I Just Want One Child! Why Are Only Children Criticized?

Last updated by Lauren Hart

I subscribe to several profiles of moms on social media with only one child. I’ve seen the same rant on their posts and stories many times: let me have just one child! Tired of the never-ending question “When is the second child coming?”, they spoke out to say that their choice to have just one child was heavily criticized. But why is this decision to have just one child perceived so badly? Let’s find out.

I Just Want One Child! Why Are Only Children Criticized?

Only children: A poorly accepted choice


“When’s the second one coming?”, “He/she’ll be bored without a little brother/sister”, “He/she’ll be spoiled rotten”, "Oh you’ll see, you’ll end up having a second one”, “They’ll look after each other when there’s more than one of them”, “Your child will have to take care of you alone when you’re old”, “Anyhow, it’s selfish to have just one child”

I bet that every parent with one child has heard at least one of these statements. Sometimes they’re even uttered just after the birth when the mother has potentially just experienced a traumatic birth. There are many preconceived ideas about only children. Where do they come from 🧐?

A historical and religious context

In France especially, families with only children are not very popular. It’s perceived very badly because of the historical and religious context. After the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War, the country had to be repopulated. A couple who didn’t want to have many children was heavily criticized. In addition, there was no birth control at that time. The parents of only children were therefore suspected of having unusual sexual practices 🤯... And to top it all, we mustn’t forget the religious aspect 😅!

The sociologist François de Singly explains that Catholics defended large families as being open-minded and generous families, whereas small families were inward-looking and selfish.

👉 Having just one child was an exception, it seemed strange and there was social disapproval that formed a bad reputation for the parents 😥.

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The reasons for having an only child

It’s important to remember that this is a very personal choice, influenced by the life journey and experience of each individual. Some couples may have had a chaotic journey to have a child. There are women who have had several miscarriages and have to endure this in silence... And of course, ART for everyone has been voted in, but it’s still complicated to gain access to it. Not to mention that male couples are unable to benefit from it and have to go abroad to use a surrogate mother...

There are even ecological reasons now. I understand parents who are afraid to have another child because of the prevailing environmental anxiety. Personally, I’m not sure if I want to become a mother or have many children, given the world today 😥...

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You don’t have a second child for your firstborn

There are many reasons why parents don’t want a second child. It’s inconceivable to say that you should have a second child so that your firstborn does not get bored. You don’t have a second child just so that the first child has a playmate! Especially as having siblings isn’t necessarily idyllic... I had a jealous sister, which caused tension in my family for a long time. So parents have to do what they want and make their own choices, thinking of their own well-being first.

“What is emphasized is the label that is put on the psychology of children, never the parents’ point of view. The idea is that it takes two children to stand firm against two parents. Having a sibling enables children to be sociable and educate each other, while only children are problematic. But as far as objective observation is concerned, there’s no significant difference between children from families with one or two children.” Laurent Toulemon, researcher at INED.

The importance of stopping these intrusive remarks

Of course, not everyone means to cause hurt by making these remarks, but hearing them so often becomes truly offensive. In any case, I find that all phrases related to parenthood are very indelicate. It’s as if people were allowing themselves to enter the most intimate sphere of the couple 😳: sex.

The clichés stigmatize even though we don’t know what the couple’s going through. As I mentioned, having a child isn’t easy for everyone, even for heterosexual couples, who may experience infertility 😕. A birth can be a miracle in the eyes of the parents, so these discussions can be either hurtful or annoying. If the parents decide to talk about it, of course, we can broach the subject, but if we put our judgments and preconceived ideas aside...

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The sacrifice of parenthood

What’s more, we often forget that people who decide to become parents make a sacrifice. You have to give up a life you’ve always known to become a mother or father. It’s such a profound change of state and life that not everyone wants to have a child. It’s true that in the past, it wasn’t a choice 😅... Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were subjected to their pregnancies. You had to have children, but you didn’t have the “privilege” of asking yourself about the sacrifice of parenthood. Nevertheless, the world and our lifestyles have changed. Perhaps our generations are seen as more selfish, but it remains an unquestionable choice. The couples around us who do it find it hard to face what others think, so we might as well be kind 🤗...

Women are judged even more badly

There’s one final observation to be made in this choice of having an only child. Mothers will always be criticized much more than fathers, obviously 😤. As soon as we don’t follow the classic maternity pattern, we’re criticized! I mean, I even think that happens as soon as we follow more or less the norm... It’s hard to let go in order to get pregnant in these conditions, it can be a source of mental block for some women.

Unfortunately, these criticisms are just a reflection of a patriarchal society where a woman’s behavior will always be criticized, especially when she decides to do what she wants with her womb... Whether we decide to have a baby alone or to tie our tubes, we won’t get any breaks 😑. It’s as if we can only exist with the role of a mother or a spouse.

Clearly, these kinds of thoughts and behaviors can’t be deconstructed overnight, but we shouldn’t hesitate to assert ourselves to people who make remarks to us ✊. Moms who decide to have an only child aren’t bad mothers, quite the contrary. There’s a desire to devote themselves fully to their child. How can this choice be criticized? And in any case, if a woman decides to have just one child, that decision is hers. That’s all there is to it!

Editor’s note: Stand by it and be proud of your choices

Having children, not having children, or having 1, 2, 3, 4, or 10 children is our own business! As Camille reminded us, this is an intimate subject, and therefore it’s our own business, and it can be painful. If you’ve decided never to “get on with making the second one” as they say, well that’s your choice and that’s fine. It’s not society that will have the second one for you? Don’t hesitate to put rude people in their place. And if the subject of motherhood is delicate or a source of suffering, make an appointment with a psychologist in order to understand what’s going on inside of you and how to be in tune with yourself.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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