Minimalist Family: Is One Child Enough?

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you know that I recently gave birth to my first child—a beautiful baby girl I call Plumblossom.

My husband and I waited a long time before deciding to settle down and procreate—so long, in fact, that my medical chart bore the lovely, geriatric-sounding “Advanced Maternal Age” label.

Which brings me to the subject of this week’s post… With my biological clock ticking (fast), DH and I need to make a decision soon as to whether we’re “one and done” or ready to try for another. It’s a tough call to make in the midst of first-time parenting sleep deprivation; however, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until Plumblossom is out of diapers to ponder a possible sibling.

Whenever I’ve imagined myself as a mother, it’s generally been to one child. In part, it’s because I’d like to resume our unstructured, nomadic lifestyle once our daughter is a little older; and it seems that planning around the needs, whims, and moods of one child would be much easier than two. We’d be able to devote our full attention and resources to her, and someday bestow on her a travel fund instead of struggling to put multiple children through college.

And yes, it seems more minimalist—with one child, we could get by with less stuff, smaller spaces, and fewer time commitments (be they doctor’s appointments, school activities, etc.).

On the other hand, I’ve seen the wonderful sibling interaction among my friends’ kids, and worry that Plumblossom may spend too many lonely hours wishing for a little brother or sister.

Both my husband and I have siblings, and therefore no experience with what it’s like to be an only child. So this week, instead of posting any words of wisdom or advice, I’m asking you for yours.

I know some of you will advise me to leave it to fate—a charming idea, to be sure, but one I’m not entirely comfortable with when it comes to major, life-altering decisions.

What I’d really like to hear are your experiences: did you decide to have just one child (or more) and why? What are the pros and cons to having (or being) an only child? Do you find minimalism becomes more challenging with each addition, or do shared possessions make for a greater “economy of stuff”?

Thanks in advance to all who respond–I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Related posts:

  1. Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed
  2. Decluttering Update: Hello eBay, My Old Friend
  3. Clean Slate Part 2: Bundle of Joy

389 comments to Minimalist Family: Is One Child Enough?

  • Jessica

    We have 2 sweeties. A 4 1/2 y.o. girl and 1 y.o. boy. They absolutely adore each other. I see how happy they are all day, every day, playing with each other and how much they adore each other, and I am so happy that they have this special relationship and will always have each other. (PS Our daughter was super happy before our son was born, and I’d say she is as happy or happier now that she’s got a little brother.) My husband and I LOVE having both of them, it is perfect for us!
    Good luck with your decision! :)

  • Bluebellbutterfly

    Firstly let me congratulate you on one of the best journeys you could chose to take by having a family, I know it’s not for everyone, I am not. Minimalist yet but know I need to change, I am selfcentered, shopaholic, materialistic and sadly I put some of this down to being an only child. I am striving to change this year and have so far managed 18 days of not spending on unnecessary stuff, 10 days of throwing out at least 1 item a day (as you inspired me to do) i have a long long way to go but i feel I have finally found some motivation to declutter my life. So a big thank you to you and your miss minimalist book.

    I hated being an only child and vowed never to have only one child, however I have a 3 year old son and due to having had facility treatment to have him I fear I may not have any more. ( not given up hope yet). I am trying to understand how I will feel if he is an only child. I still have every thing we brought for him as a baby (the planing for minimal never happened with the gifts and a year if time to shop!) I personally would not like to have 1 child only, I don’t want him to be as materialistic as I am, but it’s up to me to change that weather I have 1 or 2 children……. but that’s me.

    You need to do what is right for you, I haven’t stopped having adventures with my Hubby and son, I don’t intend to if I have 2 but then I see friends with 2 some become absorbed and some don’t. Like your lifestyle it’s what you make of it.

    My husband and his sibling a brother are chalk and cheese, so different in personality, looks, tastes, attitudes, they are not at all close. My mother and her sibling a brother are 5 years apart in age and very close.

    It’s what you do, influence, teach, experience as a family which moods and shapes you as we’ll as being an individual. I don’t think your lifestyle choices should affect your decision of how many children you have.

    Good lunch with your decision (if you haven’t already made it).

