17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From the Tales Inbox: Does Only Child=Spoiled Child?

As much as I love being a mother to my daughter, I don't know if I want to do it all over again. Is it "bad" to only want one child?

I didn't think it was a big deal until I began mentioning it to others. I've been told that I was being selfish and that my daughter would grow up to be spoiled if she was an only child, etc, etc. I never really envisioned myself with many kids to begin with (two at tops), and after dealing with lots of ups and downs (miscarriage, fertility treatments to get pregnant, a 4th degree tear during delivery, and a touch of PPD during the first few months), I think having just one is fine in my book.

Granted, my daughter is only 8 months old and I know a lot can change, but am I setting her up for a miserable, lonely, self-centered future by only having her? (My husband knows how I feel, and although I'm pretty sure he always thought we'd have two, I think he would be okay with one).


  • Don't let other people tell you how many children to have! (unless they are offering to raise them)
    posted by Blogger Kathi D at 7/30/2008 10:34:00 AM  

  • First, I want to let you know that I had the same thought many, many times during my daughter's first year of life! It has only been recently (she is now 16 months old) that I'm beginning to be able to picture myself with more than one. Not to say that it will change for you, but I've talked to a lot of friends and its definitely not an uncommon feeling to have.

    That being said, I want a LOT of space between my children. I'd love for my daughter to be 3 before I give birth again. I constantly get comments telling me that its unfair to her to wait so long. That she'll get spoiled in that time, or that she needs siblings. I think that no matter what you choice, everyone will have an opinion! So choose what's best for you. If you feel that having one is the best situation for you and your family, there is nothing wrong with that!

    Yes, some only children become spoiled. But so do children who are one of 5 and come from well to do families. But I doubt people get on their parents case for "ruining" their children. Any child can become spoiled. Its up to the parents to teach them humility and gratitude.

    Best wishes in whatever you choose!
    posted by Blogger Claire at 7/30/2008 10:42:00 AM  

  • Church handbook says its between you your husband and God. We can get pregnant but I'm gone for 9 months because of the horrible depression I get during the pregnancy. And conceiving and delivering are a breeze. But its that 9+ months of hell that caused us to stop after two. You just have to find the decision within yourself and get confirmation. But...don't stress about it. If you really want to know you'll know.
    posted by Blogger Angela at 7/30/2008 10:51:00 AM  

  • My cousin is an only child and has lived a life constantly hoping for siblings. She begged her parents for years to give her a sibling, but it never happened (and it was by choice, not because they couldn't). They are very private people, but it was said that my aunt just didn't like being pregnant.

    I always wondered why they didn't just adopt, then. And it amazes me that so many people throw that option out the window when they CAN conceive. Being able to conceive doesn't mean someone can't adopt, you know? So, that could always be an option for you, especially if the biological process is so hard/painful, etc. Is it the idea of more than one child? Or just having to give birth?

    Anyway, with that all said, my cousin is one of the most respectful, delightful, charming, charitable, and brilliant young women I know. Next month she's getting married to an amazing man --and he has 8 older siblings. I guess now she'll have all the siblings she's ever wanted! :)

    P.S. Pray, pray, pray about it before doing anything permanent. Like claire said, you might change your mind 5 years down the road!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 7/30/2008 11:07:00 AM  

  • My mother is an only child. She wasn't spoiled. I think that the challenge for her is that once she became a mom she was nearly incapable of handling sibling dynamics. There were four of us and handling the complexities of four children, when your model has been only one child, was a huge stress for her.

    I'm not saying that you must take this example as a mandate, but perhaps into consideration? Some only children may never have those issues, but I know it was a challenge for her.

    For what it's worth, it took us years to get pregnant and I always considered that it might take that long to have another child. Happily, it only took 6 months of trying. Our two children are more than 3 years apart.

    You may never change your mind, but in case you do, spacing children out has worked well for us. They are now 4 and 1 and play together all the time. To tell you the truth, I think after the first initial months, having two is easier than one because they keep each other occupied.
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 7/30/2008 11:08:00 AM  

  • As far as dealing with what others have to say, as a mother of one (age 5), I find one way of avoiding people's opinions is not to give them an option of offering it. I shrug off the "are you having more" question a lot of the time with some joke-y "not really sure!" answers, partially because it's really none of their business, but mostly because I really don't know. Not giving your opinion gives them less to respond to, and changing the subject helps as well! ;-)

    That said, I absolutely do not believe that having an only child automatically dooms them to a life of misery and selfishness. I think you just have to be more conscious about teaching them the lessons that would come more naturally with siblings - sharing, empathy, understanding that the world doesn't revolve around them, etc. I know plenty of grown children from multiple-child families who have never grasped these concepts, so just having another child does not automatically takes care of that. It's up to you to present opportunities to learn these things.

