Only Children Aren’t ‘Lonely And Selfish’ – Because I’m A Middle Child And I’m Lonely And Selfish

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raising an only child There is a new parenting book (Hell yeah parenting books! I wish someone would do a study on parenting books. Who buys them? Do a lot of men buy them? Or is it just people like me who find this subject endlessly fascinating and even though my baby-makin’ days are past I continue to read them?) I read about in the New York Times this morning that will be coming to a bookstore near us soon by Lauren Sandler . The book, entitled “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One” explores the single child family and what it means to families and society and the economy and all that good stuff.

The number of children we have is a popular topic amongst parents, and I know exactly how I decided to have my own three children. I had two boys, got myself a bonus stepson, and then decided I was sick of all this testosterone and got myself knocked up again in hopes I could get a girl in the gender lottery. And it worked! I never set out thinking I would have three children (and a bonus one!) but considering I grew up with two sisters I obviously wanted to recreate my own childhood with my babies, which consisted of me being a lonely and selfish middle child who always felt like my siblings were more loved and special than I was. I’m (partially) joking but isn’t that how it works? There is no magic number to how many children belong in a family and it sounds to me like Sandler’s book says just that:

Most people say they have their first child for themselves and the second to benefit their first. But if children aren’t inherently worse off without siblings, who is best served by this kind of thinking? Instead of making family choices to fulfill breeding assignments we imagine we’ve been given, we might ensure that our most profound choice is a purely independent, personal one. To do so might even feel like something people rarely associate with parenting: it might feel like freedom.


I know lots of parents stress about the number of children they have, especially if they only have one, and it sounds to me like this book will do a lot to reassure parents who have made this choice for whatever reason. I think this “only child” negativity, that only children are lonely or selfish or self-involved  is just another mommyhood myth that we stop stressing about. Only children can and do grow up fine. I know personally that growing up with two siblings didn’t magically make me feel less lonely or act less selfish in my life. There are probably just as many perks to being an only child as there are to having a house-full of siblings, maybe even more so. So if after having one kid you feel like you have fulfilled your personal “breeding assignment” (I love that) there is nothing to feel bad about. Your only kid will be just fine.

(Photo:  Everett Collection/shutterstock)