One is not the loneliest number: the joys of only children

Lauren Sandler reads tonight, June 11th, at 7 p.m. at BookCourt, 163 Court St., Brooklyn. Credit: Justin Lane
Lauren Sandler will be appearing today at 7 p.m. at BookCourt, 163 Court St., Brooklyn. Credit: Justin Lane

Pity the poor only child. The eldest child is never stereotyped as spoiled; the youngest is never pigeonholed as maladjusted or lonely. Forget giving birth to a small army — it is when you say you are only having one child is when eyebrows get raised.

Lauren Sandler is on a one-woman (and one-child) mission to change these misconceptions of onlies with her new book, “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One.” Sandler, who is an only child and has an only child herself, found herself being a de facto proponent of stopping after one.

“One day, I got an email from a friend that said, ‘I’m pregnant with my second child and I know how you feel about this.’ And I thought, ‘I don’t know how I feel,’” recalls Sandler, a freelance journalist who writes on cultural politics and women’s issues. “Her comment really sat with me in a funny way. Then when I had my child and I was wrestling with what it would mean to not have another, I decided to report it out, like I do for everything.”

What Sandler found was “stunning,” in her words: “Hundreds of studies over decades found that our stereotype of lonely children is totally untrue,” she says. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t commonality within the only child experience, but it has nothing to do with whether you were lonely and selfish and maladjusted.”

Filled with in-depth reporting (with some wry motherhood observations thrown in), “One and Only” lays it out there: If you decide to only have one child, you aren’t “ruining” that child by deciding not to give it a brother or sister. In fact, you may just create a happier family life because of it. As Sandler digs up, parents who stop after one have more resources, more freedom and more time for not only their child, but for each other as well.

And even though she wrote the definitive book on the subject, Sandler is quick to note that she’s not saying that having one is the best choice; only that it is a valid choice, and one that parents don’t think they can really make without seeming selfish or withholding. “If most people have their first kid for them, and their second kid for their first kid — which is what polls have consistently told us they do — what would it mean if they didn’t? What would it mean if they didn’t feel like they had to?” she asks. “Don’t have another kid just because you think you’re gonna avoid screwing up you your first kid if you do.”

Research from “One and Only” by Lauren Sandler

BOK_OneandOnly_0611 The good news about only children:
• In 500 studies over the past several decades examining 16 traits — including leadership, maturity, extroversion, social participation, peer popularity, generosity, cooperativeness, flexibility, emotional stability and contentment — only children do just as well as siblings. In only two categories is there a marked difference between singletons and sibs: achievement motivation and self-esteem. And in those traits, onlies fare far better.

Parental happiness:
• In a survey of 35,000 Danish twins, women with one child said they were more satisfied with their lives than women with none or more than one.

The increasing juggle of motherhood:
• Each child adds no fewer than 120 hours of housework a year.
• Women devote about 13 hours a week to childcare, up from about 10.5 hours nearly a half century ago. Meanwhile, the American workweek has increased by 13 hours.
• Women do twice as much housework as men, and provide more than two-thirds of care for kids under 12.
• A single child decreases a mother’s employment by about eight hours a week. A second child leads to a further reduction of about 12 hours (for a total of 20).
• 60 percent of men say they are struggling with the demands of work and family.

The financial reality:
• A child born in 2011 will cost an average of $235,000 to raise to age 18.
• Two-parent households with two children devote over a third of their income to their kids.
• College diplomas awarded in 2010 came with an average of $24,000 in debt.

The environment:
• Our global numbers are expected to increase by more than two billion to over 9 billion people by 2050.
• Each baby born in the U.S. today will add about 300 times more carbon dioxide to Earth’s atmosphere than a baby born in Ethiopia.

… And yet:
• 76 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters they think being an only child is a serious disadvantage in life, responsible for everything from gutting loneliness to major character defects.
• 17 percent of American women in the 1970s said they’d stop at one kid; today, 3 percent of Americans say they think a single-child family is ideal.
Source: Contributed



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.