Selfish parenting?

Are you looking for the quickest route to being accused as a selfish, self absorbed parent?  Tell people that you’re only having one child.  Worse, tell them that you’re doing so because you want some time and resources for yourself and your marriage.  Be prepared for the barrage of guilt about what you are doing to your poor child, who will suffer socially and emotionally from being “alone.”

A recent Time magazine article discussed the issue in detail, pointing to Granville Stanley Hall as the progenitor of the theory that singletons are lonely, maladjusted children.  Instead, as the article goes on to say, it turns out that only children are not the selfish, socially inept people of legend.  In fact, they are no different than any other child… except that the increased resources and attention available to an only child tend to increase intelligence and achievement.

The data shows that only children benefit hugely from their parents ability to devote all of their time, attention, and resources without diverting to siblings.  This devoted attention can make a difference in the way a child’s intellect, independence, and personality develop.  In fact, single children are more likely to earn advanced degrees and attend medical or law school, likely because a family that only has to save for one college education has a lot more to give.

The greater availability of resources also means that parents might have a little extra for travel, bigger experiences, and more for themselves once the child is grown and gone.

So does all of this mean that you should limit yourself to one child?  Absolutely not.  If you want two or ten or twelve, that is a choice between you and your family, and it should have nothing to do with anything or anyone else.  But the same goes for parents who chose to stick with one kid.  Regardless of the reasons for the decision, it’s a family decision and has nothing to do with anyone else.  All this articles proves is that the common stereotypes are ridiculous, and that you’re doing your child ZERO harm (in fact, you might be helping them) by raising them without siblings.

So what does that mean for us?  Who knows.  It’s not a decision we’re making yet.  It’s nice to know, however, that if we chose the “selfish” path of raising a single child, we might just be doing her a favor.  And really, if having a single child is such a selfish decision, do we really want selfish people procreating?  🙂

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6 Responses to “Selfish parenting?”
  1. sarah says:

    I read that article, too & have been thinking about my feelings on it to write my own blog post! As an only child myself, who is the mother to an only child, it resonates with me on a lot of levels.

    Being an only child didn’t matter to me at all in my youth; I had a network of amazing friends that I viewed as sisters and brothers and whom my parents included in our holiday celebrations and family vacations. Now that I am faced with aging parents who may need a lot of care in the future, I am, for the first time, wishing I had someone to share that emotional journey with (having only had one child enabled my parents to financially prepare for their care in their old age, but the emotional stuff? is going to be tough; a sibling to lean on would be a great comfort).

    As the mother of an only child (in spite of our efforts for almost 3 years to give him a sibling), I’m constantly amazed by people giving me the hairy eyeball when I tell them that Ethan is going to be an only child. Those who don’t know our struggle w/ infertility say things like “you’d better get on that & give him a brother or a sister!” without a clue. As though his life is doomed to misery if he’s an “only.”

    Thanks for posting this! Gave me more to think about when I post my own entry on this topic. Mind if I link to your post when I do write mine?

  2. tricia says:

    Loved this! I can’t tell you how many STRANGERS tell me I’m doing my child a disservice by not giving him a sibling. And I feel like I’m doing what’s best for him right now by being able to provide what he needs. And the fact that I’m able to focus on myself as well is an added bonus. I don’t WANT another kid right now so I shouldn’t have one. End of story.

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