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, 5 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]

Viewing 10 replies - 11 through 20 (of 24 total)
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  • #1259


    Hi all, I just wanted to weigh in as I am getting to be in the same situation. My daughter is the light of my life, but I am starting to think that she may be an only as we have been trying for some time with no luck. Again, nothing specifically wrong with me/husband after many tests, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening.

    I guess where I have something else to offer is that I myself am an only child. It was my parents’ choice. Yes, I want desperately to have another child and give my daughter a sibling. BUT, because I have experienced being an only child, I have at least some comfort that my daughter will be OKAY. Or, better said: my daughter won’t not be okay because she is an only child. Does that make sense? I had a happy childhood, and my parents made sure I had lots of neighbourhood friends/ firends over all the time. In fact, I grew up with very close friendships likely because I was an only child and those were the peer bonds I relied on. My best friend today has been my best friend since I was 4 years old. We chat all the time and she knows everything about me and I her. Interestingly, she has two siblings herself. And I don’t think she’s any happier or less happy than me based on that difference alone.

    My point is this: I get everyone’s struggles here. I am going through it too. I have very bad days where I can’t even get through five minutes without tearing up (usually after getting my period), and then I have days where I feel a bit better and a bit more confident about where I am at in life. The thing that gets me through is counting all of my blessings, my daughter and husband being at the top of that list. Yes, sometimes reciting my “list” seems futile, but after I get through it I do feel better. To add to that, what gets me feeling less “guilty” is reminding myself that my daughter can be very happy in life. Her happiness does not depend on having a sibling. Again, whenever anyone asks if I had a happy childhood, I answer “yes” without hesitation.

    And again, the above is not meant to lessen what anyone here is going through. I am going through it too. It’s to hopefully give some persective that your child won’t live life in misery for lack of a sibling. That is what gives me some small comfort and I hope it does for you too.

    In the meantime, I still have some hope for myself and am not quite ready to give up just yet. But if that day comes, I know that focusing on the positive, while also mourning the loss, will be the best way to come to terms with it.



    Hi Jayne,

    Everything you said sounds exactly like me and my situation. I, too, have an only child not by choice. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel the pain of my situation or the guilt of my son growing up alone. I am at an age where conceiving would be very unusual but still wish I could give him a sibling. To make things worse, people constantly make comments about my having another one. I look younger than I am so people assume I can still have another one and make comments like “time for another one” or “you can’t just have one” or “it’s not to late”, a good one was “there’s still time”. It just breaks my heart and I literally have to fight back tears when these comments are made to me. People can be so insensitive.
    Another thing is my son, who is almost 5, has started becoming very aware that all of his classmates have a sibling and making comments like “I want a baby” or “can we have a baby?” It’s heartbreaking.
    I just can’t help how I feel and that my entire life one child never seemed like family to me. It’s still so hard to get used to the notion that my “family” will never consist of more than the three of us.
    I’m hoping maybe talking with someone else in my same situation will help. My husband gets very upset with me because he feels like I’m not grateful for our beautiful son and should be thankful for the one child I do have. Although I am very grateful and love my son more than anything, it seems like no matter what I do, the hurt and pain is just not going away….even a little.




    This article is not only insulting to parents who suffer from secondary infertility — it’s downright cruel. After multiple miscarriages and failed fertility treatments, I was hoping to find something positive to read about having an only child to help me adjust to the fact that we’ll be “one and done” not by choice. Whoever wrote this article does not understand the mindset of a parent coming to terms with secondary infertility. I’m only commenting because I want to thank the previous commenters…your words moved me so much. It’s probably the first time I’ve read anything that captures what I’m feeling and experiencing. This article can go to hell, but commenters…thank you.



    I have a little girl, nearly 6 – the joy of my life – conceived after many long years of trying before we finally discovered that we had an almost zero chance of getting pregnant naturally. We did one round of ICSI and miraculously the result was our beautiful girl. I am one of 7 and always wanted a big family. So just assumed it would work again when we tried for a second It didn’t – 4 times in a row – by which point I had a bit of a breakdown. I have suffered from depression on and off since then – now nearly 4 years ago.
    I am finally trying to accept this – for years I played with ideas about adoption, donor eggs etc. Because thinking of alternatives stopped me from having to deal with the horrific grief of not being able to have another baby and of having lost so many babies (just potential babies to the world but to me I already loved them and they were my babies who died). I suffer huge guilt, feeling I have failed to create the ,right size’ family and to give my girl a brother or sister. Every time I see her playing alone I suffer a pang.
    I am now having grief counselling. Just being able to acknowledge the pain is helping a little. The thing is I know I am blessed – I love my husband and daughter deeply and we are a great unit. I am working very hard on mourning my lost babies, whilst also really affirming the family I do have. Because the alternTive is to stay in limbo forever and miss out on the pure joy of this life I do have. But it is bloody hard to let go and the hardest thing is the feeling that no one understands how much this hurts. It has helped me to see that others feel this grief every bit as strongly as I do and I am not selfish / crazy. I hope my post helps some of you other brave ladies out there. We have been dealt a really tough hand and most can’t understand why we feel so badly when we have ‘just one’ (a hated phrase for me, so much judgement..) But maybe if we can reach out to each other we can start to feel less alone.
    Would love to hear from anyone who has managed to find some acceptance and peace with only one and not by choice, to give me hope that thus is possible.
    Sending positive thoughts to all out there who are going through this.



