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One's a lonely number when it comes to kids

If you don't know the American band Three Dog Night (they sold 50m records between 1969 and 1975) you may recognise the title of one of their biggest hits, One Is The Loneliest Number. This may be a love song about breaking up, but I often think of it in relation to only children.

Mine may not be a popular opinion, but I think having an only child is extremely selfish. Before anyone gets offended I'm not talking about those of you who have tried in vain to conceive. We all know couples who have endured painful and, ultimately, fruitless rounds of IVF in the quest for baby number two. Their first-born is a much-treasured gift and most would love nothing more than a companion for their little one.


No, I'm talking about the couples who have decided to have just one child because it was a nice, manageable number. Some did so after getting married, as if society expected it of them (we're an awful nation for asking newlyweds "So, when are you starting a family?") and then decided afterwards that that box was ticked and one was really quite enough.

And perhaps they felt it was. Except, I'm sure if people thought things through they'd see that having a brother or sister is the most amazing gift in the world. Siblings enrich each other's lives in so many ways, and, unlike friends who come and go, are a constant in your journey through life.

I grew up with two brothers, and my husband grew up with four siblings. Between us, our brothers and sisters are still a very important part in our lives. They're wonderful confidants, companions and allies in ways no friend can ever really be. Latterly, they've become devoted aunties and uncles and that love is something that can't be underestimated.

Admittedly, many siblings go through stages of irritating the hell out each other (during teen years, especially), but most come out the other side and start adult life as buddies, having each other's backs. Just try explaining that bond to someone who's never had either a sister or brother.


Childhood aside, only children will have so much to deal with on their own in life. They've no sibling to lean on for those life-changing events, such as if their parents' marriage falls apart, or when a parent is sick. With siblings you can tag team hospital visits or bedside vigils. And, when the inevitable happens and a parent dies, they've no one who really understands their loss.

Of course, close friends and a partner will be an immense support and comfort, but only those who called her mum can really have known who she was. A partner may have adored her, but they can't reminisce about childhood, or family holidays or her parenting idiosyncrasies.

And what happens when an only child's mum or dad is left widowed? There they are trying bravely to offer support and love to their parent without a brother or sister to share their pain.

My opinion may be harsh, but I doubt I'll ever be convinced that one is fun. Three Dog Night, I concur, one is the loneliest number.