A regular commenter here at La Vie Childfree recently wrote me about the top five bingos she has received as a “Done at One.” They are more related to what’s behind a lot of bingos the childfree get than you might think. Check it out.
Top 5 Bingos to the Done at One
1. You only had ONE child? Why didn’t you want more?
Doesn’t this sound like the one the childfree get, “Why don’t you want kids?” The message to the ‘done at one’: There must be something wrong with you such that you don’t want more than one. The message to the childfree: There must be something wrong with you that you don’t want any.
2. I guess you weren’t strong enough to handle more than one child.
This one makes me think of the one the childfree get, or at least the stereotype people often hold: Our lack of desire to raise children somehow reflects a lack of psychological and emotional health. The message underneath the bingo seems the same for the ‘done at one’ on this one.
3. Did you ever think your child might be lonely without a sibling?
4. You don’t want your child ending up spoiled, do you? Your son needs a sibling!
5. Maybe if you were less selfish, you would do what’s best for (child’s name) and not what is easiest for you.
Now, 3-5 to me reek of the “selfish” bingo the childfree get. Like having no children, somehow choosing to have only one child is somehow a selfish act. Those doing the bingo-ing need to bone up on the research. Onlies don’t need siblings to have excellent childhoods, and just because they are the only child does not mean they will automatically be spoiled. And maybe it is not about what is “easiest,” (and actually so what if it is!) but about what the parents decide is best for them and their family.
So the childfree may have more in common with parents than we think–parents of one child, that is. These bingos seem to imply that what is “normal” is not having A child, but more than one. Would she get these bingos if she had two children? I think not.
Interesting how people don’t ask, Why Did you have kids? Why did you have the second one? Why did you have the third?? Or Why do you keep having more kids? These are all taboo, even in a world in which it’s questionable whether we will be able to sustain our growing population.
Post update: Since then, writing The Baby Matrix I sure learned a lot about how these bingos reflect sure pronatalist beliefs in action….
Laura, thank you so much for this new thread. I have long felt that this was the one thing that CF and DAO folks share; our being the targets of thoughtless and even obnoxious remarks from people who imagine they have the “right” to tell us how to live.
Regarding your question about whether I would have heard these silly yet insulting bingo remarks if I had two children, my feeling is, definitely not. Obviously, “society” (whatever THAT is) in its infinite “wisdom” has decided that the “normal family” consists of two parents and two children, and the DAO choice is, in their narrow-minded view, not normal. Therefore, it is unacceptable and must be criticized constantly, so others who value what society-at-large thinks of them won’t be tempted to make the same “mistake.” The same applies to childfree Families of Two, in their very narrow minds at least. The way they see it, a couple without children is “not a family,” which all CFers know is utter nonsense.
Do I and other DAO parents wish these clueless individuals would keep their judgments to themselves? I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally I mind it a lot less than I used to. Thanks to the guidance of the excellent CF folks like yourself and others I have known in my years online, I now have more of a “bring it on” attitude than I did a decade or so ago. Thanks again for inviting me to share. 🙂
I can think of another set of similar questions:
“How long before you have another one?” is comparable to “When are you going to have a child?”
I imagine people with more than one child tend to assume that this is the only kind of life to lead, so they look at people with “only one” child as not quite “there” yet. I imagine people with more than one can be just as clueless to the DAO’s as to childfree people.
Now I wonder if people with two children of the same gender get bingo’d as well as the DAO in the “are you/when are you going to try for a boy/girl? After all, not only must you have TWO children but they must be of different genders…
I bet you are right! Got to have have different genders no matter how many times you try, right? Oy!
Thanks, Scott, I had forgotten about the “How long before you have another one?” bingo. I got that occasionally too. I learned from CFers that comebacks like “we haven’t decided that yet” and “we hadn’t really thought about it, why do you ask?” are polite ways to remind the rude and nosy ones that such matters were none of their business.
I also noted that the ones who asked were ALWAYS couples who had two or more children. Coincidence? I don’t think so. 🙂
What makes me sad is that I know some parents would probably prefer to have just the one, but all those “annoying questions” have them paranoid about the supposed “consequences.” My sister is one of them. She just had a baby, and really doesn’t want to give birth again but her husband would never adopt. I asked her why she doesn’t just stop at one, and she said, “because only children are spoiled and socially awkward. He needs someone to play with like we did!” To think, she wants to have another kid not because she really wants to parent again, but because she doesn’t want her other kid to be alone or spoiled. That craziness! I tried to explain to her that we didn’t just play with each other, we collectively played with the neighborhood kids. And, I asked her to give me an example of an only child she knew who was socially awkward or spoiled and she couldn’t because, honestly, neither she nor I could think of anyone we knew who were only children (which is strange, I know). I also tried to explain to her that she could teach an only child to be loving and selfless with ease (for instance, having him help her pick out toys to donate at Christmas or volunteer with her at the animal shelter), but this is stuff most parents just don’t bother to do.
Still, she insists he needs a sibling. Perhaps it hits me kind of hard because I was the “baby” of the family, the last of 4, and some people are also under the impression that the baby of the family is “spoiled.” I don’t think anyone in my family (or the world for that matter) would ever say I was “spoiled” in any sense of the word. It all just makes no sense to me.
Kate, Tell her the idea that onlies will be socially awkward and spoiled is based on old, bogus research–she can learn more here http://laviechildfree.com/2010/04/ginks-to-maybe-one/ In fact, there is a lot of research that indicates there may be more benefits to being an only child. The common beliefs can be considered a myth!
Kate, I used to get those silly arguments from people trying to pressure me into having another child too. They were extremely annoying, and I got the distinct impression that they just didn’t like the fact that I had “too much freedom” by having just ONE child. They all had two or more kids, by the way, and seemed to be a lot LESS happy with their life than they wanted me to believe. I felt they all wanted me to join their “misery loves company” club, and I had NO intention of becoming a member!
In any case, I strongly resisted the pressure, didn’t cave in, and I still love being a DAO mom. I have no regrets, and the benefits of being DAO are many, for me anyway. It’s only my feeling, of course, but if your sister has another child only because she was pressured into it, she may end up deeply regretting that decision.
I think people who criticize others’ choices are often less than secure in their own. I think of the former country singer Anita Bryant, who in the 1970s launched a crusade to ban gay teachers from California schools (‘Save the Children’ was her motto). It later turned out that despite her ‘family values’ persona, her marriage was miserable and ultimately ended. So I sometimes wonder whether those who criticize parents of only children are having a difficult time with their own families and want people to be as miserable as they are.
I posit that what’s going on is the expression of what I would call the Rule of Reproductive Narcissism:
“Anyone who has fewer children than I do should have more children.”
It’s applied to both CFs and DAOs.