggests. Logically I know we can take her places, show her things, spend time being very close with her and focus on doing the best we can for her. But my heart wants to give the unconditional love of a sibling, a childhood friend. We have an amazing family dynamic as 3, but I feel we are all needing an extra dimension to our family and 4 is right for us. I just wish we had the control to make our family the size we want it to be so that I don’t have to try to turn my logical thoughts into my actual feelings.