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Charlie's Soap

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Tuesday, May 15
Being an only child - your questions answered

Due to my father's current continued steadfast refusal to give me a sibling, I have been an only child for 42 years.

During those years, I've been asked a lot of questions, here are some:

1. Don't you wish you had brothers and sisters?

Haven't you ever wished you were an only child?

Sure, we all fantasize about what we don't have, however, not having siblings has not disrupted my psyche in any way.

It was disrupted by lots of other things.

2. Weren't you a spoiled brat?

How does one answer that?

I didn't have to share things at home, mainly because there was no one to share them with.

I had friends, I went to school, and, I went to camp, so I think I learned some basic social skills.

You? In the back row? Shut up.

Did my parents over-indulge me?

I think it depends more on your philosophy than theirs. To some people I had more than enough, to others, I suppose I was deprived.

Did I have opportunities that I wouldn't have had if I had had siblings?

You betcha. I had some wonderful opportunities by virtue being an only child.

One child, or, ten kids, I think all parents try to provide the best opportunities for their children.

There was only one of me, so, my parents efforts and resources simply didn't have to be divided. There's nothing wrong or bad about that.

3. Weren't you lonely?

It's not like I had siblings, and, someone took them away.

Being an only child was simply my reality, I knew nothing else. I had friends, I interacted with adults.

Like any other kid, I'm sure I got bored, and, my parents probably had to work a little harder to provide for my entertainment, but, loneliness wasn't a pervasive feeling.

4. I could never be an only child.

That's not a question. Follow the rules.

Besides, there is one way, you'd just spend your only child-ness in jail, though.

5. Is being an only child the reason you had 3 kids?

No, silly. The reason I have 3 kids is that when a husband and wife love each other...

Oh, wait.

Certainly both of our own upbringings were a consideration when planning our family, but, choosing to have 3 kids is not any sort of negative statement about my experience as an only child.

6. Won't you be all alone taking care of your parents when they get old?

Why yes, I already am.

I freely admit that this time in my life has been the hardest thing about being an only child.

I have no siblings with whom to share the experience of my mother's illness and death, and, the resulting worrying about my father.

But, I look at other families, and, I realize that having siblings is no guarantee of anything. There are plenty of people caring for aging parents without help from their brothers and sisters.

Though it's been hard, to wish it any other way would be to deny what my parents did to raise me.

I've had to learn big lessons about asking for help, something I'm not very good at doing, and, I've come to realize that "family" doesn't always have to mean your relatives.

So, there you have it.

I'm an only child, I may or may not reinforce the stereotype of being a singleton.

Some of you may be raising only children, and, wondering if it's the right thing to do.

Only you can decide that one, but, I just want to let you know that it's not quite as wrought with angst as the media would lead you to believe.

Some of us turned out quite normal.

I'll see if I can get some names for you.

10:25 AM | Comments (35) |


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Tony spent six years as an only child, and now has a sibling.

In a few short years (parentally speaking) he'll be off to school, and DeeDee will be an only child.

This is/will be an interesting dynamic to explore.

Posted by: VJ | May 15, 2007 12:39 PM

Can I ask a question that wasn't on your list (although maybe it's like #1)?

Did you ever pretend/wish that your friends were siblings?

I had a brother, but we weren't all that close, I guess, nor too close in age, so I was constantly fantasizing about my friends at school being my long-lost siblings. Sisters, mostly. I dug the idea of having a sister.

I think I still do this sometimes.

Dd.

I think that for me, holidays and the like were more frustrating than anything else. Both my parents worked, and we didn't have any family in the area, so I was far more of a "force of one" than a lot of kids. Holidays that shut down bookstores and the like were really annoying. My parents were always casual about xmas and birthdays, so we acknowledged them more than celebrated them.

When I get married in Oct., I'm going from being an only kid with an ex whose family is all over and only keep in touch with email and phone calls to having a new family with siblings, and cousins and the like who see each other a lot.

It's going to be verrrrrry bizarre.

Haha!

I have a friend whose mom is an identical twin. She is always being asked what it's like to have an identical twin.

To which she answers,

"I don't know. What's it like to NOT have one?"

Ask a stupid question....

Posted by: Mimi | May 15, 2007 1:47 PM

Is there an club for Singletons? I wanna be Vice-President.

I, too, am an only child. There were times I really hated it and fervently wished for a sibling. But found having siblings may not be all it's cracked up to be.

When my dad remarried, she had a son - also an only. When she got ill and died, he was useless. I was still an only child.

I really resent those who think only children are doted on and are spoiled. There is a flip side to that coin. Parents have more time to find out the "naughty" things you have done too! You can't blame things on a sibling!

I've had people ask me if I'm okay with being an only child. Like I had any say in it. I think I'm doing just fine. Well, I think I'm fine. My therapist thinks I should be able to function in a normal capacity in another year or 5.

Often friends can be more understanding than siblings. People usually have plenty of friends where they live, but siblings can haul off and move across the ocean.

I think you just need PEOPLE you can count on.

Good post.

