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adult only children: what do you think about being an only?

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 
Hello all:

I love the thread about deciding/not deciding to have a second child (or spread them out many years)

I am NOT ready to have another child, mainly because I do not want to be pregnant again, and some pelvic organ prolapse issues make it difficult to think about doing it again. I always pictured having two, I just wish that I was done HAVING the babies.

We are thrilled with our family of 3- we love parenting, we get boundless joy and energy from our dd...and we lean toward having a second.

however, the reason we lean that direction is mainly for our dd- not wanting her to be lonely or age/watch us age without a sibling.

So I am looking for experiences of adults who are only children- does ANYone who is an only child relish the experience (because everyone I know who is an only says to me how we will regret it for our dd...and that they always wanted a sibling)

I believe in the experience of siblings, and it IS hard for me to picture not having another in general- but we are not ready and I am afraid that by the time we are I will be older than I wanted to be.

thanks
post #2 of 62
I was an only and it was great for me.

In my observations, it's hard to be an only when you don't feel connected to your parents. My MIL was an example of that, she was really "on her own," if she had a problem she really couldn't bring it to her parents. Her father was cold and rejecting. Her mother loved her but placed her husband first, so her mother only helped her or paid attention to her if her father wasn't around, and she certainly never went to bat for MIL if her father was being cruel. So you can see why MIL felt alone. If she had a sibling then maybe she would have felt like she had someone in her corner - and maybe not, you never know.

My mother, on the other hand, was always there for me. She didn't play with me so I'm not talking about parents replacing peers for only children, I'm talking about parents being THERE for their onlies. I definitely felt loved and respected and cared for, and I never felt alone. I did all the stuff that onlies do - I read a lot, looked at bugs in the backyard, etc. Of course I had friends, too.

My DD is an only and of course DH and I are there for her. I don't worry about her being an only.

I can't speak much about the "issue" of taking on the "burden" of parents, except to say that having siblings hardly makes it easy and fair for everyone. The most common story I hear is "my brother(s)/sister(s) don't do anything for our parents and I am stuck taking care of them myself." Fortunately for us, my parents and my inlaws aren't close to needing any care yet, and I won't claim to know what that will involve. DH has a sister, but honestly I would think that DH and I would help out MIL (instead of SIL doing it), not because SIL is lazy or uncaring but she's not in any stable position herself. So DH having a sister isn't really "removing" any burden from him in this regard.

I have observed with my mother that she has been drawing a bit closer to her siblings at this time of her life, their parents have already passed. But I don't see how I'm guaranteed to be lonely in old age myself just because I'm an only; there's other relatives (SIL, my cousins, etc.) plus of course there's FRIENDS!

Anyway, I don't think being an only is better than having siblings, but I certainly don't feel it's the other way around either. Being an only is only one of several/many factors in your life. You won't be lonely in old age just because you're an only, you'd be lonely only IF you had no friends or anyone else either (and that goes for folks with siblings too; who is to say you'll get along with your siblings or even that they won't predecease you or move to China?). You aren't necessarily better off in the aging-parent department just because you have siblings, in fact you may carry MORE resentment if you're stuck caring for them while your sibs send a Christmas card every year. You'll only feel lonely growing up if your parents aren't there for you; and if you had a sibling it might be just as lonely if you're not close.
post #3 of 62
I second everything loahaire said.

My additional thoughts -

Due to medical challenges, DS will be an only. At times, that makes us very sad because both DH and I have this fantasy in our head that if DS would have siblings, we would have this big family and everyone would be super-close, picture-perfect family gatherings and so on but as we all know, that isn't a guaranty. When we confront the reality that blood relation doesn't mean closeness, it is easier for us to accept.

I am an only child. My parents were cool with friends being over at our house. I was almost always allowed to take a friend (sometimes two) along on vacation. I was never lonely. I have a very close relationship with my parents.

I can't say I ever wished for a sibling because I have never known any different.
post #4 of 62
I was an only and loved it! I was, and am, very close to my parents - we used to do all kinds of things together and talk for ages.

I think what I loved most of all is that I got to be a part of both the kid-world and the adult-world. Meaning that I could go off and play with friends and cousins all day, but that I wasn't automatically excluded from adult events and conversations the way I see in some families. I still remember fondly the days when my mom and aunt and I would go out to lunch together. I felt so grown up!