  • Evelyn DeJesus

    I grew up with 4 older siblings and all we did was fight – all the time. I remember feeling very LONELY even though I had siblings. I shared a room with my mother until I moved out at 18.. I decided to have just one child due to finances but later on my situation changed and I regretted having asked my husband to get fixed. My daughter has always wished for a sibling and I have felt guilt over it. What makes it even worse is that we now live away from family, so she has no cousins, aunts, grandparents, etc. She will never have nieces or nephews and enjoy being an aunt like I did. I feel bad sometimes and sometimes I’m thankful that I stopped at one. I think if you can financially afford to have more, you should have one more, you will not regret it.

    • Esther

      Not necessarily — my cousins are all one of 2-4 kids as well. My dad says that he sometimes he wished he had stopped at just one. Now he has to put the second one through school. Also it’s not the same because he can’t focus on work and travel as easily. I guess it depends on what your priorities are.

  • Lindsey

    I grew up an only child, and I remember spending many days crying and pining for a sibling. I was so jealous of my cousins, because they had siblings. If I had had a sibling growing up, I of course would have fought with them constantly and wished I could be an only child. My mom remarried during my teen years and gave me my first sibling when I was 16, and then two more when I was 19 and I am so happy to have them. I think that growing up, your child will likely want the opposite of what you decide to do. But siblings can provide a lot of support as one grows older, and I am so glad that my siblings will be there with me as we go through life. Even though my husband and my own little family will be my main rock, having siblings provides a lot of comfort because we’re so close and will do nearly anything to help each other! I look back on my childhood very fondly, even though I did spend quite a bit of time playing alone, but would have been unhappy if I had never had siblings. Congrats on your safe delivery of a healthy baby, and good luck with your decision!

  • Molly

    My kids aren’t objects and they have nothing to do with our minimalism.

    We had initially planned on being one and done, I even read books about raising singletons. The pros and cons led us to believe that one was right for us. Then we wound up having two children, and now we’re planning on adopting two more. Looking back, I’m so glad we didn’t stop at one. Our family would have been incomplete.

    But, that’s just us. You need to do what’s right for you. I don’t think your minimalism needs to be tied into it. A family of seven can have less clutter and produce less waste than a family of three – it all depends on each family’s lifestyle.

  • Lindsay

    First off, I LOVE your site!!

    Our family is “big” (five children and counting!) but that doesn’t mean our life isn’t minimalist. We are about to move to Thailand with just our suitcases of necessities. We have lived the last five years very happily in a small two bedroom home and on one income. My husband is a teacher in a very small private school with a very small budget. We are desperately poor in the eyes of our society (my children could not believe that when I told them during a discussion during the last election! ;)) but we are happier and more comfortable than most anyone I know…and no, we most certainly do not live on government aid. We just decided what was important to us and stuck to it– relationships, God, travel. Our children are ECSTATIC when they find out they get a new brother or sister. But my husband and I wanted a big family from the beginning of our marriage. I think they are happy and excited because we are, and that is their life…each other, not stuff or exotic experiences. I just wanted to throw in a bit about our life when I say that a sibling is the best gift we could ever give our children…I know they will be there to support each other even as friends come and go, or when my husband and I are no longer living. I wish you the best in this very key decision of life! :)

  • Surina

    I am so glad that I found this site. I was starting to think that I was the only one that thought the way I do.
    I planned on one and done during my whole pregnancy. I had the papers signed to “tie” and everything. My hubby tried the whole time to convince me to have at least two but to no avail until after…well, long story short, I “tied” after my second. They are four and a half years apart (I couldn’t get pregnant sooner) and they are so close. I, myself, would have been fine with just my son but my daughter completed our little family. My son has a “forever friend” and each parent has a little hand to hold. Also, if my hubby were to die, I could afford to care emotionally and financially for my 2 kids. I think anymore would have been selfish on my part.

  • Giang

    I have two children. always want to have more. however, after thinking seriously about this, i decide not to have more kids. two are enough. what i need to do now is to help them grow up healthily with good education that can help them survive this tough life. life is tough. i am not sure whether the kids will blame me for bringing them into this life.

