Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Anis Javed, a retired Central School teacher, recalls that when her only child, a daughter, was young, she used to yearn for a sibling. “When I told her that the children of my sister-in-law were her brothers and sisters, she said that she wanted someone who would live with her at home,” she said.
Anis is among a large and growing number of urban working couples in the city who are increasingly opting for a single child. With joint families disappearing, working couples face problems in bringing up children. This and some other factors, including financial issues, are fuelling this trend.
As Anis explains, “I had to leave for my school at 7 am. My husband was also a government employee. Dependable domestic help was difficult to find. So we decided not to have a second child.”
Today, however, she feels that her daughter did face loneliness in her childhood. “For how long can a child talk to her parents? As soon as she returned from school, she dumped her bag and ran to our neighbour’s place to play with their children,” she added.
Head of the Sociology and Women’s Studies Department at Barkatullah University, Ritu Ghosh says that one result of single child becoming the norm will be that relationships like mama, bua, chacha etc will disappear. “Having siblings develops qualities like adjustment, sharing, sacrificing and so on in children,” she said.
“My experience is that single children are relatively difficult to handle. Because of loneliness, they begin identifying themselves with characters of mobile games,” said Vasundhara Sharma, counsellor at St Joseph’s Co-ed School in Arera Colony.
However, Anshu Shrivastava, the mother of a single child does not agree. “My 12-year-old daughter is perfectly normal. In her free time, she dances and draws. And I have observed that she has no problems sharing things when she is with her cousins or friends.
Rohini Rawat, a teacher and her businessman husband’s only child, 19, is studying in a college. “We used to frequently visit her mama’s place at Nagpur so that she could have the company of children of her age,” she says.
According to psychologist Vinay Mishra, a single child is usually the focal point of his family, has no opportunity to learn from his siblings and lacks quality of sharing.
However, all agree that this trend is here to stay and we can only try and counter its ill effects. “Let us expand the definition of family,” said Ghosh. “Parents should ensure that their children get an opportunity to interact with others of their age group,” Mishra added.