Enough with the 'only child' shaming

There is virtually no evidence to suggest that being an only child leads to any problems, or any more problems than any ...

There is virtually no evidence to suggest that being an only child leads to any problems, or any more problems than any other type of upbringing Photo: Stocksy

My name is Paul, and I am an only child. I know all you people with siblings probably have some questions: was it lonely growing up; do I wonder what it is like to have a sister or brother; did my parents mean to have "just the one". You might even feel compelled to utter that most original of bon mots: "Well that explains a lot".

A lot people seem to have an opinion over what makes the perfect nuclear family. Over a round-table dumpling making session recently a mother confided that she felt very judged around her neighbourhood for having just one child. She was constantly being asked when they were having another. Occasionally she felt the need to explain that her and her husband had tried for a second child, but it was not to be, to which one woman replied: "Well, at least you tried…"

There are more than a few things wrong with this situation, the first is that the number of children she, I, or anyone, chooses to have is none of your damned business, and mums cop the brunt of this weird intrusion far more than dads. Second, there is no "right" number of kids to have.

I have two kids. I have had people assume my experience as an only child (of an only child) has led me to correct this mistake by having two kids, but nothing could be further from the truth.


Two kids was not my plan, and when our second little "surprise" came along I had to do a little grieving that my eldest would not have the same childhood as me, you see contrary to popular opinion (among people with siblings) I loved being an only child. No, I was not spoiled, or coddled, in fact for the most part I was left to fend for myself and that was the part I liked. I watch my two sons now, who clearly love each other, fight for attention, toys and alone time and I wonder how much happier they might be as an "only". I would be able to give them more time, our family unit would be far more portable and my wife may have returned to work sooner. We would certainly be better off financially.

Know something nuclear family types, your years of patronising domination are on the wane, only children are no longer an oddity, nor are they socially awkward or in a constant state of loneliness – only children are the future.

The Guardian pointed out the rise of the only child recently, citing the fact that half of British families now contain just a single child, not to mention most of modern China.

There is virtually no evidence to suggest that being an only child leads to any problems, or any more problems than any other type of upbringing. For every only child that might be overly shy, there are siblings that have not spoken to each for a decade.

I see a number of benefits to only childom that we shall modestly call The Power of One. For starters, instead of being lonely I have learned how to be alone which is a big difference. Yes, I like a good night out with family and friends but I also love to spend time alone, I am good at it, and it is peaceful and necessary, it gives me energy, it does not bring me down.

We onlies work harder at social connections. We don't take for granted a life-long affiliation with a sibling, we have to forge and maintain our connections outside of the family. Also we have a psychic grapevine thing going on with other only children – think Village of the Damned but with us bonding over how much we hate all your stupid sibling questions.

We are not great at sharing. This bit is true, particularly when it comes to sharing a house or room. We are not loping around the house like Golem in search or Our Precious, but close quarters with strangers might be a bit of a challenge. You have to cut us some slack on this one, particularly if you marry us.

So, enough with the one-shaming. You might think having, or being, an only child is weird, but I think strangers asking what I plan to do with my sperm and my wife's uterus is pretty socially awkward. Count on that next time you feel the need to butt in on what is a pretty private matter with no wrong or right answer.