There’s a reason why studies show a decline in happiness when someone becomes a parent, having a child means a loss in freedom. For better or worse, that isn’t an easy adjustment. Therefore being a parent is not for everyone. Making the decision to have one, two, three, or four children should not happen quickly. A slow thoughtful decision as to why you are or are not motivated to have children can help you tremendously.
I’ve heard so many clients in my practice just assume that having children is right for them. Many females are given messages growing up that they are supposed to be a mom. Having this conviction can make it hard to access any thought processes outside of that arena. However, challenging the fact that you want to be a mom because that’s what women do will make you happier whether you decided to have a child or not. It will limit regrets down the road, it will increase your sense of internal power and confidence, and it will help you live an authentic life.
Even harder than deciding to have children at all is the decision to have more than one. Why this appears to be true I don’t exactly know. It seems to me that it’s more acceptable for a woman to have none than to have “only” one. There’s a myth in our homes and larger society that siblings are best, that we are hurting our child if we don’t breed more people. However, that’s not what research shows. And I can certainly tell you that many psychotherapists like myself, agree that siblings are complicated.
So breaking down the belief that siblings are best is an important part of making the decision to have more than one. You must challenge your inner voice and convictions so you can truly base it off of your needs rather than some idea you’ve internalized along the way.
Lauren Sandler’s new book “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One “ can be a great tool to challenge those inner convictions. The most marvelous thing about her book is not all the research she shares discussing the benefits of being only one (though who knew things were that good!), but is her honest sharing of the challenges of being only one. She doesn’t idealize the singleton child, she gives a clear picture on some of the benefits and challenges you and your child can expect. This sharing of both sides is so important to helping someone factor in all things during the decision making process. In addition to her honesty about singletons, she helps break down the idealization connected to siblings, and the belief that more people means happiness.
She challenges the American ideal that we can have it all, and should. She shows that being a singleton or having a sibling comes with a certain amount of challenges. And rather than try to save our children from some future hurt or pain, she reinforces the importance of parents focusing on our own needs. Thoughtfully telling parents that we have just one life to live, and are equally important as our children. And reminding me of the fact I always share, happier parents mean happier children, which means happier families and communities.
Lauren’s book is thoughtfully written and quite funny in parts. I highly recommend this book be read. It seems to me that breaking down the stigma attached to “only” one not only will help women individually, but will help us all in our plight for equality. For the ideals of Feminism are founded in us having free thought and the power to feel like we have a choice.
Lauren’s book will be available for purchase on June 11, 2013.