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I have an  only...

Growing up


My siblings and me


People should read "Maybe One" by Bill McKibben. McKibben, who was thinking of the planet when he decided to have one, looked at every study available to assess the well-being of onlies. Turns out -- they're just like everybody else. We need to realize there is an upside and a downside to everything. Sure, the perfect 2.1 family is perfect, compared to your own less-than-perfect family. But who gets to have a perfect family? So how 'bout we set beside those beach photos the stories of siblings who never got along, of families stretched to the breaking point, financially, and in every other way. And why don't we realize that every single thing that is the least bit challenging in life is not ruinous? So you were a little bit lonely as a kid -- and turned to books. Things could be much, much worse.                    Beth New Jersey




Given the expense of having and raising children in the U.S.--children who will, hopefully, have a good future ahead of them, and given the need to have a career to cover those expenses, which might take a while to build, it seems doubtful that having only one child is frequently a "choice." The "babycenter calculator" ( tells me that it will cost me $416,500 to raise my soon-to-be born child in the midwest, if he attends a public college. I doubt I will be able to afford a second one.                Rose Seattle



Almost everyone I know who has an only (myself included) cites: secondary infertility, advanced maternal age, financial considerations, health issues, and divorce as the reasons for their single-child family. Not everyone is CHOOSING this.


pittsburgh pa



I sometimes feel sad that my daughter doesn't have a sibling, since I love and appreciate mine. But I didn't want to have another child just so she would have a sibling, nor did I want to have a second just to have a "backup" in case something happened to her. There were so many reasons not to have a second, in terms of financial resources, parental time and stress, personal circumstances....To have a second child solely so your first isn't an only would really be spoiling the child and designing my life around hers. She may be spoiled by having 100% of parental attention, but she's part of a family in which adult needs and interests are dominant in many ways. As I said, I do feel sad...but I also know that siblings are a crapshoot. If all turned out well, her life would benefit from siblings, but there was also the chance that she wouldn't be close to her siblings. I have friends who aren't close to their siblings or are burdened caring for a disabled sibling.  Naomi  DC



Everyone is so busy being worried that only children are "spoiled," they neglect to see how having a second child just to give your first child is a sibling is a rather dramatic form of spoiling.       Nick CA



Theoretically, I would prefer to have more than one child; however, my specific reality meant having more than one child would probably have broken my marriage. I don't know this for certain but I felt that having two parents in a healthy relationship was more important for my child than a sibling. Yes, he will miss out on certain things (as well as benefit from being an only), but that can be said of all of us.    pa ny



I have a sibling, I adore her. It wasn't always like that, though, and many times I wished to be an only child. Now I have a child and she will very likely be an only child. I'm pretty confident she will often want a sibling and often be grateful she is an only child. I'm also pretty confident she'll be happy and loved.       Jean San Francisco



My siblings are so important to me that I always assumed I would have more than one child. Life didn't work out like that. There is no question that many advantages come along with being an only child--some financial, some emotional. Will my daughter thrive--I think so. Does she have an imaginary brother--you bet. I do sometimes feel sad for my daughter that she will never have real siblings and never have the complex, deep bond that binds me to my brother and sister. She will, of course, have other bonds that will be deep and complex, but if I got to pick (which I didn't) I would want her to have siblings also.    DW NY




Many of us parents of onlies didn't "choose" this...secondary infertility chose us. I am so tired of hearing about how awful my kid is or how awful his life will be because he is an only. Whether you are an only yourself (I am...yes, another freak only from the 70s) or not, whatever your family size, stop making assumptions about other people. Just. Stop. There may have been financial reasons, health reasons, or family reasons for not having more children. And people in those positions don't necessarily want to share their deep secrets with judgy busy-bodies. Judging other people for their family size is just WRONG.     michelle C



Interesting. As the oldest of six children, my most frequent childhood fantasy was of being an only child. Big families are truly a mixed blessing. Yes, you always have someone to play with, but you also always have someone to fight with and, because resources had to be stretched to meet the needs of many, there was almost always something to fight over. There's also a disconcerting recognition that you are seen as a member of a gang, not really an individual, which was reinforced every time an adult called you by your siblings' names until they "got the right one". Klein   NY





"The grass is always greener." As the oldest of two, I can most definitely think of the advantages that "onlies" have. Yes, there are drawbacks, but that's also true in families with more than one child. It's impossible to offer sweeping, general advice as to how many children families should have. Let's help families make the best choices for themselves, rather than telling them what they should or should not do based on a very narrow range of experiences."  JaneK  Glen Ridge, NJ