    In the end, you and your husband will come to an understanding of what is right for your family with God's help, and no one else needs to be involved in that. End of story.
    posted by Blogger marian at 7/30/2008 11:15:00 AM  

  • My husband is an only and was downright neglected, so there's no guarantee.

    There is no right way to plan a family, and the number of kids can't forecast how they turn out.
    That said, my best family planning advice is not to think in absolutes. So you don't want another now, fine. or next year, fine. but don't box yourself in and swear that there won't come a day when your mind changes. As your child grows, you may start wishing for another and feeling prepared and strong enough to give it another go, and that's Ok! You don't have to decide right now how you will feel in 5 or 10 years.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/30/2008 12:05:00 PM  

  • I'll give you a couple of observations of some only child roommates I had.

    They were not selfish, in fact they could be very generous. One of them however liked being the center of attention and was obviously used to it.

    The biggest difference I noticed between them and those roommates from multi-child homes is that the only children were not as good at understanding how to cope with others and deal with conflict. They weren't as good ignoring things and letting them blow over, instead they would panic and take things to personally.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/30/2008 12:19:00 PM  

  • My mom is an only child and for the most part enjoyed the attention she got from her parents - she was their center; for the most part all of her physical and emotional needs were always met. She had friends so the only child thing didn't really bother her. Until much much later.

    She is now nearly 60 and both of her parents have passed away. It has been in these last 10 years that she really minds not having siblings, someone with her "blood", her history to share the passing years with. For the first time, she is sad that she is an only child.

    There are SO many factors to consider when planning a family (and we're all educated here so no need to go into all of those factors) but what we rarely consider is what happens when we as parents pass on and our children/their families are left.

    Just something to think about...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 7/30/2008 01:31:00 PM  

  • My mom is an only child. And my daughter (almost 13) is an only child. Azucar's comment about her mom's difficulty with multiple children is spot on. I'm one of six, and my mom was absolutely incapable of dealing with the inevitable conflict. She had grown up so lonely and thought siblings would magically always get along.

    My daughter is not spoiled. She often, however, is lonely. That's just a fact. But our relationship is very close and very different from her friends'. My brother says the three of us are more like roommates than parents/child. Like my mom, she also has difficulty understanding and dealing with conflict...at school, church, with her friends. It baffles her.

    As far as the opinions of others: whatever you decide, you have to learn to let comments slide by. Even this one: don't do anything permanent now. Leave your options open.
    posted by Anonymous Ahna at 7/30/2008 01:47:00 PM  

  • This is only my weird brain at work, but I have been able to always know if someone is an only child. I have many wonderful friends who are only children, but there's always this touch of selfishness that comes out - however mild - that I've always experienced. I did not have anything near the horrible experience that you have had - but I did have horrible PPD (I did give birth in a foreign country without speaking the language... so that did ahve something to do with it) and I do NOT want to have another. But, I know that my daughter needs a sibling, and I've prayed enough to know it's what I need to do. I still don't have the desire, but I'm praying for it. I know it will be a blessing, and I know I loved having siblings (gotta have someone else to blame stuff on!;). I do know at 8 months I was still a mess, but now at almost 2 years later, I'm feeling more comfortable with the idea. I'm glad I waited until I was ready and didn't jump in when I thought I should!

    That being said, it's your body and your family. Whatever the limitations of your body and your physical ability to have another one around is no one elses buisness but yours. You do need to get thick skin, regardless I think, because people will say things and make you explain yourself, so be comfortable with your decision and confident in telling people off. Heck, I have to all the time! Kudos - after all that, you still had a baby, and you deserve a big round of applause!
    posted by Blogger Rocketgirl at 7/30/2008 06:01:00 PM  

  • A couple more thoughts:

    My daughter likes being an only child and knows she has some benefits others don't. But she would dearly love to have a sibling. Random things bother her. One day she said, "Wait, since Dad's the only boy in his family, when I get married, our family name will end."

    The way she feels responsible for DH and I really bothers me. No child should have the same level of concern for her parents. She puts a great deal of pressure on herself to be everything to us. She feels like she can't mess up; she has to be perfect for us. We work hard to redirect these feelings.

