I Didn’t Plan on Having an Only Child

I never sought out to have an only child. I don’t know if anyone does. Like many couples, my husband and I had this carefully mapped-out plan for our lives. But you know what they say about best-laid plans, don’t you?

Getting pregnant happened easily enough for us, and after an uneventful pregnancy, my daughter was born. As far as babies go, mine was a dream. Still, I felt unhinged. I didn’t have postpartum depression, just a rough adjustment to parenthood, further compounded by my father dying when my daughter was three-months-old.

His death was somewhat expected, but my mother’s grief was not. At least not to me. After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only a few months, mom got her mojo back – just in time to be diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer.

Did I mention my husband also quit his job and we were moving to England?

Long story short: we had a lot of drama those first few years. It never seemed like the right time to try for baby number two – not until my daughter was four-years-old and we were settled back in Canada. By then, we were on easy street. When you’re past the early morning wake-ups and diaper phase, it’s pretty hard to psych yourself up for going through that again.

What it’s like having an only child

Having an only child seems easier in those early years. You’re not juggling as much, you’re not as exhausted. You can nap when they nap. I think for sure having an only child is less taxing on your marriage. Anecdotally, the infidelity that rocked four of my girlfriend’s marriages, all took place within six months of baby number two.

The downside is when your child hits their preschool years, and you’re on deck for being their playmate. It’s exhausting. When children are very young, they’re not as adept at playing on their own. Nobody wants their kids glued to a screen, but no parent in their right mind wants to play Shopkins for two hours, either.

I can’t deny having one isn’t easier on the wallet. Having one child meant I could take a salary cut and work from home. We’re not worried about how we’ll pay for her university and we don’t have to second guess the cost of her activities. The presents under the Christmas tree don’t have to be equally distributed. Along that same vein, it can be easy for only children to be spoiled – especially by relatives. You can sidestep this by asking for experiences vs things or contributions to their RESP account.

What to know

Your kid will spend a lot of time around adults. They’re used to getting a lot of attention and might feel a sense of entitlement. Do what you can so they don’t think they’re the center of the universe.

Your only child won’t have as much practice sharing their toys. You’ve got to be diligent about setting up playdates or spending lots of time with cousins, so they learn those important socialization lessons.

As they get older, weekends and summers are rough. How I wish my daughter could play with a sibling for a few hours instead of me making up lists so I don’t run out of ideas.

With an only child, you’re on their behaviour like a hawk. A parent with two or more kids doesn’t have the bandwidth to be as laser focused. I suspect I’m more critical of my child than other parents. I’m sure this feels overbearing.

Coming to terms with being one and done

For us, having an only child was a choice, yet for others, the decision is made for them. However you come to this place, you may agonize (for years) about having just one. I did. I kept going back and forth – should we, shouldn’t we? I didn’t really want another child, but I thought my daughter’s life would be better off if she had a sibling.

At some point, it dawned on me: There is no perfect family. Even if we had a second child, there’s no guarantee they’d even like each other. Many siblings don’t. What I’ve realized is the best reason to have another child is you really, really want another child. But if your family feels complete as is, you can relax.

You’re done.



  1. Melissa on July 5, 2017 at 1:11 am

    We are a one & done family also. Not completely by choice: we were in a car crash when our daughter was 5 months old and it took 4 years before we weren’t in physical pain, and another year or so before we felt mentally ok. Bringing another child along when we were barely handling one (who was also a “high needs” child) would have been a recipe for disaster.
    I’ve been questioned many times and had suggestions that it’s bad to have only one child but only from people who have siblings and more than one child. Anyone who is an only child and/or only has one doesn’t find anything wrong with it.
    My daughter is 7 now. We’re used to our life as a family of 3 and have found many many reasons why having one is better than more. I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with more, but there’s also nothing wrong with 1. I was emotionally abused by my only sibling my whole life, siblings have caused major drama in my husband’s life. My daughter will never have to worry about those problems. There’s lots of good things about only one child.

    • Heather Dixon on July 5, 2017 at 1:23 am

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your story, Melissa. That’s great that it’s worked out for you – and you’re definitely right. There are ltos and lots of good things about having one child.

  2. Jo on July 5, 2017 at 3:41 am

    I set out to have only one, for all the positive reasons stated in your article:). I really love the idea of being the three of us. And, I do love that the hand off to the spouse means we each (hubby and I), get some time to ourselves while the other watches baby (and it’s not the extra of watching more than one!)
    Love that I spoil her like crazy, that I am less worried about money and making sure gift giving is even, that we are her playmates, easier to make clothes for one wee girl, that my pregnancy was easy with no painful memories;).

  3. Liz on July 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    I love that you said “there is no perfect family.” I have 2 children, by choice, so my circumstances are different, but I very firmly believe you can’t judge anyone’s decision to have 1, 2, 3 … You should have whatever is the perfect family for you. 🙂

    • Heather Dixon on July 5, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Absolutely agree! Thank you for this comment, Liz! (From a Mom of three!!) 🙂

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