Money was also tight in our family and I think it would have been a lot harder with a larger family.

I am having an only myself so obviously I don't think it was bad at all! I think the pp said - there are advantages and disadvantages to every family configuration. I know people who grew up in large families and hated it because they never had any space or time to themselves. Other people love it. I know of plenty of people who aren't close to their siblings or have actual problems with them.
post #5 of 62
I'm 31 now and an only child. Parents are 69 now.

As a child beign an only was fine. I never wished for a sibling. I had two parents who were always there for me and very focused on me.

As a teen, it became more apparent that being an only wasn't so hot. Now this might have just applied to MY parents- but they were SO focused on me that I had no wiggle room and I felt totally smothered. They were very strict and worried about freaking everything despite the fact that if they had just opened their eyes a bit they would have seen that I was the type of teen that most parents would dream of- tough, not easily influenced, no one ever talked me into anything, conservative(as in not a wild child), and cautious. And yet I was constantly grounded (for BS things like being 5 minutes late for my 9:30 curfew) and really felt that if I had another kid in the house they wouldn't be so strict and controlling.

As an aduly, I wish I now had a sibling because I wish I had someone to help me DEAL with my parents. They are getting old and stubborn and they don't always make the best decisions for themselves. I wish I had a sibling to back me up from time to time when I try to help them out or help them through something. I'm at the point now where my parents are beginning to need parenting from ME. This didn't really sink in until I watched my mother( who is an only) deal with her mother's death. My grandmother developed cancer and it was hell for my mother to handle the dr appointments, and caring for my g-mother, and cleaning her house, and cooking, and food shopping and paying their bills, AND dealing with my grandfather who was in denial about the whole thing. If she had a sibling, it wouldn't have been so painful and difficult for her. She had my Dad of course but it wasn't the same. If she had a sister or brother, maybe they could have offered some help or support.

So I sometimes look down the road and think OH MY GOD I'll be on my own through all of that one day.

So I guess I decided that I really wanted more than one child for myself just so they had each other.

Just my 2 cents.
post #6 of 62
It is what it is. I was an only child so I don't really know what it's like to have siblings. There were times when I wished I had a brother or sister, especially when we moved. We moved often in my early years because my dad was military and it was hard making friends and then having to leave them and start all over, a sibling would have added some stability there. We traveled a lot and it was a good bonding experience I think traveling so much with my parents as a threesome. I don't know that I was spoiled more or less than kids with siblings, I think again it all is the financial means and ideals of the individual homes rather than the number of kids.

I echo that as an adult I wish there was someone else closer to my mom to help her. I feel guilty living on the other side of the country some times. It's really hard the past several years as she has alzheimers and I can't even really talk to her on the phone anymore, but honestly seeing her in person wasn't any better. She barely lifted her eyes from her circle-a-word puzzle book the whole time I was there last visit. Her sisters (my aunts) keep me up to date pretty well on her status but I feel like a bad son lately. No one blames me though, I've lived in California nearly 20 years now have my career and now my family to concern myself with on this side of the country. And it wouldn't very well be right of me to expect a sibling to do anymore than I am if I had one, right?

I have social anxiety and I'm an introvert. Can you blame that on being an only child? Sure, if you want to ... that or the constant moving in the military and being told to shut up more often than I needed to hear maybe ... flip a coin there. I can't really pin blame anywhere specific for that myself.
post #7 of 62
I thank god every day that I was an only child. This doesn't really apply to your situation though, since the reason why I do that is because my parents are not very healthy people--and it would have been hell to see a sibling suffer.

I do worry about the obligation that I have towards my parents as they age--but most of that worry stems from the abuse growing up and continuing mental health issues than the fact I'm an only child. In my observation, even with siblings, it's one child that tends to become the primary caretaker anyway. As an only child, at least you know about that ahead of time and can prepare, instead of feeling like you were abandoned by other people who are supposed to be helping!

From what I have observed from friends with siblings and aging/dying parents, it seems like sometimes it would have been better if there had only been one kid. I've been shocked at how many families get blown apart by inheritance issue, even over very minro stuff. I can't believe how many people I've seen stymied and worn down by an uncooperative sibling getting up in their grill about how one is caring for an aging parent, while refusing to lend a hand at the same time.

