I've recently been looking for resources on raising only children. David and I still hope to have a large family, but Lucia is currently and could always be an only child. She'll be around four by the time the next child comes along, at the earliest. Being a part of Catholic circles, both in real life and the blogging world, I'm constantly hearing about all the benefits of siblings. I agree that one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is siblings, but not all parents can give that gift.
Most of the Catholic families I know have I second child long before the first is four and I've been having a hard time finding advice for raising my little one. Many of the things I have questions about (like how do I get Lucia to play independently and not cling to me 24 hours a day, or how to work on sharing) receive the answer "siblings". Which at best is not helpful and at worst breaks my heart. It's not their fault, I know. That was the answer that worked for them. But for me, it's not a possibility in the near future.
I really wish there were some resources to give me some pointers for socializing and teaching compassion and cooperation without siblings. For example, I've been reading quite a bit recently about the drawbacks of overprotecting children. Like this one saying mollycoddled kids 'grow up as narcissists' and that free play teaches them empathy. Have you noticed that first time moms tend to overprotect and become more relaxed with each subsequent child? Even if experience doesn't teach her to loosen up over time, necessity does. With more children, there is less of mom to go around; children must become more independent, and they have opportunities for free play to learn patience and empathy and cooperation 24 hours a day. I'm not saying that moms of many don't have to work on teaching those things (believe me, I know siblings fight!) but that the opportunity for continual practice has obvious benefits.
I know raising only children to be independent and empathetic can be done, but it requires much more intentional parenting to create opportunities for these lessons. I have to seek out those practicing opportunities with Lucia and then need to make the most of them. And because I have the time and ability to do everything for Lucia, I need to force myself to stand back while she learns on her own.
So I've been looking for advice from parents who have been there. But everything I find about parenting a single child seems to have such a smug attitude or worldly outlook. "Good for you parenting an only child! How responsible you are! You're saving the environment! Ending overpopulation! Kids are expensive and you only have to pay for one! With only one child you can have family without having to sacrifice career!"
I just don't agree with that mentality. At all. I don't want to be told that having only one child is somehow morally superior. After all, this is not a choice I've made. I'd prefer a van load of raucous children, the anathema of the champions of "one and done". As Annie said, it's difficult to have "society patting you on the back [while] you're mourning." Indeed.