If YOU are an only child, was it/ is it okay?

(54 Posts)
magicturnip Sun 15-Sep-13 14:10:21

I have one ds aged 6 months who I am struggling to get to take a bottle. I am 40 years old. I am seeing my chances of having another child fade away. It is looking like I won't even get to start trying till I am 41 and I have pcos. So this is my question, if YOU are an only child, how is it? Was it okay as a child and is it okay as an adult? And were you part of a wider extended family? My ds isn't and is very unlikely to have any cousins, and even if he did they would be hundreds of miles away. I am worried about him being lonely. I think social connectedness is the most important thing in the world and I am worried for him.

Takver Sun 15-Sep-13 14:28:08

Completely fine - I'm an only, and I have an only myself (for which there are reasons, but if we'd been desperate we probably could have had more).

I'm not really in touch with my cousins - my dad isn't really in touch with his family (one of two, but his sister was 12 yrs older and they didn't get along either), and on my DMs side my cousins live a very long way away.

I have lots of good friends, and a very good relationship with my DPs, I certainly don't feel lonely smile

Also worth bearing in mind that the way life turns out is very hard to plan. My DPs have only me, but we live very close and spend lots of time together. DH's parents have three, we are 7 hours drive away, SiL is on another continent, so they only have one near home (and he needs lots of support from them rather than vv).

Takver Sun 15-Sep-13 14:30:40

The other thing I would say is, I think in all honesty MiL would very likely have had a much happier life and a much better family situation if she had stopped at one or at most two.

Obviously for most people that isn't the case and having two or more dc is great, but I think better to stop at one rather than do things that will cause a lot of stress on the family you have, IYSWIM?

Familyguyfan Sun 15-Sep-13 14:31:28

I'm an only child and I wouldn't change it for the world. I loved being an only child and it doesn't bother me at all now I'm an adult.

I have no close relatives, but lots of friends were over at my house when I was a child. Parents of only children are very often, in my experience, keen to socialise their children, teach them the value of sharing etc.

I'm very close with my parents and have lots of lovely friends. I have two daughters, but we had two for us, not our eldest daughter. If fact, I worried terribly that we were ruining out eldest daughter's life!!

I'm sure your child will have a wonderful time with you, without need for a sibling. After all, there are no guarantees that siblings will get along.

LEMisdisappointed Sun 15-Sep-13 14:35:26

It was and is fine wouldn't have wanted it any different. Have had two "onlies" due to big age gap and dd1 left home. Now my mum is older and needs support id lke a sibling however that doesnt always mean youd get supported

Gratuitous Sun 15-Sep-13 14:37:21

I am an only with a small family, just parents really. Am blessed with excellent life long friends and sufficient sociable locals to make me happy wherever I am. I think as an only you are good by yourself, good at then only letting in good people as friends. Don't find it unusually hard as my parents age, in fact dh has a huge family who make any event or decision difficult. Enjoyed it as a child, lots of rubbish gets sprouted on this subject.

MrsHoratioNelson Sun 15-Sep-13 14:45:47

My DH is an only and it doesn't seem to have done him much harm. His experiences were certainly different to mine (I have a sister) but I can't say that he had a miserable childhood because he was an only.

It's sometimes obvious to me - he had never heard of the "I cut, you choose" rule and it took me a long time to train him to offer me a cuppa if he was making one - but he's certainly not spoilt or whatever like you hear people say onlies are.

One comment I would make is that he doesn't have the benefit of a break from the parental tractor beam that my sister and I get - when one of us is was in trouble the other is getting a break etc. His mother is rather intense in her focus on him and he often resents that. But I'm not sure whether she wouldn't have been the same with all her children if she'd had more.

