What does it feel like to be an only child in adulthood? When you’re an only child, you receive a lot of interesting inquiries and comments from people who are captivated by the idea of growing up without siblings. From the traditional “You must be privileged” to my personal favorite, “How does it feel to be an only child?”
I became accustomed to these inquiries after a while and generally rattled off the same response each time. (How would I know — I’ve never had them), I grew accustomed to these questions after a while and typically rattled off the same response each time.
When I was younger, I enjoyed being an only kid. Sure, being the only child my parents had to care about making it virtually difficult to get away with anything.
However, this meant that I avoided getting into (much) trouble and spent most of my time concentrating on school rather than partying. It also meant that I was able to have distinct bonds with each of my parents, which I’m sure would have been slightly different (though still loving) if I had siblings.
I still value the closeness I have with my parents these days, especially since I recently relocated closer to home. I’m grateful that I can now see them every week and visit them on any given weekend because they’re just 30 minutes away.
However, as I’ve gotten older and my connections with my family have changed, I’ve been more conscious of what it’s like to be an only child as an adult. Here are a few things I’ve learned about growing up as an only child and moving to adulthood that doesn’t involve siblings.
What does it feel like to be an only child in adulthood?
You have a limited built-in support system.
I understand that having siblings does not immediately provide you with the ideal person to depend on through your highs and lows. However, it expands your options and increases the likelihood that someone else will listen to your post-date tantrum when you’ve already vented to your closest buddy one too many times.
As I’ve gotten older, this reality has become more evident, and it feeds into one of my biggest worries as an only kid. I know that without siblings, I’ll be forced to grieve the death of my parents in a way that no one understands. Knowing how essential intimate friendships will always be in my life has increased my drive to pursue and keep them.
You get to know your parents on a personal level.
I recently saw Lady Bird and, unsurprisingly, found it to be a reflection of my childhood connection with my mother. Between my parents, she’s always been the severe disciplinarian and the person whose approval meant everything to me. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that
Beyond the rough façade that I’ve always known, I’ve begun to glimpse who she truly is as a person. She’s a woman with one of the largest hearts I’ve ever met, and we both have a sensitive spirit.
I’ve always admired my father’s wisdom and professional accomplishments, but in recent years, I’ve come to regard him more as a mentor.
And I’ve grown much more conscious of his incredible work ethic, and I find myself going to him anytime I’m having trouble at work. I’ve also grown more conscious of the sacrifices he’s made to provide for our family, as well as the way he always behaves with others before himself.
You’re under extra pressure to locate a partner.
The pressure to settle down as a single woman in my 30s is nothing new to me. Even though I have said that I do not intend to have children, I am nonetheless concerned about finding a significant partner at this time in my life.
My folks are very nice about it and don’t hassle me about it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel stressed about it in other ways. As an only child, I believe that this pressure manifests as a sense of inner anguish and shame.
I want my parents to get to know and love my SO as much as they love their children, and for them to genuinely feel like a part of our family. This may come out as self-serving, but as their only child, I understand how vital my happiness is to my parents. And, while they recognize that I am capable of achieving pleasure without the help of a significant partner,
I still want to offer them the assurance that I’ve found the one with whom I’ll spend the rest of my life.
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