-- (Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Babble.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both Babble and ABC News.)
I remember being in kindergarten and not understanding why almost every other kid I knew had a sibling. Even my parents had a brother or sister, so why was I different? I used to constantly question my mother on why she chose to stop having children after me. She’d express her regret, only because she thought I would never grow out of my longing for a younger sibling. As I’ve matured, I realize that being an only child has its pros and cons, and it’s something that I’ve grown to love. I want all mothers of only children to not feel guilty for having just one child. They may not appreciate it while they’re young, but trust me: they’ll love you for it later. Here’s why.
“Don’t you get bored?” “What do you do all day?” "Don’t you wish you had siblings?”
Your child will be asked these questions, which will definitely become annoying and constantly put them on the defensive. But these questions will force your kid to contemplate reasons why being an only child isn’t always a bad thing. The more your child is asked these questions, the more answers they’ll have for why being an only child is better than others may think. As her age progresses, so will her answers. For example, when I was 5, I would tell people that being an only child wasn’t so bad because I never had to worry about sharing my Barbies. When I was 12, my favorite part of being an only child was that I didn’t have any family competition when it came to sports; my parents never had to miss a single one of my tennis matches due to conflicting schedules. Now, as a 23-year-old, I express to people how the best part of being an only child is how it has affected how close I am to my parents. While still being asked these questions in my twenties, I’m delighted as ever to explain to people why I love my life, even if I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
Your child may not have a go-to playmate who lives in the same home, but this doesn’t mean your child will not have go-to playmates. I was lucky enough to have parents whose friends in the neighborhood had children close to my age. I would spend hours at their houses and grew close to them like family. I also had to learn early how to make friends on my own, without the help of my parents. Even from as early as my preschool days, I can still remember going out of my way to build friendships. Taking the initiative to make friends is a valuable skill to have in life, and I thank being an only child for pushing me to meet the close friends who have become my family.
The close relationships with other relatives
Just like I’ve grown close to my friends as if they’re my family, I’ve grown close to certain relatives as if they’re my siblings. I have countless aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of my family and I cherish every single moment I spend with them. I also have a close relationship with each of my grandparents. I may not see these relatives every single day, but that’s what makes it even better when we do all finally meet up on special occasions. Since the only two relatives I am used to seeing regularly are my parents, there is always an extra excitement when our little family of three reunites with our extended family. I also grew up with a Shetland Sheepdog who served as my “brother” from the time I was 5 years old until I was 20. Whether you have actual siblings or not, there really is no better feeling than being surrounded by the family you love, including those with paws.
The alone time
Something many people would consider a con of being an only child is how much time they spend alone. However, this alone time will benefit your kid in the long run. As much as I value the time I spend with my family and friends, I value how much time I’ve had to myself. I’ve always had uninterrupted time to study for school, read for pleasure, or just take time to contemplate. Moreover, being self-sufficient becomes natural when you’re an only child, and your kid will appreciate this at times when self-sufficiency is needed most. Going away to college was not much of a challenge for me. Since I did not have an older sibling who attended the same high school as me, I had to teach myself which study habits worked best for me, which led me to succeeding throughout my college years. When I landed my first internship as a college student, I lived in DC for a summer and learned to work the Metro system just from taking time to run errands alone (something I was used to doing as an only child). When I accepted my first post-grad job as an editorial intern in NYC, I made friends quickly in a place where I knew almost no one. I definitely do not need to be alone all the time (and would never choose to be) but I appreciate how this time to myself has shaped me into who I am today.
There’s no other parent-child bond like it
My full contentment with being an only child would not be possible without my relationship with my parents. In many ways, they are like siblings. We share the same interests and hobbies, we argue and forgive each other quickly as though nothing ever happened, and we laugh about things that no one else could ever understand. But the pseudo sibling in my parents is enhanced by the fact that they are even more than siblings. They are the two who raised me to who I am today, the couple that will always be there waiting at the door when I need to come home, and the mother and father whose love could not be replaced by anyone. They have said to me for as long as I can remember, “Carmen, you’re all we’ve got,” and I wouldn’t replace being all they’ve got for anything in the world.
Some may say I’m still missing out in life. I say I’m living life the same, just with “siblings” who go by different titles. So to all you parents of only children out there, don’t worry. You’re doing just fine. And to my fellow only children, own it. There’s nothing better.
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