The Only Child Decision
Facing the Facts About Only Children
Stereotypes Are Outdated
Lenere Shrieves, mother of a grown only child, remembers the pressure she felt dealing with stereotypes as she raised her daughter: “Through the years, I heard, ‘Only children are spoiled,’ ‘only children grow up too fast and don’t relate well to children their own age.’ I was very careful with my only daughter to prove them wrong.”
Like most stereotypes, the ones surrounding only children are oversimplified, largely antiquated definitions based on outdated and poorly fielded research, says Dr. Newman. “The opinions that colored attitudes toward only children for generations are nothing more than generalizations and pre-judgments that do not stand up to investigation.”
Remember, It’s Your Decision
Lots of parents forget that the choice to have a second baby or remain a single-child family is only theirs to make. Dr. Newman’s book cautions that friends and family will all share opinions, but in the end, you’re the ones who live your life. “A second baby should arrive in this world for only one reason: You want him. He should not satisfy anyone’s notions of what is right or meet someone else’s expectations,” she says.
Seems obvious enough, but people often make the decision for all kinds of wrong reasons. For example, any parent even leaning slightly towards having another baby can easily be swept up in the excitement when a friend or family member has one. Just remember—fond memories of that little bundle and the attention you received should be balanced with those of sleepless nights and hard work. Newman suggests you give your own baby decision a little time for the novelty of someone else’s baby to wear off.
Another wrong reason to have a second baby, says Dr. Newman, is the excuse to stay home. The race to achieve unattainable Supermom status can lead the working mother to feelings of inadequacy. “A second baby allows her to walk away from the business world gracefully and stop tearing herself apart,” explains Dr. Newman. Just be sure, she adds, to examine underlying issues of unhappiness at work which can translate into a strong desire for a second child.
Sometimes, the one pushing for a second baby is your own baby. While it’s easy to be persuaded by requests for playmates, it’s important that what your child wants is not the deciding factor.
So what should the deciding factors be when you’re determining the number of children you’d like to have?
There are practical and emotional implications. Practical considerations before having a second child may be financial—can you support another, provide daycare if needed, and give him or her space to live? Can your career remain rewarding? Emotionally, can you handle the stress of another child? Are you prepared to reallocate time for the first child and your spouse?
Decisions that come with parenting are never easy, and that’s especially true when you’re talking about determining the right-sized family for you and your spouse. What can help is a deep breath and a commitment to finding the facts—about the reality of an only child and whether just one is best for your family.
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