An Odd Situation? One Child is not an Odd number!
Some parents make the choice of having an only child consciously and happily. However, for some parents, having an only child is not a choice they make. Due to various circumstances, they are forced to settle for just one child. Many parents (mainly mothers) feel strongly about their ‘small’ family and worry about it. This feeling is often not expressed openly but nurtured as a wound inside their hearts. Sometimes, worries and feelings of guilt go out of control, ending up hurting the only child. With the passing of time, many learn to accept their “only child” situation and grow to enjoy their only child family.
Who Feels the Pain More about having an Only Child?
Compared to those who had the luxury of making a choice, the parents on whom the only child situation was forced upon tend to suffer more. To start with, they didn’t want to have an only child family. They feel constant guilt and tend to blame themselves. Adding salt to injury is the constant pressure and questions they face from their family and peers. Family get-togethers are the worst situations for such parents. It would be wonderful if family members realize that certain topics are sensitive and private. Is that too much to ask for? A way out for parents of onlies is to learn to come to terms with their situation and thus reduce their guilt. Once their feelings of guilt are reduced, they will not feel so much pressured by inappropriate questions. They tend to go easy on themselves.
Only Child Family- An Example:
Sarah and her husband come from large families. They always maintained good relationship with their siblings. They never had any doubt in their minds that theirs too will be a large family. But after they had their first child, Sarah failed to conceive- even after trying for 4 years. Initially, it didn’t worry her much. But as the years passed and all her peers and siblings started expanding their family, Sarah started worrying. Visiting family became a nightmare. Someone or the other always asked Sarah and her husband about the second one. Although Sarah’s husband felt uncomfortable, he didn’t take it negatively, justifying to himself that it was all in good nature and that this is what families discuss. He wondered why Sarah was being so hostile and taking it as a personal affront. In time, these feelings led to arguments between the couple. There was the usual blaming each other game. They spent a lot of time talking to others and surfing online to find a solution to their problem.
The Solution- NOT
After visiting many doctors and spending heaps of money, they decided to try artificial insemination. By this time, they had already exhausted what ever little savings they had. So Sarah sold some of her stocks and also borrowed from her sisters.
The date for the treatment was set. As planned, Sarah and James took their only child to her mother’s house who had offered to babysit the 6 year old. As Sarah was leaving through the door, grandma told the child: “Mommy is going on some important work. I am going to take care of you until she comes back. Come on, let’s have fun”. But Sarah’s son said “Mom and Dad are going to get a better child for themselves, aren’t they?”. Sarah was shocked to hear her son’s words. She didn’t know what to do. She kissed her son and walked away. But her son’s words wouldn’t leave her.
In her eagerness to expand her family, Sarah had slowly started neglecting her son. She never even thought for once how her son felt when she was so eagerly looking for another child. She thought it was her duty to provide a ‘whole’ family for her son so that he will grow like a ‘normal’ child. But she didn’t realize that her actions left her only child with an impression that she was looking for a better child. Sarah never felt so dreadful in her entire life. In her search for something she thought was important, she forgot what she already had.
The last year in particular had been terrible for Sarah. It had made her snappy, depressed and aloof. She had depleted their savings and got the family into debt- and all for what? For some treatment which might or might not give her another child. On the way to the hospital, she started thinking about the whole situation and did some soul searching. Was she doing the right thing? When she failed to be a good mother to one that she already had, what right does she have to bring another into this world? She realized how much she had changed.
James parked the car in the parking lot and was waiting for Sarah to get down. Sarah didn’t move, tears were rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t say anything at all. When James asked her what the problem was, she told him that she wanted to go home. James was surprised and angry. The past few years had been very tough for him, especially with Sarah becoming detached. Even though he was not opposed to spending their savings to have more children, he was not happy with the thought of borrowing money from others. But he gave in to Sarah’s constant whining and fighting. Although initially he had the same drive like hers to expand their family, the financial situation and the pressure changed him. He came to terms that theirs would be an only child family. But Sarah did not. James thought agreeing to this treatment would make Sarah happy and then may be they could get back to their normal life. And now, at the last moment, she was hesitating. He wanted to scream at her, but one look at her tear-stained face made him change his mind. Instead, he held her hands and said “Let’s go home”. On the way, Sarah told James about their son’s comment and they realized their mistake.
Are You Trying to Change Your Only Child Situation?
There are many people like Sarah and James, with various variations on the story. It is understandably a very sad situation when an only child situation is forced on some parents. But such families need to learn to come to terms with their situation, otherwise they might not only hurt themselves, but also their only child.
An only child is a number too- better than zero! A person might have come from a big family and want a big family. That doesn’t mean that a big family is right for their kids. There is no ideal family size. Our grand parents had 8 to 12 children, our parents had 4 or 5, and we even smaller. Every generation had a range and may be 1 is right for some of us.
Coming to terms with your only child status:
- Don’t let others’ questions about the next child bother you. The best option is to avoid answering them and hopefully they will get the message. Remember, answering them will only extend the topic, making it a full-fledged family discussion. The Only Child Project would like to read your rights again: You are not required to answer any question. Whatever you say will be used against you to prolong the discussion. You have the right to remain silent. If you are not able to remain calm, please advice the family gathering that it is a very difficult and personal issue which you would not like to discuss at this time.
- Understand the issues. Go over the pros and cons of having an only child and focus on the pros, and slowly try to change the cons to pros.
- Learn not to compare your life with your child’s life. When our parents were growing up, they played on the roads with the neighborhood kids. They climbed trees, and cycled to the neighborhood mom and pop store to buy candy. We did some of this, that too on a reduced level. Times have changed. We cannot let our kids roam the streets- its just not that safe anymore. Neighborhoods have changed. Sometimes you might feel that she is missing out on something by not running around the streets and having fun. But remember, your daughter and her peers don’t realize that they are missing out on anything- because they never experienced anything like that and they DON”T CARE! Their lifestyle is different. We need to let them live their lives.
We all want to give the best to our children and in the process get carried away. The trickiest part of parenting is actually figuring out what is best for our child. What was good for us may not be right for them, and what is good for others may not be good for us. So, until the storks learn to deliver babies with instruction manuals: Dear parents, take is easy!
You already have the best child in the world. Learn to love and cherish your only child.