GUEST POST! On Being an Only Child

Enjoying the solitude.

Enjoying the solitude.

Written by my dear college friend Emily, who is also navigating new motherhood, and also sometimes screwing it up.  Just like the rest of us.


Almost seven months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (she weighed two pounds and looked like the offspring of a tiny old man and an exotic bird, but still beautiful).   For reasons you’re about to read, she will be our only child.  Until I had her I had no idea how many people had opinions about the number of children I should incubate in my very own uterus. Sure, I expected comments from family and friends. But I’ve also gotten a lot of thoughts from coworkers, casual acquaintances (e.g., one of my pro bono clients whom I have met a grand total of two times), even strangers on the street.  Sephora and Anthropologie customers seem to have the most to say on the subject (or maybe I just spend a lot of time at those establishments).  It usually goes something like this:

Other person: “Congrats!  So when are you having your second?”

Me: “Just this one for us!”

Other person (the occasional response): “Oh, just wait – you’ll change your mind!”

Other person (the typical response): “Oh, you can’t have just one!  You don’t want her to grow up an only child, do you?  Only children are the worst!”


1) I am an only child.  Telling me that only children are awful people is rude to me and to my parents.  If you already knew that about me and said it anyway, you’re an asshat.  If you didn’t, maybe think about what you say to someone about her family before you open your mouth.

2) Most only children are not terrible people, and most terrible people are not only children.  It’s true, I promise.  Think about that bitchy girl from junior high.  She had a sweet little brother who rode horses, right?  What about that jerk who made you cry in college because he liked the power trip?  What’s that?  He had an overweight and emotionally fragile little sister?  Thought so.  Now think about the only children you know.  Are they terrible?  Maybe one or two of them are unpleasant, but certainly not all of them.  In fact, the percentage of terrible only children you know probably isn’t any higher than the percentage of terrible people with siblings.

3)  Due to some pretty severe medical issues (and by that, I mean “hey, I don’t think livers are supposed to swell up like that” severe), my daughter was born eleven weeks early, and we both came pretty close to not making it.  If I try again, the odds that I will die are somewhere between 1 in 8 and 1 in 2.  Those are pretty bad odds. People who are only having one child might have a medical reason for it, so maybe cut them a little slack.  Or maybe MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

4) We were probably just going to have the one kid anyway, for a lot of reasons that I won’t discuss here because I don’t want you to think that I’m judging you for choice of family size.  (Unless you’re one of those Duggar people who had 19 babies and gave them all J names.  If you’re a Duggar, I’m judging you.  But also because you put your eleventy million babies on a reality show.)  Let’s all agree that the number of children someone wants to have is their business and also totally acceptable. Unless that number is 19.

Will my daughter be screwed up?  Undoubtedly.  I’m sure I will cause all sorts of harm to her psyche and self-esteem over the next twenty years or so.   I’ll tell her that a shirt doesn’t fit, which will somehow mean I’m calling her fat, or I’ll tell her she’s wearing too much makeup , which she’ll take to mean that I don’t think she’s pretty, or I won’t be able to drive her somewhere and her social life will be OVER.  The possibilities are endless, really.   But will she be more screwed up for not having siblings?  I doubt it.

Emily lives in Chicago with her husband, her tiny baby, her enormous dog, and her now normal-sized liver.


9 thoughts on “GUEST POST! On Being an Only Child

  1. Thank you for your humor and wisdom! I like your ending point that an only child will NOT be screwed up for that reason! Another point to remember is that each child will live exactly THEIR life, and won’t really be comparing it to something else WE have experienced or considered. I grew up with another sibling, and grandparents nearby who were very close to me. My mother passed away at age 64 and missed having grandchildren, but for my one little boy, he is living HIS life and not comparing it to how I grew up. Somewhat of a separate thought, but I think relevant to this point – thank you again!

  2. Thank you very much for posting. I totally agree. It is NONE of people’s business. I wish everyone would get that and butt out. We have one child and he will be an only child and I have gotten the judgements as well. No worries, we will stick together and be happy and blessed with the family we have, whether it be multiple children or just one special one.

  3. Since they Duggars have 19, and they manage to provide for all 19 of their children (it would appear both emotionally and physically), I wonder why so many feel free to judge them? I am currently baby-less (not so much by choice, but simply by chance) and know the irritation that comes from nosy strangers. I honestly abhor the disdain for large families that I run into regularly as well, though. We cannot beg others for lack of judgment when we flaunt our own! It’s hard, but only right.

  4. Great post. Thank you. I’m struggling with the possibility that we may never be able to have a second child, and this is good reading for sure.

  5. Thank you for this! I have one daughter and my husband is an only. When I start feeling guilty I realize how much more well adjusted my 10 year old is than I ever was, and I was the oldest of 3. I think humans are humans, no matter what the family size, and they are mostly who they are from birth.

  6. Yes, yes, and yes. There are so many knee-jerk things people say that make no sense whatsoever (and are generally inappropriate) when you think about them for just an extra minute.
    — Happy and content mom of an only (for no other reason than that’s how we like it)!

  7. As a fellow only child for reasons beyond my parents’ control, I applaud you for sticking up for only children and the right for parents to have only one. Siblings might be fun, but as long as there are fun loving parents and maybe a pet–most only kids turn out fine–or better than fines 🙂

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