While some families find themselves overrun with children, others find themselves focusing all their attention on a sole child. And just as there are benefits and challenges of a large family, the same is true of small families as well.

For some families, the result of a single child is purposeful. Rebecca and Adam

opted for a single child as a compromise. According to Rebecca, she had wanted two children while her husband didn’t want to “contribute to the overpopulation of the planet.” The compromise was their only child, Lily, who is 6.

“We are really happy with our family of three,” she reports, saying they have a wonderful family dynamic.

Other families, however, long for more children and for a variety of reasons end up with only one to focus their attentions on. Michelle Fox of Seneca is open about the desire she had for more children and her difficulty in conceiving. She said educating others is important when it comes to people asking when they’re going to give their son Ian, 7, a sibling.

“Many people may want to have another but struggle with fertility, loss or financial constraints, and it is not our place to make assumptions about their situations,” she said.

Catherine Park has a 9-year-old son, Tucker, from a previous marriage, but said she and her husband Charlie do hope to give him a sibling one day. She said in the past she had gone back and forth between wanting five children and wanting zero children.

Less stress, more energy

The benefits of having a single child are numerous according to Laura Jean, a Clemson mother-turned-grandmother who raised a daughter as her only child. Her daughter is now grown and a mother herself. She said all the parents’ attention can be focused on that one child and it creates a calmer home overall.

“You can devote yourself and your resources to bettering that one child,” she said.

Park agreed with the sentiment. She said she is able to give all her attention to her son and not worry about being spread too thin.

“I love being able to give 100 percent to him,” she said.

Fox said she recognizes that she doesn’t have to worry about multiple children accusing her of having a favorite. She said she and husband Matthew don’t have to “divide and conquer,” or deal with conflicting schedules in terms of activities.

Having more energy was one of the top bonuses to having an only for Smith. She said it is easier to go places, and she has the energy to devote herself to being her daughter’s caregiver and playmate.

Jean added that the financial aspect of raising children is much easier with just one child. A couple with several children has more to juggle in terms of paying for medical needs, school needs, clothing, cars and college, she said.

Challenges still arise

Challenges still arise as well for families with onlies. For the Smiths, it means making sure Lily isn’t spoiled. For the Parks, Catherine reports that Tucker is often unsure how to interact with children younger than him. Only children tend to gravitate towards adults rather than other children.

Issues with aging are a topic of concern, according to Jean. Having a sole child means that one person is responsible for caring for the parents as they age, and that’s a lot for one person to take on.

“As I get older I realize it’s a lot to put on my daughter. She’s the one who will make those decisions and care for us,” Jean said.

Holidays can also be hard for parents with an only child after he or she becomes an adult. Jean said she and her husband are often alone for holidays if her daughter and her family are visiting others. It makes for lonely Easters and Thanksgivings, she said.

The hardest part for Fox, however, is facing the judgment of others. She said she and her husband have been told they’re selfish for not giving Ian a sibling.

“My heart goes out to those that are suffering with fertility issues or those that have chosen not to have children and are judged for their choices,” she said.

An interesting dynamic

Do only children want a sibling though? The answers are mixed. Fox said Ian has asked for a sibling, but she has had to explain to him that it isn’t an option for their family. Smith, however, claims daughter Lily is adamant about not having a sibling. For the Parks, Catherine said her son is open to the idea of a brother or sister.

Having other only-child friends has been important for Smith’s daughter. She said Lily has several friends who are only children and it has been wonderful for both daughter and mother alike.

“It's nice to have a mom friend with an only, since most moms have multiple (children). It's nice to talk about the pros and cons of having an only,” she said.

Friends are key for Park’s son as well. Being involved in activities and sports are also important. She said team-building activities are vital for an only child who doesn’t get that kind of interaction at home.

But regardless, parents doing their best for their children is the only thing that matters, all agree. Each family is perfect how it is, whether there is one child or 10, as long as they have a loving home with parents who do everything they can to raise their children right.

“Know you and your family are perfect the way you are,” Fox said.

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