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What are the benefits of having an only child, for the child and parents?

(69 Posts)
mummyloveslucy Fri 05-Jun-09 13:22:02

Hi, I have a 4 year old daughter and have been having fertility treatment for 6 months to try to concieve again. Now my only options sound dangerous or very costly.
I don't think it's worth risking my health to have another baby.
We did have our hearts set on another one though, and would really like positive info about only children.
My daughter has a severe speech disorder, making her very hard for me to understand let alone other people. She is being assesed by the consultant, speech therapist, educational psycologyst and physio therapist at the moment.
She is such a loving little girl and she loves babys.
I feel sad for her that she'll miss out on the chance to have a sibling, but is it a positve thing?
I just don't know what to do.

maltesers Fri 05-Jun-09 13:26:40

My youngest ds is 8 yrs . My older two are 21 and 18 yrs. So, he is a bit like an only child. I guess what they have never had they will never miss. Its certainly a lot cheaper only havong one. But, i know that not important when you really want another. With a speech problem, she will progress a lot better without you giving lots of time to a another child. Thats a plus. But of course, you feel its sad she doesnt have a sibling. She is happy though, isnt she. Thats important.......

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 13:30:28

Mll - there are quite a few of us with only 1 child, some through choice and some through circumstances. Me - I had a mp prior to ds, and the 2 mc post ds have both been added to in angst by the fear that it will return, and the thought of what the treatement will do to my health, and how on earth we'll look after ds.

My ds is 4 and a bit. He would make a fantastic big brother. However, I think I'm about resigned to the fact that he will be an only. The benefits - I can spend all of my time with him doing things that are appropriate for his age, read stories that he particularly likes, not have to share my time with another sibling who would, by reason of the age difference, have different likes, dislikes and needs. We can go for long walks in the Lake District and not worry about the state of the path in terms of buggy accessibility. We can drive a 'normal' sized car and still have room for the dog to sit beside him in the back seat - or accommodate dh's double bass without a squeeze.

In the current climate - we can afford to stay in our house for the moment, and don't have to worry about trying to rent it out and rent somewhere smaller, or similar (dh currently unemployed).

mummyloveslucy Fri 05-Jun-09 13:42:43

Thanks. smile I also think she would benefit more from having our undevided attention. There are definatly pros to having an only.
She does have some cousens who she is very fond of.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Fri 05-Jun-09 13:52:07

Hi, Mummyloveslucy.

My situation is quite like yours and Mistle's. We have an only child not through choice but through circumstances. We owe our beautiful daughter (who's a few years older than yours) to gruelling medical treatment. It was worth it, because we have her, but age and general reluctance to go through the process again when there was no guarantee that we'd be lucky a second time mean that she'll definitely remain an only child.

There are some positives in our situation. It is easy to manage life as a family of three. Perhaps as (over)compensation for not having siblings, dd has a lot of out-of-school activities and it's easy to arrange them because we don't have to juggle another child's needs. During school holidays we go on lots of day trips, which are far more manageable without having to lug a buggy onto the train. Because she spends a lot of time with adults, she is a confident and outgoing child. These are small examples, but I hope they help.

Of course, there are some disadvantages - during school holidays, there isn't a playmate for dd in the house and things have to be arranged rather than happening spontaneously - but I also know that there's no guarantee that siblings will have a close relationship, as children or as adults.

If having an only child has not been by choice, I think one has to work hard on making it a positive experience, for both parent and child. It can be. There are several other threads about this - have you seen them?

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Fri 05-Jun-09 13:54:58

Yes, cousins can be a real blessing. My DD idolises hers.

In your situation, I think being able to give your dd some undivided attention could be a very positive thing, especially if you are having to devote a lot of time to therapy and hospital appointments.

Does she go to pre-school or nursery? Does she have good friends there?

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 14:34:47

(MadBad - do you think that we've been sufficiently good at not mentioning the tearoom to put in an invitation at this point?)(MLL - its somewhere where quite a few of us with onlies (and some others) hang out - quite a good place to ask for suggestions from other parents of onlies - and not only on - we can always give you a quick resume if you need one grin)

squeaver Fri 05-Jun-09 14:45:37

My dd is 4 and will definitely be an only.

I've spent a lot of time asking people who are only children themselves how they feel about it and - in most cases - they don't feel that they missed out on anything as a child. Perhaps it's a case of "you don't miss what you never had" but they don't feel stigmatised or resentful of their parents.

Of course every family is different: some siblings don't and will never get on; some only children might feel lonely from time to time.

All you can is love your dd and do your best for her.

On a practical level, however, I would say: cousins are great, do as much as you can with them. Younger siblings of friends give them an opportunity to be big sis for a while. Yes you definitely do have to make more of an effort with friends at weekends and holidays but there's always a parent willing to send their child over to yours for a couple of hours.

