What If We All Only Had One Child?

iStock_000027759711SmallRecently, Yahoo! had an interesting article asking, what if we all had only one child?

I was not born an only child, but I understand what it’s like to be one.  I come from a family of three children, though one of my brothers died as an infant and the other died in his twenties.  Through unlucky fate, I find myself firmly entrenched in adulthood as essentially an only child.

Meanwhile, I am mom to three kids.

Sitting in this position, I am clearly able to see the personal pros and cons of having more than one child or having an only child.

Having Just One Child

My son was 4.5 years old before his first sister was born, so we did have a (brief) taste of raising an only child.

The Many Financial Benefits of Raising a One and Only

Of course, our expenses during that time were much lower than they are now that we have three kids.  When we only had one child, our family could have a smaller car and a smaller apartment.  We had only one daycare bill, so we could afford to send our child to a private language school, which our last two children didn’t benefit from because it was so expensive for multiple children to attend.

Overall, our financial lifestyle did not change dramatically when we grew from a family with no children to a family with one child.

From a financial perspective, only having one child makes sense.  Only one child’s college tuition to pay.  Only one hungry teenager to feed.  Only one child to take on vacation and buy an airplane ticket for. . You get the idea.

The Emotional Drawbacks of Being and Only Child

Much time is spent looking at what it’s like to be an only child during childhood.  What isn’t touched upon is the many responsibilities that come with being an only child in adulthood.

On an emotional level, being an only child can be difficult.  I’m essentially an only child now, and I do feel some pressure in this role.  I am over a thousand miles away from my mom, and I feel bad that she can’t see me and her grandkids more often.

Though my mom is healthy now, I do worry about what might happen when she gets older.  While I won’t have siblings to fight with when it comes to determining what kind of care my elderly mother should receive, all the burden of her care–both financial and emotional–falls entirely on my shoulders.

Having Multiple Children

As mom of multiple children, I find several advantages and disadvantages to having more than one child.

Limited Financial Resources

Spoiling my kids is difficult because we have limited resources.  Our money only stretches so far, and while I generally find that to be a positive because I can’t buy them everything they want, there are times when it’s definitely a negative.  There are certain experiences I would like to give my children like visiting Japan where their grandparents live, but because it’s so expensive to fly to Asia with five people, we haven’t been able to go yet.   Flying with an only child would be much more affordable.

Keeping Each Other Company

My kids, while they do bicker, enjoy playing with one another.  This is especially true of my youngest two, who often play together for hours at a time.  An only child would miss out on this sibling joy.

“‘Only children don’t have the benefit of the rough-and-tumble of sibling relationships.  What we call sibling rivalry is actually a chance to get along with peers on a daily basis,’ explains Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues.  ‘Losing a game, waiting a turn, joining a group–all of these things are hard for an only child'” (Parents).

What’s your opinion?  Is there a perfect family size?  Is having an only child best, or do you believe children should have siblings?



What If We All Only Had One Child? — 6 Comments

  1. My husband and I don’t currently have children, but would like to have 2 in the future. We feel like children learn valuable lessons by having siblings that are essential to learn while they are young. On the other hand, because we have limited time and attention that we can give to children, we feel that having too many would limit how much time we could spend responsibly raising them. But it’s all easy to say right now while we’re childless! 🙂

  2. I’m like Deb. We don’t have children right now, but we would like to have two. I’m not an only child, but I did grow up like one because I moved out young to live with my dad (my parents were divorced). One thing I really regret is not growing up with my sister!

  3. I have two step sons and a son. It is good. People keep talking about the financial burden of having children but this is…Well, the way I see it is that we have two responsibilities in life: 1) to continue the species; 2) to leave the planet in a better shape than we found it or at least not cause further damage. It may seem a great thing not to have children but many regret it later.

    On the other hand, I have friends who were absolutely convinced they don’t want to have children and still are.

  4. I took a trip to China last year where the “one child” policy is still in force for much of the country. Everywhere I went they kept asking about my brothers and sisters and it was a constant mystery to everyone that I am an only child because why would my parents choose to have just one when they could have a football team? Having more than one child is just a dream for most people in China…

  5. Sorry to hear about your brothers! I didn’t know that. I’m glad you are here though!

    My wife and I had one child until a year ago, now we have four, so I can see both sides. lol. For the record, we had a child who is now almost a year old and we adopted 2 children, thus bringing us to four.

    Having one child was definitely cheaper and easier, though I love having four. Going out to eat is a huge difference now with four than it was with one. We have found many ways to save money and we have been blessed to have people constantly giving us food, clothes, etc.

    One thing I really like about having more children is that it caused us to really think and get creative on saving money. We have found ways to still spend what we spent when we were a family of 3, now that we are a family of 6!

  6. The way the world is going with out of control costs, and soon potential parents will be asking “Should we even have kids?” Just one is expensive enough…!

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