If you are an adult only child.... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 09:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This really is a parenting question --

We have been torn about trying to have another child -- too many factors to mention here that we have to consider, but even though there is plenty of information on the parenting side of having an only, I want to get the perspective of the adult only child -- what your experience was and what you feel made it a positive (or otherwise) way to grow up.

I had a brother, so I can't speak for the experience. Most of the female AOC that I know say that it was fine and they actually enjoyed it. It seems that males are more the ones to say they were lonely, etc....maybe because boys are more physical and crave that contact with other children? (Nadya Suleman says that one of the reasons she wanted a big family was to "make up for" being an only child, confirming so many stereotypes that are out there....)

Thanks for honest answers!
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#2 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 09:57 AM
 
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My mom is an only and my dh is an only. Both never craved what they didn't know. It does make my dh crazy when our three fight because he never had that experience but he was a pretty quiet kid who was absolutely ok with his own company, still is.
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#3 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 11:08 AM
 
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I do have siblings but was never raised with them. I am expecting my third. I do want a larger family, whether that stems from being an only child or not. I do remember pining for siblings when I was younger, not so much now, though it's nice to have that connection, though we're not close by any means. And when my mother dies, that's it, I'll be alone (other than my family). I've seen lots of bad sibling relationships, but as an adult, I would probably have liked to have a good sibling relationship.

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#4 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 11:20 AM
 
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I am my father's only and my mom had 3 boys after me when I was wayyyyy older so I consider them more cousin-like than brother-like. I desperately wanted siblings growing up. I was an introvert but always wanted a sibling. Never got that sister, but I really hated being an only child. Of course everyone else in my family has big families, so to me that was normal and fun. Dh's family is the opposite-small families where 1 is preferred. Not my thing-but to each their own!

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#5 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 11:38 AM
 
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Funny, 'cause I was thinking a lot about my childhood for some reason this morning on my way to work - after I dropped off our ODS at pre-school.

I'm an only and I really don't remember much happening during my childhood - like family vacations or visits to this and that. Just a lot of moving around. I don't think I craved much outside the norm because I grew up around ALL adults. So I grew up really quickly - very mature for my age.
I was it. The only granddaughter, only niece - the only anything. I had cousins that I never saw, heard about them, but they were not of blood but from marriage.

A part of me certainly wishes to this day that I had someone else to share things with - a sister to share girly stuff with or a brother to stand up for or date his friends - Just silly stuff like that.

My DH has a brother and I consider him my brother, not BIL. He's great and he makes up for what I didn't have growing up.

We have two boys and I always knew that we would. I'm thankful and thrilled for the adventures that we're going to go thru. I'm looking forward to the fights, the family vacations, the traditions that we've already started and will continue with. I want my boys to remember things about their childhood and not just see it through pictures.

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#6 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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As a child I HATED IT! Now as an adult, I mostly worry about what happens when my mom (my only parent) can no longer care for her self.

When I was a kid, I always was jealous of my friends who had a sibling to play with all the time. I was an introvert for the most part but I did crave more time with other children (even though I was in daycare and school full time.)

When dh and I met, one of the things we talked about was children. I was adament that I would not have an only child. We'd adopt if we had to! Thankfully he's from a large family (fourth of five) and loved it so was more than happy to go along with my plan. We just had number three 12 weeks ago and are planning at least one more in 2-3 years.

I will say that being an only child, having three children and interacting with dh's large family, I do get a little lost and over-stimulated often. I need to take a lot more breaks than dh, partially, I think, because I'm just not used to it. Dh thrives on the chaos that his family creates (by shear number alone) while I find myself trying to find any reason to go home after a couple hours.

In the long run, I think being an only child is A-OK, but I was lonely often and wished I had *someone* who was family to play with (I have 3 cousins all much older than me and also all boys.)

(And as a side note- even kids who have siblings aren't always happy. Dd is 5 and really wants a sister, even though she loves her little brothers. You can never make your children happy, and as an adult, I finally get why my mom wouldn't get me that baby sister or brother when I was 7.)

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#7 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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My husband and I recently had this same conversation about having another child. I am an only, and I think that this onlyness has probably contributed to my feelings of alienation from the rest of the world. I've always felt rather different from everyone else and have always had trouble making friends. Of course moving frequently contributed to this as well I'm sure.