Takver Sun 15-Sep-13 14:50:04

"His mother is rather intense in her focus on him and he often resents that. "

I have to say that DH suffers this full scale despite being one of three grin I've always thought it was the result of MiL never having much life outside of her children (had an under 11 for something like 26 years), whereas with just me my DM went back to work when I was 10 and always had a very active social life as well.

magicturnip Sun 15-Sep-13 15:22:52

Thanks everyone, that is very reassuring! I know that having a sibling doesn't mean they will get along. Me and my brother are not close and tbh my husband's family feel more like mine than my own biologicals do. I think seeing DH's family has helped me to see how important good family can be. I suspect that the reason I spent most of my life thinking I never wanted children is because I never associated family with anything positive until I met DH. I would like DS to have better family bonding than I did. I worry though, that I will project my own sadness about him not having a sibling onto him. Hmmm. I thought I had got over being a worry wart, but having a child has brought the anxious worrier part of me back big time! Sorry, am rambling a bit. Thanks again for replies. These positive stories do help. And after all, we will have more money to help support him in whatever interests he develops and to help set him up in life!

QTPie Sun 15-Sep-13 15:29:44

Interesting that the "onlies" who have replied and say it is no problem seem to all have both parents still alive? And relatively young and healthy?

I am a 39 year "only" and find it quite a struggle/strain since my dad died (9 years ago) and being left with one ageing parents. I actually have 3 half siblings, but am not in touch with one (adoption) and two are on my day's side (see a couple of times a year, but are no help with my mum). I am not particularly close to my mum (I just find her abrasive), but feel left with the sole responsibility for her (health issues, cancer, Christmas etc) and it won't get any better... I know that I shouldn't feel this way (I should deeply love my mother, enjoy and make the most of her company and not feel any "burden" at all, but that isn't how I feel.. There is no-one to share things with.

I know that often amongst siblings, one may take more responsibility for ageing/widowed patents than the others, but there is certainly still normally some physical or at least emotional sharing of it.

Saying that, I am also on the other side: DS 3 years 8 months, but we are seriously failing to conceive DC2 (18 months and two failed rounds of IVF) sad. I am 39, but my egg quality seems very poor (debrief from the IVF).

I watch most of DS's friends having siblings and would love the same for him, but the chances are rapidly failing... So he will most likely be an only child. I have to find ways to help him cope (and me be good mother and not a burden). However I do reckon that boys probably feel less emotional responsibility to ageing parents anyway.

Sorry to not be too possible. We have to a for what we believe in, but be prepared to deal with the less ideal hand that we sometimes get dealt...

KatyPutTheCuttleOn Sun 15-Sep-13 15:37:01

TBH I don't think siblings will stop him from being lonely, friends will do that. I am not at all close to my siblings, though they are a lot older than me and so we never lived together. I don't get birthday or xmas cards from them and I haven't seen them for twelve years so it's no guarantee that siblings will be a source of company or shared responsibilities.

magicturnip Sun 15-Sep-13 15:38:33

Hi QTPie,
Thanks for your very personal and intimate reply. I am very sorry to hear about your difficulties conceiving dc2; that must be very hard.
I would not assume that boys feel less responsibility to ageing parents. My brother moved in with my mum when she needed a carer and has been there for five years now. And I had a friend who worked in a charity shop and said that it was son's who seemed to have been hit hardest by the death of a mother (when they bring in deceased mum's clothes as donations).
I wish you all the best luck in the world with conceiving dc2. I am sure you will succeed in being a brilliant mum is your dc is an only.

Gratuitous Sun 15-Sep-13 17:09:53

QTPie I probably did sound a bit glib about ageing parents but mine are old and disabled, have been for yonks. They are not difficult themselves and I think that the biggest stresses come with particular combinations of illnesses and attitudes. My parents are aware that their ill health can be a burden so we manage ok. My best friend is having a hell of a time with her parents who expect 24 hour family provided care but with her doing the bulk of it and her brothers barely responsible. She now loathes her siblings and certainly her mother as the pressures of the final years has compounded every previous resentment.

As an only, a bit lonely can look a lot better than most alternatives. One friend has amazing family, huge, lovely attentive and so many fun cousins...it does look great but she sometimes admires my patch of grass too.

Forester Sun 15-Sep-13 17:29:19

I'm an only child and certainly as a child had no real issue with it - I had lots of friends and my parents made sure that we went to places with lots of kids on holiday and I learnt to make friends quickly. I did resent the assumptions that only children must be spoilt - my parents were careful that this wasn't the case and I remember for a french exchange i was paired with another only child which I thought was odd as it seemed to make an issue of something that wasn't an issue. But I think that it's far more common to be an only child now.

