Having an only child is an invitation to unwanted input, finds mother-of-one LIA HYNES, who says there’s more to the family picture than meets the judgmental eye.


Mother-of-one Lia Hynes on why there’s more to family life than bearing a sibling

“The problem with that child is she’s cold,” the woman snaps, grabbing my four-month-old daughter’s bare foot, and setting off another paroxysm of screaming. “You’re not relaxed, and it’s stressing her out,” chips in another.

We are on an airplane, my screaming four-month-old and I, stuck behind the drinks trolley, pacing up and down between the same four rows, inescapabl­y the object of advice from our fellow passengers on what is unsettling the child. Hell, in other words.

The first mistake we make upon becoming parents is to imagine that we are embarking on a private enterprise, of interest only to the two parents involved, and their immediate family. In fact, like it or not, parenting is a public sport.

Unwittingl­y, upon becoming parents, we sign ourselves up to be the target of endless unwanted, unasked for comments from family, friends, and total strangers on how we parent. A sort of societal running commentary.

Devices in restaurant­s or not.

Cry it out or co-sleep.

Boob or bottle.

Gina Ford schedule or child-led parenting.

Sent to school at four or five.

No decision about how to rear your children is made without at least a modicum of judgment from the outside world.

Whatever kind of family unit you find yourself in, you are going to run into this kind of thing. Nuclear, divorced, co-parenting, single. Big family, small. I am the mother of an only child. As such, society’s hot take is that said child risks being everything from lonely, to spoilt, to unable to socialise. “Ah, you couldn’t do that to her,” someone once admonished me, when I revealed she had no siblings, and that none were planned.

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