Hope this helps.

squeaver Fri 05-Jun-09 14:47:09

Oh forgot to say, it's definitely more common now than a generation ago. I didn't know any only children growing up. In my dd's nursery class of 16, 4 are (and will remain) onlies.

teafortwo Fri 05-Jun-09 15:28:16

I have never had more than one child so it is hard to say... but comparing my life to my cousin's gorgous six people strong family...

I think you can be more spontanious with one child, great organisation isn't vital, childcare costs less, private schooling or and lots of after school clubs is more likely to be an option, as is funding education post 18. You can sneak them into adult places easily (I don't mean strip clubs stop sniggering Mislethrush and madbad peeerlease!!! blushshock), travel costs less and is easier to organise - I just whip dd onto my shoulders, backpack on my back and off we go, public transport is simple to use so geting about is ok environmentally, you have time to get your lipstick straight in the morning with only one child to organise and you can fit child and yourself in the shower when they say they want to wash with you like my dd said this morning - more than just dd and I would never fit in too - goodness knows how my couisin fits her four in - or maybe they don't ask to join her.... or perhaps she just says "no" grin!!!

Miranda Sawyers wrote a very good article in the Observer about her and her ds. I will link to it later if I have time... but right now I am busy busy and shouldn't be on mn - so... blush uuuurrmmm... talk soon!grin

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 16:00:25

T42 - did I say a thing???!!! grin

BTW, I'm an only and didn't miss having a sibling. I read a lot, had fantastic holidays in France wiht my parents exploring and walking, spent every free moment rushing off to the riding stables or friends horse, and my parents could afford for me to play 3 instruments.

Not that I was meant to be an only - my mother had a still birth due to rhesus negative probs when I was about 3...

Gunnerbean Sat 06-Jun-09 20:57:19

My view on this is that having one child will rarely be a truly fulfilling and life affirming experience if you ideally always wanted to have more than one child.

You will undoubtedly love your only child dearly and you will make the best of it but it will always be tinged with sadness and regret on some level - be it your own sadness or sadness for your your child has missed out on. You may learn to live with it, accept it, resign yourself to it and push it to the back of your mind but it will always be there to a lesser or greater extent.

That's being brutally honest but after reading this board for a few months that's the conclusion I've drawn. I honestly believe and I think few could argue with that position.

Speaking as someone who has oe child out of personal choice I could effuse all day long about how fantasic I think it is because I got exactly what I wanted.

But for the reasons given above I think there's little point in me trying to "sell the single child family experience to" you.

bamboostalks Sat 06-Jun-09 21:00:56

You speak the truth Gunnerbean.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 06-Jun-09 22:28:02

What Gunnerbean describes is very often the case, I agree. Many on MN (and especially around this corner of MN) would agree with her.

Even so, I don't think it's inevitable. I don't want to sound like a Hallmark card, but time really can be a great healer. It probably helps that my child is several years older than OP's, but I think I can honestly say that I have left the sadness and regret behind. Yes, we do still grapple with some of the practical things - lack of playmates during holidays unless we engineer it, for example - but I am not oppressed by the thought of the child that isn't there.

UniS Sat 06-Jun-09 22:37:04

From my observations over the last 3 years

one child- cheaper to feed, transport
and entertain. Greener to transport- bike is more practical transport with one tot than 2 or more.
Easier to be child led on activities.
Easier to have a life away from being XXs mum.
More sleep, this will vary by family, but the most sleep deprived adults I know all have more than 1 child as the kids take it in turn to wake up.

I have a younger brother and wished I didn't for much of my childhood.

CMOTdibbler Sat 06-Jun-09 22:43:48

Theres an analogy that people use about having a child with Special Needs. Imagine you were planning on moving to Italy - a whole new country, but you have a chance to read about it, get used to the idea, make big plans about your new life there for the years to come, learn the language. Then you get off the plane, and find that you are in Holland. Perfectly good place, but you aren't prepared for it, you have to learn a new language, and rearrange your dreams.

If you planned to have more than 1 child, its a little (and to be very clear, I am not equating the two at all, its just a interesting analogy that fits a little) like that in adjusting to having 1. Theres no problem in it at all, just it's not what you expected for your life.

Does that make sense ?

paisleyleaf Sat 06-Jun-09 22:46:41

Im glad you started this thread, my DD is 4, always wanted another, it's not happenned (it took 3 years + to conceive DD).
Cor do I feel sad about it sometimes
esp as my dad died recently and I really did appreciate having my own brother and sister around at that time..... others who remember how it was, shared memories of childhood iykwim.
The bigger the age gap's getting though, the more I'm going off the idea anyway (siblings not so close/l'm looking at working more to get more money in/AND don't actually know how much DD would welcome a sibling now).

It's done me good to read Gunnerbean's and Madbad's posts.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sat 06-Jun-09 23:01:01

Thank you, paisleyleaf. I'm sorry to hear of your bereavement.