  • Rena

    I have space in my heart for many childern, I could see myself having four or five.
    But after having one, I have decided to limit myself to two. I believe I have the energy and resources to really nurture two and I’m going to stick to that. If I felt I could nurture more, I would!

  • Lena

    I think there is no way to do it right – except what feels right for yourself. I was a very happy and not at all spoiled only child. I didn’t wish for siblings, I had good friends and a close relationship with my parents (still do).

    Now I have two kids myself, and I’m lucky that they really love each other. But I don’t think that’s a given. So the decision to have another child wasn’t motivated (and I don’t think it should be) by what the other child might or might not want. The siblings might be best friends – and they just as well might be worst enemies.

    I know I would’ve been just as happy as I am now with only one child. With one child you “travel lighter” so to speak.

  • JJ

    We have one child and are very happy with this. I was also “advanced maternal aged” when he was born because we got married later in life, so this is a part of why we only have one. In my dreams, I imagined 2 kids. But, as we have lived for 9 years with only one child, I have come to appreciate the simplicity it has given our family. It is easier to travel, certainly more affordable, and we are fortunate to have family nearby which gives our son a cousin his own age to grow up with. Our little family of three is very, very close. We are a tight little unit that loves each other deeply, has a strong sense of family and belonging, and it truly perfect for us! Oh, plus our doggie makes it “4″!

  • Annika

    Hi, I grow up alone. Didn’t miss diblings, how could I not knowing how that was? Opposite, there where many friends close to us. I could relax at home, not needed to argue and could have my things for me.
    Now I have two girls. And to see them together is a pleasure! They share friends, toys etc. Now it is smooth when they play together, but harder when they were small. Also when we ad parents geting older, it is good for them to be two. Sometimes I travel with one girl, and it is wonderful to be able to do that. And we travel as a family also.
    I’m very happy to have 2 children and of course they are not always friends, most of the time they are. And they have each other when we travel. They have too much things, even if I try to get ride if things all the time… When they don’t fine a thing they ask if I have sold the item…

    • Esther

      It’s possible, I remember reading a blog about one women who had 3 kids close in age just so she could travel everywhere. But with just 1 kid I imagine it’s a lot easier to be able to take them everywhere. You can just throw open the door and go. One of my high school teachers (5 kids) and hairdressers (8 kids) had come from families where both parents had siblings but they all only wanted 1 kid. (The teacher had 2 sets of cousins that had a son and daughter.)

      Their aunts, uncles and cousins traveled everywhere because they had only one kid. After you graduate them, that’s pretty much it. Plus, ages, inflation, and expenses become more of a problem.

  • Rachel

    I am glad you brought this up. I have a 10 year-old son and always wondered about the same thing. My son’s best friend has 3 siblings and they are all like family. Sometimes in life we “adopt” friends who become family. My friend says she grew up in a large family and they all kind of went their separate ways as adults. It is a tough choice but as someone mentioned previously, children are not a collection. Hope this helps.

  • Brad

    I had a son from a “previous nightmare” (aka unwanted pregnancy with a woman I didn’t love) and through that turmoil was distanced from him. Years later, I married a wonderful woman who agreed with me fully on having one child. We’re both of an artistic bend and wanted to get back into our creative endeavors quickly as our daughter grew. But also we felt that we could devote our full attention and energy on her. Our daughter, who is nearly eight, tells us that she is glad she doesn’t have siblings, but I often wonder if we made a mistake in having just one. Yes, one child serves our efforts quicker, but we deal with the struggles of our daughter’s social life, or lack thereof, and we often wonder about her sociability. And I can’t get out of my head the idea that she won’t have siblings to share memories with or confide in later in life. I’ve told her about my son and they have even met, but the years and distance between them is such that they may never be close. I was snipped shortly after her birth, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d say go with two, to replace you and your husband. That way, they aren’t overly taking up resources, and they will have each other to count on as they grow.