    Anyway, obviously I don't recommend purposely having an only child. But I firmly believe that decision is between you, your husband, and God. When people ask why we have an only, and total strangers feel no shame bringing this up in our first conversation, the answer I've found works best to change the topic is, "Well, sometimes in life you just get what you get."

    One tiny aside to Cheryl and her comment about why don't people "just" adopt. May I kindly suggest that this attitude about adoption can be very hurtful to those who've been down the adoption road without success, and to those like me without spousal support for such a decision.
    posted by Anonymous Ahna at 7/30/2008 08:39:00 PM  

  • I can relate a lot to Ahna's comments watching my husband (an only child) interact with his parents. I totally disagree that only child=spoiled child...but there does seem to be a lot of expectations placed on an only child (either by the child, by the parents, or both).

    In my husband's case (also the son of immigrants, double-whammy) the expectations were and continue to be unrealistic and cause a lot of tension. It was interesting to read Ahna's comments about her daughter feeling expectations even when she was trying to deflect them. Anyways, that is something that you might need to stay on top of if you choose not to have anymore children, making sure your child doesn't feel like she needs to be more than she already is.

    Every number of children presents its own set of benefits and challenges, in my opinion.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 7/31/2008 06:07:00 AM  

  • My friend is an only child. When she got married things became hard because her parents only had her, so holidays and special days they wanted her and her familyto be with them. Her husbands parents/family was often negelected There is resentment about this. And no matter where (sibling number) in the family someone is, your parents still want time with you and your family.

    As a parent you will want to be with your child/children on special days,(and regular days) and if you only have one, that puts a lot of pressure on that one to be there for you. And could cause resentment by their spouse and your childs in-laws.

    My friend and her husband purposely had two children, just for this reason.
    posted by Anonymous Karen at 7/31/2008 09:10:00 AM  

  • Ahna-
    Sorry. That's not how I meant it. I've had friends who just didn't realize that adoption could be a plausible alternative to "I-hope-I-literally-don't-die-during-this-next-pregnancy"; it just never occurred to them that someone could try adoption even though they could still conceive biologically.

    Fwiw, I never assumed adoption was easy --on the contrary, I've seen the worst. But thank you for the reminder.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 7/31/2008 02:41:00 PM  

  • Thanks Cheryl. I'm glad to see we just had a case of misunderstanding-via-blog. I checked out your blog and felt connected. I'm a piano teacher too.

    (Sorry for the slight threadjack.)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/31/2008 04:07:00 PM  

  • Ummm, whoops. That was me.
    posted by Anonymous Ahna at 7/31/2008 04:08:00 PM  

  • No problem! That's the most difficult thing about this here blogging thing --not knowing intentions, facial expressions, and history. ;)

    Yay! We're connected through music. :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 7/31/2008 04:36:00 PM  

  • Well, I agree with everyone that you can have one child and have them not be spoiled, for sure. I will say that having more than one makes that a bit easier- but certainly not the reason to/not to have more kids.

    A few of my personal thoughts:

    1. I hated being pregnant (I just had my third, and I STILL hated it.) I would very seriously consider adoption if you would like more children and don't want to go through THAT again. (I am considering it for the future! I know little about this but I have heard that in our state there are adoption programs through the foster care system that for many families are a good way to go- they are NOT costly, and you CAN be on a list of adopt only, and not do the short term foster thing..anyway..)

    2.I will also say that having my kids 3-4 years apart has really been great- you have time to spend one on one with each child- yet they are close enough to entertain eachother.

    I have never seen myself as the betty crocker super motherly type, but having just had my 3rd, I will say that the joy I have been swept up in despite my horrible pregnancy has made my choice to go through it again very worth it. Out little 7 week old is the light of all our lives now.

    I can only speak from my personal experiences, but my siblings are my BEST friends now. What would I do without them? I have had many people tell me how lucky I am.. and I want that for my children as well. It seems the world would be a lot more lonely had my mom stopped at me.(I am the oldest)

    And one thing I do before every new baby is WONDER how I will ever love anything as much as the child I currently have? Well, let me tell ya', it just gets more awesome with each one!!

