Welcome back to the What I'd Like For You To Know series, in which I've invited some women to share some common struggles, misconceptions and victories about their particular life circumstances (for the complete series, click here.) Last time we heard from Jenni, a mom of twelve. It seemed fitting today to hear from a mom of an only child. And I knew the perfect person to ask. The Queen B, the mom of a delightful ten-year-old daughter, happens to be one of my oldest friends. She is a wise and witty mother, and I know you'll enjoy hearing her perspective.
I am so honored that Shannon has asked me to tell you a little bit about being the mom of an only child. I’m also a little bit bewildered. I know of many other moms of only children that could express it much more eloquently.
Though I do have to say that being an only child who is the mother of an only child, I might have a certain expertise in all things only child.
Oh, I’m kidding. It just means my frame of reference is rather small.
And normal sibling fights really freak me out.
I didn’t plan on having just one child. After two miscarriages prior to the birth of our daughter, my husband and I both felt that we would never “plan” another pregnancy. We were so incredibly grateful for a healthy baby that we didn’t dare ask for more. Knowing, however, that God is bigger than our fears, we left it in His hands. And almost 11 years later, we have one child.
Without hesitation I can say that I feel as blessed today as I did on the day our daughter was born. I am so thankful for her.
I can also say that I have really enjoyed being an only child. My childhood was phenomenal. I had lots of friends and never felt lonely.
(Did you hear the collective sigh of relief from only child parents across the World Wide Web?)
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
We must get this out of the way: An only child gets more presents than multiple children.
It is just a fact. Even though less money is spent on toys and books and clothes, all of the goodie goes to one person.
An only child’s toy box is often the envy of her peers. And the cause of great frustration of her peers’ parents.
There are a few other facts that must be addressed…
Only children get more one-on-one time with their parents.
There are only three people in the house. It is unavoidable.
It costs less to go out to eat with one child. Groceries cost less. Pretty much everything costs less.
An only child will never have to share a room…or anything else for that matter.
It is just simple logic, not a ploy for world dominance. (Though I think we have all known a few only children that were, in fact, making a play for world dominance.)
Those are just the facts. They can’t be helped.
Well, maybe that present thing can be helped. We’ll work on that.
I think there are some generalizations about only children and their parents, however, which are not always true.
We are not all raising spoiled brats. We do not want our daughter to feel entitled to anything. She is taught to love her friends. She is taught that part of loving her friends is showing kindness to their siblings.
In fact, our daughter really enjoys her friends’ siblings--sometimes more than the friends themselves.
But that is quite possibly due to 10-year-old girl drama.
Raising a respectful and conscientious child is just as important to me as it is to you.
Another assumption is that an only child is the loneliest kid on the block.
Not true. Our daughter enjoys spending time with children, but she also enjoys spending time with adults. And though it may seem crazy in a few years, right now she enjoys spending time with her parents.
I suppose that could go back to the presents…
There seems to be a theory that parents of only children are completely selfish. They had their token child for a tax deduction. They wanted a child but didn’t really want their lives to be changed.
Honestly, this is probably the belief that frustrates me the most. The majority of only child parents that I know have very serious reasons for having one child.
Many struggled for years with infertility. A few had traumatic pregnancies. Perhaps they’ve been widowed. Or abandoned. Some waited years for a baby and another child just isn’t possible.
And I even know a few that carefully considered what their life might look like with more than one child and they just knew it was more than they could handle.
It is not always their choice and to insinuate otherwise is cruel.
Now I am stepping off of my soapbox.
I’d like to mention a few other thoughts for your consideration.
Parents are their only child’s primary source of entertainment. You know how you can send your children outside to get out of your hair?
Not so much for us.
Nor can we send them to play a board game, hide and seek or catch.
(Just ask my mom about my imaginary friend and I playing catch. There may or may not have been a shattered glass door involved. Kelly was much better at playing school.)
Raising one child is 24/7. Just as raising multiple children is 24/7. All parents have the same number of hours in their day. We all make good choices and bad choices of how we use those hours. I think it’s best that we all encourage one another—no matter the number of children.
Parents of only children constantly worry that their kid has been ripped off.
I recently spoke with a mother of an only child who shared with me her guilt over having one child. She was 40 when her daughter was born, and was not able to have other children. I could tell that her guilt was a very present part of her life.
I totally understand that feeling. Even though I’m at peace with having just one child, I sometimes worry whether or not it is best for her.
My child will never have a sibling bond. She will never know the joy of being protected by her big brother or the laughter of two sisters. She’ll never learn the give and take of sibling negotiations.
And what in the world will she do if something happens to us?
Assuming it doesn’t, my daughter will have to deal with two wacked out parents someday. Adult only children get the pleasure of being the go-to for their parents.
I know of which I speak on this one, people. (Love you, Mom. I’m totally talking about Dad.)
(And Dad, if you are reading this, I’m totally talking about Mom.)
It is just a guess at this point, but caring for aging parents will not be a fun solo activity.
All of our family’s firsts are also our lasts. My daughter’s first day of kindergarten was the last time we had a child going off to school.
My first child will go to college and I’ll be an empty nester.
But I’m sure her roommate won’t mind my rollaway cot.
And I’m excellent with laundry.
All of the hopes and dreams that parents have for their kids?
I’ve got one shot.
I’ve also got just one shot to get this parenting thing right.
Bless her heart.
I hesitate to mention this, but here’s another big one... I’m not sure how a parent of an only child survives the loss of that child.
As I was watching the Chapmans on Larry King Live, I heard Mrs. Chapman mention that she had to continue living for her other children.
My heart just drops when I hear things like that.
Actually, my reaction is usually, “Honey, we’ve got to make some babies!”
Oh, I kid.
Believe me, I kid.
I absolutely believe that God knows the number of all of our days and he has designed each of our families.
Even little families.
I think that moms of only children sometimes feel a little unworthy. I think we often feel like half-parents. Like our experience doesn’t have quite the value of other parents.
I hear these types of things a lot:
“Oh, she can’t relate. She just has one.”
“Put her down for that job. She’s just got one child at home.”
“Her house is always perfect because she just has one child.”
My all-time favorite…
“You wouldn’t understand what its like.”
That’s true. I will never understand what it is like to have a house full of my own laughing children.
But I do have a house full of the laughter of my one precious child.
And that is enough for me.
To read more of The Queen B's posts, click here.