Why It’s Okay to Have an Only Child

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Being an only child can carry with it a stigma, though it really shouldn't Here's why I think it's perfectly ok to have an only child - if you want kids.

The questions start rolling in as soon as you say, “I do.” Or, more accurately – one question: When are you going to have a baby? When are you going to have a baby? When are you going to have a baby? Everyone wants to know, and somehow they think it’s their business. Talk about social pressure!

Then as soon as you have one child (if you chose to do so), the questions start to mount again. When are you going to have another one? How many siblings are you going to give your newborn? The questions are endless and everyone thinks they have a right to know. I can only imagine how it must feel to couples who want to have a child but can’t.

It’s not a requirement for any married couple to pop out a few kids, but somehow it’s become the norm. When you get married, you have a kid. When you have one kid, you have another one. Somehow in our crazy universe, this has not only become what you’re supposed to do, but also what people expect you to do. Honestly, I always assumed that I would have two kids as well — until I actually had one.

One and Done


My husband and I have one daughter, and after we had her, we decided that one was all we needed. Let’s be honest here — raising kids is hard work, probably one of the hardest challenges you will ever face, and it’s not all about bedtime stories and blowing bubbles. “One and done” became our motto, and we feel so content with our family of three.

Friends and family were sometimes shocked by our decision to be done and offered sad eyebrow raises and cautionary advice when we said we only wanted one. I grew frustrated sometimes at their concerns. What is so bad about having one kid these days? It is absolutely okay to have an only child (or none at all) if that’s what suits you.

It’s Not Selfish to Only Have One Child


So much can be said about how we change as new parents, the way our lives suddenly revolve around a little ten pound nugget while we run around, eager to appease all their needs at the drop of a hat. But still, I’ve been told that it’s selfish to not give my daughter a sibling because she needs the social interaction and a playmate, and I could not disagree more. If anything, an only child is getting more one-on-one time with their parents and not having to compete for attention. What’s selfish about that?

I’m already selfless enough as a parent. I’ve already put her needs ahead of mine so many times, as I probably should. But when it comes to having another baby just to give her a social playmate, that just seems ludicrous to me. After all, another baby would affect my life more than it would hers. I’m the one who has to put in all the work.

A Child Isn’t Guaranteed to Like Their Siblings


I’m sometimes reminded that my poor daughter has no siblings to play with. I have two siblings of my own, so that sentiment used to pull at my heartstrings, but it’s still not a good reason to have another child. Although I had a great experience growing up with a brother and sister of my own, not everyone has the same wonderful experience.

While I love my own two siblings through and through and can’t imagine life without them, my husband, on the other hand, isn’t close to his siblings at all. They have nothing in common and only talk to each other if absolutely necessary, particularly around the holidays. Being around them is awkward for him, and he wishes he had the relationship that I do with my siblings with his own, but he doesn’t.

Watching my husband interact with his siblings, in such a sharp contrast to how I interact with mine, reminds me that there is never any guarantee that siblings will even like each other. Sure, they are raised by the same parents, but that doesn’t mean they have the same personalities and interests. You can’t force them to like each other.

Being an only child can carry with it a stigma, though it really shouldn't Here's why I think it's perfectly ok to have an only child - if you want kids.

I’ve Never Wanted to Own a Minivan


These days when I get hounded about adding another baby to the mix, I’m faster with my responses and quick to put people in their place with these statements I’ve honed:

  • My child doesn’t have to compete for our attention all the time.
  • She has a huge vocabulary because she doesn’t hear baby talk.
  • I miss my personal time.
  • Having only one child is green.
  • And frugal!
  • I’ve never really wanted to own a minivan. (My personal favorite.)
  • And, oh yeah, it’s none of your business.