    Have faith and God will bless you with the guidance to make the choice that will be best for your particular situation!
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 7/31/2008 05:33:00 PM  

  • I understand how you feel. I hated pregnancy and everything about it, but I can almost promise you that you WILL forget about the bad parts of pregnancy someday! Maybe so much as to get baby hungry again! :) It sounds like pregnancy is hard on your body though and it should be a careful decision to have another one. Either way, you are a mother, no matter how many children you have, and that is a wonderful blessing!
    posted by Blogger LJ at 8/01/2008 09:44:00 PM  

  • I have four kids. I have never felt a desire for another child when my first was just a little baby. Crazy! I have a 4 month old and thinking about having another is enough to make me want to run away.
    It is normal to be completely uninterested in getting pregnant when you have a baby right now!!!
    I thought having them spaced only 2 years apart was a little close for me. 4 years worked better for me when I did that.
    Reasons to consider having a second or more:
    1. If you need "help" there is more than one child to shoulder the responsibility when you are old. What if down the road your child doesn't marry and you and dh are dead, who is there to care for your child when she's old? Yes, depressing subject, but look around and see that it is family that cares for the elderly or the sick or they are all alone.
    2. If your child dies young, you will still have another child to come visit, or give you grandchildren, or fill your life with family that you will want for the remaining decades of your life. I know, depressing subject, but death does happen. I can't imagine having no children or grandchildren to love when I'm old. How do you picture your life down the road?
    3. There is someone else with a shared experience of growing up in your home and having you as parents. Someone to look at old photos with. Friends might come and go, even if you work hard to hold onto them. Family is there no matter what. Family are people you might not "choose" to be friends with but you have a bond with that really, really lasts. Your kids are cousins and you get together and have a family identity.
    4. Your kids have someone who might be a guardian to their kids someday.
    5. Your kids have someone else they can count on if things get tough. Have you seen "Pursuit of Happyness"? THAT is why you need family.
    6. Siblings are great! Even if they fight or argue. They also play together.
    7. Parenting is hard. Really, really, really hard. It is worth it. Anything that you can be proud of is usually hard. Getting a degree. Accomplishing something usually takes a lot of work. Don't make the mistake of assuming that motherhood is easy or natural for other people, just not for you. Many of us struggle in pregnancy, childbirth and babyhood. I've been a mother for 10 years and I wouldn't give any of them back. It is totally worth it. Even as I face my struggles with having a new baby in the house and how to handle it all. I admit I could use a vacation from it all. But I'll take that baby cuddling, and my excited 4 year old's dramatic monologues, and my 8 year old's precious questions and my 10 year old's zest for life. It is magic.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/01/2008 10:24:00 PM  

  • I think we have established that Only Child DOES NOT = Spoiled child. We've also established that there are issues with only children. Issues that you need to consider. A lot of the rest of this blog establishes that there are issues with multiple children. Either way you will have issues specific to your situation and you will have joys specific to your situation.
    I wanted my kids close together. When my son was 9 months and it was time to start "trying" again I almost had a breakdown. NOT the right plan for me. I agree not to do anything permanent for a good long while. Things change. And I've heard every pregnancy and every delivery and every child is different. You might not have the same experience with #2 if you decide on that route.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 8/02/2008 07:44:00 AM  

  • I've seen lots of comments from those who claim to *know* an only child; here are scattered thoughts *from* an only child.

    1. I can't count the number of LDSers who've asked me "are your parents members?" it's awkward being an only child in the church, especially as a teenager.

    2. I struggle to handle interpersonal conflict, probably because I didn't grow up fighting with siblings. I'm probably also somewhat passive-aggressive for the same reason.

    3. while I don't crave solitude, I don't mind being by myself for long periods of time. this can lead me to be insensitive to a spouse who is used to more contact.

    4. maybe I'm selfish and don't know it but I actually find myself eager to share (maybe because I never had to / got to when growing up)

    5. I worry A LOT about not being able to share the task of caring for elders with siblings.

    6. I find myself quite envious of those with siblings who have "forever friends" though maybe this leads me to keep in touch with non-family better than those from large families. I do have siblings-in-law but it's just not the same.

    bottom line: there are pluses and minuses though in my experience it is a net negative. the implications *for* an only child (as opposed to for the parents) are more complicated than just the "selfishness" issue discussed above.

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/03/2008 08:16:00 PM  

  • My husband is an only child. He's a great dad, a great husband and he even shares his stuff.
    Good Luck!
    posted by Blogger Jolene at 8/14/2008 04:03:00 PM  

  • I don't have any insight, but I often have similar thoughts. I have two kids (2 1/2 and 8 months old). I've had great luck getting pregnant. But sometimes I wish I wasn't that way. I feel horrible saying this. I used to want 4 kids and I think I would like having a family of 4 KIDS...but not babies. I'm not a baby person. Maybe I'm selfish for not wanting more than 2 kids now...
    posted by Blogger dana at 8/21/2008 12:44:00 PM  

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