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One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One [Kindle Edition]

Lauren Sandler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

A funny, tough-minded case for being and having an only child, debunking the myths about only children and taking glory in the pleasures of singletons: “A swift and absorbing read…may change your mind and the national conversation” (Psychology Today).

Journalist Lauren Sandler is an only child and the mother of one. After investigating what only children are really like and whether stopping at one child is an answer to reconciling motherhood and modernity, she learned a lot about herself—and a lot about our culture’s assumptions. In this heartfelt work, Sandler legitimizes a discussion about the larger societal costs of having more than one, which Jessica Grose in her review in The New Republic calls, “the vital part of the conversation that’s not being discussed in the chatter” surrounding parenting.

Between the recession, the stresses of modern life, and the ecological dangers ahead, there are increasing pressures on parents to think seriously about singletons. Sandler considers the unique ways that singletons thrive, and why so many of their families are happier. One and Only examines these ideas, including what the rise of the single-child family means for our economies, our environment, and our freedom, leaving the reader “informed and sympathetic,” writes Nora Krug in the Washington Post.

Through this journey, “Sandler delves deeply, thoughtfully, and often humorously into history, culture, politics, religion, race, economics, and of course, scientific research” writes Lori Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review. “I couldn’t put it down,” says Randi Hutter Epstein in the Huffington Post. Sandler “isn’t proselytizing, she’s just stating it like it is. Seductively honest.” At the end, Sandler has quite possibly cracked the code of happiness, demonstrating that having just one may be the way to resolve our countless struggles with adulthood in the modern age.

Product Description


"Onlies, parents of onlies, and readers still on the fence will find the book illuminating and affirming."--Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Lauren Sandler has written on cultural politics, religion, and inequality for Time, The Atlantic, Slate, and The New York Times.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2051 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1451626967
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (11 Jun. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A276J24
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,145 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book 14 Nov. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love this book. As a parent of an 'only' other people have a lot to say on was great to read a book that puts 'onlies' in a positive light and dispels all the negative myths that everyone else has. An engaging read, giving all sides of the story. Parents who feel bullied into having more kids, but perhaps are in two minds should read this!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
125 of 127 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read about only children 11 Jun. 2013
By Becky Sue - Published on
The following quote sums up this book nicely for me:

"Children are a desire, not a calculation. Which is why I believe that if you truly desire more than one child, you'll make it work. People always have. And if you don't, well, there's a big stack of numbers on your side. If we're going to be rational about it, surely the economic verdict suggests we should stop at one."

As another reviewer stated (and also in my own experience), this topic can be controversial, and Sandler doesn't pretend to be objective. Rather she takes a side on the issue, arguing that one child is better for her, better for her child, and better for the environment. Personally, for now, I agree with her. I don't believe that Sandler is trying to dictate that everyone should have one child (based on the quote above), rather I believe she is making a very direct argument to refute the stereotype of only children as lonely, selfish, and maladjusted.

I also would have preferred Sandler to write the book more along the lines of "only children are just as good as those with siblings", but I can understand why she didn't. It feels like the stereotype of only children is so entrenched that to prove only children are just as ok as those with siblings, you almost have to prove they are better. Similar to how women in traditional male-dominated careers have often had to be better than men to simply receive the same recognition and advancements.

I have had firsthand experience with the ingrained stereotype of only children, from strangers and friends alike. When a friendly stranger asked if I plan to have another child and I said no, she literally told me 3-4 times I would change my mind, I wouldn't want to do that to my child. I also have had people I like and respect imply that to raise my only child not to be selfish; I would simply have to be a better parent than 90% of other parents of only children. While it was meant as a compliment to my parenting skills, it's heartbreaking to have someone I trust suggest that (1) I have put my child at a disadvantage right off the bat and (2) I will have to work harder than everyone else to fix that disadvantage.

And that exact heartbreaking feeling is why I can also understand other reviewers' vehement criticisms of Sandler's work, because she directly argues only children are better. None of us like to think that we aren't giving our children the best in every way. As parents of only children, we cringe when others imply we are supposedly "selfishly" withholding the absolute best thing we can do for our child by not providing them a sibling. I can only assume that parents of multiple children cringe when Sandler points out that quantifiable, documented, research has shown time and time again that only children benefit from their parents undivided time and financial resources by scoring higher (albeit only slightly significantly) in areas of achievement, motivation, and personal adjustment. Thus it is likely that this book will continue to either receive high praise or deep scorn from most reviewers.

