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Pros and Cons of being an only child

Whenever I reveal that I’m an only child, I get either, “Oh that explains a lot…” or “Really? You don’t seem like one at all!” Apparently everyone has their own preconceived notion of a stereotypical “only child” personality. While I do think that a lot of my personality can be attributed to being an only child, I don’t necessarily think those traits are consistent across the majority of “onlys.” I’ve always been fiercely independent, whereas my 25-year-old only child cousin still lives at home and is still completely dependent on his parents. Generally, I’m proud (or at the very least comfortable) with who I am, and can’t imagine being any other way.

Some “pros” about being an only child (specific to my personality and upbringing):

  • Enjoying alone time – not being afraid of being alone
  • Being able to experience travelling alone – fearlessly – and the clarity of mind it has brought me
  • Being self-aware, even if sometimes to the point of self-consciousness. In my opinion, better than being oblivious!
  • Despite some reclusive tendencies, also being outgoing and social – most likely due to necessity. I never had siblings or cousins to stick with in social situations, so I always had to just start talking to people to make friends.
  • Being self-sufficient
  • Having read A LOT of books growing up because I didn’t have anyone to play with constantly. (I think this helped develop my brain!)

And then there are the obvious “cons”…which I try to never dwell on, but I am quite honestly having to face.

  • As independent as I am and as much as I love to travel and would love to live abroad (like in Sydney!), I have only-child guilt of living too far away from my mother. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the fact that my mother is widowed, but having a sibling would likely make things easier.
  • Yes, it’s a negative word, but there’s none more accurate: burden. It’s an emotional burden and strain to be solely responsible for my mother’s health, care, and needs as she grows older. Just because it’s a burden doesn’t mean it’s not something I don’t want to take responsibility for, it’s just stressful to feel that when my mom needs me, it’s me that has to be there 100% of the time. Thankfully, I have a wonderful Sven that is an amazing support system and treats her like she is his own mother. But then, I also feel guilt that it really shouldn’t be his burden to share. Again, if only I had a sibling or two!
  • The pressure to produce grandchildren. On top of this, my mom just turned 70, and I’m not blind to the fact that she might be too old to keep up with her grandkids someday. Does this stress me out? Yes. Does it make me want to have kids earlier than I would if my mom was younger? No. Does this decision keep constant pressure on me? Of course.

So, as much as I am happy with who I am and as much as I enjoyed my childhood, my experience in being an adult only child makes me certain I want to have more than one child. If only so that my future children can rely on each other for support when one day they might need it.

 

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