Well said. I, of course, don't have an only child. I have two of them, since they are 10 years apart.

I became the only child at 5 losing two siblings due to tragic circumstances. There was nothing 'normal' about my family, we simply chose to be exceptional *grin*. Normal is sooo over-rated anyway.

Posted by: Paul | May 15, 2007 4:34 PM

Hi, found this post through Parentdish - thanks so much. After 3 years of secondary infertility, we are now accepting of our only child family. I'm very confident that our daughter is happy, well adjusted and will turn out fine. The only thing that does worry me is, as you pointed out, our daughter having to deal with aging parents/death alone. But I will say, I have a brother, yet I'm pretty sure I will have to deal with these things alone too, or worse, in conflict with him. He moved 500 miles away from where we grew up, so I am near my parents and he isn't, and we just have completely different philosophies on life. I love my brother, but I don't think he will be any help at all when that difficult tiime comes.

Posted by: Michelle | May 15, 2007 5:37 PM

I'm an only child at 39. I hated being an only child for all of the stereotypical reasons, but I have found out that I am also exceptionally sensitive and receptive to all of the negatives that are promoted. I am reading this article to learn how to better defend myself against people's rude questions and comments. People like to fill children's heads with their thoughtless remarks and fill their hearts with negativity and fear.

Posted by: pam | May 15, 2007 5:49 PM

I have found that being an only child has given me great independence. I don't mind going to the movies by myself or out to eat in a restaurant by myself. Shoot, I even took a week vacation to Hawaii by myself. I also find that I have what I call "only child sydrome"....aka selfishness. Not all the time but I do experience it from time to time. What can I say....I'm not used to sharing. I have 2 kids (and that's all we're having). I would have been perfectly fine with only one child but DH comes from a large family (he is one of 7 children) so we compromised with 2. Any more kids and I would feel out numbered.

Posted by: Brianna | May 15, 2007 9:14 PM

Some disconnected thoughts: Hey! You can have siblings and still be the sole caregiver for your parents. Can you tell I'm worried about that one?.....My boys are 5.5. years apart and are virtually 'only child(ren)' - They aren't close at all-hopefully one of them will step up for the hub & me...Do you ever wonder if you have siblings somewhere ('cause you're adopted)? Sorry--too personal! That's the thanks you get for having loyal readers--we get nosy! And I've watched too many soaps.

Posted by: Libby | May 15, 2007 9:42 PM

I like your answers.

Much applause, and I totally agree with almost every single thing, being an only child myself. I couldn't have said any of it better.

My sister is not really my sister (though we may as well be) and we did not grow up in the same house, and are sisters by choice and habit rather than by blood (and have really only gotten that way as adults). So I maybe spent less than 1% of my life growing up as an almost-not-only-child, but in reality I am an only child, and you pegged it all.

The only time I ever really was kind of bothered by it and resented it was when my father was ill, but like you said, siblings are no guarantee of help and assistance. It would have been nice to have someone else shoulder some of it but again, no guarantees, plus I wasn't his primary caregiver (my stepmother was).

I suspect the real test will come as my mother ages and if something were to happen there. That'll be likely when I may really be wishing I wasn't the only one having to make decisions and do things, because it really will be then. Then again, I think she's probably gonna outlive me anyway (she's not that old and basically in good health). ;)

Anyway, many kudos, you spelled it all out perfectly.

I've often thought of the same thing. People always ask me the same thing since I only had one brother who was never home. You grow up with it so you know no different. Some people just don't think of things like that.

BusyMom, I thought the "only child rule" stated that all discussions about onlychildness was to be done in the form of interior monologue... But, maybe that was just some crap advice one of my imaginary brothers gave me.

Once again you have saved me from myself. I have had to defend our choice to only have one child, to all the standard bashing that goes on.

Now I can just point them here.

On the negative side, if I point over here any more often I might as well shut down my blog, and just send everybody over here. ;)

Well I am not an only child I have a younger brother who is 4 years younger , but when my Mom got sick and died I was an only child. My dad and I took care of her and my brother couldnt he was just lost. He is 28 and had only been married 3 months when mom died. I understood though and I made up the diff. for his part and mine as well. He being the baby could not handle watching her suffer. So now I find myself in a new faze in my life at 31. I will have to be all grandmotherie to his first kid.

Posted by: shelia | May 16, 2007 10:10 AM

Well I am not an only child I have a younger brother who is 4 years younger , but when my Mom got sick and died I was an only child. My dad and I took care of her and my brother couldnt he was just lost. He is 28 and had only been married 3 months when mom died. I understood though and I made up the diff. for his part and mine as well. He being the baby could not handle watching her suffer. So now I find myself in a new faze in my life at 31. I will have to be all grandmotherie to his first kid.

Posted by: shelia | May 16, 2007 10:10 AM

I am one of those people wondering if raising an only is the right thing to do. And also wondering if it would be the right to do to get pregnant again at 47 (from the donor eggs of a 31 year old, so no worries about age-related disorders). My daughter is two and a half now, so this is the right time to use those frozen embryos that are haunting me. This is the hardest decision of my life; I just don't want my daughter to hate us for whatever my husband and I decide.