My own personal take-away from this book, is that overall being an only child (or a parent of one) is no better or worse than being in a family with siblings. Each has their own set of challenges, and their own benefits. It is really none of my business to judge anyone else's family size, and I know I have changed my reaction to larger families as my sensitivity has grown. I found this book deeply reassuring as a parent of an only child, and I can only hope my review will raise awareness among those in larger families that only children are just as great as everyone else.

*ARC provided by the author for an honest review.
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have kids if you want them, not because they need each other 19 Jun. 2013
By David Z. Moss - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book could not have come at a better time for me. I'm a 43-year old Brooklyn yuppie with one 2.5 year old son and it is getting to be time to fish or cut bait on having a second kid. In discussions with my wife on this question I've articulated a notion that the decision should be based on whether it will make our lives better, not whether it will make our son's life better. I figure that while his life will certainly be different if he has a sibling, it will not necessarily be better or worse and thus the decision should be made from our perspective, not his.

Sandler basically proves this correct. By taking us through the data, Sandler reveals that singletons lead perfectly good lives (on average) and any notions to the contrary are stereotypes. Indeed, if anything the data would indicate that they may even be better off than kids with siblings.

So this does not solve my problem; Sandler cannot (and does not try) to tell me what is right for my life. I still need to decide whether having more kids would improve my life, and I admit to also thinking about the possible person who might not be if we decide to stop at one. But after reading this book I am totally confident that my existing son will be just fine either way and that I don't have to feel guilty if we don't provide him with a brother or sister.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written (intellectualized) argument for the only child 26 Jan. 2014
By afridelic - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am mothering an only (not by choice) and coming from a much-loved and close-knit family of 6 myself I am on a journey to try and understand the realities that await my daughter as an 'only' and how I can best parent her. I thoroughly enjoyed the many resources and the research included in this work and found it intellectually stimulating in that way. It is not a parenting book, as such, although I did pick up a few anecdotal insights that may help me help my daughter along the way. IT MUST BE NOTED that the author has (at this point) CHOSEN to have only one child and so this does (quite heavily at certain points) colour her thinking and arguments AGAINST large families (although in the last pages she does conclude that basically 'to each his own'). As a born-again Christian myself, and one who would have loved to have two or three children had my body allowed, some of the pages from chapter 8 onwards can get a little hard to read and I did find myself debating Ms Sandler quite passionately in my mind! As dangerous and unfair as it is to see mothers with only one child as selfish, career-driven, egotists, it is equally unfair and dangerous to class all mothers with more than two or three children as unintelligent, unenlightened individuals who spend their days up their ears in diapers. We make our own choices and, as was also mentioned in the book, different things allow for greater happiness in different individuals. It would be a sad thing for those of us trying to find a guilt-free path through parenting our only children to break-down those who mother more. On the whole, an excellent read!
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One and Only 11 Jun. 2013
By Maureen Ross, MA - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I am in the process of reading the kindle edition of One and Only. I caught Lauren Sandler on the Today Show (pure luck) this morning. This book (research) is long overdue and oftentimes, overdone (past). I am the only child of a second marriage, with several half (over ten years and up older) siblings. I've always felt like the "only" child. I agree with Lauren. The only downside was losing my Mom who near 40 too soon. She joked, "Well, think of how old you would be now if I had had you sooner." True!

This is an excellent resource not only for only children, but those "only children" in blended families. This is educational and should be in included in education, especially psychology and social work, and family parenting classes.

Thank you Lauren -- and let's hope this silly notion that "only children" are scarred, spoiled, marred and don't have social skills is nixed once and for all. I suffered those cliff hanger descriptions and so did my Mom. I agree with Lauren, "Listen to you heart". I might add, "connect your heart to your brain stem and do what is best for you, your partner and child, not what others think you should do. Maureen Ross, MA, Author, Awareness Centered Training - ACT.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that does much more than dispel myths about onlies 18 Jun. 2013
By Lily_Bart - Published on
This book is delightful and very well-reported. Sandler makes the case for dispensing with negative and damaging beliefs about only children. At the same time, she acknowledges a deeper truth: No one can predict what kind of family configuration will be best for any particular child. As such, the decision circles back to what's best for the parents, and in that vein, Sandler passionately defends a family size that balances care for a child with actualization of the self. Along the way, she sheds new light on some of our most complicated societal issues such as cultural differences between religious and secular Americans, reproductive rights, and population growth. Because she manages to argue persuasively for more support for families of all sizes, Sandler has not only stood up for onlies (and parents of onlies), she's also done a big favor to those who do want more than one kid but who don't feel they can afford it or swing it given what's expected of parents today. What a generous take on the topic.
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