I don’t think people always mean anything bad when they bring up the topic, but I do get tired of the pitying glances towards my child, and I’m tired of answering the questions. It’s really no one’s business but mine. My ovaries are my business.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple children or a large family, but no one should guilt trip any parent for choosing to raise an only child. No one else should get a say about whether or not you have kids (or how many you do have) other than you and your spouse. It’s a very personal decision and for good reason, so don’t let outside influences affect your decision.


Do you have a large family or a small one? Did you have a preconceived idea of how many kids you wanted? Did that idea change once you actually had a kid?

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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Cat says:

    Love this! I love the idea of an only child. I felt strongly about one… hubby wanted two… and well you know what happened to us lol. But, I’m pretty sure we’re done too. Family members keep asking us when we’re going to have more and seriously, I thought they would take the pressure off after we had twins. I just ignore them. They all selfishly want another baby to play with and love and spoil and we’re the ones that would have to get up all night. No thanks!

  • Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says:

    I want 2 kids just because I had a sibling and I think I’m personally a better person for it. That said, you should do what’s right for you and your family. One kid? Great! No kids? Great! Whatever works for your life. And, well, also the budget. 😉

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I love having the relationship that I do with my siblings, but we don’t even live in the same town, so I don’t get regular interaction with them as an adult.

  • Blair@LifeDollarsandSense says:

    Well written post. I respect your position on this as it is a personal family decision. However to provide another perspective, I am an only child. While I love my parents and had a wonderful upbringing, I would not wish it onto my children. As an adult only child, I am acutely aware that if/when anything happens to one of my parents I will be the sole emotional/financial support to the other parent with no siblings to lean on. Additionally, while my small family spent most holidays/vacations as I grew up with cousins and extended family for the “big family” experience, once I was no longer a small child holidays became more and more immediate family only. Now I suggest we spend holidays with my BFs large family as I enjoy his large family’s home at holidays and vacations with lots of kids and people to experience it with. Again, I was fortunately enough to have experiences as a child I would not have had if I had siblings. However, as an adult I wish that my family was more than just me, myself, and I in the adult child department even if we would not have been particularly close.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      That’s a sentiment I’ve heard my sister echo as well, especially after our dad died. She said she doesn’t know what she would have done if she hadn’t had me and our brother to lean on for support. That’s actually been one of the hardest points for me to swallow.

      • Kinnda says:

        I can’t imagine how I would’ve handled our business, our home, medical conditions, and other family issues if my sisters weren’t there beside me! My parents always said when you make siblings for your children…your building a support system and partners for them. The parents and spouse won’t always be there, but your siblings will. My sisters know how am better than anyone.
        Even the sister that I don’t always get a long with most of the time is STILL my “rock” when things go wrong or become difficult.I’m still so thankful to have her. You can’t always raise children to like each other, but you can raise them to be there for 1 another and respect each other by enforcing the value of family.
        Also, like my elders always said…when the child has siblings, you don’t always have to worry if your child is lonely or bored, less stress on the parent.

        • Kirsty says:

          That is a nice sentiment, that you will always have a sibling to lean on and it can be true, I had a brother and we were very close and I always imagined that he and I would be old together at some point, but he died when I was 25, he was 29. so having a sibling isn’t a a guarantee of a life long companion

    • Nicole says:

      I see your point, but a sibling is no guarantee of a shoulder to lean on. My husbands sister has “issues”, and now in addition to taking care of his parents, we need to worry about taking care of her too. Each situation is so individual. He leans on me and friends.

    • Jamie says:

      This is exactly how I feel. I am to an only child. I have a 3 year old son and now at the point deciding if I want another or not. I loved being an only child, I had everything under the sun. Although, it’s a bit lonely now in my adulthood. I spent majority of my time with my husbands side.

    • Kate says:

      Both my partner and I have siblings but only want one child. His sister is mentally disabled and likely will not outlive his parents and there for he’ll be alone with their death anyways.

      It’s sad to say, but a sibling is no guarantee during hard times. Likewise when my grandma passed my aunt was alone in the whole process, none of her other children came because they were too far or had a bad relationship with her.