Siblings are nice, I'm sure--but they're also an uncontrollable factor. You can't count on them pulling together, even if they are nice folks (again, the families that I've seen detonate are the last people on earth I would have expected to, while some people I expected to pulled together!). More hands in the pot means that sometimes care decisions can be very difficult, especially if one sibling feels very strongly that, for example, hospice is evil because that means that you're "giving up" on the dying person and you should keep them alive by all means necessary (I saw that one play out in my own extended family. It was ugly.)
post #8 of 62
Thread Starter 
laohair: thank you- I wasn't really thinking of the burden of us as parents, but of the having company and someone to really understand what you are going through watching your parents age...I loved your post, thank you. You are right- cousins, friends...and something my mom keeps reminding me is that siblngs are not always close ANYway.

Caneel: I am sorry that you faced medical issues, but glad that it wound up ok for you and your family. I think you are right- I am imagining the picture...but also LOVING our picture as it is now.

round: it's sweet to picture cassady one day saying "we talk for ages". what a gift.

barnmamma: good points, and I guess at the core of my concern is that no matter what, when we have one...all of our energy goes into that one- and we aren't smotherers (I know I will have moments, but not our instincts) but when the one is the only focus, I wonder if we WOULD make it too pressured for her. This is not to say that having another is the fix to that, just something to keep in mind should we not have a second (or even if we do!)

jaesun: I think you are right- there are so many things we just can't judge in a vacuum. thank you for your post.

tiger: wow, that's tough- thank you for your response. I guess our kids wouldn't fight over the inheritance, since there won't be much!!
more hands in the pot is a concern- with money and space issues- we love our neighborhood and our apartment but it would be tough to find an affordable 3 bedroom someday.

thank you all.
post #9 of 62
I am an only child & it has been fine. I have always wished for at least one sibling, but this is my life, I don't know any other way. For all I know, any siblings and I might not have gotten along & it could be a relationship burden now. I get almost total freedom from traditional familial obligations b/c there AREN'T 2498723 siblings & nieces & nephews. I also did not have any cousins close in age (oldest are 6 yrs younger than me), so I was never compared to anyone growing up. That was nice b/c I could just be my own person & not have to "measure up", except to my own parents. I am very good at amusing myself & I am v close to my daughter. I do not walk around talking about how I need "breaks" from her or anything like that. Granted, yes, I do like to go out & socialize w/ adults, but being w/ her IS company to me, so that works out well.

As for the aging/sick parent thing, I do have experience w/ that. My father died from pancreatic cancer almost three years ago. He and my mother were still married. DH and I went over every weekend to visit them. It was difficult to watch him go thru that & I had to listen to my mother complain about how my DAD'S siblings did practically nothing for him aside from his sister calling regularly. They barely ever came to visit & things like that. When he passed, planning the funeral was easy b/c it was just me and my mom making decisions. DH was there to support us. It is tough when I think about the fact that I am it for my mom as far as family goes now. It's a lot of pressure. But how do I know that a sibling would do anything for her? Or they might make ME look like I was the one not doing enough! That can work both ways. My grandmother is still alive, & she & my mom are VERY close, but she lives on the other side of the state, along w/ my mom's brother. My mom is not close w/ her brother & is still quite competitive w/ him. My mom has TONS of friends, though, so she is definitely not "alone"!

I have enough friends whose sibling(s) are bums and criminals to know that it is not all a rosy glow. There is so much unneeded guilt surrounding how much of a relationship they should have. I also have friends who were abused by their sibling(s), so even in childhood, having a sibling can be horrible. To end on a truly dreadful note, just b/c you have more than one child does not mean that all of your children will outlive you. One of your children could still end up being the only one alive to take care of you, etc.

There are lots and lots of pluses to being an only child. More attention, more money, more time. You don't have to wait for other kids to be ready to go somewhere, you don't HAVE to share (heehee), you know you are your parents' favourite kid in the entire world, you get to go on special trips alone w/ one or both parents, &, at least for my parents, I was not viewed as another pesty kid, I was invited to join them in chores & hobbies. They were not always trying to get away from me & have alone time like they might have if there were three of us. There are enough only children in this world that, believe me, it's not like we are some damaged group of people wandering around who don't know how to love.
post #10 of 62
I am a sort-of-only. My parents divorced when I was 2 (I'm 35 now). The next time I saw my dad was the summer before my senior year. During that time he had two additional children who are a few years younger than me. We see each other maybe once a year and talk on the phone a handful of times a year. I also have two foster sisters. My freshman year my mother took in my two foster sisters. They are both a year younger than me. While we do have a shared experience, they obviously have their own early childhoods, as do I. And while my mom does call them her daughters, she does not treat them the same as me nor does she expect assistance from them. For all practical purposes I am an only.