I am the parent of an only and I am wrestling with having another child because of my age. I am close to my siblings and yes we have had our issues but overall they are my best friends, they know what my voice sounds like when I am in a mood and I don't have to explain. Most importantly, a move or tiff won't destroy OUR relationship while both have ended frienships. Friends are amazing but they will never replace a sibling." Easterday   NJ




I have a sister who is 1 yr. younger & a brother who is 2 yrs. younger. Being so close in age we should be close, but we're not. Our father died 2 yrs. ago, & my sister showed up drunk at our dads funeral. My brother is also an alcoholic. They both got messed up in the wrong crowds as teens. They've made both my life & my parents lives a living nightmare over the years.. I can dwell & say my life would have been better had I been an only, but had I been an only I'd probably be feeling sorry for myself because I never had those "ideal" siblings we all dream about. Bottom line, everyone always thinks the grass is greener on the other side. It isn't. "           rubyp3    pittsburgh pa




As one who struggles to maintain some sort to an adult relationship with a brother who railroads every conversation, brags non stop and is generally very difficult to be around, I must say that giving your child a sibling does not guarantee any sort of lifelong camaraderie. I am wistful of many friends who do have that sort of relationship as adults.I worry as my daughter will likely be an Only due to my age, but reading some of the comments of Only children has heartened me. Thank you."  Mabel   California



I am one of five. We are not close, literally or figuratively, spread across the country and globe, with few phone calls, cards, or letters to connect us. We do not hate each other but suffice to say that when things go wrong within a family, they can go very wrong. Having siblings does not equal having friends or having people you can trust or rely on." Mama Lam LA, CA



I think some people choose to fantasize about a life they did not have . The "grass would have been greener had I had siblings.  It is so easy to point to things in our lives that make us different then the majority and dwell and focus to the point they make us sad.  I have a sibling but I am the one who takes care of my elderly parents when they need it. My sibling is a thousand miles away. I am an only in this situation and I am honored to do it. I cry on my husbands shoulder when need be or my best girlfriend's - not my siblings."

Delia  Oregon







I had an extremely happy, lovely childhood and am very close to my parents. But I felt an intense desire to have a sibling for my first child, and I am awed by seeing the sibling bond between my two kids.
I am very close to my best friend (we are in our 30s and have known each since preschool), but it is not quite the same. I have always felt a little lonely and wanted my children to have a sibling. I know it cannot always be helped, but I would not have chosen to be an only. I feel the same wistfulness when I see friends who are close with their siblings in adulthood, though as a child I believed my mother when she said I was lucky not to have to fight with a sibling over toys. Kay  Maryland



As an only child I loved the quiet, lack of bickering, and enjoyed the attention of my parents. Like the author I grew up in the 70's when only children were the exception--I had a college interview that focused on this fact exclusively! I feared the age I am now--in my 50's. I have to say--I still love it. I watched the in-fighting when my father in law died. Awful. I love that fact that I could design my life with sane people of my choosing--not wing nuts I happen to be related to!
  Neha  San Francisco



While I would love to have a close, supportive sibling I'm not sure I would trade my current "solitude" coupled with the financial advantages I enjoyed that enabled me to have an amazing education, for other possible sibling scenarios, where my siblings and I were either hostile or so numerous as to drain our parents' resources beyond feasible points. I've seen both of those possibilities play out, indeed, even in my own extended family. Hence, to other onlies and the parents of them: don't worry, life is not ideal on either side, and the grass is always greener.
Chris    NJ



I am an adult only child and just want to say that I have lead a wonderful life. The deep feeling that "something is missing" is simply not a problem I have. 
Parents of Onlies - teach your children coping skills, and not to compare their lives to others and they will thrive! 
Anna            New York





"I'm the only child of a single mother who was an adopted only child and cannot recall ever longing for a sibling- I wished my MOM had siblings because a girl can't have too many aunts and uncles, though her diverse and wonderful circle of friends provided me with a marvelous set of "honoraries" and I never felt singled out by my singular status.... and I never, ever had to do without anything that mattered- my mom's attention, privacy, recognition of my accomplishments as *mine* without being compared to anyone else... Stuff in my room was always right where I left it and I could read in peace, listen to whatever station I wanted on the radio and all the other tiny joys that come of having a space that's really *yours*..... of course, I never had anyone else to blame when something was broken, but such is life(wink]"

Anne   San Fran

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