Mothers with One Child Are "Real" Moms Too: My Response to Elizabeth Banks

5 years ago
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Are you a real mom if you only have one child?

Here is what Elizabeth Banks told People magazine last week: "Two is very different from one. When you have one kid, you feel like you can jet set around and you can throw him on the hip and you get your life done," she said. "You don’t realize how easy one is until you have two. Now I’m really a mom. Oh, I am a mom now! This is for serious — I am responsible for two people now."

It's tempting to allow Elizabeth Banks the benefit of the doubt and dismiss her comments as another celebrity mom making unfiltered comments or trying to be funny. But for me, this comment actually hits a nerve. And, yes, while it's true that the experience of parenting more than one small child -- and all the logistical details, coordination, emotional strain, and physical exhaustion that another baby entails -- is much different, that's obviously a far cry from describing the mother of an only child as not "really" a mom.

It's tough to make the decision to add another member to your family. Sometimes, fertility issues or economic circumstances make the choice for you. But from those of us who have a singleton, are watching our biological clocks, still overwhelmed by the demands of (relatively) new parenthood, and wanting the best decision for our families about whether to add another member, I want to say to Elizabeth Banks: you are not helping. And you are simply wrong.

Mothers of only children are definitely still moms. And here are a few reasons why no one should dismiss the experiences of moms with one kid:

1. Parents of only children spend more time, energy, and resources on their only child, and the result is higher-achieving, more educated kids. Parents of only children have higher academic expectations, and singletons do better on achievement tests and attain higher levels of education.

2. Mothers of only children may have stronger marriages. These moms report the highest levels of satisfaction and happiness, higher than women with no children and those with more than one child. Parents have more time to devote to their own separate interests and to activities together as a couple. According to sociologist Hans-Peter Kohler, who has studied family size and happiness, parents with one child may be more satisfied with their lives because they have experienced the joys and richness of parenting without the additional, more all-consuming efforts that more than one small child requires. When parents have one child, their levels of overall happiness increase, but with an additional child, the mother's happiness actually decreases.

3. Single child families are becoming a new norm. While only three percent of Americans according to a Gallup poll state that a family with only one child is the most ideal, this form of family in reality is the fastest growing family unit in the country.

It's hard enough to contemplate having a family with one child when cultural stereotypes abound about only children as lonely, selfish, spoiled, and poorly adjusted -- all of which have been determined to be untrue. Maybe these moms are "real" moms too because they make the choice to devote more of their undivided resources to themselves, their marriage, and their child.