What's it like being an only child?

I got engaged and am thinking of kids now. I have two sisters, so I have no idea how’s it like to be an only child. I always thought I would have two or three kids, but now, I feel like one would be enough, hopefully a girl. When I think of names, I always consider if it ‘fits’ well with [name]Isabella[/name] (my most favorite name which will definitely be my girl’s name). My fiance thinks I will end up having two or more kids because of this! I know it will be different when I actually become a mother, but I don’t want to regret for having one kid. I want to make sure my child wouldn’t hate being an only child. What is it like being an only child? Is it nothing to worry about? Thanks!

I’m an only, so is my husband, so are my two best friends (a man and a woman who married each other too!). We’re all fine. We were all blessed with good parents. This matters far more than anything else. All of us went through phases of wanting a sib, but never badly. All of us were on the “geeky” side of things, but I’m not so sure that’s really related to being onlies or just who we were. We were all well-adjusted, if anything the geekiness maybe came from being academically inclined, from lots of parental language maybe, so anyway now we’re all professionally very successful. Anyway, I’m sure there’s grains of truth to any of the advantages and disadvantages you read about it, but I think the thing is that there are advantages and disadvantages to there being siblings that don’t get as much popular press just because it’s the default.

One insight though: you’ll notice how my story seems to suggest onlies sort of seek each other out, and that is my experience. I have tons of friends who have siblings, of course, but I do think onlies often end up sharing a special sort of bond with each other as friends. [name]Just[/name] a pet theory though.

I am an only child and there were definitely times I wished I had a sibling, this feeling came and went. I was lucky to have many cousins living nearby so I had the experience of lots of family kids even if they didn’t come home with us!

But I want to stress that I am very very glad that I am an only child b/c it allowed me to have experiences that I do not think would have been possible if I had had siblings. We traveled a lot b/c my mom is from Europe and my dad worked abroad. I don’t think there is any way financially we would have been able to travel to the places we did if there had been more than one kid. I really can’t overstate how central all those traveling experiences are to who I am today.

My closest friends also tend to be only children. I don’t know if that is b/c we seek each other out, or b/c I have gone to predominantly private schools and there may be a higher percentage of only child at private schools for financial reasons.

We are all as equally adjusted as my friends with siblings. We’re no more spoiled or self centered. I also want to point out that I know several instances where siblings are estranged ( mainly between 2 brothers) and so having more than one kid in no way guarantees that your child will have a “friend for life”. I’m just throwing that out there. I am much closer to some of my only-child friends than many of my other friends are to their siblings.

[name]Do[/name] what is best for YOU and your husband, not what you “imagine” might be best for the kids. If you love and respect your child and expose them to many different types of people and experiences, this will go much further to making a happy, healthy adult than giving them 2 or 3 siblings. A loving relationship between parents is the most important thing to a happy childhood for the child. I know folks who are just too stressed (time, energy and financially) by having bigger families that they really aren’t able to model happy behavior or a successful marriage/partnership for their kids.

As a teen with siblings, I could never imagine not having siblings. There is always someone to talk to, and someone to feel secure around. My brothers make me laugh, and I don’t think I would be the same person without them. While I am not an only child, my feeling is that an only would probably get lonely.

I am the eldest of four children, I love it and wouldnt want it any other way. Of course we would have silly fights with each other when we were younger etc but overall were are all so close now that we are in our early 20s/late teens we are getting even closer going out together on the weekends etc. It feels like I have 3 lifelong friends who have all shared the same experiences as me which is pretty special. I plan on having 4 kids but if not then at least 3. I cant imagine what it would have been like being an only child, to me it seems that it would be boring, lonely and very quiet! The few 'only child’s I know were very spoilt growing up and seem to have a different perspective than myself and my friends who have one or more siblings although they seem to be fine with the fact that they never had any siblings growing up but I guess who cant really miss something that you never had. Of course if you feel that you would be unable to manage the physical, emotional and financial demands of more than one child than obviously it is better for yourself, your partner and the child to only have one. Besides you can always have your first and then see how you are feeling then, who knows, you could end up wanting more and more!