On the other hand I used to hang out with the family next door when I was a kid and it was like something out of Roseanne. They had four kids who all hated eachother and it was constant yelling. This made me thankful to be an only child because at least if I wanted to be left alone it was easy to accomplish.

I think in the end it depends on your kid's personality. I now think its kinda crappy that I don't have close family to share my kid's life with. I'll never be an aunt either. On the other hand having siblings in no way means that you will be close with them as an adult. My husband never speaks to his sister...they really don't even have a relationship. And they're only two years apart. But they're sooooo different.

ANyways this is all over the place...sorry.
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#8 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 01:52 PM
 
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I'm an only and decided my kids would not be.I didn't mind it too much,there were things that were great,like all the extra attention.I was also an introvert but craved the company of a brother or sister,preferably a brother.I always knew I wanted one of each when I became a mom,and thankfully that's what I got.I wasn't prepared for all the fighting though .Family outings were always lonely,unless I was allowed to bring a friend.I worry now about when I lose my parents.No one to be there with me.No one to help me with the arrangements or going through everything.The plus side is no one to fight with,but I think I'd rather have that.My mom is in remission from breast cancer,and it was really hard when she was going through it.I had no one to talk to about it that would understand in quite the way I did,yk?

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#9 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 02:33 PM
 
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I don't remember wishing that I had a sib when I was a child. But as an adult, it has been very important to me to have a bigger family. I grew up with a single mom, so there was only two of us in the house, and I have always craved the feeling of having people milling around, and I wanted so much to create a lively household for my kids. Augie is 15 months old now, so just in the last few months he's started to become a major force in the household, as far as being boisterous and willful and making his presence felt, and I am just LOVING it! I had nightmares of Milo's christmases being like mine as a child -- me and my mother eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the couch. Ugh. But it clearly is not going to be that way now!

My kids ended up being spaced much farther apart than I hoped for bc we had trouble getting pregnant the second time, and then I was kinda over the hill by the time Augie was born, so it looks like we'll only be starting two from scratch, but the idea of adoption is still on the table.

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#10 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 03:57 PM
 
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DH is an only. He def wanted at least two children (we have 2 now and planning a 3rd). He was frequently lonely as a child, and more than that, it is a lot of pressure to be all that his mom has, now that his dad has passed away.
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#11 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 04:05 PM
 
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I'm an only, and I liked it when I was little. I don't have any memories from my childhood of wanting siblings, but I do remember being relieved that I DIDN'T have them--too many of my friends were either teased or beat up by their siblings and I just thought I had a much more tranquil way of life.

In high school one of my best friends was one of 6, and my other friend was one of 8! So, maybe I was looking to be a part of something like that...but still, I got to go home and be peaceful.

Now I have an only DD and I have to say, we are so happy that I am just not inclined to have another.

I do think, as a parent of an only, that I am going to take the bull by the horns as far as my retirement and old age and get that all settled early. DH's father, an only, had to make the decision about what his mom should do when she was widowed and no longer able to live alone--I wouldn't leave it that long and I'd like to make my own plans proactively.
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#12 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 04:25 PM
 
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I am essentially an only (2 foster sisters that were only in our home a few years during my high school years, and 2 half siblings that I didn't meet until I was a senior in high school) of a single mother.

I think there are pros and cons to being a single or being one of multiple siblings. Ultimately you have to do what is right for you and your family. There is no "perfect" family. Only children can be miserable or content as can children with siblings.

My DH and I currently have 3 and are hoping for more. Is this because I was an only? Probably. I love the hustle and bustle and I love watching the relationship between my kiddos unfold.

The one thing that I dread is my mother growing older. She has not planned for her retirement and/or possible illnesses. As an only all the burden falls on me. I think if you are the parent(s) of an only it is imperative that you prepare for your financial future and have ongoing conversations with your adult child as to how aging and end of life stuff will be handled (retirement, nursing home, living will, medical, etc.). I just hate that one day I will be responsible for her and may possibly have to strong arm her into making decisions that are in her own best interest. (And it doesn't help that my mother and I have an odd relationship)

lather, rinse, repeat
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#13 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 07:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by elmh23 View Post
As a child I HATED IT! Now as an adult, I mostly worry about what happens when my mom (my only parent) can no longer care for her self.

