With a single child households on the rise, it’s time everyone got on board with what onlies and parents of onlies already know: Only children may grow up differently, but they’re just as awesome. I put together this list of comments that I really don’t like to be asked or say.
- “He must be really lonely.”
First of all, there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. I can say that only children are actually less likely to feel lonely because they have more experience being alone. We’re comfortable hanging out with ourselves and often have rich inner lives. That said, it’s important to make sure only children have lots of opportunities to play with other kids, so if you’re really concerned about the sibling-free boy down the street, I’m sure his parents would be happy to send him over for a play date.
- “He won’t have anyone to help take care of you when you’re old.”
While this technically may be true, there’s no guarantee that the children in a bigger family will share the work of caring for a parent, anyway. We have all heard about families where one sibling becomes the de fact of caretaker, whether he or she wants to or not. This is a situation that’s impossible to predict, so it’s just hurtful to make someone feel guilty for it.
- “It must be so easy with just one child.”
Well, yes and no. Yes, parents of only children don’t have to referee sibling fights, fill out school forms in triplicate, or spend nearly a decade changing diapers. But some of us made that choice because we know that we would have trouble managing a bigger family. When other parents start complaining about the stress of having multiple kids, I resist the urge to remind them that they chose to have a bigger family.
- “You’re not a real parent until you have more than one.”
Several parents told me they’d heard variations of this hurtful line, as if only-child moms “fall somewhere between a mother and an aunt on the challenge and commitment spectrum,” as a friend described it. We may have “just” one, but we have the important job of protecting and nurturing that life and feel all the same fears, worries, and boundless love other parents feel.
- “You don’t want him to grow up to be spoiled, do you?”
Trust me; parents of only children have internalized this stereotype so deeply that most of us are hyper-vigilant about not “spoiling” our kids. Even so, it’s a given that an only child is going to get more focused attention from his parents. Research shows this is a positive in terms of self-esteem, achievement, and even intelligence.
- “You’re selfish for not having another child.”
Does anybody know me or know my situation or the reasons for not to have another baby? That is another topic.
- “That must be why he is so shy.”
First of all, there is nothing wrong with being shy or introverted. The shy, withdrawn only-child stereotype is so pervasive that for a long time people believed is true, that is another topic.
- “He doesn’t seem like an only child.”
That’s a loaded complement if I’ve ever heard one. All kids have selfish and bratty moments, but only children are more quickly defined by these labels than kids from bigger families. Conversely, some people see an only child who actually has empathy and social skills as a rare unicorn. The reality is that all kids are in the process of acquiring these skills and should be allowed some mistakes as they grow.
- “What if he doesn’t have kids and you never get to be a grandmother?”
Well, yes, I’ll be a little disappointed if I never experience being a grandparent, but having more than one child just to ensure it happens doesn’t seem like the smartest gamble. Plenty of people never have kids. I want my child to grow up to be happy with his choices, not with pressure to make me a grandmother.
- 1 “Are you having another?”
Variations include “Just one?” and “Don’t you want one of each?” I especially like this sneaky one from the grandparents: “Our friends are asking us if you’re having another baby.” It should go without saying, but these are very personal questions. Some people will be happy to respond that they’re “one and done,” but others may have painful reasons behind their family size—money troubles, marriage problems, medical conditions.
- “He needs a sibling.”
I love my child dearly, but I try hard not to give in to him every whim and want, and that includes creating another human being for him to play with. There is no guarantee that siblings will be friends. I felt completely identified in this article Follow my blog for more informative and interesting articles about parenting and motherhood’s experiences.