    • Lat says:

      I think people should have children because they want that take care of and nurture that child, and love them for the rest of their loves. I really dislike the idea of giving birth for concocted scenarios that you cannot know if they will come to pass.

      As others have pointed out, your children may not get along, or they may be a burden when an elderly parent needs care. If your heart wants many children to love, choose to have many. If your heart feels full having one (or none!), make that choice. No one can predict what the future will bring for your family, so having children should not be a tactical decision.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Once we got married, I automatically knew I wanted two children. I have no idea why; it just seemed “right” for us.

    I’m glad I don’t have any more kids, because I feel like two is a lot for me!

  • Emily @ says:

    I was 42 when my daughter was born, my husband was 50, We had been trying for a while, and after 3 miscarriages it was rather a surprise when we actually got through a successful pregnancy. We would have loved to have another, but it just isn’t in the cards, and that’s ok. So I get a little irritated when people ask “Are you going to have another”

    Having lots of kids is a choice for some people, and I think it can get judged even more negatively than one or none. I’ve read about parents who have two boys or two girls feeling pressure to have a third to “go for a boy/girl.” Some people can’t have or don’t want any kids at all. And that’s ok, too.

    As you said, “And, oh yeah, it’s none of your business.” Family size is a deeply personal issue that only the couple raising the family should comment on.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      You’re right, it IS deeply personal. I can’t imagine how you must have felt when people asked you if you were having more. I bet sometimes you don’t want to get into the whole story.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    We have an only child. I never thought I wanted any children, but then the biological clock started ticking and we had our daughter. I’m pretty sure we would have only had one anyway, but I had a ton of complications post delivery and didn’t want to chance it again.

    When people ask me why we didn’t have other kids, I so want to tell them it’s because I almost died having the one I did, but I usually say something more benign. You are so right that it is no one’s business how many you choose to have or are limited to because of things beyond your control!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Yeah, I imagine you don’t want to divulge all the details from a complicated delivery to everyone who asks. It’s so personal!

  • Money Beagle says:

    That’s a personal decision that’s up to every parent. I’ve never understood when people question when people are going to have kids or how many they’re going to have. I know many probably think they have good intentions, but everybody’s circumstances and such are their own business.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I’ve definitely asked those questions of couples in the past, and I don’t anymore. I don’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable position.

  • Hannah says:

    We thought we would have a huge family (like 6 kids), but every time we talk about it we keep on downgrading- who really knows how many kids we’ll actually have. I don’t mind when my close friends ask about our intended family size because it is an interesting topic of conversation, but its always strange when a random coworker or distant relative thinks it would be nice to advise on our family size.

  • JC @ Personal Finance Utopia says:

    It is completely ok to have 1 child or none at all. It is no one’s choice or business but you and your spouse’s. For us, 2 is the magic number. I have always been of the mindset that 2 can actually be LESS work after the first couple of years. Why? Economies of scale. An only child is always going to come to you for attention whereas with 2, they can play with and entertain each other once they are old enough. Anymore than 2 and then you stretch yourself too thin.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Ha! Someone actually told me once to have another one because they would entertain each other, basically a built-in babysitter.
      It did make me laugh. 🙂

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Children – including how many (if any!) – is an interesting topic. For now my wife and I are putting off having any kids, mainly due to time/lifestyle/financial reasons. We may not have our first kid for 7+ years. My wife is in psychology and she’s all about not having an odd number of children, so we’ll probably end up having 0 or 4 (2 is unacceptable as well for various reasons haha). I think it’s odd when people attack others for having x number of kids. I was once told I was selfish for potentially NEVER wanting kids!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      0 or 4, but not 2– I love it! Would love to know her reasoning. 🙂
      I bet you guys get asked all the time– when are you having a baby??

