Great perks come with great downsides too.
I have been an only child my whole life and will continue to be for the rest of it. An only child is often stereotyped as spoiled or selfish, but most only children face troubles and issues that are concealed from the public eye. We might be the most misunderstood people on earth, and here are some insights in an only child’s life—both the good and the bad—and the issues we deal with only in private.
1. We don’t have to share anything. There’s no hand-me-down clothes, no sharing a room or a bed. There’s no arguing about who gets a better Christmas present, a bigger ice cream cone, or fighting over the TV. We won’t even dream of getting triggered by siblings.
2. The personal space is real. We have our own bedroom. Sometimes, if our parents are out working, we even have the whole house to ourselves. We never have to worry about younger siblings barging into our room to touch our things or older siblings snitching on our whereabouts to our parents. Growing up with that much personal space, it is of no surprise that we value things like individuality and freedom the most.
3. We don’t have to fight for attention or love. Too many children grow up under the shadow of their brothers or sisters’ greatness, siblings who always seem to excel in school or are better them in any skill. It doesn’t help when parents show favoritism, or even worse, comparison. Having to compete constantly with siblings for our parents’ approval, affection and compliments are tough. The good thing about being an only child is that we know we get all of our parents’ love and attention, and there is no need for further reassurance.
4. There’s no financial burden on the family. I grew up in a working-class family where we were constantly worrying about money, and to be honest, if I were to have siblings, I wouldn’t have gotten half of the privileges I have today. The cost of raising a child in a developed country is high, and my parents would never afford to send two children or more to college. Being an only child reduces the financial expenses and your parents would never have to feel the financial strain of raising more children. Pretty lucky to have more resources to ourselves, I would say.
1. Prepare to be stereotyped as spoiled, selfish, aggressive or bossy. It’s surprising that one really stopped to consider that only children are always one of the most judged, most discriminated and misunderstood people. I dread telling people I’m an only child, especially when they don’t know me that well yet; for it’s a label that’s hard to shake off. A label that confines us within a box in the heads of others; a label that leads people to assume immediately that we are too reliant, or that we are spoilt brats that must have our way. Yet, some of the independent, most considerate and easy-going people I know are only children. Just because we never got the chance to share while growing up, doesn’t mean we don’t know how to.
2. The loneliness is real. We embrace a life of solitude, and we are always okay being alone. We talk to soft toys, we have imaginary friends, we are creative. There is never a moment of boredom growing up because we have always found ways to keep ourselves entertained. Having no one physically by our side was never much of a problem.
The emotional loneliness, however, never really get to us until we are older. It creeps in on us as our minds get more complex. It begins with the feeling that no one truly understands us, which develops into feeling all alone in this world and feeling different. There are friends of course, but friends are always not quite the same as a family. It’s hard to shake off the thought that not a single soul on this planet can truly comprehend us.
3. We have no one to share family problems with, and no one to seek advice from. Growing up, I could recall vivid accounts of my parents in heated arguments, and I, trembling in fear in one corner. I had no siblings to turn to, no siblings to confide in, no siblings that can share the burden of facing the same plight. Growing up as an only child means that you have to deal with family issues alone, especially issues concerning your parents. We worry about the future responsibility of taking care of our elderly parents alone, worry about their health alone, and would grieve over our parents’ death, alone.
4. We don’t have to fight for attention or love. As much as this is a pro, it is also a con. All of our parents’ attention is focused on us and there are no other siblings to distract them. It is much harder to fool them, much harder to sneak out of the house, much harder to tell lies. They watch us like a hawk, they micromanage us, and they practically control our entire life—from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. We wished we had a sibling that got into constant mischief just so the stuff we do would seem minor as compared to them.
5. Remarks like “You must be your parents’ precious little girl!” makes us extremely uncomfortable. Imagine someone saying that to you when you’re 30. It feels insulting, for that statement robs us of our independence, individuality, and power. We want to be thought of an individual, not someone that’s defined and labeled by how their parents treat them. Although the statement might be true to a certain extent,—every parent loves their children, only child or not—but to point it out to an only child seems remarkably rude. It suggests that we are so protected and sheltered as the apple of our parents’ eyes, and we are constantly babies; that we couldn’t help feeling that we are represented in a misunderstood light.
All in all, being an only child requires a great deal of inner strength and resourcefulness. We are trained this way. We grew up this way. We have to figure everything out on our own, mainly because there’s no one who has gone before us that we can emulate. We may look like we lead desirable lives, but we are really, different people that long to be understood. We may look like spoilt and assertive children, but we grow into independent men and women who are trained from birth that no one is really going to be here for us, to protect us, to fight for us unless we first stand up and fight for ourselves.