Originally appeared on Mamamia. Republished here with permission.
There seems to be a lot of chatter at the moment about the increase in one-child families. A lot of it appears to be the many opinions about parents who choose to stop at one. While there are many reasons why a family has one child, there seems to be a distinction for those who actually make this a conscious choice.
Let me say this straight up: We are not selfish. In fact, the opposite is true. I knew in my heart stopping at one was the right choice for us. It is what I am emotionally and energetically capable of. My husband concurs on this point. Knowing what you are capable of is informed, not selfish.
A lot of emphasis is placed on finances being a contributing factor toward this decision. From my own point of view, this is not a valid reason. Though it may be a consideration, any financial gain that is made through having only one child is simply a bonus. Many people plunge on into the deep having those much desired second, third, and fourth children, regardless of financial position because that is the key point: They are much desired! Is it really fair to have another child if you simply don’t feel it in your heart and soul?
I have looked deep within, had long conversations with myself and my husband, trawled the Internet, accosted unsuspecting women in shopping parking lots when I notice they have two adults and one child as their “my family” stickers on the back of their cars, and each and every time the same thing comes back for me. Yes, this is the right thing for us as a family.
We are happy with our one child. He is not my only child, he is my special edition. “Only” implies there should be more, somehow incomplete. There are only three pieces of pizza, there is only a bit of dishwashing liquid left, we only have enough gas to get us to the gas station, we have only painted the living room so far.
While I understand and respect that not all single-child experiences are positive and can be lonely, this is also true of people who grow up in other family dynamics, anyone can feel the odd one out at any time, regardless of the family set up. I believe it is the quality of love and the experience within your family environment that makes you who you are. Sharing and caring is not the exclusive domain of siblings. In fact, I think that my child is more sharing and caring than many of his peers, as he is so willing to extend himself to others. His level of consideration and beautiful manners has been noted in his reports and I am not concerned whatsoever about his social skills or level of respect toward others.
It is unrealistic to be defined by birth order. It is the way in which we are nurtured that makes us who we are.
Another concern that crops up a lot is the issue of caring for elderly or ill parents. I do have this concern for my child, as do most parents, no one wants to lumber anyone with their deterioration. Our plan is to, first of all, not burden him with the expectation that he has to do this. Making sure we have strategies in place for this time in our lives will hopefully alleviate him of feeling like he will be stepping into some unknown void. I also believe he will have a family of his own and he will be supported by them, as my husband and I have supported each other through the illness and death of our own mothers.
I was an only child until I was 15 years old. I have a great love for my two brothers, but my formative experiences were that of an only child. And I don’t think my childhood was at all terrible.
The only selfish parent is one who does not treat the gift of parenthood with respect and carry out that role with compassion, humor, and endless love. The time has come to lose the negativity that is being perpetuated by outdated societal expectations. Love one or love all, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re up for it.
Rachael Ball is a happy mom to one beautiful boy. She lives with her family and two dogs in a quiet coastal town in Australia working from home and writing in her spare time.