However as an adult I've thought it would be nice to have a sibling as I'm not close to my wider family (DM was also an only child, DF not that close to his siblings). But I do have a wider family through DH.

So OP I think your son will be absolutely fine but you getting used to not having another (if that does end up being the case) will probably be the hardest thing.

HarrietSchulenberg Sun 15-Sep-13 17:29:29

This probably isn't what you want to hear, but I am an only child and I spent my entire childhood desperately wishing for a bigger family. My mum's sister had 3 children and my dad's brothers had 2 each, so I knew what I was missing out on. They liked to tell me that I must be spoiled because I was an only child, but I regularly shared stuff when I was with my cousins and I was brought up to do so right from the word go.

Later on I had friends who had large families and they all seemed to have a much freer existence than I did. Multiple siblings deflect parental attention and my friends all had to muck in and help to get family tasks done, whereas my mother seemed to believe that she should do everything as in her mind I was always too young to be trusted. I wasn't even allowed to light the gas fire until I was 15 for fear that I would blow the house up, whereas my friend and her siblings were taught how to set and light their coal fire from about age 10.

My mother was 31 when she had me, which at the time was considered old. She has a long-term illness which could have been hereditary so after they had healthy little me my parents decided not to risk another baby in case the second one wasn't so lucky. They really did wrap me up in cotton-wool as they were terrified something would happen to me. And I've spent most of my adult life surreptitiously doing all the stuff I wasn't allowed to do as a child: climbing trees, learning to swim etc.

My parents' hopes and expectations were all pinned on me, and I've always been very conscious of not wanting to f*ck up or let them down. I wanted to drop out of my degree but I stuck with it (and got a crap grade) as I knew not completing it would upset them. My mum was so upset when I left home to go to university that she ended up in hospital, and although she fervently encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to in life, and to go wherever I wanted, I've always known that she missed me hugely when I wasn't there. When I moved to London it was like I'd died: my parents thought I would be blown up (IRA), kidnapped (foreigners) or end up on the streets as a prostitute. I didn't, but they only came down to see me once in 5 years because they didn't like London. I went up to see them every 3 weeks instead.

My parents are getting older now and although they don't require care yet, I know they will do before long and then it will all be down to me. I live 5 miles away from them, near to where I grew up, and although I would desperately (really desperately) like to move away I can't as I know that I'll need to be here when they do need help. There's no-one to share the potential burden with so I'm having to plan things on my own.

Can't offer any advice I'm afraid, but I do know of lots of other only children who wouldn't have had it any other way.

I'm an only - loved it as a child, love it now.

The only thing I'd maybe have changed was that I wish if had more exposure to other children. Holidays and trips weren't particularly child centred (the only one I remember to an activity park I can remember being so overwhelmed that I sat and read my book whilst other children played around me) so I did sometimes have issues with relating to other children which did affect me at school.

NotCitrus Sun 15-Sep-13 17:49:30

I liked being an only child until I was 10 or so - after.that there was a lot of family tension and I felt outnumbered by two parents. My parents were very much academic types who admit they knew nothing about children's behaviour and I was very isolated with crap social skills - if they'd had two children they might have picked up more - or rather, if they'd been the type of people to want more children, they would likely have put more effort into emotions and socialising ability.

To be fair, they did save to send me on an activity holiday each year (but those only went up to age 12), and up to same age I went to stay with cousins for a month each year - but after that I was.very glad of boarding school.

So I suspect if you are aware of the need for an only child to spend time with other kids doing not much, and have a clue about how children behave together, it won't be much of an issue.

My parents are getting elderly but have moved to a smaller house that should be ok for some years and have insurance policies for nursing homes in place, so about as well prepared as I can be for them getting trailer.

magicturnip Sun 15-Sep-13 18:48:33

Thanks again everyone, especially not citrus and Harriet for sharing their not so positive experiences. It is useful to get a range of perspectives. And thanks for the tips on things to be aware of with having an older child

Wuldric Sun 15-Sep-13 18:58:25

The impact on me of being an only child is that it has necessarily made me very gregarious. I didn't feel any adverse impact at all as a child (although I did long for a brother). But there are times, especially later in life when you realise that your DCs won't have cousins, or you have to cope with your parents ageing and dying on your own, that you think it would be pretty good to have a sibling or two.