Thank you. I go through daily "angst" over having unwillingly lost my reproductive parts before Bella could be given a sibling. I think my great love and affection for my own sister has colored my view of "family" to such an extent that I can't help but think that my own child is "missing out" on something wonderful. Thank you for this post.

Hi!! Stop by if you get a second. I got tagged and now I'm tagging you. Peace in the middle.

Me me. I am an only child, I turned out pretty good, at least I think so. Heh... I think one of the biggest sterotype while growing up is that if you are an only child, you must be spoiled.

Posted by: Liz | May 16, 2007 8:13 PM

I'm an only child. I never had fantasies of siblings because my parents were divorced and my mom didn't date anyone.

I think as an only child I have an easier time being by myself. I don't have to be constantly surrounded by people. I do enjoy spending time with people, but some of my friends can seriously not go more than few hours without at least talking to someone on the phone.

The only residue I have noticed from being an only child is with food. We joke in my department because two of us are only children and we can be finicky sometimes.

I'm an only child and to be honest, it never bothered me. Sure, I think I'd like to have a sibling, especially now that I'm close to 40. But as a child, I never thought twice about it. As someone said above, I was always quite independent and busy as a child and had friends to go places with. When I had down time, I read a lot. And that helped me to be pretty smart! I enjoyed (and still enjoy) my time alone. I lived alone thru college and loved that.

My mom is one of 8 and they aren't close at ALL. I guess I see so many negatives there. I ended up with 3 kids (a singleton and twins who are 20 mos apart.) Yes, I really wanted more than one child. But my husband, who is one of 3, said he wanted only one at first. He never liked being one of 3.

Posted by: Kathy | May 16, 2007 8:37 PM

at what point does the CHILD get to pick to be an only child? That was always my thought when people would ask my mother questions like this... it isn't as if she went to her mother and father and said... "hey that brother that you wanted me to have... well, i've decided against it."

-d

Posted by: -d | May 16, 2007 11:04 PM

I have other friends who do not have siblings and they are good people. Also, they are part of my other family, called our circle of friends. I am glad you are a part of my "other family" too!

Posted by: formerborodad | May 17, 2007 7:23 AM

I too am an only child (Well I do have a brother my mom gave up for adoption before I was born, but he doesn't count because I didn't meet him until I was 30 and we've barely communicated since. Don't you hate in when parenthetical comments are longer than the actual message?)

I grew up slightly spoiled with a tremendously active imagination and the tendency to talk to myself. ALOT. And I still engage my imagination and talk to myself (ALOT) even though I live with my hubby and my in-laws and four, no -make that two kids (Two have moved out, but I keep forgetting about that because I'm always thinking about something else...and probably talking about it. ALOT.) and several Polly Pockets and stuffed animals and fish and dustbunnies.

I love being an only child. There. I've said it. (ALOT)

THANK YOU for this article.

I have a "friend" who's got four kids now. They can barely afford to provide the basics for two children let alone four. They never go out, money is always tight, and their house/furniture is run down. (They can't even sit on their couch anymore cause its broken. But there's no money for a new one.) I have no problem with people having big families by any means. Its just that she's always making little quips about how her children are SO MUCH better off than mine because hers have siblings. That her kids will always have each other and mine won't have anyone. ANd it makes me want to scream. Our son has so many more opportunities available. He has tons of playdates. (They live in the middle of nowhere.) And she makes comments about how she'll have more kids to take care of her in her old age. I just want to scream that its possible her kids will move away someday. Plus? At least we have money for our son's education and our retirement. Course maybe her kids WILL stay on the family farm. It might be their only option.

Great post! My husband is an only child. When I first met him, I thought that was horrible. But over the years I've realized that he had a great upbringing and gets awesome support from his parents. That's the most important thing. My siblings, on the other hand, are often a pain in the ass. ;-)

Posted by: Kris | May 20, 2007 8:43 AM

I was an only child too and people often ask me the same questions. It is difficult to answer.

I had a horrid childhood and was always lonely, but I don't think it was the result of being an only child, rather the result of being raised by a crazy mother who alienated everyone in our lives.

I always longed for a sibling. But in my imagination my sibling was perfect, my best friend. That is seldom the reality.

Just like there are people who love having siblings, there are people who resent them. The same goes for being an only child.

Could I have rambled anymore?

I'm an only who was raised in the middle of a half section on a farm. My closest playmate was about a half a mile away. When I went to school I had two other class mates at my country school and after the snow storm of 1946 they both moved away and I completed my 8 years as the only kid in my class.

I think the worst thing about being an only was when my mother (the last parent) passed away and I had to go into the basement of that country mortary and pick out her casket. That was when I came face to face whith my own mortality and felt very alone in the world.

I love what you said back i need to say that to you kids at my school. I think part of what makes only children feel so bad is the fact that everywhere you go you see siblings having fun.... me atleast but after reading what you had to say I think I feel much better! THANX!!!

Posted by: Sharne | July 9, 2007 8:28 PM