  • Bookaholic

    Our son’s best friend is an only child and is a great kid, but our daughter’s class is full of only-child girls for some reason, and every one of them is, to some degree, spoiled and self-centered and attention-seeking. I’ve been their Girl Scouts leader for years, so I’ve seen it up close over and over again. The kids with siblings are just much more easy-going, pleasant, and able to work with others, share, etc. This is a very limited sample size, and I have dear friends who are only children and, as I mentioned, our son’s best friend is one and is just terrific. And of course I know selfish, difficult kids who do have siblings. But I think that learning to deal with a sibling– and having the friendship that a sibling can bring– has been one of the greatest things we’ve given our kids. I don’t know what I’d do without my own sister and brother. There’s something to be said for both points of view, but that’s my two cents. :)

  • petra

    Hi, just wanted to say that you can´t make this kind of decision based on stereotipes like “only children are selfish” or “only children are brighter”… this has nothing to do with it. Children are not this or that because of how many Brothers and sisters they have… they become that which they aspire to. Give your child the gift of time, the gift of love and the gift of good values and they will grow up to be lovely people no matter how many siblings.. or not… they have. If I were in your shoes I´d much rather consider my own feelings and that of my husbands, because ultimately how you and he feel about the second child… about the added responsibility… about the changes it will bring… all your feelings will make much more difference in wether this experience will be joyous or regrettable… especially for your child or children… who will be on the receiving end of all your emotions. You have dedicated your life to live a simple, light, joyous life… think about it in this terms: would another child add to my feeling joyous? Would I feel more like myself… or would I be stepping away from myself? Be true to your own being and you will know what to do.

  • I agree with those above who underline that this question really does not have anything to do with minimalism. Really. Those are two different questions and choices. Live minimalistic with one or two or ten children – or without children.
    Personally I am so incredibly grateful for my little bundle of children – two boys and a girl, born within 4,5 years. (Now they are 7, 10 and 11) I feel that having a family of five + the cat! – is part of our way of concentrating on relationships, simple joys, togetherness, family-chaos and love. It contributes to our focus.
    And there is always something going on, there is so much life and joy. The joy and the lessons the children gets from having siblings is really a great, great plus in their lives.
    But this is a very personal matter – do YOU want more children, no one can advice you on this. And even if you want more children – it would be a gift if/when they come. I’d love to have more…
    Best wishes with your decision… (mother of three in Norway)

  • Michelle

    I know I’m late to the party here but I wanted to reply. I am an only child and my parents were older when they had me (in the 1970′s I believe mid thirties was definately older to be having your first, and only, child). I had a magical childhood. I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings but I never remember thinking I was missing out really. My parents did lots of things with me and planned lots of activities with my friends. We even took friends on vacations with us. Perhaps that’s even better since I picked the friend myself. I am in my mid-thirties right now and my husband and I are thinking whether we want any children at all. Neither has a really strong drive to have one. I figure if I get too old and my eggs spent we’ll just adopt, there’s plenty of children that need a good home.
    That being said I think one other one is not asking too much. I’m glad you are thinking about this as I feel there are too many people in the world and we must control our population. Some people get really offended when I say that but in my mind it’s just being pragmatic. I would never say 2 is too many, though. Good luck and I wish you joy with however many children you have.

  • Nell

    I am a minimilist mom of 4 and would welcome more. Not because its easy, but because they are blessings, whenyou choose to believe God gave them to you as precious treasures, not calculated risks.

  • Jennie

    I know this is an old post but I just discovered your site and this post struck a chord with me. I was an only child until I was seven and my parents adopted my brother, then three years later adopted again. I was lonely as an only child and, even though our ages were spread out, I was so thrilled to have brothers. I would have been a very different person had I stayed an only child and I’m so glad my parents adopted. I believe life is about living in relationships and siblings are a wonderful primer for adulthood! I have two children, a girl and a boy, and would have had more had I been able; even now we are discussing adoption. I love the dynamic of their relationship added to our whole family mix. And keeping things simple (sharing a room, sharing toys, eliminating twaddle) creates space for their relationship to grow. They will be best friends for life. I always vote for more :)

  • Elizabeth

    Hello,

    One good thing about having a sibling or more, is that they can be a huge comfort in caring for their parents when they grow older and in sharing the grief and memories when the parents pass on.

    Good luck.

  • Kelsey

    Hello!
    I just read a fabulous book called “One and Only” by Lauren Sandler. She is an only child with an only child and delves into stereotypes and research surrounding only children. I highly recommend it. Best of wishes to you!

