Only Isn’t Lonely: Why We Will Remain A Single Child Family

greenberg4“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 greenberg3enjoyed 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.

greenberg featuredIn 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

greenberg head shotCindy 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. 


    • Well, wanting another child versus knowing what is and isn’t the best decision for your family given family situations was our main consideration! The positives of being an only are very tangible for my husband and me. The positives of siblings aren’t concrete to us because we never experienced it. So we have not had the urge. That being said, if a child in need landed on our doorstep, we can’t say 100% that we would not re-open the conversation. Thank you for reading!

  1. I too am an only child and enjoyed a great childhood. However there are other difficulties that you have not experienced yet. As your parents age, the difficulties increase in terms of their care and problems associated with their health. At this time in my life (I am 58) I would give a lot to have a sibling, just to share in decision making.

  2. Hi Cindy – thank you so much for writing/posting this article, it brought tears to my eyes! After the birth of our daughter (who is now 2.5), I developed a health condition that won’t allow me to bear more children. It has been very difficult journey complete with mourning and “sad eyes” from friends and family. The stigma that comes with an only child (as you mentioned only is lonely) is a tough one to break. But the points you made have lifted my spirits, and my husband and I plan to implement them. Again, thank you for sharing your heart and thanks for NOLA Moms Blog for promoting this topic – it’s a very important one:).

  3. Cathleen,

    Your comment made my day! I am reminded also of a doctor I saw while I was living in New York. He asked if my husband and I were planning to have children, as we were then thirty years old. I said we still didn’t know. He said very genuinely, “well, you don’t have to have kids, you know. There are other good things you can do.” Some people help the world by raising several good children to live in it. Others help the world through example, charity, invention, and sharing ideas. My husband and I are teachers, and we take that seriously. We like to think we play at least a small part in the intellectual development of approximately 100 kids per year, while being joyfully responsible for the complete development of only one.


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