  • Kathy says:

    We had just one child and my mom thought he would be so lonely. I made special effort to let him socialize with other kids through athletic leagues, play dates with friends etc. At no time did he complain about being an only child. Because the schools and day cares promote sharing so much, I think he actually enjoyed when he was home and the toys and his parents’ time was all his.

  • Gretchen says:

    Thank you so much for this! Our daughter is turning 2 in a few weeks and literally everyone has been asking us when we’re having another one. Some have even told us that we’re selfish for not having another child! Don’t get me wrong – if you want tons of kids, go for it! But raising kids is hard and expensive, and I too absolutely HATE minivans, so it’s nice to know that there is some support out there for only having one 😉

  • Paul Moyer @SavingFreak says:

    What is it with all the hate on minivans? I love our minivan. It makes getting the baby out SO much easier. Not to mention the heated leather seats, 6 disc DVD changer, and wireless headphones. When you minivan haters are listening to wheels on the bus for the 72nd time, I’m listening to my radio station and the kids are happy with six different music CDs in the DVD changer. Keep your car or SUV, the Moyer clan is living large in our Town & Country.

  • kay ~ the barefoot minimalist says:

    Thanks for extolling the wonders of being an “only child”. My son loves it, and I always wished I had been an “only”. I did not have a good relationship with my siblings. My sisters were 5 years older and they are twins and were bullies. My brother is 14 years older and I barely knew him. I would have loved to have had all of the attention and the resources that my son has enjoyed. You are so right that it’s no one’s business but yours and your honey’s. Great points, Robin, all of them! Well, except maybe for the minivan one. I love my Ford WIndstar! But mostly because I can haul big things and they’re protected from the elements. 🙂

  • Isobel Smythe-Jackson-Carron says:

    I have to disagree with the sophisticated vocabulary due to baby talk, when we had our three boys (triplets), we had our first son who was 4 and he was not in anyway hindered by his brothers, the same happened when we had our little girls 2 years after the triplets. I do not think having a baby around a child hinders their vocabulary, if anything my son learnt valuable life lessons with the triplets, and the triplets with my youngest daughter. Skip past 15 years and they’re all grown up:’)

  • The Indecisive Planner says:

    I appreciate your post. My husband started our family late. We really never wanted kids but like another commenter said, the biological clock started to tick and it felt right. We love our daughter and are completely content but since we both have siblings we felt pressure to try for another. We procrastinated on this and then when we started to try we were faced with miscarriages that has now pushed the age gap closer to 4 years. Like one of the other commenters – I think while hard, siblings close in age have greater chances for bonding as there are experiencing life changes around the same time but the further apart, the more it’s like raising 2 singlets! While there is something to be said for dealing with aging parents, I don’t know if it’s worth easing to children, almost independently. I think I may rather hep them be socially confident and build strong relationships with others so they may feel that have someone to lean on at those times. An only child first have to mean that they are alone!

  • The Indecisive Planner says:

    Some bad typos at the end there…I meant to say, an only child doesn’t have to mean that they are alone!

  • Hilary Henderson says:

    I am in the same boat as you! I have a sibling and my husband has a sibling, so I always assumed I would have 2. However, I had the first baby on both sides of the family, so had no baby experience! It has been so much more than I ever thought. I love my daughter and she is actually very easy and has been an amazing sleeper, I just stressed a lot over things when she was a baby. She is now three, and I have been feeling the pressure to have another one as well, but haven’t felt that it’s right for me. I don’t know if it will ever feel right for me. I love it being the three of us right now. You should read One and Only by Lauren Sandler. She writes about being and only child and having one. Glad to read there are people that feel like me. I seem to only find them online though. ?

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      There definitely are other people who feel like you! Thanks for the book suggestion– I’ll have to check that out.

