A friend of mine recently posted a link to an article outlining the pros and cons of being an only child. I was an only child, and the experience actually left me with the desire to never impart that on anyone else; at a fairy early age I was determined to have multiple children. Despite the fact that I am not like my parents (although my similarities to them astound me at times), as soon as I gave birth to my daughter I knew I needed to have another child as soon as possible to prevent her from living the life I lived. Needless to say, only a few months after her birth, I found out about the brother she would shortly have.
I realize there are a lot of stereotypes associated with only children, and the thing about stereotypes is that they are not entirely inaccurate. In fact, for the most part they hit the truth quite squarely – and uncomfortably. This article got me reevaluate my childhood, and while I fit a large amount of the stereotypes, there are a few I would argue against. And others I will agree with.
As an only child I supposedly received all of the love and affection from my parents. Well, this is simply not true. My parents have always loved me dearly, but they are not the kissing and cuddling kind of people, and really neither am I. I can show plenitudes of affection, but in my own way. Also, if I had only one child that child may receive more attention, but not necessarily more affection.
Being spoiled is often associated with only children. As an only child I was not spoiled. My father came from privilege. My mother did not. She fought her way to everything she has, including her marriage to my father (Romania in the 60’s, and even beyond, was an extraordinarily classicist system, and what my mother went through to obtain permission to marry my father was practically only a step below what Anne Boleyn achieved). My mother never procured anything the easy way, and she would make sure that neither did I. And honestly, I thank her for it more often than I can count because I have never had anything handed to me, and I know not just the meaning of working hard, but how to do it to achieve proper results. In short, I can take care of myself.
Yet, despite that I never got anything more from my parents than food and shelter in my youth, I knew that they were there. I still know my mother is there. That idea is immensely comforting. I have never asked my parents for anything, but should the unthinkable happen and I need my mother to take care of me, and more importantly my children, I know she will without fail. That has always been the case, and I believe a large part of why I have taken as many risks as I have is because I knew that if all went wrong, someone would be there to catch me.
That is the type of environment I want to create for my children. I don’t necessarily want to be as stringent as my mother was (which may have been the cause to all sorts of other problems), but I do want them to make their own way while knowing I am here for them no matter what.
Then, apparently having only one child will leave parents feeling less stressed and frazzled. This, at least for me, was not the case. While my parents were not frazzled (not their thing really), I feel I was more so when I only had one child as opposed to two. By the time I got to the second I had a sense that I sort of knew what I was doing, and calmed down significantly.
Only children are alleged to have deeper connections with their parents. I haven’t the slightest clue what to make of this one. I am not sure how to compare it from my point of view since I don’t know the different connections I could have potentially had. As for my own children, I have a unique connection with each, and we bond in different ways, so they too are not comparable.
There are also some blatantly negative attributes associated with only children, and while they seem to apply, I am not sure they are negative as they might seem. Only children are thought to be lonely and aloof. I don’t know if I am lonely (although I am not saying I am not), as much as I like being alone. I enjoy my space. Tanya, who is also an only child, enjoys her space even more than me, and can spend days completely by herself. So yes, us only children like that sort of thing. Then I look at my children who can’t seem to be apart from each other for even a minute. Is that just because they are children? Is this a coincidence, and my children just happened to be extremely social?
I think these same questions can be attributed to a number of the stereotypes mentioned above. I fit many of them, dispute some, and I happen to be an only child, but I also know enough people who have siblings and fit into the same patterns. Thus while stereotypes are often valid, and I have my own opinions (the same ones that prompted me to not have only one child), it appears all of these conjectures are up for debate. So in conclusion, I have no absolute conclusions.