I am an only child.
I am a mother of three.
I was chatting with an acquaintance about her eighteen month old baby, and unsolicitedly she told me, “Oh, don’t worry we will eventually have another baby, we don’t want her growing up an only child.” Now this is not the first time I have heard this comment so I was not surprised to hear the words escape her mouth. However, it made me think, do people really think they are doing their child a disservice by not providing them with a brother or sister?
I am here to set the story straight (well, at least the story from my perspective.) Growing up I never felt like I was “missing out on something” by not having a brother or a sister. I never longed for a brother or sister, and I certainly never whined to my parents about having another baby. I loved, and to this day still love, being an only child. Being an only child means setting your own schedule, always getting to eat the last cookie, and developing a relationship with your parents that is different from children who come from multi-children families.
Yes, only children have a different type of relationship with their parents. The type of relationship is not the same for all singletons, but the dichotomy that exists can only be understood by individuals who have grown up being an only child. With only one child in the family parents outnumber the kid. Now that I am a parent, I have to say, this is friggin brilliant. In my opinion, couples who have an only child really know how to play the game. You are able to enjoy every single aspect of being a parent, but in the end, and when important decisions come to a vote, the adults outnumber the kid…game.over.
In the absence of a brother or sister, only children have their parents to indulge them in all daily bits of conversation, questioning, and argument. In my opinion, this results in a more intense relationship between parent and child. Only children will converse more throughout their life, with their parents, than children who come from multi-children families. It’s basic math, with three children and two parents, parents are outnumbered and have less time throughout the day to spend with each child. As a singleton, your parents have one and only one parental obligation, and that’s you. I am not going to lie, it’s a sweet deal.
Growing up, my relationship with my parents was markedly different from that of my friends. I’m not saying better, just different. At the end of an important basketball game or at the end of a horrible day the only people in my house to share my feelings with were my parents. Of course, there were friends, and cousins, and grandparents and other extended family to chat with, but ultimately, it was just the three of us. We shared, talked, laughed, cried, argued, and because of the love and emotion that I received from my parents, I never felt that anything in my life was “missing.” I feel sad for people who feel pressured to have another baby because they don’t want their children growing up being an only child. If parents are balanced, grounded and well rounded, their only child will grow up emulating the same behaviors; you don’t need a sibling to teach you thoughtfulness.
Only children households are becoming much more popular than they were in the 1980’s. It could even be said that having a singleton is becoming “trendy” and “hip.” There are a plethora of on-line clubs dedicated to only children; you can find clothing, water bottles, bumper stickers, and all sorts of goodies, targeting only children. I’m glad that it is becoming more “normal” to have just one child. I feel strongly that society should avoid stigmatizing only children homes. Growing up I’ve been asked time and time again, “Why did your parents only have one child? Could they not have any more? Were there health issues? Did you have a sibling who died?” No, no, no and no. My parents only wanted one child. End of story. Parents should decide with their hearts and emotions if they want to have another child, not because they feel “weird” if they don’t.
As much as I loved being an only child, I made the decision to have three children. Watching the interaction between my girls is beautiful, the love and camaraderie that they share is fabulous. As an only child I sometimes feel like I’m on an anthropological quest, documenting and observing their sibling interaction. I now have three years’ worth of data, and I’m not changing my opinion. I do not feel that singletons “miss out” on anything by not having a sibling, no more than my three daughters are “missing out” on the fact that at the end of a busy day they each have one-third of a mom to meet their ever growing demands!