The Pros + Cons of Being an Only Child (A Parent + Child Perspective)
Today, this blog post has been in drafts for a year (I kid you not) I don’t know what I was waiting for. I guess for the time to be right. I don’t know what makes this time feel right, it just does. I haven’t posted a Girl Talk post in a while – this one and this one are good reads if you haven’t read one of these types of posts before but today I’m happy to share this very special article written about what it’s like to be an only child (from a parent – my and child’s – my daughters perspective). I’m always talking about Gabrielle on my Instagram page so many of you who follow me there know of her well. Simply, this was a way for my daughter and I to share our thoughts, feeling and opinions with those of you that have (only children or considering not having anymore if you already have one). A mother-daughter relationship is a bond that is truly unique and special. The post, again, is done in two parts. (Part 1 will be from a parent’s perspective … mine and Part 2 will be from a child’s perspective, my daughter). Although having an only child is something I NEVER thought would happen, it is what it is. Do I wish I had more? In hindsight, the true answer is YES. Would I trade what I have with my daughter … the answer is a resounding HELL NO! So without further ado…
MY PERSPECTIVE – PARENT
The Bond. There is nothing and I mean NOTHING that can compare to the bond you feel with an only child. Whether there is joy or pain, you go through it. All the ups and downs are shared together. All the wins and all the failures, yup you share them together. But oh, all the wins and triumphs, can feel that much more special because you get to share them with someone that is ALWAYS in your corner and rooting for you.
Less Financial Pressure. To say that having an only child made for a less stressful financial burden is an understatement. Could I have spoiled my child to the point of bratiness, yes, but I didn’t because that is not the real world. I was however, able to give her a good life and live in safe, beautiful towns/neighborhoods with A+ schools because our financial resources weren’t stretched very thin. She can attest, when ever she received a big gift (i.e. iPod, iPhone, Michael Kors watch and her Louis Vuitton bag) she didn’t receive them just because she met and excelled at something she worked on (i.e. good grades, high school graduation, college graduation) I never wanted her to feel entitled like some of her peers.
Independence + Self Sufficiency. My daughter, from an early age, was always more mature and independent for her age. She was able to keep busy and entertain herself as well as have the ability to gain useful capailibites that would later in life serve her well. From learning to cook for herself, to sorting the laundry and wash her own clothes, to getting her first job (I still remember the woman interviewing her telling me that she had never seen a teenage girl show up with a planner at an interview before) and learning the true value of money. Major tech toys or fancy things were never given to her, they were always earned based on her behavior, attitude and drive for success.
Loneliness. I would say this is probably the biggest obstacle onlies face when growing up. When they want someone to talk to or complain about their parent’s to, a sibling isn’t’ readily available and this can be hard at times. But they find other confidants, like Aunties and friends.
Pressure to Over Achieve: Because onlies are the sole focus of both parents they can often times feel the pressure to over achieve and to be the best. I’ve been witness to PLENTY of breakdowns due to not “getting it right” or something not being “perfectly the way it was envisioned happening” They put pressure on themselves to “meet and exceed expectations”. Truthfully, as parents to onlies, it’s like we have all our eggs in one basket. There is no “backup child” to bear witness to your hard work of raising a respectful, driven and respectful child in this day and age. Onlies will feel like they have no choice but to succeed and to be the best. I worked hard at letting her know that if she got a B, in school it was OK and that she didn’t need to cry. I would say, “did you do YOUR best” and if she said yes then I let her know that it was OK. Positive reinforcement is just part of the dynamic when having an only.
No Siblings. Because I grew up in a very big family, I often feel the most guilty/most selfish about this. I wonder “how does she feel not having a brother or sister to turn to when her parents gets on her last nerve” or “how does she feel knowing she will never be an Aunti”. The pain and guilt on this one is very real for me. After doing makeup for brides for many years, I think about her wedding day, and that she won’t have a sister for a Maid of Honor or bridesmaid. The most pressing part in my mind, is to think about the day I will no longer be living. “Who will hold her hand, who will wipe her tears, who does she stay up with all night talking and laughing about “that time when mom…” yeah. I can get teary eyed really easy thinking about that because I think about how I can talk about my mom, whom I lost to cancer when I was 14, with my brothers and sisters. It’s something that is just so precious and it bonds us in a very special way as siblings because we share the same pain in her loss and the joy in her memory. I know she will survive, and be strong. She has such a kind a heart and is so sweet and has a beautiful soul, I just wish I could have given her more support in this way. I cry so often thinking about when this day comes for her. It hurts. I hurt. For her.
MY DAUGHTER – AN ONLY CHILD PERSPECTIVE
No older sibling emulation. Loneliness. Quiet time.
Let me start by saying, I really enjoy being an only child. When I first sat down to write this, I felt as though all the “cons” could actually be transformed into something good. For example, one of the minor drawbacks I listed above is: quiet time. Granted, being in silence can initiate some sadness, loneliness, even frustration maybe…I believe it takes great skill and patience to be comfortable in your own company. I still get lonely but often I utilize the time to self reflect, rest, and even discover new things.
The other thing is that if I had a sibling, I would only want an older sibling because they set the example. I can’t even go into detail about all the times I needed some guidance and the situation blew up in my face (e.g. Prom, my first car, applying to college). Anyways, I would have loved to watch someone else make all these mistakes and push my parents buttons before I had to do it myself.
No sharing! Attentive parents! Interacting with adults!
Now, the best part of living the life of a solitary heir to your parents is the obvious: the constant attention and no sharing. Yes I will share if you ask, but I do not instinctually offer food off my plate, or my newest makeup, or even to use my toothbrush just for the night. I have to consciously think about other people and their feelings or their perspective. But as I grow older and form close relationships with people that come from larger families I adopt their ways. I have learned to check myself and think, “Have I been considerate”? Even still, most of the time the answer is no, then I have to reconsider. Let me tell you, my ex-boyfriends mother is one of 6… my ex-boyfriend is the middle child and grew up in a family of 5… they offer each other EVERYTHING. Admittedly, I used to think it was insane that his sister offered me french fries before she even took a bite of her burger. For her – for them-for anyone with a big family – sharing or at least offering to share – comes as a second nature. For me, I have to remind myself to do it.
Another thing – of course my parents adore me. But not anymore than parents that have multiple children (though every parent has a favorite and if they tell you otherwise – call BS). Where I’m going with this is that some parents really cannot connect with their kids, cannot get their kids to trust them, cannot be truly honest with their kids.
As an only child, I never had that problem. My mother and I share everything – too much frankly. My dad? Two peas in a pod. I think about it this way: If I can’t turn to my older brother or sister for advice, who else can I turn to? If my parents can’t branch off to spend time with my other siblings, who else are they going to infringe their parentally knowledge upon?
I would consider myself “securely attached” which is a psychology term referring to the parent/ child relationship and the degree of trust between them. I use this to drive home my point that I have a great, open, honest, and respectful relationship with both of my parents. The basis of this is because we have spent so much time together, one on one.
QUIZ TIME!!! To the parents with large families, when was the last time you sat across the table and chatted for hours with only one of your kids, alone? To the children who come from big families, would you feel comfortable to go on a week long vacation with one of your parents – or does the idea make you cringe just a little? Think about it.
And this leads me to my final point: When kids grow up with other kids, they learn how to be kids. They are influenced by, and happiest around other children. As an only child you are constantly around adults, therefore you learn how to become an adult and mature faster. It just gives you a unique perspective from a young age.
We both hope you enjoyed reading this and that it has helped you in one way or another come to peace with your decision. God Bless