“Mom, when can I have a baby sister, or brother? I’ll have a brother, it’s fine!” I hear that line at least once a week and it doesn’t surprise me. My daughter is intimately aware that many of her school friends and her extended family are blessed with brothers and sisters. The close relationship she witnesses between her cousins has often led her to pine for a sibling.
How we grew up
I was raised in a three-child, two-parent family and constantly oscillated between loathing my siblings and loving them. I remember quite distinctly wishing I was an only child at one point, and then promptly thanking my lucky stars the very next day that I wasn’t.
My partner too, grew up with a sister,and their sibling relationship is stronger than ever and one I admire. While the global norm is actually shifting towards smaller families, particularly over the last few decades, the desire for a sibling of her own lives strong within my child.
Read: Going for a sibling
Just one, or have more?
Between my own ticking biological clock and my daughter’s desperate desire to have a full-time playmate, I’ve regularly pondered the addition of another member to our family.
For my partner and I though, we’re not quite ready for a new addition. Whether it’s a financial, emotional or physiological decision doesn’t exclusively define the choice, but we’re quite certain that the answer to the great sibling question is “just not yet”.
We’ve settled into the one-child family life and are able to focus on her needs and educational requirements. The transition into school has been a test of our time management skills, patience and bank balance, so the financial implications of a sibling are also a little beyond our current means.
With our one-child family lifestyle, we can worry less about the bills and more about living. This means we are free to run off to the funfair for the day and devote our time to creating memorable experiences for my daughter.
An only child
That choice hits shaky ground when it comes to my daughter’s feelings on the matter though, and her expressed desires do tug at my heartstrings. She is quite resolute that a baby brother or sister would mean she’d need us less.
She’d have a playmate anytime she wanted and she’s even stated her willingness to help out: “I’ll sing the baby to sleep every night, Mom!”
I’ve tried to explain that having a sibling would mean sharing everything – from toys and television, to me. That’s not a concern at all in her world as she claims that “school teaches me to share, you teach me to share, everybody wants me to share but I really don’t have anyone to share with.”
It broke my heart when she said that to me a few weeks ago and I imagine she’d be a brilliant and adoring big sister.
When growing up, I could always rely on the fact that my brother and sister were there for me, no matter what. If I needed advice on something, they were there. However, I also remember, all too well indeed, the chaos that a three-child family can bring.
My mother would always complain of the noise in the passageway as my sister, brother and I would compete over who could play their music the loudest. I don’t handle chaos all too well and I secretly fear that anything beyond a one-child family may leave me more stressed than ever.
A popular choice
Economic pressures, high divorce rates and the rise of the single-parent household have led to many people either actively or passively selecting to stick to only one child. Relatively new research has also found that “only child syndrome” is a myth.
The term “only child syndrome” was coined by G Stanley Hall, who thought children with no siblings were more likely to be socially inept, lonely and spoilt. Hall was known as the founder of child psychology and stated that being an only child was “a disease in itself”.
Commenting on the recent research, Donna Bobbit-Zeher of the Ohio State University said that the study suggests that “there really isn’t a need to worry for parents who have only children in terms of their social development.”
I can understand the potential pitfalls of a sibling-less life, and fully accept that we need to help my daughter a little more in learning social skills, while placing a large focus on learning to share. I realise that, as she heads into adolescence, she may need even more assistance with social situations but for the moment I think she’s handling single childhood quite well.
Read: New sibling regression
Parenting a single child requires more decisive attention towards the development of social skills and luckily, with the ability to focus our attention on her needs, we feel quite confident that she’s adapted to school life well.
Whilst we haven’t cut the idea of adding to our family from our priority list just yet, we’re satisfied with our current choices. Perhaps within the next few years, we’ll change perspectives and I’ll calm down about losing as much sleep as I did the first time round.
When that happens, I imagine our family meeting will be less about when the sibling will be welcomed and more about, “Mom, can we share a room?”