I am an only child, and above is a picture of me and my nuclear family. Just wanted to put that out there before we begin.
Parenting and deciding how many children one will have are often deal-breakers in relationships before an exchange of rings. But with everything going on the realm of reproductive rights (or lack thereof), it's not too surprising to hear the rumblings of unrest regarding how many kids one is "supposed" to have. In particular, the mere thought of having only one child has been met with criticism — despite the prevalence of the opposite extremes in reality television (Octomom, Kate + 8, 19 Kids and Counting, etc.).
Yet, given today's economy, you would think that feeling pressured to have another child due to the negative stereotypes of only children would have gone away knowing that parents will spend over $200,000 on a child by the time they reach 18-years-old. "If you can't feed a baby, then don't have a baby" right?
To understand the onlys conversation, we have to pick a part the myths surrounding only children that are at the heart of it all.
Okay, granted I did have an incident in Pre-K where a little girl wanted to share my Barbie and cried when I said no, which landed me in time out. But was I a bratty kid? — not according to my teachers. That one time in time out as a little person most likely set me straight, as kindergarten and show and tells went off without a hitch, and I made friends that I still have to this day. Usually, selfish people as a whole don't have a whole lot of friends to count upon. Yet, myths of us being selfish are unfounded but exist in popular mythology. Why? Well, the main reason is lies in the power of stereotyping — as once we are thought to view something a particular way, it often lingers in our psyche. To counter the stereotype, would you call Mahatma Gandhi selfish if you knew he was an only? Didn't think so.
Humans are social creatures period — so not having social interaction from time to time will make any of us lonely. Is there something to be said for growing up with "built in" playmates? Not exactly — as a 2004 Ohio State University study showed that "only children had as many friends as anyone else" and that they "had cherished and nurtured friendships that they often regarded with a familial sense of permanence and loyalty." Does that scream lonely and maladjusted to you?
Only children never have to worry about Christmas and birthday presents being skimped out on — ever — because their parents are only spending money on them. This is not only a larger issue of parenting, but American child-rearing culture as well. They've already dubbed our generation as the "me me me" millennials — but forget who raised them. Therefore, any child, regardless of their siblings or lack thereof, should be raised to appreciate the little things and be grateful for what they receive.
Given our inherent nature, we're apparently very needy, dependent people due to lack of siblings and therefore cling to our parents all the time. Even though there are all kinds of articles and research on websites such as Psychology Today, with advice and tips on raising happy only children — society is still quick to label the only child as a dependent, when on average, they are "more self-reliant and independent than those who have brothers and sisters to fend for them." No separation anxiety over here.
To round it all up, we're also supposed to be super bossy, or the living versions of my-way-or-the-highway. Even though the majority of the research that created said stereotypes on onlys is literally dated from 1896, there's still a belief that if we do not get what we want — they will be hell to pay. As anyone in the education field will tell you, the only child is not likely to be the one bossing around other children, because "onlies have always been heard at home, and therefore function in a very calm way." In addition to this — not having siblings makes us want to make friends and be included that much more, so we learn quickly that being aggressive and bossy doesn't garner that result.