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!

17 thoughts on “One.

  1. Thank you for this! Sometimes I worry about my only child, but after reading your post, I’m looking forward to the “different” kind of relationship you had with your parents. Such a reassuring post. So good.

  2. As a mom of an only child by choice, I completely agree with this. After we had our son, 10 years ago, we simply did not want to have another baby. Ten years later we are still happy with that decision. We do have a unique relationship with our son, both as a family, and independently and I don’t think that we would be able to have the ability to spend the time develop that if we had more children – sometimes it’s hard enough keeping up with just one! Our son is happy, independent, well-adjusted, kind and confident – and that’s all we ever wanted.

    1. I’m happy to hear that you made the right decision for your family! Having an only child is a wonderful experience. Thanks AnnQ for commenting!

  3. This is a great post. It is amazing what people will say without knowing the circumstances. You know what they say about people who ASSume things 🙂 The furniture saleslady the other day made a comment to me “you finally got your boy, huh?” and in another sentence, she said in a shock and awe voice “you work OUTSIDE the home????” ey ey ey.

    Speaking as another only child, I agree that there are definitely many advantages to being an only child and you don’t “miss out” on having a sibling, you just live a different life. Families of 3 are no less complete and just as lovely as a family of 4 or 5. As with anything, it’s quality that matters, not quantity.

  4. I am also an only and also loved it. I find myself eager to reassure parents of only children that their child will not only be ok – they will be GREAT, even better for having the only child experience. It fosters so much intellect and independence. So much of my outgoing personality – so much of what has made me a successful adult – comes from my experience as an only child. Fear not, parents of one!

  5. Such a great post because I think people don’t really think about what other people go through when they decide to have an only child.

    I have a close friend who only has one child. They are the type of family where the parents are really into their own activities, and I think people assume that they only had one kid because having kids “cramped their style.” I know, however, that they only had one kid because she was unable to get pregnant a second time. They finally gave up when she hit 40 and accepted their family size for what it was. Their daughter (now grown) is completely awesome. I think she benefited from being an only child, rather than “missed out.”

    1. It is very unfortunate when people assume things of others. It sounds like your friend’s family made the most of their situation, and I’m glad that their daughter benefited from being an only child!

  6. A fabulous perspective and will be so helpful to many parents struggling with this issue! I remember being jealous of one of my classmates who was an only child because she had the ENTIRE set of Cherry Ames books. I was sure that if my parents hadn’t indulged themselves in procreating 2 more times, I would be rolling in swag. Don’t forget about parents having WAYYYYY more money to spend on the only because they don’t have to spread it around!

    1. Yes, being an only child usually results in more swag…great point! I honestly never once thought growing up, “boy, I wish I had a brother or sister to help me open all these Christmas presents!” 🙂

  7. I really needed to read this. We honestly feel like our family is complete with one child. I never thought I’d feel that way. I guess you never know until you have a kid what feels right, for you. But I’ve definitely had the thought that she’d be missing out by not having siblings. But every reason you gave for why you appreciate your relationship with your parents as an only child, is exactly why I feel like I want only one child. Thank you for this.

    1. You are exactly right, you never really know how you are going to feel, until you are actually in the situation. I’m glad that you were able to take something away from this. Thank you for commenting!

  8. Thank you for this post Sarah. As someone who isn’t sure if I will be having another child, I sometimes worry that if I don’t, I will somehow be causing my daughter to miss out. It’s great to know a positive story from an only child 🙂 Thank you.

Share Some Comment Love

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s