  • Alex

    I grew up as an only child and I absolutely loved it. The relationship I have with my parents today (I’m 24) is incredible, which I credit in part to being an only child. I was able to form a deep and true relationship with both of them because I never had to ‘compete’ for their attention with a sibling. I was the focus of all their love and attention, and I knew every moment of every day that I was precious. I also knew that my parents would never have to choose between sending me or a sibling to college, to worry about their resources and ability to take care of us as a family.

    One of the most powerful things I got from being an only child was my sense of myself. I know so many people who always have to be around people, who can’t stand to be alone and can’t just be. Being the only kid in the house, I gained a passion for reading and the creativity to play pretend with anything (some of my most prized possessions were a family of beaded lizards I made that went on endless adventures with me and my mom). This has lasted me my whole life, enabling me to be happy both surrounded with people and with just myself.

    Most importantly, I don’t ever remember being lonely or unhappy or desirous of a brother or sister. I got to travel to amazing places with my parents, to spend quality time with them seeing beautiful sites and meeting amazing people. It’s a childhood I wouldn’t trade anything in the universe for.

    As everyone else here has said, you need to follow your heart and do what you feel is right. But I want to let you know that being an only child can be an absolutely amazing experience.

  • Diane

    I’m in my mid-50s and am child-free (by choice). I have one sister and we fought all through our childhood and today rarely see each other (we live on opposite sides of the country and are rarely in touch). I’ve chosen not to have children pretty much because the world’s such a crappy place and getting worse – why would I want to bring a child into such a mess? I pretty much have no maternal instinct (except when it comes to puppies and dogs) and I’m afraid I just don’t get the whole “my life’s not complete unless I have a baby” thinking. If you need a baby (or a man or a promotion or new car or bigger house) to make your life complete, you have a problem and those things won’t fix it. I’ve had people ask me who’s going to look after me when I get old if I have no kids. I can point to dozens of examples where the kids have no contact with the parents and won’t be there for them anyway – having kids doesn’t mean you will have family looking after you when you’re old.
    Someone here said having children has nothing to do with minimalism. I’d disagree – having children adds to the burden Mother Earth already groans under. By minimising the number of children born, reducing over consumption of resources and adopting a plant-based diet, we might just fix the environmental havoc we’ve wrought on the planet this last 70 years or so.
    Just my 2 cents.

  • Beth T

    One thing that you cannot have enough of is blessings. Children provide more blessings than one can imagine. These blessings do not take up any space. Yes, kids are a committment on many levels, and may prove challenging to your chosen minimalist lifestyle. But, oh, the joy. Personal growth and refinement also comes with child-rearing. You’ll never look at that second child and say, “Well, I wish we didn’t have you.” No, you’ll look at your children and see a future full of memories that will fill you heart! Good luck with your decision making process.

  • Michelle

    My hubby and I have four children, two girls and two boys ages 7 – 17. I have absolutely no regrets and feel incredibly blessed. You’ll never regret having more, but you may well regret not.

    Even though we have a big family by today’s standards (although we don’t feel like four kids is a lot!), we try to live minimally and with less on purpose. We live in a smaller home and with less “stuff” than most families we know with only two kids, and we love it.

  • Jane

    I would definitely consider myself a minimalist (my closets are bare; I file papers digitally; I only have one towel/sheet/plate/bowl/spoon…etc per person in my family). But, I do hoard children. I am a mother of eight. My vote: don’t worry, be happy with what may come your way.