When I was a kid, I always was jealous of my friends who had a sibling to play with all the time. I was an introvert for the most part but I did crave more time with other children (even though I was in daycare and school full time.)

When dh and I met, one of the things we talked about was children. I was adament that I would not have an only child. We'd adopt if we had to! Thankfully he's from a large family (fourth of five) and loved it so was more than happy to go along with my plan. We just had number three 12 weeks ago and are planning at least one more in 2-3 years.

I will say that being an only child, having three children and interacting with dh's large family, I do get a little lost and over-stimulated often. I need to take a lot more breaks than dh, partially, I think, because I'm just not used to it. Dh thrives on the chaos that his family creates (by shear number alone) while I find myself trying to find any reason to go home after a couple hours.

In the long run, I think being an only child is A-OK, but I was lonely often and wished I had *someone* who was family to play with (I have 3 cousins all much older than me and also all boys.)

(And as a side note- even kids who have siblings aren't always happy. Dd is 5 and really wants a sister, even though she loves her little brothers. You can never make your children happy, and as an adult, I finally get why my mom wouldn't get me that baby sister or brother when I was 7.)
I agree with a lot of the above.

As a child I was an introvert, got along famously with adults, but struggled with peer relationships.

Very mature for my age- always struggled to find a group where I felt I belonged.

I need alone time. It's like a MUST. So becoming a parent- the choas, the lack of alone time, the mess, the general flow of things was very hard on me. I love being a mom but it was a hard adjustment.

And yes, now my biggest issue/fear is handling my parents as they age. I'm alone in that task and it's not easy. I also have no cousins my age at all so I'm quite on my own in terms of relatives.

I also married someone who comes from a huge family and we are together a lot of the time. Sometimes the noise, the lack of order, the lack of privacy makes me batty. DH doesn't even seem to notice those things.
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#14 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 08:17 PM
 
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It's no big deal to me. I've always been able to have my "chosen" family.

I've seen lots of siblings totally destroy their relationships when it comes to elder care and inheritance issues, so to be quite honest I'm relieved that I don't have to even risk that.

I know more elderly people that rely on a network of friends and their kids for companionship in their elder years--not siblings, which seem to be pretty scattered. Maybe I just gravitate towards people who tend to be closest to chosen family because I also am that way, but that's how I envision fighting lonliness.
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#15 of 25 Old 05-17-2010, 08:45 PM
 
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I am an only child who didn't like it very much then or now. I think a lot of my feelings about it come from how I was parented... I'm sure there are happy, well adjusted adults with siblings and without!

That said, I am only just now realizing some of the things I will now have to deal with due to my status as an only. My mother's health is not great and once she can no longer care for herself, there is only me left to shoulder that burden. The grief at her loss, too, will be mine alone to bear. Her neuroses are bad enough to deal with right now! I often find myself wishing I had someone to share with and get support from about the way I was/am parented by her.

My partner has many half- and step-siblings, but only one full biological sibling. The two of them are as close as can be, and I often find myself envious of their bond. It really does seem like a magical thing!

I do think I have many of the negative characteristics often attributed to being an only child, but I also know some other people around my age who are NOT only children and who are similarly maladjusted.

Basically, I think it's a total crapshoot. Ha! That said, we are having two kids because I feel so strongly about not guaranteeing my firstborn the experience I had growing up. We'll see if it works.

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#16 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 09:02 AM
 
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I am an only, and as a child I had no problem with it. As an introvert, I was very creative, able to play by myself, come up with interesting games, etc. however I also made friends very easily so there was never a lack of anyone to play with in my neighborhood. It was a relief to never get in trouble for fighting with siblings like many of my friends did. My parents took me everywhere they were going so I got along with adults just fine.

As an adult, however, it's something I'm having a hard time with. When my parents and I disagree, there's no one to run interference and I admit as they get older they get more stubburn and unwilling to listen to details. All decisions regarding their care and their future are all on me and that stresses me out quite a bit even though it's years away. DS has no "aunties" or "uncles" to look up to (DH's siblings are all step-siblings and are not close with him at all). All of this was one of the many reasons we recently decided to give DS a sibling. We knew we didn't want kids close in age anyway and now that I'm 35 we're definitely feeling like it has to happen now or never. We unfortunately m/c in January but after a few months break are TTC again.