Cmot is right. Even in a different context from its intended one, that analogy has a lot to offer. In fact, I think it illustrates where and how I disagree with Gunnerbean. Gunnerbean suggests that those of us who have one child not through a free choice are all still in that state of shock, rage and confusion of arriving in Holland when we were expecting to be in Italy and always will be. My experience is that I got past that and am now too busy enjoying the Dutch scenery to give much thought to Italy - I enjoy watching the travel programmes but no longer want to live there and after visits there (aka babysitting) I'm always glad to come home. I don't believe I'm alone in that.

paisleyleaf Sat 06-Jun-09 23:22:51

"I have a younger brother and wished I didn't for much of my childhood."
well yeah, actually it's probably only since we've grown-up and live under separate roofs that I get on so well with my own siblings now you mention it.

mummyloveslucy, as positives.....I'm wondering if, as DD gets older, she'll share all her thoughts etc with me, be really well behaved as there'll be no 'egging-on', or 'us and them' thing going on between the adults and children.
<<deluded perhaps>>

Gunnerbean Sun 07-Jun-09 09:39:01

Hi MadBadandDangerousToKnow I think you make a good point too and there will indeed be some people who adjust to having their hopes and dreams dashed far better than others. They might even be able to conclude that prehaps they're better off sticking with one after all.

I don't think I used the words "shock, rage and confusion" anywhere in my post. I went for "tinged with sadness and regret on some level" and "it will always be there in your mind to a lesser or greater extent" instead. I chose my words carefully.

I still stick by what I said. You may indeed be one of those people who has come to see the benefits of having one child but many people do still fit the bill of the scenario I set out. However, that doesn't mean they don't love their children any less than those people with 2 or more, or gain much joy and fulfilment from their family lives. They just have to learn to live with the disappointment of not getting what they would have ideally liked, or wanted, out of life. People will adapt to that in different ways.

You see, I don't have to do that because I did get exactly what I wanted out of life.

So, in that way my experience of having just one child can never really be the same as someone who has only one but ideally wanted more but couldn't for whatever reason.

I did get to move to Italy and I absolutely love my life there.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Sun 07-Jun-09 20:24:32

Hi Gunnerbean.

I thought I had (pretty much) paraphrased what you had said. At least, that was how I interpreted what you said. I'm sorry if you feel I haven't done justice to your POV.

My chief concern was that, at first, you seemed to be saying that having one child when one had hoped for more was a mortal blow from which no-one would ever recover. I just wanted to say, for what it's worth, that recovery is possible (and I'm not sure that telling someone who's grappling with any kind of problem that they'll never get over it is helpful or constructive). Thank you for the further clarification.

Mulanmum1 Sun 07-Jun-09 22:24:34

I have tried on several occasions to start threads on the One Child topic in which people talk about the positives of having an only child. A few people join in but people generally want to talk about their "grief" at not having other children as though it was on a par with actually losing a child or not being able to have a child at all. It's a depressing board. I assume that the majority of people who (like me) are happy to have one child steer clear of this topic.

Mulanmum1 Sun 07-Jun-09 22:44:16


There can be as much love and fun in a family with one child as there can in a family with more kids. It's up to you and your DH to lead the way.

You might want to check out this lovely thread on the benefits of having one child smile

daisy99divine Mon 08-Jun-09 12:47:10

Hi mummyloveslucy - I am sorry you are unable to have another child when you wanted one. I think this sorrow is entirely different from the joy of having your DD.

Mulan thinks the one child board is depressing. I disagree. But it is important to separate your sorrow at not being able to build the family you had hoped for with your joy at having your wonderful family (IYWSIM)

MadBad and Gunnerbean and the other posts are all wise, and I won't repeat them. But don't confuse your sadness with your daughter's experience. You can guarantee she is living her life fully as her life. She will not regret her life because of other choices you may or may not have made or been able to make

That is not to say you cannot be sad about your problems conceiving, but just separate them out from your daughter's experience. Good luck and hope to hear from you again

nessus Mon 08-Jun-09 14:39:49

I had DD in my very early 20s' and it was hard enough just keeping on with my life AND finding & affording the childcare for Uni and work etc without finding myself with another child. Anyway, I would have needed a man and I have been resolutely single since having DD.

She thinks it is great most of the time as it is all about her. My working life can be hectic, that it is nice when I have down time that it is purely all about her. We are also ridiculously silly & giggly together which feels special and unique to us because there is only her. For me, I love knowing I have done it (had a child) without worrying about having to again because I honestly think being a mom is the most rewarding thing that I ever did (and the most frustrating!!)

Our money also goes a lot further because it is just us - we have a nice standard of life and can have lovely holidays, regular treats and she gets to do lots of activities and can learn as many instruments as she wants and so on and so forth.

She also has lots of time away with friends& family and people are generally happy to have 1child stay for half-terms and stuff. You also don't feel guilty asking family to baby-sit with just the one.

So, the main advantage for us is our relationship is uber intimate, it is a lot less expensive just having one, childcare cost is cheaper and people are more willing to have 1 child over than 2. Ooh you can also have a MX5 without feeling bad blush

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