I have this feeling that people don’t look at me as a “real” mom... because I have only one child. And no... this feeling does not drive me to adopt more children. That is driven by my own desire as well as a calling I feel from the Lord. But I grew up believing so many untrue assumptions and stereotypes of “only child” families. And those ideas still mess up my thinking. It’s not that I necessarily believe them, but they sure have followed me into motherhood. I think I must have overheard the comments from other adults, and those remarks have worked to shape my feelings on the topic. Some comments were about the parents of an only child, other comments were about the children themselves. Regardless, these are feelings and beliefs that I have to work hard to reject as a mom of one... but it’s not easy.
There is something called “only child syndrome.” If you don’t believe me, look it up. The fact is, it is a myth. It’s defined as the idea that only children are lonely, selfish, spoiled, impatient, and alienated. I do think that my son gets lonely sometimes, but I grew up as the second of four children, and honestly, I felt lonely at times. I have known plenty of children from multi-child families who are spoiled and impatient... those are traits attached to human nature. You don’t learn to be selfless because you have siblings. Any parent of more than one child could probably tell you that they saw a new level of selfishness in their first child once the second was introduced. Humans are selfish... not just only children.
My son is not spoiled. Milk spoils... not children. He is well-loved, yes, but he is not the center of our world—Jesus is. We don’t keep toys and possessions to a minimum out of fear that he will become “spoiled”... we just don’t like to place value on having a lot of material pleasures. And he plays with his toys more often when he has less available. Otherwise he gets overwhelmed. And I think that has more to do with personality than how many children are in our home.
People have often commented on my son’s immediate shyness or separation anxiety and have attributed it to the fact that he is an only child. Like I said, I was 1 of 4, and I had terrible separation and social anxiety. Was I comfortable in my home with my family? Yes. If all my siblings were gone and I was the only child at home, was I still comfortable? Yes. Social anxiety is not isolated for “only children,” its a real thing for many individuals.
I often have to tell myself, “you are a REAL mom.” I may not be a mom to many children, but I am a mom to one. So to any moms of one child out there reading, you ARE a mom. Just like women who are unmarried and childless are still women. I hate feeling like, “people will take me seriously as a mom once I have more.” So I try my best to join in the conversations with moms of multiples and share my own experience. I’m still parenting. I still seek the Lord for the help I need to raise this child in Him. And I’ll do the same whether I have one or 10.