“What an adorable little girl,” says one of my two-year old daughter’s admirers. “It’s about time for another one, right?” This scene has played itself out in the past six months, but with different characters every time – friends, co-workers, and even family have asked when the next baby is coming.
The answer is “never.”
I’m very fortunate that if my husband and I wanted to, we could afford to have more children. But the reality is that before we conceived Michelle, we decided that one child would make our family complete. Everyone has their own reasons for how they want to raise their family, as do we.
For starters, my husband and I are both only children.
When I asked my parents why I was an only child, they just said “We took it one child at a time. You kept us so busy that we just never got around to talking about another.”
I don’t know where the idea of “lonely only” comes from, but it certainly does not describe my (or my husband’s) childhood. I very much enjoyed being an only child, and I was never “lonely.” I lived on a block with lots of kids (including some other single-child households). I carpooled with my friends to Hebrew School, art lessons, tennis lessons, softball practice, and school play practice. I interacted with other kids through frequent play dates and sleepovers, and attended sleepaway camp for eight summers, where I learned to share and interact with other kids.
But when I went home at the end of these activities, I learned independence. I learned to entertain myself. I developed confidence because I was the only person in my age group whose approval I sought. I also learned how to interact with adults.
An additional benefit to a single-child household is that I developed a keen sense of order and justice.
In my world, rules could be created or altered based on my individual circumstances, and those decisions did not have to be justified to another child in the house. If I had a problem or misbehaved, my parents could focus their entire attention on me rather than divide it among several children. As a result, while I was always a little irreverent, I never got into any serious trouble. And while I argued with my parents (like every child who is establishing independence does), for the most part, my existence was very democratic. It was almost as if I were a third party in my parents’ marriage.
In addition to the intangible benefits of being an only child, money went a lot farther in my single-child household.
My parents never needed to expand beyond a modest house. They could drive small cars. The only college tuition to worry about was mine. I represented the only extra plane ticket that needed to be bought to travel – and we did – a lot. I was the only athlete whose game needed to be watched or coached, the only performer whose plays needed to be seen, the only artist whose project needed to be viewed, and the only student who needed homework assistance. Therefore, one or both of my parents have always had time for me.
Many people say they need to have more than one child because they want their progeny to grow up with certain human values.
In other words, they do not want their one child to be spoiled. But whether a child becomes spoiled is an issue of parenting techniques rather than a decision about the size of one’s family. There are kids from both large and small families who are spoiled and not spoiled, and that is more dependent on the values parents teach their children than the family’s size.
In my small family, I was taught to show generosity not only material possessions, but of spirit as well. Even though I never lacked for anything I needed, I was not very spoiled with “things” compared to my friends who came from larger families. When it came to excessive toys or the latest kicks, the word “no” was not a stranger to me.
I was, however, spoiled with opportunities, attention, and love. In my book, that is not a bad thing.
Sure, there are times that my husband and I look at my friends’ growing families and think “what if?” But these thoughts quickly vanish when we realize that adding a second child would make us unable to give our daughter the idyllic life we had growing up as only children.
“What an adorable little girl. It’s about time for another one, right?”
I smile and say, “Nope! We don’t want to mess with perfection.”
About Cindy Greenberg
Cindy is originally from New York. She and her husband met while attending school in New Orleans. Together, they have one daughter: the spunky, usually-smiling, globe trotting, two-year old Michelle. When not being a mom to Michelle, Cindy is a high school teacher.