  • Tara says:

    I love this! My husband has a daughter. She is 12. I came into their life when she was 8. I grew up not wanting children. I was adopted and didnt have the best track record of moms in my life. Being a mother terrified me. But now this beautiful 12 year old girl calls me mom and wants to follow in my footsteps and she is the best thing in my world. (Her bio mom is out of the picture) She has changed my life! BUT! We dont want another! I am one of 12 siblings. I remember growing up feeling very neglected. There was 2 of my adopted parents and tons of us. Sure i had lots of kids to play with. But I didnt have the one on one time with my parents too often. Not like my daughter gets from me. My family asks often, “when are you going to give her a sibling” and we tell them we are not. And then i often get the “thats selfish” response. But to me, what is selfish is bringing a child into this world KNOWING that i dont have the patience or the time for a second child. Im just being honest. Some days my 12 year old sucks the life out of me. How people have multiple children…… my hat is off to you! You are all better women than I am.

  • Stacy says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this. We are struggling…and that’s an understatement…with Secondary Infertility. We are very blessed and lucky to have a 3 year old son. But you know, after a first birthday…and then a second birthday..that’s when the comments start rolling in. It hurts me EVERY SINGLE DAY to not be able to give our son a sibling. With that being said, maybe what I need to start doing is face this with this attitude of “this is what we want” instead of “why cant we have a this”. I wish I had the guts to post this to my facebook, maybe it would make people think twice about making comments. You have no idea how this blog may help people with infertility so for that I thank you.

  • J.E.M. says:

    This was very refreshing to read. I also have an only child. I encountered unexpected and rare delivery and postpartum complications. Frankly, both my husband and I were scared to have more children. My daughter, nearly 8, occasionally asks for a sibling but only because all her classmates have them.

    My husband and I waited seven years before having our daughter. We orginally thought we didn’t want kids…and we got a ton of backlash of that. Then we had her and the backlash is even worse: “Only children are spoiled brats; you don’t want that.” “You’re being selfish.” “Why don’t you just adopt?” My favorite: “You are doing her a huge disservice by not giving her siblings.”

    There are perks and drawbacks to any number of children (or none) a couple decides to have. I can’t understand why people claim to know the answer for everyone else.

  • Myriam Wakefield says:

    I never wanted children, until I met my husband. He has two teenage boys, who are the best. We got married and we decided to try to get pregnant. Now we have a sweet little girl. I feel its perfect. She is technically not alone in the sibling world because she has her brothers, but she is so far apart in age that she gets most of the attention. Lately i have been having second thoughts on having another, only because of the whole argument of how lonely she will be. But after reading this and most comments, I feel that having just one for me is enough and perfect for our family.

  • Heather says:

    I have an only child & I get really fed up with every bad behavior he exhibits being put down to ‘ he’s an only child’ it’s the traditional conservative types who push the sentiment. I might have had more but for falling out with my son’s father. Talking of siblings my son’s father’s sister is a chronic drug addict and not only has he been responsible for his aging parents alone he has also been responsible for his troubled niece living with his sister. I have 2 brothers and get along with one. The other is a source of great stress and conflict. Both don’t want children of their own and live os & interstate. My mother struggled with 3 financially & emotionally forcing me to give up my childhood to help with the adult stuff. When it comes to aging parents & taking care of them! I have at least 1/2 a dozen friends fall out with their siblings over what to do with their frail parents and the inheritance! Siblings are not a guarantee of friends for life, in fact they can be a burden or stress. It just a lucky dip if you get along. If you raise a healthy child they should have friends & their only family to help them with the parents issue. And don’t think having a big family will mean you won’t be lonely in your old age either. My grandmother’s has 7 & 4 kids respectively. Only 5 of the 7 kids came to one funeral and only 1 of the 4 was there for the other when she died. Both groups have had falling outs with siblings and parents. Have children because you want to make a life not because you’re supposed to or your guaranteed some future happiness. Your the one who has to be there 24/7 no one else

  • Krista says:

    It’s one thing to ask if you will have more kids, but when people say you “NEED” to have more kids. That’s when I feel inadequate as a human and a mother.

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