    Hello Cristin, Cio, Rachel and Janice

    Sorry I haven’t checked back on here for some time – it seems there are long periods of inactivity. I still haven’t found any resources on this myself and am still really in need of a community. Recently, my daughter has been struggling a little with some friendship issues at school and I’ve been really miserable about this, and having to totally suppress my own emotions in front of my daughter. I KNOW that my grief over multiple miscarriages, failed IVFs (over 20 supposedly grade A embryos that died after transfer) and consequent lack of siblings is affecting my mindset over what is happening. I have tried multiple counsellors none of whom even began to understand my situation. Abigail – I’m sure your comments are well meaning but they sort of illustrate my point that people who have an only not by choice usually have a complex situation. In my situation my daughter’s only cousin lives a continent away and that is a situation we can’t just change – so we just don’t have the option of that. We will see him at most once a year. I wish we had cousins nearby but we can’t just magic them up just as we can’t magic up a sibling. And, the lack of close cousins or other family of similar age does make everything worse of course. And of course again, with things not great with what used to be her two best friends at school, it has caused my grief to rear it’s ugly head yet again. I, like Cristin, am desperate to hear of someone who has managed to move on to find acceptance and peace but I haven’t found anything. I do dip in and out of ‘the Next Happy’ which I recommended before but it has nothing on how to cope with the bumps in my daughter’s life. I’m going to keep looking because there seem to be at least 6 or 7 of us on here who could use a support group – if I can’t find anything maybe I’ll try and set something up myself so keep coming back here and checking! Best wishes to all xxx



    I don’t see anything insulting about this article, I think you just want to make a big deal out of nothing. As you can see you are the only person who has a problem with this article.



    I agree with many commenters before me. This article was insulting, condescending and beyond unhelpful. I have NEVER neglected my only in my pursuit of having another. She is my world and no child has ever been loved more or been cared for better. We have an incredibly close bond. That is part of what makes this so incredibly painful.

    I went through primary infertility. I tried for 4 years to have my amazing, cherished, miracle child, nearly lost her due to pre-eclampsia and prematurity, and every.single.day with her has been a blessing. Do you not understand that this is WHY Ive gone through what I have in order to try for a second?

    My children have DIED. All the children I could have had, wanted to have, dreamed of having, they are dead. I cannot have any more and the pain of that is overwhelming. Having my daughter does not make this better. It makes it worse because I know what I’ve lost.

    There NEEDS to be a place for those of us who are in this situation. I feel like I’m drowning in grief all the time and there is nowhere for me to go. My family does not understand. My friends do not understand. Infertility groups don’t understand because everyone there is still trying and I can no longer try. But support groups for infertility grief only allow for primary infertility and living childfree.

    This HURTS. All the time. I need help getting through this and there is no help available.



    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you. I, too, was looking for something to help me come to terms with having an only child not by choice.



    Please have an actual secondary infertility patient who learned to make peace with having an only rewrite this article. This touches on two of our biggest anxieties- that we are harming our children with our grief and that everyone is judging us for being greedy. I don’t “approve” of how I feel, believe me, but learning to accept that my grief is real and valid is the only thing to bring me a measure of peace so far. Guilt is the secondary infertility patient’s constant companion yet my daughter is happy and secure. As others said, it’s precisely because she’s so wonderful that I feel this loss so acutely. Having two kids has always been in my heart, A feeling that I suspect the author of this piece of nothing about. There is nothing wrong with that, but they are not the right person to write this column. And frankly I find it very shortsighted, not to mention the fact that a major issue here seems to be the family’s communication skills. I kept our problem a secret for over a very lonely year precisely because I was afraid of being lectured on appreciating what I had. I have always wanted to children, and I have always wanted them equally. My daughter is the most important thing in the world to me, but that makes giving up harder, not easier. Please take these words in the compassionate spirit that they were intended and find a way to make this a resource that heals, not accidentally hurts.



    Sorting for typos-dictated the comment to my phone.

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