Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Pros and Cons of having one child

Over at Teeny Manolo, Glinda has put up a list of the pros and cons of having only one child. It's an interesting read for me, since although I could give long and detailed lists of the pros and cons of having two cats as opposed to one, I'm entirely in favor of multiple children. (This is perhaps a natural result of being the oldest of six and the mother of four, counting baby.) Most of the pros don't resonate with me that much, in part because I don't see most of them as being an issue:

1. Having lots of time and energy to give to the one child versus splitting it up between siblings.
Actually, having multiple children who are old enough to play with each other means that I expend less energy because they amuse each other. For example: as I write this post, the three girls are upstairs playing a long involved game with a princess and a dump truck instead of hanging on me. I cannot underestimate the value of having siblings as built-in playmates.

5. One college tuition bill! Wheee!
Nonsense. My parents haven't been stuck with the tuition bills for any of the four of us who've gone through school so far, and neither have we expected them to pay our way. (Now, the Catholic school tuition bills, on the other hand...)

6. Less use of resources. Meaning three do not consume as much water, plastic, etc…
Perhaps, but we're able to live pretty efficiently combining resources here, not to mention that we recycle toys and clothing down and don't have families who inundate us with new plastic junk at every opportunity. (And let me take this opportunity to thank our families for this restraint. You guys are classy.)

10. Not having to buy a minivan.
I don't have a lot to say to that, other than to point out that some families with more than one child drive small cars, while other families buy far more vehicle than their size would warrant, regardless of number of children. Also that I lurve my minivan.

On the other hand, I would tend to push out the cons to the long-term consequences of having only one child. Darwin's father was, in effect, an only child who had the duties of caring for his elderly parents devolve upon him. This became quite difficult especially as the care stretched from months to years. My mother, by contrast, is one of eleven children, so there was a large support network to help her parents in their last days.

(Listen up: before anyone goes over to Teeny Manolo to pontificate about how people should be more generous with family size, please note that she says she would like more but has not been so fortunate.)


Anonymous said...

thank you for your "Listen up" at the end. My family is limited to two children. My husband and I would love another baby(ies) but medical complications prevent more pregnancies. Sometimes, to make myself feel better, I think about and talk about the pros of only having two kids...not because I think it's better to have a small family, but just trying to deal with the sadness in a practical way. I hope that good Catholic families that are blessed with many children will pray for families like ours and share the joy and love of large family life with my children through friendship.

Jennifer F. said...

I notice that all the pros and most of the cons are from the parent's perspective.

I can see why the author would have this perspective -- our society certainly encourages us to think about kids as lifestyle accessories, something we "produce" on our own rather than gifts. But, for families who are considering making the conscious choice to only have one child (not necessarily referring to the author here), I wish they would put some serious thought into their child's perspective, especially in adulthood. As an only child, once my parents are gone, I'll have no close blood relatives. Also, my children will have no cousins, aunts or uncles since my husband happens to be an only child as well.

Of course every family has to make their own decision based on their unique circumstances, and there are certainly positive things about being an only child and ways to thrive as a family in that situation, but I've noticed that "should we stop at X number of children?" discussions are often from the perspective of the short-term comfort of the parents and not the long-term benefit for everyone in the family.

Literacy-chic said...

I had a very smart student once write a paper arguing that only children are subject to a number of unfair stereotypes about privilege, being "spoiled," etc.--to piggyback on Jen's comment. He felt very much wronged by others' assumptions about how he was brought up.

CMinor said...

When I come across the "fewer resources expended" argument, I'm always inclined to challenge the arguer to the arrangement I had during several years in Germany:
Four small children, one 50-L can, trash pickup every other week. Needless to say, disposable diapers were used infrequently and everything (down to foil and chip bags) that could be recycled, was.

Of course, your average third- world family with more kids than that could probably beat me handily.

november said...

I am essentially an only child (I have a stepbrother and a stepsister) and from my perspective as the child (now adult child), the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits.

I once had a roommate who is an only-child under China's one-child policy. One thing that occurred to me then was the impact of that structure on the larger society. I think that that country and us to an extent won't know for a while the long-term implications of this pattern, but I suspect that they might not be so good.