The Culture of Only-ness

Maia Healy at XCaret as a true butterfly

Lonely Only?

Only. I’m not fond of the word. It has such a negative connotation. It boxes us in, suggesting that what we have is not enough. Take for instance the phrase “Beauty is only skin deep”? I know a lot of beautiful people, who may be considered by some to be quite average looking, but their soul – what’s on the inside – makes them beautiful to me.

And what if you add the words “child” and “syndrome” to it? Only-Child Syndrome. Sounds nasty, doesn’t it? My child is an only child…does she have it? How about your child? The phrase is meant to express the behavior of a child with no siblings; the stereotypical only-child may be spoiled, isn’t a good sharer, and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Is the phrase out-dated? You betcha.

The fact of the matter is that only-child families are the trend. They’re called “single-child families” and, their on the rise. Over the years, we’re subtly made to feel guilty for not procreating. I’ve been told that there is always enough love in your heart for another child. And I know you’ve all heard the “So, when are you going to have another?” question. If you’re like me, the phrase hangs heavily in the air, while your wheels turn quickly to come up with an acceptable answer. Others offer the only-child scenario as cruel and selfish .

Then you may have, as I do, that little voice that occasionally speaks up when you least expect it. The voice says that I’m a good Mom – am I denying myself the privilege of raising another “good kid”? And more importantly, am I denying my child the right to share her life with a sibling, to have that constant playmate, and another connection when it’s time for her parents to leave this world?

I came to this Earth with God-given free will. There were no rules about how many children to have – the decision is solely mine. The other day, I was watching former President Clinton give an interview with David Letterman, and he mentioned that he and Hillary had always felt that raising Chelsea was their most important job. I’ve always liked the man, but I admired him even more for saying that – it echoed my feelings in that I’ve been given the privilege of bringing a child into this world.

And here’s the part where I’m brutally honest: I am selfish. There. I’ve said it. It’s easier for me to provide for my single-child in the toughest of economies. It’s easier for me to go out to dinner as a family – and it’s certainly cheaper. It’s easier for me to have a “date night”. My husband is easier to love. The future of paying for college tuition and a wedding isn’t that scary to me either.

My daughter is neither spoiled or coddled. She accepts the word “no”, and hears it often, especially on Saturday mornings when she’s watching commercials for the hottest toys. And so, I’ve made peace with that inner-voice. It no longer fills my head and heart with guilt over my decision to quit while I’m ahead. So my child is not an only-child, she is a child living singly in a home filled with love and ease.

And let’s just leave that only “only-child syndrome” as a phrase best used when describing my cat. But that’s a story for another day.