- 9 years ago
- Wedding: August 2008
Sorry this is so long, I clearly have thought about this question before 🙂
I think BothCoasts has a really good point about parental happiness and the happiness of children. I am a teacher and I can say that for the only kids I work with, I have no idea until they tell me that they are only children. I think a lot of spoiled behaviors get blamed on being an only child but I honestly see them in kids with siblings too (I think we have a huge bias toward thinking that kids who act spoiled are only children and when they are: see, only child! and when they have siblings we just kind of shrug it off and say: spoiled kid.)
I would say the biggest difference I see in whether a kid is happy being an only child or not (and obviously there are exceptions either way) is whether the parents were intentional about wanting one child or wished they could have had more children. I think parents who are really happy with having a three person family and raise their child with this knowledge and orientation help the child value the specialness of their family. Please, anyone, don’t be offended by this, I’m not saying that parents who wanted more kids can’t raise a happy and well-adjusted only child. It’s just the students do share stories about that sadness so I’ve made this anecdotal observation. Also, I’ve noticed that socialization with same age peers is important as are setting clear boundaries, having high but reasonable expectations, and having consistent consequences. Although these are the same regardless of having siblings or not. I work with teenagers so my perspective comes from that age group.
Personally, I have a younger brother (3 years) and exhibit many of the qualities that others may identify with being an only child (spend a lot fo time alone, like my space, qiuet, introverted, etc). I always wished I had a sister growing up, even though I loved my brother and we have always been close. I would see my friends with sisters and wish that I could have that kind of special relationship…so even with siblings I think we can wish for what we don’t have.
Finally, regarding end of life care with parents…this one always seems to come up for only children and for people who are childfree in negative ways. Well, if you have siblings you may disagree about end of life care, one person may want a DNR, the other person may not. This can cause great pain and deep rifts in families. I think one answer regardless of the child/children/no child situation is to plan for end of life care (look into insurance options and make it part of your retirement planning). Have your wishes made really clear, in writing. Have a healthcare proxy and make sure that they understand exactly what your wishes are.
I think the most important aspect of being a parent is figuring out how you will best be able to support (emotionally, financially, etc) your child or children and that means so many different things for each individual family.