“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~ Elizabeth Stone
Becoming parents is a big decision and turning point in life. Another associated decision is the family size. In the past, big families with four or five kids were a norm; however, today, things have vastly altered.
Indian culture has always been in the favor of large families. But in recent years, there an increasing trend for one-child families is observed more in the educated population of metropolitan regions of India. This shift is due to social, demographic and economic changes.
The choice to have a single child depends on physical, emotional, financial and personal factors. It also rests on your views about your life and about how others view you.
As, Asha Singh, Associate Professor Child Development, New Delhi points out,” parents understand the responsibility. There is an increasing awareness of care and care giving.” The early years are the most significant for bonding. Parents have to ensure that they will be able to provide the nurturance required in these years by way of physical care, proximity and presence, she explains.
What Parents Say
Nisha Sood opted for a single child. “We wanted to have only one child. Though I wasn’t working and enjoyed good health, still we felt that way.”
Priya Sachan says, “I felt our family is complete with our daughter.” They never faced any interference from immediate family regarding this decision.
Medha Nair has a demanding job and therefore decided to have a single child.
For Deepti Irchella, her health was the deciding factor, “We always planned for two but due to my health issues, we are unable to conceive the second.”
It was not a very conscious decision for Abha Ranjan. “Things evolved in my life in such a way that I ended up having a single child and being very satisfied.” She also had a difficult delivery which put her off the birthing process.
Single Child – Myths and Beliefs
Many times, parents of a single child need to explain, give reasons, or even become defensive because of the generalized notion that single kids grow up to be selfish and spoilt and those with siblings are more outgoing and adjusting.
Parenting expert ,Dr. Susan Newman, debunks the myths about only child being spoilt, lonely or selfish. In her book, “The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide” she mentions that these stereotypes are baseless. It is the parenting style that influences an only or any child more than the number of siblings.
Single Child is Aloof
There are two major views about this issue. One believes single kids become aloof and want to live away from society. They are unable to share, make friends and work with a team.
The second view point is the exact opposite. It says that single kids are more outgoing, make friends easily to compensate the void of not having siblings and share happily.
Both Medha and Deepti feel that their kids are more outgoing and friendly. Priya’s daughter is a friendly child and loves to share things. “We used to take her to the park daily to encourage interaction with other kids,”
Abha emphasizes being a good role model; she says most social skills are learnt in school as well. Sharing skills also depend on the upbringing of any child.
Being an only child doesn’t make them recluses as often thought by many.
Single Kids are Lonely
This belief is based on absence of playmates in the family. However, it is not necessary for every child to feel lonely or yearn for siblings.
Priya’s daughter has not yet expressed any desire for a sibling. Medha’s daughter is very possessive about her parents and basks in their complete attention.
Though Deepti’s son enjoys being an only child, she believes that a child needs siblings. “It’s really required to have more children in family.”
Interestingly, Abha’s daughter wanted to have siblings “Yes she thinks there should have been more kids so I could get off her back and stop focusing on her!!” laughs Abha
Asha feels that relationships help in nurturing a positive personality. The extended family is a wonderful set up and should be constructively organized. Regular meetings with uncles, aunts and cousins are a great way to provide the richness of experience “It is a boon and an asset”, she adds.
Single Kids are Spoilt
Many single kids suffer due to this bias and are labelled for life. The belief is based on two important factors – undivided attention of parents and abundance of resources at the disposal of the child that may make him self-centered and dominating.
According to Asha, this may not be restricted only to single kids. Abundance of resources in families with many kids can also have an over flow of objects. Parents just need to be aware of what is appropriate for children and when to exercise control and when to be permissive.
Single Kids are Dependent
Most parents feel otherwise. More often single kids become independent sooner than kids with siblings, perhaps because they learn to handle many things independently from an early age.
Priya feels it primarily depends on the personality of the child. “Kids do become independent when they get enough opportunity to try and master things.”
Financial aspect is an important criterion while deciding the size of the family. Priya says, “A small family means easier planning of holidays and less financial pressure.”
Parents should take time before coming to a decision. Your confidence is the crucial factor that can make you happy.
Another point to remember while taking this decision is that in the future the single kid, then an adult will have no support while caring for the aging parents. This responsibility can be quite overwhelming.
However, according to Asha, in the long run new forms of relationships will emerge as humans are social beings and the need for attachment is innate. Sibling bond is cherished and hence will be replaced. New trends for relationships will emerge like sleep overs, pyjama parties and families traveling together.
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