Growing up as an only child, I had no idea what having siblings was like. I have eleven cousins from four aunts, and none of them are only children. I was alone and singular to my experience. Most people focus on the financial aspects of having more than one child, or the fact that they hated or resented their own siblings. While I absolutely do not condone overpopulation or putting your health at risk to produce a second child, here are some less-obvious disadvantages to raising an only child you should consider.
The burden of name you place on an only child
My grandmother had seven daughters and as such, I have often felt pressure to produce children and “save the line.” I was given the dying name instead of that of my father, to preserve it. Now, I am pressured to produce children and pass my name on to my children instead of my partner’s last name! Coming from a proud Czechoslovakian brood, this should not be my sole responsibility. Don’t make a single child, especially a female, the sole carrier of an entire lineage if at all possible. If you must, don’t make passing the name a demand. Should I concede to this demand in the future, I’m sure it will cause legitimacy questions and be a small embarrassment for my children to carry my name and not that of their father.
The expectation of elder care you place on an only child
I have known since childhood that when my parents get elderly and infirm, I am their sole caretaker or point of contact. Whereas my grandmother had several daughters nearby to step in with household tasks, laundry, money, and healthcare in her declining years, I am left alone to handle it all when that time comes. I only hope I will be in good financial and physical shape to meet this challenge alone. We have a tendency to linger in poor health near the end in my family, and the idea of spending years struggling to care for two aged parents alone terrifies me. Not because I don’t wish to help them, but because I fear I will fail without support.
The possibility of watching the family die out within your own generation
I am the youngest of my twelve-member generation by many years, as my mother was the last daughter of seven with a big gap between her and the next-oldest daughter. I could have five children of my own, to replenish the family, but nothing changes the fact that, unless my health fails early or my cousins live very long lives, I will be alone in my own generation by the time I am ready to retire. This is very sad to me. Had I been born in the middle of the generation, this would be a non-issue. As it stands, it is something to consider if you’re planning an only child.
In short, while I can’t condone overpopulation with many children, consider two instead of one. Two children doubles the chances that your family line will not die out and halves the responsibility when it comes time for elder care. If health concerns prohibit a second pregnancy, there is always adoption or becoming a foster parent. Don’t make your child do it alone!