As a licensed social worker, I spent a lot of time studying child development and family relationships. The topic of only children versus siblings has always been of interest to me. I’m an only child and I am a mother to a beautiful daughter who will most likely be a singleton too. Right after I had my daughter, I would get the questions of when I would be adding another baby to our new family. When I said that my daughter would likely be the only one, I was told that I was being unfair, that I would damage her ability to form relationships, that I would be depriving her of a sibling experience. Well, as an only child myself, I was glad to know what people thought about me! The stereotypes of only children are slowly being debunked but that does not stop the comments. I had a wonderful experience as an only child, and as much as I wanted a sibling, and a pony, and to move to Hawaii as a child, not having those things did not negatively impact me.
Loneliness. Many people think only children are lonely. As a child, sometimes I was bored but I had friends who had siblings and they too were bored because they did not want to play with their brother or sister. My imagination thrived as a child. I could occupy myself for hours playing by myself. I would write stories, color, play with dolls, act as a teacher to my stuffed animals, and so much more. The ability to entertain myself was somewhat forced upon me, but it helped me to be more independent and not rely on others to have fun. That character trait is one that I still treasure today.
Selfishness. This one stereotype is one that gets to me a bit. Just because I did not have to share my room did not mean that I was spoiled. Whether a child has selfish behaviors can depend a lot as to how the parents raise the child or children. I have known both other only children and individuals who had siblings who struggled with sharing and putting others first because their parents did not teach that.
Bonding. People mention the sibling bond. Yes, I would have loved to have a brother or sister. However, my ideal brother or sister in my dreams probably would not have been the same in realty. Parents always assume that their children will be alike and get along, where I know several friends who are not close to their siblings at all. Having a brother or sister does not mean you will be close. Just like I had an ideal version of a sibling, parents sometimes expect their children to have this ideal relationship that might not exist as they grow.
Growing Older. Parents always say that after they one day pass away they want their children to have each other to get through that tough time and share memories. Yes, I admit, that would be nice assuming that the strong bond is already there between siblings. My neighbor passed away a few years back and I remember how fortunate I thought she was that she had four children who could split the duties of caring for her when she was sick and then come together when she passed. Only one of the children even came around to help and after she passed none of the four could agree as to what to do with their mother’s belongings. Instead of coming together they argued. Again, we as parents have a vision of the relationship we want our children to have with each other, yet what we want and what is are not always the same thing.
Discuss with your partner the reasons you want to add to your family and do not let the fears of the only child stereotypes pressure you into having more children than you originally desired or can afford. There are a lot of only children who embrace the singleton life and have thrived from it.