Couples with 'only' one child still suffer foolish remarks

April 19, 1994|By Elise T. Chisolm

At an airport lounge a woman says to a young mother with a little boy, "I hope you and your husband will have more children . . . It is such a shame to have just one. I came from a big family and I wouldn't give anything for all my siblings. Of course, we don't see one another very much, and we don't always get along."

I wanted to come to the defense of the young mother when she replied adroitly that she and her husband just wanted one child and they planned it that way.

Actually, I hear a lot of people my age say such a thing, even to their own children: "Are you just going to have one child, dear?" as if it were a crime, or anyway not PC.

Doesn't everyone know that with birth control couples can plan their families?

Pay attention, busybody at the airport: New family patterns are emerging.

Until recently, the "only child" has been a victim of bad press, even though he or she is not necessarily "the lonely child."

My daughter and her husband are parents of a wonderful little 5-year-old. (Natch, I am biased). They are so in love with him that they are content, and he is too. He is happy and plays with other children every day. Even so, my daughter, who is now 40, puts up with strangers and older friends asking her why she is not having more than one child.

First of all, it is no one's business but the parents'. It is a personal decision, like deciding to get married. The world is full of personal choices now, thank goodness.

Two of my best friends are "onlys" and are extremely well-adjusted. One, age 75, would not have had it any other way. We talk about it sometimes. He has never been lonely. And in fact, I think growing up he had more friends than I did -- good, good friends. And he still has one special friend, my husband. Blood brothers could not be closer. My other only-child friend is 44. She is successful and content.

There is a trend toward having just one child -- the "single-baby boom." Single-child households now outnumber those with two children, according to Census Bureau figures.

One-child parenting is explored in Woman's World (March 29). Reasons for having only one child vary -- a tight budget, or the couple were in their late 30s when they had their baby. Women are marrying later, they are having careers first.

The magazine reports that experts agree there are benefits for an only child, as in, they are more independent and they develop very mature relationships with their parents. Jerry Sanders, president of the Only Child Association, is quoted as saying he hopes views soften as "onlys" increase. The weekly magazine says Susan Newman, author of "Parenting an Only Child," believes it is what kind of parent you are that determines how well your child will turn out.

In January, a U.S. News & World Report cover story was "Cracking the myth of the pampered, lonely misfit, the only child," in which Toni Falbo, a University of Texas social psychologist, implies that the view of the only child as selfish and lonely is a gross exaggeration of reality.

Dr. Falbo argues that only children are often better off, at least in some respects, than those with brothers and sisters. She debunks the myth that those without siblings have no one to help out with the burdens of aging parents.

"Even in large families such burdens are rarely distributed equally," she adds.

Bravo.

I think taking care of aging parents has to do with a continuing flow of love from parents to child, or children.

As I look at it, with good parenting an only child can be made to feel very special, and isn't that what all of us want, growing up or growing old?

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