“We don’t need your empathy or judgement, so buzz off.”
By Tom Burns
My wife and I have one kid. I’m not sure if we’re going to have another one.
Before becoming a parent, it never occurred to me that there’s a stigma surrounding parents of only children.
Granted, I used to have my own prejudices against, what I regarded as, comically large families. I’d look at the Duggar family or even Steve Martin’s brood from Cheaper by the Dozen, and think, “That’s obscene — that many kids. It’s irresponsible.” What were they trying to prove? Who needs that many kids?
And yet, I didn’t realize that that bias had a flip side, that families with more than one child would look at my lone daughter, specifically our decision to only have the one daughter, with disdain.
Only children — and the parents of only children — get judged by other parents all the time.
There’s this stereotype of the only child: that they’re spoiled and self-centered; that their parents are the worst kind of doting, helicopter kid-worshippers; that they’re inherently lonely.
Other parents LOVE to define only children by their absence of siblings, as if there was nothing else about them worth considering.
When asked, “Are you guys just having the one?” my wife and I shrug, because, to be honest, we didn’t plan any of this. You can always see the questioning parents pause, not sure how to react.
We get a lot of pity. A kindly “Aww,” followed by, “She’s not going to ever get to be a big sister? That’s sad.” Sometimes, we get a sarcastic “Lucky,” and a 20-minute breakdown about how luxuriously easy our lives must be in comparison.
Mostly, there’s this unspoken question in the eyes of the other parents: How could you let this happen? How could you rob your child of the experience of having a brother or a sister?
When my daughter started the third grade, so many of her classmates had younger siblings starting kindergarten that same year. It was as if every parental peer we had decided to try for another at exactly the same time and no one had told us. Was there a meeting we missed? Are we not following the right Facebook group?
The disparity quickly became obvious, even to our daughter. She came home a few weeks into the school year and announced she was one of only three kids in her entire grade who didn’t have a sibling. She didn’t say it accusingly. It was just an odd fact she wanted to call to our attention.