Life as an Only Child

Recently I posed a question on Facebook asking for the other only children out there to chime in and tell me how they felt about being an only child. The responses actually astonished me – most of the people replied how they couldn't stand it. I loved growing up as an only child. In fact, I can only remember one time when I wanted an older brother (my best friend had two really cool ones), which my mom explained would be impossible to create, so I gave up on the cause. I decided to write this post, to refute many of the arguments out there that growing up as an only child sucks. In my experience, it doesn't.

Here are some of the circumstances surrounding my only child-dom:
• I was a young child in the 80s and a teen in the 90s
• My mom stayed at home with me, my dad worked and traveled quite a bit for business
• I was very well rounded as a child – I was active in music, sports, and I played outside as much as possible
• I grew up in a neighborhood with many children my age, we played together all the time
• The television never babysat me, I always did my homework before anything else, I was raised in what I considered a strict household

Only child – been there, done that like a champ, got the t-shirt!

As an only child, I feel that there were very few disadvantages.

First, I never could ‘pull one over’ on mom and dad. I didn't even have a dog to blame stuff on. My fish and stuffed animals did not play great scapegoats.
Modeling/teaching – I did notget to model myself after an older brother or sister, nor seek advice when my parents were being ‘tough on me.’ Also, I didn't get to teach a younger sibling how to do things. I did, however, become an ‘older sister’ at 10 years old with the birth of my cousin. I practiced for months ahead of time, digging out my old cabbage patch dolls, and carrying or wheeling them around with me everywhere I went in preparation for all the time I was going to get to “take care” of him. I may have dressed him in my clothes a few too many times. Good thing he turned out right 😉
I feel my childhood was lived in complete opposition to common stereotypes of only children.

Spoiled – This was one I heard often, “you don’t have any siblings? You must get everything you want.” I definitely didn't get everything I wanted, and, things were only given to me if I was behaving and doing what I was responsible for doing. And the minute that I mouthed off to my parents or disobeyed, things were taken away. Even as a teenager, I worked during the summers to buy my gas and pay my car insurance and I paid for my own entertainment. Now my grandparents on the other hand, well they spoiled me. But that’s another story. I was just much cuter than my cousins. 🙂 kidding

Lonely – All only children must be really lonely. Wrong. I had the best situation! As I mentioned before, I had a lot of kids around me who were my age (that was included in the research my parents did while looking for the neighborhood we lived in.) I still to this day have the same best friend, whom I met at 4 years old. Between her, and about 5-6 other kids in the neighborhood, I could always have a friend over or hang out at one of their houses. We also lived in an area where there was a ton to do outside, during all 4 seasons. We weren't children who were cooped up in front of the television. We were “playhouse warriors” and sled hill aficionados.

Too much pressure – Although I was definitely expected to do well in school, and there were rewards when I did and consequences when I didn’t, I do not feel as though I was put under too much pressure. My parents made themselves available to help me with anything academia; yes, my mom pulled out her old algebra, trig, geometry, and calc notes to refresh her memory in preparation to help with my distaste of mathematics. They are both extremely intelligent and were amazing role models.


Me with my parents, Tom and Lindy

I reaped a lot of benefits by being an only child raised by two baby boomers.

We traveled a lot! I went on my first trip to Europe at 4 years old and I have been there at least 15 times; I have been to 42 states and seen almost all the biggest and best national parks in the US. This was much easier to do when only having to pay for 3 people. I grew up knowing my relatives, near and far. We were always doing road trips to see cousins and family in MN, FL, NC, CA, PA – my parents and their siblings made a commitment early on to making sure that all of us cousins got to see one another frequently. I don’t consider my family to be distant relatives, but rather people I know well and adore and still visit regularly to this day.
I worked hard in school and earned good grades, and was always in higher level classes, which allowed me to easily get into college. I wasn’t allowed to party in high school and my parents always knew where I was. My mom had close ties to my schools from K-12, which meant that she knew who I was going to homecoming with my sophomore year before I even came home to tell her. I found this extremely annoying most of the time while growing up. I missed keggers and other popular high school ‘ragers’ which also peeved me and I definitely got caught for the two parties I tried to have during high school, and was justly punished. I frequently think of the time in college when I called my mom and said, “I’m sorry I was such a PITA in high school. I’m seeing people flunking left and right and getting out of control and most of them never had an ounce of discipline growing up. Thank you.”

Responsibility was something I learned all throughout my childhood. My parents believed that when I was in school, that was my primary job, and when summers came around, working was my responsibility. By the time I was out on my own after college, working and taking care of me weren’t shocking requirements.
The word shy is not part of my vocabulary. My parents made me, well ok, they highly encouraged me, to be outgoing and to meet new people. I learned early on that playing in my room by myself became boring quickly and that if friends were around, it made things much more fun! I can now get along with just about anyone.
I have some of the best, closest friends any woman could ever ask for. I know the value of friendship. I am also close to my parents. They are my trusted advisors, and my friends. I love and respect them infinitely.

Of course I'll never know what it could have been like to have siblings. Truly though, I have been completely content being an only child.

I'd love to hear your comments – How did you feel (if you were an only child.) What are other stereotypes of only children? Are you considering having your child remain an only child and if so, what are your concerns?