While I love my mom, she doesn't really "get" me and I don't really "get" her. We do talk weekly and she does fly out several times a year to visit. It's really hard for me because I know I am the ONLY one responsible for her when/if things go bad or she needs help. This wouldn't be a huge issue except for the fact that she makes bad financial and physical decisions (ie plastic surgery in third world countries). I know its just a matter of time before I'll have to step in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnMomma View Post
As an aduly, I wish I now had a sibling because I wish I had someone to help me DEAL with my parents.
I so agree with the above statement. The only thing I would add is that it would be nice to have someone to commiserate with. My DH listens but just gets frustrated for me. A sibling would get frustrated (at the situation) with me.

Of course, my situation is unique. If I had a a loving relationship with my mom that involved respect and understanding I would have no problem being an only. But, as it is I feel so much obligation and irritation in our relationship.

I do think that it is important that parents of an only have a conversation about how illness, aging, financial difficulties, etc. will be handled. No one wants to strong arm a parent who is going through a hard time. If there is an open dialog and understanding I think it can totally work. And I do agree with laohaire about the pros. Despite the rough relationship I have with my mom now, there were some wonderful things about being an only as a child.
post #11 of 62
Growing up, I was fine being an only. Sometimes I was lonely and wanted a sibling, but those were pretty few and far between. I filled the gaps with friends and "adopted" family.

Truth is, I have siblings, but several are from my mom's previous marriage and several of them are from my dad's ongoing string of affairs. We're not very close though, I'm the only only. They all pair up or whatever. I do think the care of my aging mother will fall on me, and that does scare me. However I do have support of DH and friends, one of whom has ample experience. I know with MIL, her husband, not her sister was the sole supporter of her caring for her aging parents. He often taking over completely. He out of his three other siblings also took care of his father with failing health and is helping as much as his mother would allow him.

I do sometimes wonder and envy the good sibling relationships I see with friends and family. DH is close to his brother, as are several good friends close with their siblings and look forward to seeing them. Others seem to manage fine not having a close relationship.

I guess I just got to keep in perspective that I'm not really alone, sibling dynamics range far and wide, and I might be one of those people who doesn't very much get along with their siblings. And I may be missing out on something, but maybe no more than someone who isn't blessed with as many good friends as I am.

That said, I am currently pregnant with child number 3, and plan to have others (likely adoption at this point). So who knows, maybe I have unresolved only child issues.
post #12 of 62
Well I have a half brother that was born when I was 8 and whom I saw once every 4-5 years, so I was effectively an only. Personally I hated it with a passion and still do. I vowed when I was a preteen that I would never have just one and put them through that, if it meant adopting, having them myself, whatever. Now looking back from 41 years I still feel that way. I know that's not what you were looking for, but remember that everyone's experience and personality is different and what one person loathes another will love.
post #13 of 62
As a child I was happy to be an only. I never envied any of my friends who had siblings - in fact I was sorry for them!

It's only in the past few years as an adult that I've started to wish that I had a brother or sister. I think as my parents get older I'm realizing that at some point I'll be the only one left and that feels lonely and sad. Of course I'm lucky to have dh and my kids (and dh's family).
post #14 of 62
I am an only, and I have wanted a sister as long as I can remember. There are several sets of sisters in my extended family (including my mom, who is the oldest of three daughters) and I have always been envious of their relationships. I'm 30 and I still often wish I had a sister. Or a brother, that would be nice too! Now, I must admit that my parent's divorce when I was two probably had a huge impact on my desire for a sibling. If I had grown up in a stable, loving two parent family it might not matter nearly as much.

I have also been trying to decide whether to have a second child. If I was able to get pregnant easily, I'd probably go for it without a second thought. That's not the case, however, so a decision to try for a second would be very involved. And truthfully we could be very happy as a little family of three. But I keep thinking about how much I wanted a sibling of my own, and of Claire being all alone someday, and my heart just breaks. I don't know what to do.
post #15 of 62
My dh says he didn't like being an only as a child and he still doesn't like it now. His mom thinks that's why he has four children.
post #16 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnMomma View Post
I'm 31 now and an only child. Parents are 69 now.