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#17 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 11:10 AM
 
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Originally Posted by muldey View Post
I worry now about when I lose my parents.No one to be there with me.No one to help me with the arrangements or going through everything.The plus side is no one to fight with,but I think I'd rather have that.My mom is in remission from breast cancer,and it was really hard when she was going through it.I had no one to talk to about it that would understand in quite the way I did,yk?
As an only child, this is what I worry about. My parents and I have always been close and still are and I do sometimes think about what it will be like when they are gone. No one else has memories of our family vacations, holidays, etc but the three of us. I also worry about taking care of my parents if and when they are unable to do so for themselves. I live a thousand miles away from them, do I move back, move them here to be near me??? This is what I grapple with.
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#18 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 11:15 AM
 
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I grew up an only... I have siblings but none of them lived with me and in some cases I was an adult when they were born, so for all intents and purposes I was an only child. I HATED it. I hated it so much I swore I would have a large family.

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#19 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 11:40 AM
 
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I am my mom's only child, so I spent most of my time alone. However, I have two half sisters that I got to see when I visited my dad on the weekends. I much preferred to have my sisters around and often wished that I could have a normal family like other kids. I am fortunate that the experiences I had with my dad and stepmom served as a model for the kind of family I wanted to have someday. Of course, no one told me how many sacrifices and bull-pucky I'd have to endure on a daily basis to make that dream a reality

I believe that all of that time I spent as an "only" child was damaging socially. Even now it is extremely hard for me to deal with my three kids and all of their rivalries and chaos. I never had brothers either, but I have two cousins that I was close to. I can always remember being SO relieved to leave my aunt's house because her boys were so loud and rowdy. But by "hard to deal with" I mean my blood pressure jumps, I start getting chest pains and I have to remove myself from the situation because it is too overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I would have more patience and be able to handle these things better if I'd had a similar life growing up.

I know everyone will make decisions regarding their family based on many many factors, but I guess I am highly recommending NOT having an only child on purpose. If it happens that way, it happens (advanced maternal age, secondary infertility, only able to adopt one time-I totally understand that stuff.) Anyway, my two cents...

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#20 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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Just as an FYI, being an only or one of twelve has little to do with eldercare!! I am the youngest of 4, and I have been handling, literally, EVERYTHING for my elderly parents for the past many years.

It seems there is one child, in most multi-sibling families, that becomes the sole caregiver. In our family, that's me. Forget about geography, they don't even bother to phone to check on Mom (either to me or to Mom). Dad died a couple of years ago, their interest in that was momentary. They aren't nasty, they're just too wrapped-up in their own lives to have much concern for their parent's lives.

Our parents have been the best, always supportive to their children. That three of the four have been so uninvolved has been really hurtful to them.

Honestly, I think their biggest concern with our Mom is whether there will be a big inheritance for them. They'll be surprised when the will is read...............

Had I been an only, I would have always known, expected and planned to be the sole caregiver for my parents. To have siblings makes you always hope that, maybe, just maybe, they'll come forward and do their share. Knowing my siblings from the get-go, they've never disappointed me in their refusal to step up to the plate.

There is 18 years difference between me and my eldest sibling. The two oldest hit college before I was toddling. My older brother is 5 years older and was physically abusive to me and has been estranged from our entire family for years.

All in all, I wish I had been an only, even though, in essence (because of ages), I was.

Dh was an only and thought it would be nice to have had siblings to help shoulder the concerns over his parents. Seeing that having siblings doesn't equal having help & support has made him glad he was a single!

Our ds is an only, by choice. We have already made our plans for our senior years, so he will not have to be burdened with certain decisions.

We have a better support network through friends than we do through the traditional family.

I think that family is what you make of it, not biology.
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#21 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 01:10 PM
 
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I love, love, LOVED being an only child. If I didn't also love being pregnant and having a newborn, I would have stopped after having one child, myself. I occasionally feel like I shortchanged my own kids, in a way, because *I* wanted the experience of having more than one.

As an adult, I sometimes wish I had a sibling to share my mom with . . . but ultimately, I am really grateful for the childhood I had being an only. My parents treated me like an equal as much as possible, I always had lots of attention, I was never starved for playmates because my friends were welcome at our house all the time, and overall, it was just great. Of course, I try to give my kids similar experiences -- treating them like "adults" the way I enjoyed being treated -- but there are some dynamics that just change when you have another baby.

