As a parent of one child, you’re often met with surprised, dismissive or pitying comments from others. The assumption is that anyone with one kid must be unable to have more children, is unhappy with their family arrangement or will eventually change their mind.
It’s true that there are many only-child parents out there who do long to have more kids but ultimately can’t because of infertility or other medical or financial reasons. But there are also plenty of folks who happily chose the “one-and-done” path. And there are those who always figured they’d have more kids, but end up being quite content with one.
Many negative stereotypes about only children persist — that they’re lonely,spoiled or socially awkward — even though “most contemporary studies don’t find any notable disadvantages for only children,” writer Chiara Dello Joio wrote for The Atlantic. People also tend to think of parents who do not “give their child a sibling” as selfish. But not enough has been said about how having one kid has many unexpected upsides for families.
Below, our readers share the overlooked perks of having one kid.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
You can give your child a better quality of life.
“For me, it’s about the quality of life I can provide. I grew up very poor with five siblings. I am much better off now, and I can afford nice things for my son. He doesn’t have to pick between music lessons and sports. He can try a new one each year until he finds what he loves! If I had multiple children, I know I wouldn’t be able to offer that to all of them. We can also afford to go on better vacations because there’s always only two of us traveling. I didn’t get to travel when I was a kid because my family couldn’t afford it. When my son and I travel, oftentimes we experience the same places and things for the very first time.
Having only one child does mean you can afford more ‘things,’ of course, but it also means we can afford more experiences that we can share together, and it’s brought us closer.” — Alicia M.
You only have to go through hard stages once.
“Waking up all night, diapers, terrible twos, etc. Once and done. And no holding an older kid back for the limits or needs of a younger one.” — Gabrielle N.
It's "so much easier to talk the grandparents into watching one kid for several nights than two or more!” one parent pointed out.
Traveling together is more seamless.
“We sit three across on planes without having to divide and conquer, we can share a single piece of luggage for all of us and we don’t have to be considerate of a second child’s naps or bedtime and instead follow our daughter’s needs. Riding in taxis is easy, we’ve put an extra chair at a table for two, and we fit in all hotel rooms and sleeping train cars. It’s also, of course, that much more affordable.” — Rachael H.
Your house is more peaceful.
“As a teacher, coming home and decompressing from the day is key. My 12-year-old son feels this way, too. Sometimes, we just sit together on the couch or in my bed doing our own things, like phone games or something. We are able to calm ourselves and be there for each other. If there were siblings, the house would be much louder.” — Maricia S.
It’s easier to find someone to babysit.
“When my daughter was younger, it was easy to find a babysitter for just one kiddo — especially when my husband and I wanted to take a grown-up trip. So much easier to talk the grandparents into watching one kid for several nights than two or more!” — Megan R.
You have more time and energy to focus on your own health and well-being.
“For me, the most important thing is a better chance to balance my mental and physical health with the needs of my husband and child. Even though it’s easier with her at 5 years old versus when she was an infant or toddler, there are still days when carving out 20 minutes for me seems impossible. Add more kids to the mix and there’s no way I could carve time out for myself even monthly. I am a much better mom to my only, and I would not change a thing.” — Liz C.
You build close relationships with your kid’s friends.
“Building close and intentional connections with other families. Starting when our son was 8 or so, we would invite a friend of his to join us for outings large and small — trips to the museum or day hikes, ski trips, camping trips, a weekend in NYC doing museums and shows.
While we often enjoyed ourselves as a small family, we also realized that our son would probably have more fun with a friend around. So we got to spend some quality time with several of his friends over many years, and I consider a few of these guys, now in their 20s, my ‘bonus boys.’” — Elizabeth E.
You can tag-team with a partner more easily (if you have one).
“We trade doing bedtime and morning routine, so we don’t have to both do all the things. Built-in rest periods equals better parenting when we’re on! We love having our one and only awesome kid.” — Eva Z.
You’re able to show up for all — or a lot of — their games and activities.
“Not splitting time between multiple extracurriculars and schedules. I get to be all in at my daughter’s activities and never have to decide whose practice or game I’m attending due to conflicting schedules.” — Megan J.
One is my mental, emotional and physical limit. It’s exactly what I can handle and still be a good mom.Megan R.
Your expenses are lower across the board.
“We were able to take family trips, save for one college education, didn’t have a super high grocery bill during the teen years, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are definite downsides, but a huge upside is the cost.” — Katie M.
“Only paying for day care for one. I don’t know how families with multiple kids manage it.” — Erica L.
You don’t have to referee sibling squabbles.
“I grew up with my younger sister being only two years younger. We fought constantly over everything. My mom gave up on stopping the fights and let us figure things out on our own.” — Audrey K.
You’re able to support more of their interests.
“My daughter and I are truly best friends. My life revolves around her, raising her to be the best version of herself and supporting all her interests. We authentically explore everything she shows interest in. I have the time and mental space to jump from cooking to art to bugs to science — anything! — since it’s just her.” — Alexandra V.
You can comfortably drive a smaller car and live in a smaller house.
“We are comfortable in a smaller home, smaller vehicle, and smaller RV, which often equals more affordable. As an only child myself, my parents are able to help out without feeling like one grandchild is preferred over another. I can’t imagine it any other way.” — Megan C.
"Only having one has helped me to savor all of the tiny moments that are actually really big because I realize they aren’t going to come around again," one parent shared.
It can help you be the kind of parent you want to be.
“We didn’t plan to have one, but that’s how it worked out, and I love it. It made me realize that one is my mental, emotional and physical limit. It’s exactly what I can handle and still be a good mom.” — Megan R.
You can spend more quality time together.
“You don’t get to say, ‘Go play with your siblings,’ which means you truly spend more time with them. Our daughter gets one-on-one time with each of her parents very often. Daddy/Mommy and daughter date nights happen a lot where we can talk and enjoy one another’s company. I get to know her a little more every day, and I love that!” — Laura L.
It allows you to be more present with your kid.
“I also feel like only having one has helped me to savor all of the tiny moments that are actually really big because I realize they aren’t going to come around again.” — Liz S.
When your kid has plans, you get the night off.
“When she has a sleepover or other event out of the house, it’s de facto ‘me time’ or a date night with the hubs.” — Megan R.
Bedtime is more manageable.
“Not dividing yourself at bedtime. I think that’s what really made me stop and think. I couldn’t imagine two wanting me and needing me. Now I just get to snuggle with my little guy knowing we both have what we need.” — Raven K.
You create a special family bond.
“Definitely the tight bond. Being able to tell her straight out she’s not only my favorite child, but my favorite person ever. She’s not just my sun and stars. She’s the whole damn solar system.” — Meg C.