I came across a testimony by a certain Singaporean Mom who was blessed with not one, but three supernatural conceptions and childbirth on her church’s fb page. Even I wait upon the Lord on my unanswered prayers, I turned online in search of tips to parent an only child. The girl is at that precious age of instruction where she is starting to assert her independence and there are days when she exhibits angst and moodiness which we largely attribute to the fact that she is an only child (through no fault of hers). Although single-child families are the fastest growing family units, they’re still non-standard. To many, our ‘mini (single child) family’ is freakish, selfishly small. It doesn’t help that both sisters-in-law of mine are super fertile and have a total of nine kids (and counting) between the two of them.
If you are parents of an only child, perhaps this article by Beth Howard will encourage bring you some comfort (as it did me). I’m not saying that these apply to all parents of single child; I am merely sharing those I can relate to.
When you parent an only child…
1. You’ll feel guilty about not giving your child a sibling.
Although some only child revel in their singular status, at some time, most will feel deprived, imagining the super-cool older sister or cute little brother that they don’t have. And they will let you know it. When Dana told us that her wish made over her 4th and 5th birthday was for God to bless her with a younger sibling, my heart ached. Apart from the loneliness we see her experience, we worry about leaving her along to shoulder the stresses of caring for us in our old age.
2. You don’t get a ‘do-over’.
It’s common knowledge that Moms are just more relaxed with their second and subsequent kinds. They know what to expect and don’t over-react to every blip on the radar. If you stop at one, you don’t reap the benefit of that learning curve. Take solace in knowing you still get the chance to offer your hard-won expertise to friends and family members who are facing parenting for the first time.
3. You will wonder if you’re ‘Mom enough’.
There are lots of things Moms judge themselves for, such as having a C-section instead of a vaginal delivery or not being able to breastfeed their babies. Stopping at one kid (for whatever valid reasons) can be one of them. While all Moms are awesome, those that preside over larger families can seem like they are the ‘real’ Moms. Rest assured that raising a child is serious, awe-inspiring business, whether you have one or eight. You are ‘Mom-enough’, even if you are raising an only child.
4. Having just one cost less – but it’s easy to blow it.
You will be tempted to pay for more toys, more enrichment, fun activities and the newest designer clothes and shoes (why not? We only have one!). It costs almost a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child – having just one can add up to savings if you don’t splurge every other day on your only.
5. You’ll find more things to ‘entertain’ your child than a cruise director.
Until your child is old enough to get lost in the world of books like Harry Potter (thank you, J.K Rowling!), you will have to engage and play Barbies or Transformers. For the times when that is just boring you to tears, opt for board games or creative activities like Play-Doh or painting. And like every other parent out there, sometimes, the TV will be your best friend.
6. You and your husband may jockey for parenting time.
When you have one child, taking your baby to swim class or going on a school field trip can be more of a novelty. And you and your husband may both want to do it. While you’re likely to do more things as a family (with both parents bringing your kid to the birthday party), it’s normal to feel a little left out when your child and partner have one-on-one time (I sometimes do!). As long as all that adoration doesn’t make your beloved prince or princess feel like she has too much power (which isn’t healthy), there’s nothing wrong with kids knowing how much they’re loved.
7. You will have trouble saying ‘No’.
It’s easy to give in to a plea to stay up late or a request for the occasional treat. While parents with more than one kid often think about the precedent that they may be setting for other siblings or the bickering that will result if one gets preferential treatment, you won’t. But it’s important for parents of singletons to be consistent as much as possible: In the outside world, your child will need to follow rules just like every one else.
8. You may raise a perfectionist.
With two parents nurturing, encouraging and cheering their every achievement, kids who are the only child have an advantage when it comes to their motivation to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with that in the right dose. But you want to be alert to an unhealthy level of perfectionism that can lead your child to expect more of herself than she can realistically manage. Resist the urge to suggest ‘improvements’ to your child’s homework project or outfit. If it’s good enough, just let it go.
Your only child will often be the lens through which you view your world. With that level of focus and scrutiny, every delayed milestone or less-than-perfect performance may send your anxiety soaring – and your kids’ too, if you are not careful. So keep in mind that no kid is perfect – try not to compare your child to the entire world.
9. Your kid will be fine.
There just is no basis for the persistent myth that only children are somehow maladjusted. Children who are only child have as many pals as those with siblings and their personalities span the same diverse range. Your child will have plenty of opportunities to negotiate relationships at school, with neighbours and through social activities.
10. It will go by really fast.
In general, the journey of raising kids is famously quick. For parents of singletons, it’s over in a flash. The feel of your baby’s soft chubby legs, her first gurgly laugh, her first wobbly steps – by the time your child hits high school or college, those precious memories can seem like a distant dream. So try to remember to savor the sweetness and the strife – it really will be over before you know it. Even though Dana is only a preschooler, Daddy and I are already feeling a tinge of sadness and reluctance in seeing her slowly shed away her baby-ish ways and evolving into an independent child who demands her own ‘rights’…
To our only child, Dana….There may come a day when your birthday prayer may come true and you will no longer be our only child…If that day comes, Praise God. Even if it doesn’t, our world is already complete because we have you. We promise we will do our utmost to parent you in the best ways possible, for it’s our heart’s desire to raise you to be a secure, gracious, humble and compassionate young woman who will love and serve God wholeheartedly all the days of your life.