Apr 042008

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.



 Posted by at 5:06 am

Only Children Forums Only Child Family- When Not by Choice

This topic contains 24 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Ria 4 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #1026


    Article discusses the feelings of hurt and resentment of parents who have an only child not by choice but by medical or other factors. Coming to terms with your Only Child Family situation.

    [See the full post at: Only Child Family- When Not by Choice]

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  • #1133


    I can see how the child would suffer more if there is no chance of seeing any siblings. That is when it is important to see cousins and friends as much as you can. That will usually eliminate some of the problems.


    Michael Jacobson

    I have one daughter at this point and time, and my wife and I really want to have kids. But it isn’t easy by any means. We’ve tried for our second child, but it hasn’t gone to well. But we’ve spoken and told each other that sometimes it may take time, and that it can happen at any time. I know a lot of people would hate the idea of not having a second child, but we’re having trouble. But, fighting will not help anything.


    Blake’s Mom

    As an only child, I thought that I would also have only one. Then my entire immediate family passed away one by one. I am the only one left. Cousins are great, but I buried my Mother alone. When I left my cousins home, I was alone. In a quiet home alone. My cousins dont know what my moms hair smelled like. Sunday dinner. The fun things she said. The way she said my name. I don’t ever want my child to feel that pain. So, as sad as this story may be, nothing is worse than having to cry alone.



    Blake’s mom: Sorry to hear your story. All I can say is that time will hopefully heal. Also, please remember that I have seen many multi-children families having siblings who have not spoken or seen each other for decades. Its sad, but I guess there are all kinds of families in society.
    Again, sorry to hear about your loss, and wishing you happiness.



    As a mother to a child who is currently–and may always be–an only, not by choice, this article is frustrating and frankly insulting. The example given and the instructions provided seem to chastise parents who want another child and paint a very ugly picture of people experiencing secondary infertility: a couple fighting over whether and how to continue trying to grow their family, a sullen and childish mother neglecting her first child while selfishly pursuing another.

    For most families going through this, the parents are both trying–together–to decide what is best for their family and how best to proceed, and that includes doing their best to take care of their first child. This article seems to imply that those of us experiencing secondary infertility don’t recognize the gift we have, when believe me, struggling so hard to have a second and losing baby after baby has only taught my husband and I how lucky we are to have our daughter and what an absolute miracle she is. No one knows better than a parent struggling with secondary infertility what an absolute gift our first children are, and often, it is our concerns for our children that drive the desire to have another.

    The author doesn’t seem to understand how infertility and repeat pregnancy loss destroys your faith in your body (sometimes your faith, period), your confidence, and leaves you struggling with a sense of failure, guilt, and grief. These are hard things to come to terms with, and finger wagging over how we just need to suck it up and focus on being better parents to the children we have is not helpful. I found this article because I was looking for a resource on how to begin the process of accepting being an only child family. I was hoping I could gain some insight from people who have been through it, hear some of the positives of saying goodbye to infertility treatments and embracing your family as is, and maybe get some resources for parents who are dealing with infertility and loss. Instead, I got a load of insensitive crock from someone who obviously has never experienced infertility or loss themselves and has no compassion for those who have.



    Thank you Katie (7/3/15 reply) for your response. She basically wrote my sentiments exactly. My love and adoration for my first (and probably only child) has nothing to do with my desire to have another or my grief over my subsequent miscarriages and failed fertility treatments. My journey to have a second has NEVER had anything to do with a lack of satisfaction of my first. Actually the exact opposite- I want more of what I already have. My daughter has made my life better in every way and I’d just like that to grow. When people have told me I should “Just cherish what I do have” it has has crushed me. My daughter and husband are the only things in this world that have gotten me through this difficult time and I get teary-eyed every night putting my daughter to bed b/c I am so thankful. This article pushes the positives of the only child, but seems to down play the extreme grief when it’s not by choice. Now not only do we get called “selfish” from people who have multiple children for having one, we get called “selfish” from people who have one child because we grieve the fact that this is not by choice. Katie, maybe we should get together and write something genuinely helpful. It sounds like we have similar stories and aren’t finding anything to help us with the next step!



