Ode to an only child – is only child syndrome real?

When I was a child, only children were a mystery to me.  I thought I didn’t really know any.  Because all my friends were mostly 1 of 2 children, with the occasional 4 thrown in.  But it wasn’t until secondary school age when I realised I knew 2.  Yes 2.  One at dancing, and one at school.  None through music or sport, most seemed to have a sibling.  And similar with my brother’s friends.  Even at uni, I knew very few only children.

Then I started work and realised that quite a few colleagues were only children.  And rather than being the spoilt stereotype of an only child, they were usually go getters, wanting to succeed and being fairly single minded about it, but still able to use their team.

Only child syndrome, is it real- - Bubbablue and me

I was never sure I wanted children. I lie, actually I was pretty sure I didn’t until I turned 32 and started thinking that maybe I’d regret not trying. We ended up with N a couple of years later, and he’s been brilliant.  I always thought that if I did have children I’d have a couple because that to me was the norm, and much as my brother and I fought and argued as children, we do get on really well and it would have been strange being the only one.

But having made the decision and having N has been brilliant.  He’s been a great (and easy) baby, a lovely toddler and is so far a lovely little boy I’m really proud of.  Yes, children mean changing your life – I’ve had a job change, a big pay cut, I gave up dancing for 5 years, and even now find it hard to get to the sessions I want to, I’ve gained and lost friends, have gained weight and more, and have found blogging.

We’ve made the decision to have only one child.  Now we have N, and now he’s older, I just can’t see myself with 2 children.  When he was younger, the decision was pretty much made without even needing to discuss it.  Life changes too much – with one child you’re still you.  But with two, I would have found myself changing too much.  I would have had to have given up work – our family is great at helping out, but the OH has only started doing more with once a week school pick up this school year. And he’ll have N for some of the holidays now he’s older and can just go out on the farm with them.  But add another younger child to the mix and that help would be harder to come by.

I might be seen as selfish, but I don’t want to give up work.

I want to still earn reliable good money especially with the OH being self employed.

I want to use my brain and use my education.

I want to have that to have more respect at home as someone who has value other than being a skivvy.

I don’t want to feel obliged to spend my days doing homework.

I want to be able to go on holiday when we want, go for days out, and not struggle for money if some crisis comes up.

I want to have friends outside of family and mum friends.

I want to be able to still see friends who don’t have children without feeling out of place.

I want N to grow up knowing that women do go out to work, can be independent and have a family.

I’m not a baby person, and while I loved having N when he was a baby, there’s no way I’d want to go back to it again.

Living Arrows 2017 week 17 - happy in a natural playground

Thankfully N has accepted our responses to his few requests for a baby brother.  Mine are that he would miss out on a lot, he would have to share us, and that he’s got cousins nearby who near enough to siblings to him.  And the OH’s ‘why would we want another one of you’. I’m hoping the jokey intonation came over to N!

Having an only child is great.  N is definitely not like the spoilt stereotype of only children.  As long as any child is brought up appreciating what they have, understanding what other people don’t have, being able to share and be assertive, and able to socialise well, only children can be as generous and loving as children in larger families.

Busting the only child stereotypes

  • Only children are spoiled brats
  • Only children are bossy
  • Only children need to work harder to make friends.
  • Only children don’t fit in well to larger groups
  • Only children can’t share

The concept of ‘only child syndrome’ followed flawed studies in the late 19th century! Yes, nothing modern.  And plenty of psychologist have explained that it’s not a real thing, especially nowadays when children go to childcare settings early on, are taken to playdates and have plenty of opportunities to socialise.

While some only children will have these issues, this seems to be no different to children with siblings. It’s more about being an introvert or extrovert, specific personalities, and how well they learn to adapt and push themselves into different situations.  Young only children can be selfish and lonely, unwilling to share etc, but so are most toddlers, as are some adults with siblings.  There are lots of studies which support only children as equally happy, considerate and generous as sibling children.

First borns and only children are often seen to have similar characteristics, and I can certainly see that in N and myself already.  There’s a bit of perfectionism, things have to be just so, and wants to get things right so might take less risks in case there’s a danger of failing.  These traits often make sense when you think about how first time parents want to do everything right, and have the time with the child to make that happen. Compared to 2nd or 3rd borns who might get less attention because of older children.

school photo siblings
Me – the first born and my brother

Only children are often more independent because they’re used to spending time alone. They’re generally better self-entertainers and can be more creative than other birth order children.  They tend to do well in school, are well spoken and confidence because they’re used to speaking to adults day to day.

Thankfully N seems pretty well adjusted, and I’d hope so as he’s been around adults and children of all ages from a young age. He’s used to being the youngest amongst 7 cousins he sees regularly,  and has also been one of the eldest in his nursery settings.  He’s not allowed to get away with lots of things, does help around the house (mostly when he wants to), and he’s now got over his not wanting to write for himself in case it’s not correct. Now, he just thinks everything is right – I need to work on that with him!).  He’s quite shy to begin with, so yes being in groups isn’t his thing, but then I prefer being in smaller groups too – that’s probably normal for up to 50% of the population who’re introverts.

cousins playing piano together

Although we know a few only children of N’s generation, there’s an awful lot of parents having 3, especially compared with my childhood where I knew 1 family of 4, but none of 3.  But I’m confident that we have a great little boy, who I’m sure will happily find his way in life to the best of his ability, just like those in larger families.

You can read more about only children and traits below

Only child syndrome research
Is only child syndrome real
Truths about being an only child 
Birth order and personality

How big a family do you have?  Do people like to give opinions about your family size?

Are you worried about things your only child may miss out on?

Dear Bear and Beany

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6 thoughts on “Ode to an only child – is only child syndrome real?

  1. I needed to read this. You may have seen my featured post about being a mum to one – this really has helped me see the other side of the coin. It’s made me really appreciate my one and only little boy. Thank you. #sharingthebloglove

  2. I tell the Tubblet I’m too old to provide another sibling – which is partly true. Really thought provoking post. Off to read the other links now

  3. My husband is an only child and he was desperate for us to give Alice a sibling, but that was down to the fact that he had a very lonely childhood. He didn’t have cousins nearby and his parents didn’t take him anywhere. So it was mainly that he wanted someone to play with. But I think that was down to the life his parents gave him (or didn’t!). My niece is an only child and she is the most outgoing, loudest child ever. My girls and her are more like siblings and we see a lot of her. I think its about the life you give your children, not necessarily how many children you have. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. I totally agree. N is the same with his cousins and being like siblings because they’re always seeing each other and the older ones keep an eye on the younger ones.

  4. I’m like you, and hardly knew any only children when I was growing up, but I think these days with having children later and financial pressures, it’s becoming more and more common. In my experience, the only children that I have met have been very independent, often leaders, and highly motivated – nothing like the introverted shy stereotype at all. But I suspect a huge part of that is simply down to personality rather than birth order. With all the opportunities available these days for socialising, I don’t really see too much of a downside in being an only child. We wanted another, but had Max ended up as an only child, I think he’d turn out just fine. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

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