I received this email which I think is very heartfelt and I wanted to post it as so often families with only one child are stereotyped as selfish. I believe that having one child does not mean a child has a worse upbringing, just a different one. Here is the story and my reply below:
Both my husband and I have siblings, I am the middle of three and my husband is the youngest of four. My husband spent most of his childhood alone – his siblings didn’t want to play with the youngest child and he never got new clothes or shoes, always the hand me downs. As the youngest, he also felt he needed to stay at home with his parents, who had started to struggle financially and felt envious that his siblings had been allowed to leave the home without any guilt.
I also argued with my siblings constantly and when I was about 7 years old wrote a story entitled ‘Living in my sister’s shadow’ – a feeling that followed me throughout my teens and into adulthood, stopping only when I met my husband. My husband hasn’t seen his brothers in the 16 years we’ve been together. We have kept a close relationship with my siblings and their kids.
It took years for my husband and I to have a child – I spent the pregnancy terrified that I would lose my baby and the birth was also traumatic. We now have a beautiful, intelligent, caring and funny 4 year old and we won’t be going through fertility treatment for a second. Does that make us selfish? No, I don’t think it does.
Our child has a reward chart and is rewarded if she is good. She is polite and has made a lot of friends who she sees everyday at nursery. She is also very close to her cousins and has sleepovers once a month. She knows how to share her toys and is happy to play nicely be it at home or at a friends home. We treat her as a child – she is often confident and outgoing, and makes friends with children even if we pop to the soft play centre for an hour or so. She starts school in September and she cannot wait for her new adventures.
For us, having another child isn’t an option but I am more than happy to just have one. I count myself very lucky to have such a happy, confident, friendly and well-balanced child. She isn’t lonely. She can communicate with adults and finds it easy to make friends with children.
It frustrates me that people think I should have more children to help her – I don’t think it would help her. And why would I want to put myself and her through something that was emotional, exhausting and heartbreaking. Having one child for me is a gift and I certainly do not need to be told I’m being selfish.
Bernice replies: I completely agree with you. It is not about being selfish but making the right decision for your family. I see nothing wrong with being an only, it is the rest of the world that has opinions which can be stereotypical and unhelpful. Thank you for your story