    I have an only not by choice and I hate the phrase be thankful for what you have. I thank God each and every day for her and for HER, I want to give her the gift of a sibling. Someone to grow up with, always have someone to help her, especially when her parents are gone. I am an older mom and had horrible delivery and internal issues and our chances for a second ended. I cry each and everyday for her and that I feel like I let her down when everyone around her has at least one sibling. All our friends children are older, all her cousins all have siblings, it is just very hard. Whether you want to feel it it or not, it consumes you. I thank God every day for my beautiful girl but crying and so sad inside.



    I agree with Katie, Andrea and Susan. I have a beautiful and loving daughter – and I always thought I would multiply that love with another child/sibling for my daughter. But after several miscarriages and an all clear-there-is-nothing-wrong-with-your-insides blood work and tests, I am coming to grips that I may have an only child. It is not easy. I cry a lot. I am so thankful but I also grieve. I smile and take it like a champ when people say oh it must be so easy with one. I live in a place where everyone has at least two children. I am surrounded by people who will do anything to have children – surrogacy, IVF, etc. It’s like the more you have – the more you mean in life. I don’t ever want my daughter to think me wanting another means she is not enough or good enough. Laying in bed with her tonight I asked wouldn’t you want a sibling to snuggle with? She said no and that this is God’s world not mine. I realized I need to stop talking about what I don’t have because she is picking up on it. There is a lot of pain and grief with miscarriages and fear too – getting pregnant doesn’t mean a baby for me. Sorry for the rambling on. It is hard and I feel for all of you – I know where you are coming from and I am sorry there is nothing to say to make us all feel better. I try to find comfort in knowing God has a plan for us all.



    Katie, I am just curious if you ever found those resources. I too am looking for such resources and having a difficult time finding them. Sounds like you and I have had very similar experiences. If you could leave a comment regarding any resources you found I’d really appreciate it.



    Ray, Susan, Andrea and Katie,

    I don’t know if you are still reading this – I hope you are. I too have an only not by choice and agree with everything you have said. I feel very lonely and in need of a community (online or otherwise) of mothers who are in the same position as me as there are many very difficult challenges to having an only not by choice. I adore my lovely daughter and am very thankful every day and have devoted my life to her care, but I want a sibling not only for my sake but for her sake too. I want to SCREAM at people who say I should be thankful for what I have. I AM, more than THEY can ever know, but I have grief for the babies I have lost, the children I have never had and for the sibling she will probably never have – and all the things she will never experience. She has asked me multiple times about having a sibling. She wants one. It hurts me so badly every time I see her wanting a sibling. I have been honest in an age appropriate way. She knows I have some problems in the baby making part of my belly.

    The grief is there, and always will be there, and dealing with it is difficult. How do you cherish your miracle child but not smother them? How do you prevent your anxiety over your multiple miscarriages from affecting your only who you want to wrap in cotton wool? As Ray says, how do you make sure that your child knows that wanting another (if you are still trying) does NOT mean that they are not enough? And conversely how do you prevent them from feeling the intense pressure of being your entire world? I need others who truly understand to discuss these problems – most people just do not understand the complexities of our situation – and it is complex.

    It is not possible to keep trying forever – finance, health and age problems prevent this (we have been trying for children for 12 years and we have to stop to save my health and our marriage). It is not easy to adopt (another line many people glibly make) especially when adopted children usually come with problems and could have a negative impact on your only. There are other problems with adoption with one biological child too I think – you’d have to be really sure you could love them equally for example, the consequences if you couldn’t for both children could be very severe.

    There are communities out there for people who are childless not by choice, but I really feel a huge lack of support as mum to an only child not by choice and the challenges i face, and I COMPLETELY agree with Katie who says “the author doesn’t seem to understand how infertility and repeat pregnancy loss destroys your faith in your body (sometimes your faith, period), your confidence, and leaves you struggling with a sense of failure, guilt, and grief”. What I would add is that this sense of failure, guilt and grief CAN affect how you are as a mother – we need support in addressing this and there seems to be literally nothing out there (please someone prove me wrong).

    One thing I would recommend for anyone who has desperately wanted another child but is beginning to accept that their child might be the only one – the book ‘The Next Happy’ by Tracey Cleantis (if you search on Amazon you’ll find it). It has been the only thing that has helped me cope after our last IVF failed. It does not address the complex issues of being a parent to an only (not by choice) but it does address how to identify when your pursuit of the dream of another child may be hurting you (and your only child, and your marriage, and your finances!) and how to start to let go of that dream.

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