Carolyn Hax: A parent seeks the benefits of having an only child

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Caroline: Can anyone say something nice about only children, whether they are or have one? I am infertile after having our 5 year old and trying to come to terms with the benefits, which I know are many. But I tend to look on the dark side in general, and all my friends have two or more.

Dark side: Oh my, a ton of good stuff. Less sacrifice, more money, more mobility, more privacy, more flexibility in how you create a noisy household full of kids, if that’s still what you want. I loved my noisy, crowded family experiences — growing up and as a parent — but neither family was nimble enough for ambitious travel, for example.

Life is all about compromise. You draw one card instead of another. That’s all. No less, just different.

I let readers take it from here:

· The only children I know are all very welcoming to all kinds of people, and they are flexible and nimble in making friends. I think on the scale of wanting to show off, they’re at the top, because they’ve always had to do it to have a friend around.

· It’s so, so much easier to keep the pieces of your life as an individual with a rather than being “Mom”.

· I was much more independent and comfortable around adults than my sibling peers. I was free to do things after school without having to babysit another sibling. I created my own “brothers and sisters” with old friends and exchange students.

· I remember so well the intimate closeness of our small family unit of three. My parents clearly loved spending time with me. Growing up, I often wanted siblings, but I also enjoyed the unique comfort of being just one.

· Your child will never text you at work telling you that their brother or sister called them stupid.

· I don’t have to think about entertaining children of different ages.

· Minivan not necessary, only one back-to-school evening to do, a college education to save, vacations are less expensive. I could go on.

· I only want one child, because (among many other reasons) my brother abused me. Everybody says, “But don’t you want your kids to be best friends?” Of course, I would like that. But what if the worst-case scenario occurs?

· You don’t have to have fewer children in your life. My daughter has a large group of friends and we enjoy the accommodation. There’s a lot of fun, laughter and mayhem in this house.

· A family is as healthy/functional as it is, regardless of the number of children.

· Anything that says only children are spoiled is nonsense. Our singleton is so good with people of all ages and backgrounds.

· I am an only child. My parents understood it the first time, so they didn’t need to have more. At least that’s what my grandmother used to tell the Judgey McJudgeypants ladies in her bridge group.

· The problem with siblings is that they’re basically random people you’ve never met who you’re forced to share your life and home with. For anyone who loves their brother, you will find someone whose brother is their worst enemy.

· With a 5 year old, any spacing now would be great. I can’t tell you about only children, but I can tell you that wide spacing has major drawbacks.

· It doesn’t mean you should bury your grief because of the vision you had for your family. Feel it, cry, then embrace your life as it is.

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