KateCroydon Sun 15-Sep-13 19:08:11

Yes. Not much family. It was and is fine.

Look at it this way: if only children were lonelier, unhappier, or mote selfish than average then it would show up in the stats. There'd be more of us taking anti-depressants, or in jail. We're normal.

delasi Sun 15-Sep-13 19:11:23

Thought I would add my own experience, in brief.

I am an only child, but my parents separated when I was young so I spent most of my formative years in a house with just my mum and myself. The dynamic is different I think to when an only child lives with both parents, because you can become so interdependent. My mum worked long hours and did regular business travel, so I was angry and frustrated by being left alone as there was no one else for me to be with at home when she wasn't there. On the flip side, after the rebelling (largely early on, due to the loneliness) my mum and I became very close and very good friends. Undoubtedly it was easier for her to 'spoil' me as it was just us, so we would go the cinema and out for meals regularly, we got takeaways, rented movies, went shopping, went travelling... it was easy to do as she only had the one child and I just continued to grow, there was no starting again with another.

Once I got into the tween/early teen years, I had a spell in which I wished I had a sibling. But, I wished I had an older sibling, as most of my friends did and I wanted that relationship of having an older brother or sister to look out for me - probably influenced in part due to the aforementioned time alone when my mum was busy. I never missed having someone else close in age to me and certainly wasn't after a younger sibling. I also come from a very small extended family, and we don't even see each other that often (once a year at best, save for my parents).

DH otoh has 3 much younger siblings and a large extended family. What seems to have had the most important impact is how their family works and interacts, not the number. DH's family, whilst large, is riddled with inter-family disputes, backbiting, and gossiping, and he generally dislikes being around most of them. He cares for his siblings a great deal and keeps in touch with them, as due to the age gap he has always acted 'fatherly' with them. But he left home long before they'd made their way through their teen years so he didn't grow up with them as such. My comparatively tiny family, whilst not very close, is very friendly, no arguments, no negativity.

As for cousins etc, that's unlikely to happen for quite some time for our DC. The only siblings are DH's, and they're all quite young so it will be some years before any of them even contemplate children. In terms of interaction and playmates it all comes down to our friends with children, and that works quite fine for me as they're people I know and get on very well with already, rather than people I hang out with because they have children.

MrsHoratioNelson Sun 15-Sep-13 19:31:12

It strikes me from the responses here that the exerience of onlies depends very much on the parents' attitude to it. If you can approach it with positivity and awareness that you might need to help with things like making sure your DS has plenty of access to friends his age, I'm sure it will be fine.

Familyguyfan Sun 15-Sep-13 20:43:09

QTPie: just to clarify , I have very nearly lost both my parents, had to cope with an alcoholic parent who almost drank themselves to death and have had to make very serious decisions about their care. Their current good health is a blessing but not a permanent situation.

Honestly, I've seen my husband try to make decisions with his siblings, and it is often easier for me to make decisions by myself with the support of my husband.

Takver Sun 15-Sep-13 21:13:17

"the exerience of onlies depends very much on the parents' attitude to it"

TBH, I think the experience of children depends on their parents' attitude. Its the same if you ask about people from very large families, some had a great time, others not so good, it depends on the individual circumstances.

I guess if you come from a 'typical' family with say between 2 and 4 children, then any problems are seen as individual to your family. Whereas if you come from an 'unusual' family set up - either an only, or 5+ children then it is easy to blame problems on the family size.

violator Sun 15-Sep-13 21:31:00

I too have had to wrestle with the very real possibility that my son will be an only.
However, society has changed a lot over the last generation. Years ago siblings grew up and had kids and lived near each other and their parents.
That's not the case any more.
My husband has three siblings, one lives in Australia, one in Dubai and one 200 miles away from us. He isn't close to any of them and actually had his best mate as his best man.
I have one sister but she is five years older than me so I kinda grew up an only myself, the large gap meant she was on a very different planet to me as kids.

Regarding looking after elderly parents, well that usually falls to one person anyway. My mum's four siblings did nothing, literally nothing, when he parents were old and infirm. She was left to do everything. Siblings never guarantee closeness or support for each other as adults.

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