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#22 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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Another one for having issues more as an adult than I did as a child. I wanted a sibling, but it wasn't anything terribly disappointing. My parents didn't choose to have an only child it was out of their hands so that made it sort of easier to accept for me as a kid.

But as an adult there is something missing. I don't have a person who shares my memories, who I feel I can call and cry to when my parents need my care. It's much lonelier now than it was then. And I hear a lot from people who don't get a long with siblings or who take on the burden with no help from siblings, but it's hard to explain why it's just different. Really, if you got hit by a bus social services might have someone to at least call and ask what to do with your mom? My mom not so much.
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#23 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 02:22 PM
 
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Just as an FYI, being an only or one of twelve has little to do with eldercare!! I am the youngest of 4, and I have been handling, literally, EVERYTHING for my elderly parents for the past many years.

It seems there is one child, in most multi-sibling families, that becomes the sole caregiver. In our family, that's me. Forget about geography, they don't even bother to phone to check on Mom (either to me or to Mom). Dad died a couple of years ago, their interest in that was momentary. They aren't nasty, they're just too wrapped-up in their own lives to have much concern for their parent's lives.

Our parents have been the best, always supportive to their children. That three of the four have been so uninvolved has been really hurtful to them.

Honestly, I think their biggest concern with our Mom is whether there will be a big inheritance for them. They'll be surprised when the will is read...............

Had I been an only, I would have always known, expected and planned to be the sole caregiver for my parents. To have siblings makes you always hope that, maybe, just maybe, they'll come forward and do their share. Knowing my siblings from the get-go, they've never disappointed me in their refusal to step up to the plate.

There is 18 years difference between me and my eldest sibling. The two oldest hit college before I was toddling. My older brother is 5 years older and was physically abusive to me and has been estranged from our entire family for years.

All in all, I wish I had been an only, even though, in essence (because of ages), I was.

Dh was an only and thought it would be nice to have had siblings to help shoulder the concerns over his parents. Seeing that having siblings doesn't equal having help & support has made him glad he was a single!

Our ds is an only, by choice. We have already made our plans for our senior years, so he will not have to be burdened with certain decisions.

We have a better support network through friends than we do through the traditional family.

I think that family is what you make of it, not biology.
I could have posted this. Almost to the letter, except we have a dd and there will be no inheritance from my mother, who we financially support.

And can I add that because we have an only, financially providing for ourselves for our elder years will not be a problem. We can provide well for her now and well for ourselves later.
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#24 of 25 Old 05-18-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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I had a great time growing up as an only child. And my mom was essentially a single mom who worked full time and got her graduate degree while I was between 6-10, and I still remember her as a really hands on, very present mom.

After school I went home with a girl in my class and her mom babysat me until my mom picked me up (I think I often had dinner at their house), they had another older daughter and they were like extended family to me, so I had others around a lot and was actually very happy to be alone with my mom when I got home and on weekends.

We also lived in neighborhoods where there were many other kids my age so when I got older and could play outside on my own, I could usually find someone I knew hanging out and not have to do my own thing (although I did my own thing a lot - I liked doing my own thing as well as playing with outhers).

I never ever wondered why I didn't have siblings or felt left out.

It is only as an adult with aging parents that I first started to feel alone and that I wished I had siblings. My mom died when I was a teenager actually, and as an adult I found myself wishing there was someone else in this world who had experienced her fantastic mothering and knew her as a mother. And with my dad I worry about if/when he needs taking care of, I'm the only one to handle that and I have wished I was not alone in worrying about him.

Other than that though, I think my mom including me in so much, taking me to work with her often enough that I was very comfy in her office and around her coworkers so I had a good picture of where she was when she wasn't with me, and didn't feel alone.

And she came to my school events and parent teacher mtgs etc, so I guess I am trying to say that by being so hands on, I didn't feel like I lacked anything or wasn't connected and didn't miss not having a sibling.

Good luck with your decision!
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#25 of 25 Old 05-21-2010, 12:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the responses -- I'm honestly surprised, I thought most would be favorable, but it seems the majority do wish they had different experiences.

Thanks for the insight! Doesn't make the decision easier, but thanks.
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