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Review: The Case for the Only Child (Susan Newman)

Title: The Case for the Only Child
Author: Susan Newman
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 250 including notes and index
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Challenges: TLC Tour
FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for the tour
Summary (from the back of the book): Although parenting approaches change, attitudes about only children remain stuck in the past. The negative stereotypes--lonely, selfish, bossy, spoiled, socially maladjusted--make parents think their child will be at a disadvantage when compared to those who grow up with siblings.

The Case for the Only Child debunks the myths, taking in to account the many changes the nuclear family has experienced in the face of two-family incomes, women who have children later, and the economic reality of raising children in our modern world. Combining often-surprising findings with real-life stories, compassionate insight, and thought-provoking questions, Dr. Susan Newman provides a guide to help you decide for yourself how best to plan your family and raise a single child.

Review: I don't normally read this type of book, but I have one child and that is why Lisa at TLC Tours asked me if I would be interested in reading it. Well, why not. The number of children one has is always such a big discussion topic with family, friends, and even strangers. When I meet someone else who has only one child I get a knowing look and usually a comment like "one is good, don't you think?"

I am going to review this book using some of the chapter topics that the author used since it will help me make sense of my thoughts. And, a warning, I discuss personal stuff as this topic relates to me

  • The book's first few chapters cover the trend towards one-child families and pressure from family and friends. This trend is mostly due to working mothers who are having children later in life.
  • Stereotypes of singletons--the author debunks these stereotypes and I agree that really, it's the parenting, not the number of children that determines these personality traits. However, this chapter was interesting because it's all the things hat I worried about (loneliness, begin spoiled, etc) when I realized I was going to have one child. Yes, my child gets bored and I should do a better job and not jump in to entertain her. We live with my parents so my daughter lucks out that there are three adults willing to be her playmates. I cannot tell you how many rounds of princess we played and how many games of four-square we now play each week!
  • Finances--children are expensive, let's not kid ourselves (cut pun, no?). As a single parent it is much easier for me to provide the life I do with one child. We travel a lot, get to buy the next-to-latest "toys", and my daughter takes as many dance classes as her body can handle. With more kids it definitely wouldn't be that way.
  • Biological clock--I was 35 when I had my daughter and like many older parents had gone to college and graduate school, had a few jobs, traveled a lot, and felt like it was a good time to start having kids. I agree with the author that older parents can feel like they are ready to "miss out" on some social life once they have kids since they have already done so much. That said, I travel just as much now since I only have one child.
  • In our old age--I do warn my daughter that she'll have to take care of her dad and me on her own (or with the help of medical staff), that she won't have a sibling to help her, but that is certainly no reason to have more kids.
I grew up with a brother who is two and a half years my junior. I love my brother unconditionally and cannot imagine my life without him, when we were young or now as adults. But my daughter is growing up as an only child and that's what she knows. When I ask her if she wishes she had siblings, she says that on rare occasions she does (like when she is bored), but that she loves having me to herself. Since we are the same gender I think it makes us very close.

While I think the topic of only children is fairly interesting, I think the number of children we choose to have is so personal that I cannot argue for one over more than one. It's a bit strange to have a book that argues so much for one child versus more.


Susan Newman said...

Given that so many people feel or have been brainwashed into believing that there is something wrong with having an only child, The Case for the Only Child is meant to be supportive of those who feel guilty about having one child or worry that their only child will be lonely, spoiled, maladjusted. The research strongly indicates that singletons turn out just fine (and are very much like children with siblings). The realities of siblings--often not discussed in terms of their supportiveness in later years and the effects of sibling rivalry--are also factors parents of one or planning to have one child will want to consider. The book does not so much "argue" the pros of one child versus more children as it presents the facts of parenting and the changes in life today that for an increasing number of people make one child the right choice for them.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Susan--Thank you for visiting my blog! I totally get what you are saying since I have heard many comments from various sources about the fact that I have one child. I do wish people everywhere could make the choice for themselves without any pressure from society, family, friends, etc.

Athira said...

It's interesting that you mention about your growing up with your brother, because that's exactly what I think of when I somehow (strangely) happen to enter this topic of conversation. My cousins all have just one child, and if that's all the kids know, I guess it doesn't matter. Like you, I never knew a life without a sibling and I love my brother to death, so I feel that's the best thing in the world. I guess when we consider this topic, we need to plant our whole body into the child's life and think like the child not as someone who had a different life.

Loved your thoughts on this!

Alyce said...

I have older siblings (5 & 7 years older) and even though I grew up with them in the house I often felt like an only child, especially after they left home. You wouldn't think that so few years would make a difference, but it's like we're from different generations - almost like I have two extra moms instead of two older sisters.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--Funny that all your cousins have one child. I don't think we can possibly know what's "best" for our child/children, we just do what we do and hope for the best!

Alyce--I have friends with siblings who are significantly older or younger than they are and they definitely feel like only children.