  • Lei

    I’m a single mom of a beautiful 2 month young girl and as of right now my mind tells me to just have one but my heart tells me I want more if finances weren’t a concern. I’m a minimalist myself so my daughter and I don’t need much to survive. Being that I have to work to care for she and I, I’ve decided she is enough for now. I have a ton of love to share with the world and plan to take her traveling so she can grow and be exposed to different cultures and it is my hope she will meet people that will become like family to her. I come from a huge family and although it can be fun at times, it’s a struggle being around so many opinionated, judgmental, ego driven people. When it comes down to surrounding yourself with what you love and who you love, you have to follow your heart and instinct. Reading your article, you spoke more about why you “should” just have one and be done and the only part you mentioned about having another is because you “worry” that Plumblossom will want a sibling. If you want to please her that much, then have another child. Worrying only brings you what you don’t want. Minimalism is about living the life you want. I’m a single mom, just gave birth two months ago and I am not sleep deprived. I just know what I want. I’m 31, and I like to think that if later on in life I want to have more children and physically can’t, then I would love to adopt. There’s a place for everything on earth and there are tons of beautiful children that need homes. That’s not everyone’s preference, but I speak about it because you’re a world traveler, and I’m sure you love different cultures, and the people you meet along the way so perhaps it’s a perspective you can opt to have so you don’t have to focus your attention on worrying and the idea of what you may lack (i.e.: more children). There’s always other options and ultimately you always have a choice. It’s not about what others think. Listen to YOUR heart and do what’s right for you. Blessings.

  • Diane

    I’m very late to this discussion, but I have to join in~ I have to say first that you must go with your heart on what is right for you & your family~ BUT~

    That said, having a 2nd child was the best thing I ever did for my older son. My 2 boys are 5 years apart (due to a miscarriage between my pregnancies) but they were close as kids and they still are close in their 20s. Yes, they did fight & squabble at times, but if you asked them both will say they are glad to have each other.

    It was difficult at times when they were younger, especially since I was a single parent starting when they were 5 & 10. But I think it helped them to have one another to depend on.

    And as an adult, having dealt with my mother’s declining health and death almost 3 years ago, I can say that I am SO GLAD I had my siblings to help when things got bad. I am the oldest of 4, with sisters 4 & 6 years younger and a brother 18 years younger from Mom’s 2nd marriage.

    When we were young I was not that close to my sisters, as they were closer in age. But now, I am very close to the one just behind me, and also close to the other sister & brother. With our parents gone, we are all grateful to have each other.

    And me having siblings also gave my kids many cousins to grow up with. I hope that each of my sons will have 2 kids to raise together and that their kids will be close to one another growing up.

  • Darryl

    I’m intrigued that it looks like no men have replied to your question. Am I right ???(187 replies to date, and no men?? – wonder why??)

    I wanted no kids, my wife wanted a few, we compromised on two. All told, I think that was a reasonable compromise. We have two sons. My biggest blessing is that although they are as different as night and day, they’re teenagers and are very close to each other. I think they’ll be best friends for life.

    To me the bad side of kid is they add to clutter in life, period. No way to get around it. And they also detract from your focus. Over the years there have probably been many aspiring scientists, doctors, humanitarians, etc. who got sidetracked due to the day-to-day messy parts of raising kids, and ultimately to society’s detriment.

    I think the good side of having kids is they show you what true empathy in life is. And (although I originally didn’t want to have kids) there is satisfaction and enjoyment in life through having empathy toward others, such as your kids. So in that context at least, I believe having my 2 kids has added to my happiness in life.

  • Tina

    My husband and I are each one of 4. Post war baby boomers. My kids are 40, 37, and 33. They have caused worry and also great joy. Each one is very different. Some families with one child can be very wasteful of resources where some large families waste nothing. You will have to do what feels comfortable for you and your husband. They are only little for a short time.

  • I don’t think minimalism applies in this area. Minimalism deals with clutter (material and immaterial). Children are a blessing. Some people would give all they have just to have a child. Embrace your luck of being able to produce healthy children, and don’t rob your child of having siblings. Life is tough, and one day we will all be gone. We need to make sure our children have siblings to hold on to if they ever need a family.
    Siblings learn and teach each other. They introduce you to bigger circles of friends. They protect you. Their love is unconditional.

    I am a minimalist. I minimize so that I can enjoy life with my family.

    Keep up the great posts!

    • Sg

      I agree with the last comments — we minimize our stuff that takes up space and time so we can maximize our life and it’s blessings. Having more of fewer children is a choice you make based on your ability to love and care for your children, not on minimalists values.

  • Kim

    I think it depends on you/husband as parents, your relationship with your husband, your child, and your lifestyle. I’m gearing for an only child, but I’m going to wait until my son is old enough (4-5yrs old) to help us decide–life can and will probably be a lot different than it is today. In your case, however, I think you seem more inclined to have one… But, if ever you change your mind, you can always adopt! <3

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