So many are roaming around breathless just now. They just finished talking to me about the Merits of Having Two Children, or more. Truth be told, I am a little breathless myself. For looking for air space to explain my views. Got none, their enthusiasm for me to deliver another child far exceeding my own will to make another bundle.
But, I am happy.
Not just because I finally know I can make people breathless, but also because the arguments used for forwarding the idea of having more than one child are something I carry my own answers to. And that, our decision of ‘we two and our one’ is not taken merely because everyone says so or that’s-how-it-is, but because we are the parents who reasoned between ourselves and decided to keep it that way.
And when I look around I realize that in this we are not alone.
An increasing number of couples are opting for a single child. Reasons are aplenty, and some I share with them. ‘Late’ marriages which actually mean increased risk of fertility complications. The rising costs of living and managing a lifestyle one desires or deserves, after putting in years of education and work. Running a two-career household, with just about enough time to raise a child and often only to garner resources to bring up that one child well enough. Whoever I speak with has their own reasons to keep it single. And no, none seem to be bothered about certain negative stereotypes about only children.
I heard them too, those stereotypes, by well-meaning people who are parents to more than one child. I am told that single children often become lonely, for they lack a sibling to share sorrows with, or fisticuffs. I am told that the only child is, more often than not, spoilt, obstinate, selfish; even overly mature for their age. And also, that they remain unnaturally dependent on their parents. One of the couples who made no efforts to hide their curiosity in their loaded ‘Only one child?’ said something interesting. When I asked them why two in turn, the mother demurely told me it was planning for the future. When they will grow old and ailing, the burden of their care will be divided between the siblings, keeping it fair and easier for both pairs of shoulders. What could I say? I looked around. I saw the elder siblings usually taking care of the parents. I saw the boys being asked for support as a matter of right, even as the daughters who enjoyed equal education and salaries were considered another family’s custodians. Why, even siblings refusing to take any responsibility altogether. But then, this is a different issue altogether. I digress.
Coming back, I have heard enough reasons to have another child. I have also figured out equally many reasons, if not more, for keeping it single. And keeping it single it shall be, even if I have to face more ‘challenges’ as compared to multi-sibling households, if their spokespersons are to be believed.
And we are one in our ‘we two, our one’ motto – me and my husband. Should anything else matter?
What is my plan for my ‘we two, our one’ home?
- Thoughtful parenting:
I choose to keep the stereotypes associated with a single child in my mind. Not because I believe them, but because some of them are traits in themselves which I would prefer my child not to develop, much less enjoy. I do not want him to be thought of a certain way, just because I chose not to give him a sibling. Of course, that is simply me thinking aloud. Dreaming. Not just my child that I rear, but a whole personality is constantly taking shape, with as many chromosomal combinations as social influences governing the end-product, at any given point of time. There is just so much in the parents’ hands. Perhaps, not confusing obstinacy with self-confidence, answering back with wit and selfishness with sense of self-will help. I do believe it is the parenting style and even economics which has a greater bearing on a child’s mind than the presence or absence of a sibling.
- Expectations in check:
More often than not, the single child is burdened with the responsibility to row the parental ship of expectations with his two bare hands. Since we invest so much in our only child, somewhere, as is natural to, we start expecting a ‘return’ – be it in terms of performance in school or a certain magnitude of attention in older times. Sure, I have great expectations. But I will have to keep the galloping ones reined in. Keep my communication lines open at all times, and make sure he knows that no report card will ever be more valuable than the birth certificate which says that this is my child first.
- Connection with other kids:
My aim would be to involve my son in as many social activities as he may like to be a part of. As many family visits and vacations as his parents can manage with his favourite cousins and theirs. Let there be a network of similarly aged friends and cousins who keep him from feeling ‘single’, if at all single children feel that due to lack of a sibling. Let cousins become best friends, friends grow to be brothers and sisters. Of course, the parents need to make an effort to keep in touch with everyone but then again, the parents might learn a thing or two about getting along with their family members in the process too. Growing up together, close-knit.
- Planning the resources:
If I am keeping it single because I aim to give my one-and-only the best that our incomes can get, I need to plan right too. Cannot mean my wallet is his, or his daddy’s car will be soon as he turns 16. The tendency to over-spend on and indulge my boy with will be great. I will need to plan the resources not as ‘dispensable-since-I-have-just-one-child’ but spent sanely and in a sensible manner since I have only one mind I call my son, the shaping of which is in my hands. From toys to trips, tuition fees to gadgets – a little lock on my wallet will open for these only when I deem it right, not as a matter of his right since he is the only one, ready to be pampered.
- Not feel guilty, ever:
Social perceptions will take their own time to change. Evolve. Whereas the idea of a family is fast evolving already. There will always remain two sides to the coin. This decision, like so many others, is ours to make, to live, to enjoy. Our hands clapped together, because we wanted to focus on what is right for us and our family. And decisions taken thus deserve no guilt.
I know. Easier said than done, all 1-5. This is the theory, the practicals are yet to come. But put down on paper to remind myself we spent a lot of time thinking about this. And will spend even more putting it into action. Amen to that!
By the way, I am not a single child myself. I take this decision despite having grown up, and still growing, with a younger brother. Is he hurting for my decision to not have a sibling for my son? I wonder. The last I sat him down and mentioned my mind to him about parenting and children and relationships, and how I do not feel N needs a sibling, he took off his doctor spectacles and gave me hard look. Then said – ‘Were you talking to me?’ Don’t ask what I flung at him, even as you smile.
But I guess that settles it then.
We two and our one, only.
Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in