Time Magazine recently featured an article by Lauren Sandler called "The Only Child: Debunking the Myths." It's about the stigma placed on only children and their parents, the pressures parents face to have another, and then another child. It's about the idea that one is always just the beginning. Sandler points out that only children tend to succeed (academically, socially, in terms of their fashion sense and ability to pick the best pizza toppings) at higher rates than those with siblings. She talks about raising a kid in this economy, and why it might not make sense, on a very practical level, to have more.
Long stereotyped as spoiled misfits, Sandler argues that only children are pretty great. I read this article not only because I think the word "singleton" is hilarious, but because it's true that since I got married a few months ago people say, "So, when do you think you'll have kids?" Plural.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote a hot refute of the piece in The Jewish Standard, arguing that parents who think about having children in terms of whether or not said children will make life more difficult are being selfish. He says something along the lines of, "The disgustingly selfish Time Magazine writer asks parents to think about whether having another child will make them happier. Them happier. As though a child is some sort of high-tech gizmo or fashionable accessory!" (He doesn't say this, exactly. I'm paraphrasing.)
Honestly, I'm not sure how people have children without thinking somewhat practically about how the decision will change their lives. And simultaneously, I'm not sure how people ever have (a) kid/s when they are thinking practically. On average, $250,000 into each one, before college? That helpless, overwhelming, ancient love you pour into them, and then they are 13, rolling their eyes whenever you say something, clearly better at computers than you've ever been or ever will be, and already making out with the most terrible other teenager they can find. I mean, it's the classic story, but it's terrifying.
I am thinking about getting a kitten. But I'm not sure I'm ready. I'll have to be around a lot more, to make sure it's OK. I'll have to find someone to watch it when we go away on the weekend. I will probably get attached to it, and then be devastated when it one day gets sick.
I said to my husband, "I am too irresponsible for a cat! How can I ever have a baby?"
And when I said it, I was talking about one baby. An only baby. Not two babies. Or three. Or nine, like the rabbi (who wrote the singeing rebuttal) and his wife have.
I am probably selfish. The rabbi might say that about me, and he would be right. But I agree with Sandler's stance on onlies. (She calls them that. It's not as good as singletons, but I like it.) They shouldn't be stigmatized, and neither should their parents. Parents are people, too. If they don't want to have more children, the world shouldn't require an explanation from them. It's their family, their lives, and yes, it's their money.
A version of this piece originally appeared on Eat the Damn Cake.