Here’s a funny thing. There was a time when having more than one child was so normal that the decision not to have a second one needed to be defended. I know, I grew up, an only child, in that era. This week I announced that I was pregnant with my second and have been told that I am ‘brave’, even ‘crazy’. Parents with one have commented how busy they already are, as if to say that the whole thought of having two children is terrifying. It seems that the slip stream is now travelling in the opposite direction, so here we are, this is why I’m having a second child.

Having been an only child, I think its the best, kindest thing that I can do for my existing child.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that an only child will grow up inherently damaged. I don’t believe that an only child will grow up inherently spoiled. Science has proven that none of the qualities traditionally associated with only children are, in any way, inherent to the condition. People learn their social skills from their friends not their siblings. Siblings are a captive audience, they have to put up with you, friends don’t. To win and maintain friendships, we have to learn to be more socially adept. We fall out of touch with our siblings all the time, we don’t fight for them in the same way, we don’t afford them the same degree of respect.

I know that a lot of my negativity about being an only child stemmed from my childhood and the overriding attitude, within society at that time, that an only child was spoiled, selfish and unpleasant. Adults did not hesitate to tell me this from an early age. Maybe there are some who are thick skinned enough not to care about that kind of verbal abuse but I wasn’t. I grew up terrified of being a bad person. I will defend any only child’s right to be judged on their qualities rather than on the circumstances of their birth.

I suspect, however, that much of the negativity that I had to deal with back then no longer exists. I suspect that many of the negative qualities that people once accused me of, and which I work to overcome, are now considered to be positive virtues in a world that pushes us harder and harder to get ahead. I suspect that much of the bad attitude that plagued my childhood is now a thing of a bygone era. In that light, I can put aside a lot of my negative feelings about being an only child and I can say truly that it has nothing to do with concerns over the development of social skills.

There are practical considerations as well as emotional ones that make me believe that if you can have more than one, you probably should. Hidden inside the accepted philosophy that only children benefit from the undivided time and attention of their parents is the fact that only children also suffer from the undivided pressure that their parents excerpt upon them. They carry the weight of two people’s needs and expectations. It takes two to bring up one and then that one carries the burdens of the two.

This can be felt throughout an individual’s educational and professional life. You can feel under pressure to become the person that your parents want you to be, rather than the person you would have chosen for yourself. You can definitely feel like a failure if you are not the high flier that your parents imagined. But even that is the not the reason that I think having two is for the best.

I think having two is for the best because at some stage I will be old and infirm and so will my husband. I may, at some point, need help just to get through my day to day life and when that day comes, I don’t want Kitty to be carrying that burden alone. I know that siblings do not always support each other and I’ve seen, at close quarters, how sibling relationships can be more destructive than supportive when the shit hits the fan but, from the position of being alone in the world, I still think it’s better to have half a chance of having someone else to turn to, than no chance at all.

You can’t ensure anything in your child’s future. You can only give them opportunities and hope that they will be able to make the most out of them. So I know that having a second child is no guarantee that Kitty will have a positive relationship with her brother or sister or that that relationship will be of comfort or assistance when I’m old, but I can give her, both of them, the opportunity to have that kind of a connection. I think it’s the best, kindest thing that I can do.

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