The Power of One (Child)

by Jake Giessman

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By choice, Xavier will be our only child. It’s not that we wouldn’t have loved and adored child number two, three, and so on. Every child is a treasure, and my wife Annabel and I do not begrudge others their larger families. 

There are a few big reasons, though, that we are glad we didn’t succumb to the subtle (and not so subtle) pressures put on parents to have multiples. Maybe some of these reasons will resonate with you, too:


Having one child means dinnertime never rolls around with one stranded at soccer practice, one boycotting homework, and one needing a diaper change. Nobody breaks somebody else’s toy and nobody calls anyone else a mean name. As a trio, we fit in a small house, a small car, and at almost any restaurant table. If one of us goes for a bike ride with Xavier, the other has the morning free and alone to just be. Xavier fits nicely between us on a park bench and in Xavier-sandwich hugs.


Our family lives debt-free in large part because of that small house and small car. We’ll only pay for braces and college once, and we only buy three tickets to see Grandmaman and Boom Boom in Maine. Money is not the measure of important things, but there is something to be said for sane finances. 

Try the USDA’s free calculator to see how much it might cost you to raise a child. Depending upon a few variables, this ranges from around $200,000 to $500,000 before college. Add college, multiply everything by a few kids, and you’re looking at one reason we are Overworked and Overspent Americans.


As the Worldwatch Institute’s Robert Engelman points out, human impact on the planet is the product of consumption patterns and population size. Like all earth-conscious do-gooders, Annabel and I are often plagued by guilt about our footprint. It helps to know that we are moderating our impact through both lifestyle and family size.


Some people think a single-child family makes an impoverished experience for both child and parents. Xavier does not live a life of solitude, though. He has friends and cousins that he plays with regularly. We feel that having one child allows us to build stronger relationships within our family and leaves more room for each person to be themselves. Annabel was able to stay at home for the first four-and-a-half years, then pursue her dream of becoming a physician. In this day and age, that’s having your cake and eating it, too.

Those are the big reasons we made our choice and stuck to it. None of this is to say that having a larger family is irresponsible or a bad idea, just that the one-child family is a wonderful option that more people should consider.

For an extended look at trends and research surrounding this topic, check out Time magazine’s 2010 article, “The Only Child: Debunking the Myths,” and Bill McKibben’s 1998 book, Maybe One.

Jake Giessman is a teacher in Columbia, Missouri, and a guest blogger for New Dream.