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Making The Case For The Only Child

A weekly column on issues in mothering. Ask away, moms!

Q: I have one child with my husband, but friends and family keep asking me, “When are you going to have another baby?" Their questioning is driving me nuts, namely because I work full-time, had infertility issues before having my son and don’t feel I could handle another child without sacrificing my marital and personal happiness. How do I justify my position and/or what can I tell these people to get them off my back without revealing too much?

A: Because this is something I see a lot of women dealing with, I was delighted to read an informative new book, The Case for the Only Child (HCI Books) written by social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D; www.susannewmanphd.com. The book details this modern issue, sets the record straight about what research really says about having and being an only child, dispels some of the myths and offers the latest findings about the long-term effects of being raised as a singleton.

Just the Facts, Mom

*According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the single-child family is the fastest growing family unit and has been for more than two decades

*Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show more women are having their babies later in life (41% of newborns are born to women over the age of 35)

*Mothers of one child are the happiest (older parents are happier too)

*Adding more children to a family has no effect on fathers’ happiness but a negative effect on mothers’ contentment.

*Siblings are not essential for “normal” development and the stereotypes we’ve heard about the only child (bossy, pushy, selfish, lonely) are not accurate

In fact, according to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the Marriage Project at Rutgers University, one child fulfills the maternal and parenting urges of more and more people these days and allows parents to retain a somewhat “adult-centered” life.

So what to do about those unwanted questions?

“When someone asks an inappropriate question or offers up a 'he needs a sibling' statement, you are within your rights to not respond,” says Newman. “You may even want to toss a question back at them: 'Are you asking me about my personal life? You’ll forgive me if I don’t answer.' Good chance you will get an apology.”

To family members, say, “This is my life, and I am not discussing it again.”

If your family just won’t let the issue go, Newman suggests saying, “This is our family, we’re happy and it’s the way it’s going to be.”

Don’t be afraid to get angry to stop the badgering, says Newman. Another firm response: “We talked about having more children and one child is our choice—it works for us.”

Pre-School Accreditation Trepidation

Q: I live in Fort Lee, and I’m looking to enroll my three-year-old in pre-school. I have been hearing that NAEYC-accredited schools are the best. What does that mean exactly, and where can I find them?

A: NAEYC stands for the National Association for the Education of Young Children and assures that schools meet the highest standards of excellence and safety in early childhood education. If you live in Fort Lee, you have a NAEYC-accredited school right in your back yard. . And Temple Sinai’s Early Childhood Center is located not too far away in Tenafly.

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Editor’s note: If you have questions related to parenting, raising kids or just generally being a mom, feel free to submit them to the author at estellewriter@aol.com, like the author at www.facebook.com/estelle.sobel.erasmus or email the editor at erik.wander@patch.com. Your question might just be featured in a future column.

Tracy July 07, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I heard a great reference name for a the 'only' child. A friend of mine from Croatia referred to herself as a 'single' or singleton....I thought that it took the stigma off what we (Americans) think only children are. Just a thought!
Estelle Sobel Erasmus July 07, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Hi Tracy, Thanks for commenting. Yes, actually Susan Newman, Ph.D refers to that term in her book. It is a great term!
Susan Newman July 07, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Tracy: I blog for Psychology Today magazine and the editors named my blog: Singletons. The posts are about the world of only children and issues related to parenting and small families, among other topics. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons

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