As a child beign an only was fine. I never wished for a sibling. I had two parents who were always there for me and very focused on me.

As a teen, it became more apparent that being an only wasn't so hot. Now this might have just applied to MY parents- but they were SO focused on me that I had no wiggle room and I felt totally smothered. They were very strict and worried about freaking everything despite the fact that if they had just opened their eyes a bit they would have seen that I was the type of teen that most parents would dream of- tough, not easily influenced, no one ever talked me into anything, conservative(as in not a wild child), and cautious. And yet I was constantly grounded (for BS things like being 5 minutes late for my 9:30 curfew) and really felt that if I had another kid in the house they wouldn't be so strict and controlling.

As an aduly, I wish I now had a sibling because I wish I had someone to help me DEAL with my parents. They are getting old and stubborn and they don't always make the best decisions for themselves. I wish I had a sibling to back me up from time to time when I try to help them out or help them through something. I'm at the point now where my parents are beginning to need parenting from ME. This didn't really sink in until I watched my mother( who is an only) deal with her mother's death. My grandmother developed cancer and it was hell for my mother to handle the dr appointments, and caring for my g-mother, and cleaning her house, and cooking, and food shopping and paying their bills, AND dealing with my grandfather who was in denial about the whole thing. If she had a sibling, it wouldn't have been so painful and difficult for her. She had my Dad of course but it wasn't the same. If she had a sister or brother, maybe they could have offered some help or support.

So I sometimes look down the road and think OH MY GOD I'll be on my own through all of that one day.

So I guess I decided that I really wanted more than one child for myself just so they had each other.

Just my 2 cents.
This is exactly my situation!

I think the success of the only child thing really depends on the kid and the parenting. Even sometimes with the best of both, it can be hard (or has been for me).

There is a huge amount of focus on me by my mom because I'm her only child--sometimes to the point where I think it's odd and unhealthy. And despite her relative good health, she has already called me sobbing and tried to make me promise to take care of her if she gets sick. There is no one to help me with this task, and I really wish that weren't true.

So we decided to have two kids, if only to make their adult lives easier. I think there are plenty of other benefits, too, but that's the main thing that comes to mind right now. I don't want to do more than two kids and I am 100% positive two is pushing my good-parenting limit. But I think it's worth it to do my best for the future of my kids.
post #17 of 62
P.S. I have always sort of envied the seemingly magical bond between blood siblings and have often wished I had a brother/sister of my own! That also played into our decision to have another child.
post #18 of 62
I feel as if the burden of my whole family (parents, grandparents, and mentally unhealthy uncle) falls squarely on my shoulder. But, I'm an only grandchild as well as being an only child. And it's lonely. But guess what? for the past 28 years all the family ressources have been directed at me. I'm 28, went to university for 5 years for free, and own a mortgage free house. I got to go to boarding school in Europe as a teen (my choice!), and have had numerous other opportunities that I would not otherwise have had. And, I like my family, so I can deal with the "burden" of them!
eta: Note that I did, however, choose to have TWO children, although this has substantially changed our family's lifestyle (e.g. used to fly to Europe every summer to stay with dh's family; no longer financially possible to do so - this is just one very major example.)
post #19 of 62
I think I'm going on 4 in 6 years BECAUSE I grew up as a wide-space kid. (20 years between half-brothers and me) Said half-brothers and I have no relationship to speak of now, especially since our dad passed in 2008. (they could barely be bothered to ATTEND the funeral, let alone PLAN anything. *I* would have done more if I'd had someone to watch the kids for me to *do* it--it just would not have been productive for me to try to come and be with my mom while she met with the funeral home and all that with a 3 1/2 yr. old and 19 mo. old in tow.)

that's my take. I *wanted* a sibling, specifically a sister. (but I'll also state that my parents were not as involved as many here probably are and that might be a factor too. My dad was 'done' raising his family I think and through unforseen circumstances, he ended up being the at-home while my mom worked.)
post #20 of 62
I'm very sad to be an only. I was raised by a single parent and my childhood was very lonely.

FWIW there are gazillions of kiddos out there who need adoptive homes. For anyone who wants more you don't have to give up your dreams of a large family.
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