[name]Just[/name] wanted to say that the sentiment “you can’t miss what you never had” goes both ways. Ie you may not miss alone time or extra one-on-one time with your parents if you never had them.

And being an only child doesn’t automatically mean bored and lonely.

Sorry if this feels defensive but I do get a little bothered but folks thinking they know what an experience must be like even if they have never experienced it for themselves. For some strange reason “only child” are viewed with suspicion on our society and many of the judgments above sound like rehashed and unfounded arguments.

I have to agree with Moxielove’s last post. Whether you are an only child, or one of many, you can’t really know or understand the other. I am 1 of 5, and I love it! Of course, I can’t imagine it any other other way. My best friend is an only child, and she had a great childhood too. I think occasionally she would have liked to have a sibling, but then again, I sometimes wished I didn’t have any!

To the original poster: [name]Just[/name] do what feels right for you and your family. If you choose to have one, don’t worry, your child will grow up perfectly happy and well adjusted. Same with if you have 2 or 3 or 4!

I am the oldest of 3, and while I hate them sometimes I can’t imagine not having them. I know that they will be there if anything happened to my parents. I also feel very independent as I am not my parents’ sole focus. Several of my friends are only children and I know that they are MUCH closer to their parents than I am.

Im an only child, and only grand-child on both sides, it has its pros and cons.


  • No fighting with siblings, but fighting with parents may increase since there is more interaction with them than if you had a sibling where the parents don’t focus so much on the only child.
  • [name]Don[/name]'t have to share
  • Get more attention, The attention was great and satisfying, when the attention is positive and not negative. But having so much attention can get annoying especially if you just want to be left alone.
  • Get more money for college and spending, that’s really nice
  • Grow up more around adults, so may be more mature at an earlier age


  • No sibling support system when parents are fighting or dont understand you, to have someone who grew up in the same environment with you must be a cool thing, because they understand you like your friends cant.

  • No one to play with when you’re younger. I had so many nice board games I barely got to play cause I didn’t have siblings to play them with

  • Get more attention: Being the center of your parents attention, isn’t always the easiest, especially if they don’t understand you or you don’t get along with them all the time. Because you just get a lot more negative attention, there’s no one to share it with to diffuse it.

  • More difficult for child when parents get older. Since my dad is an only child as well, I have seen how hard it can be for one person to deal with taking care of family members by themselves. And actually my mom is basically an only child too, which means they spend all of their free time and energy going from one parent to the next helping them out. Its a huge responsibility that would be much easier to share if a sibling were there.

As an only child I am against having only children, it’s too lonely and there cons outweigh the pros. I wish I had had a sibling/siblings.

@ flexiballetgirl - PS, I and am only child and I am VERY VERY independent. I don’t think whether or not you are an only child had anything do with how independent you are, it depends on your situation. I am actually not that close to my parents emotionally, even though our relationship is fine, not without its problems of course, but just not as emotionally attached. My best friends are very clingy to their parents and they are in families with 3-4 kids. Spending more time with parents as an only child does not necessarily mean you will be closer to them, it could have the opposite effect as well.

Oh yeah, and holidays like [name]Christmas[/name] and Thanksgiving can get boring too, I was the only kid among parents, grandparents, and a couple uncles, the closest person in age was 30 years my senior. Yeah that means lots of presents, but there’s not much else to do otherwise. You just sit around doing your own thing or listen to the adults talk. I’m excited to have a [name]Christmas[/name] with my husbands family, there’s actually people of all ages including our own, lots of excitement and different things going on, it’ll be a nice experience.

I’m not an only child, but the only children I know don’t miss not having siblings, or if they do it’s only occasionally. They recognize the benefits to being an only child. I don’t think anyone would ever say “I have x number of siblings and I wish I didn’t”- if you grow up with siblings, you love them. There are pros and cons to both situations- wait until you have your first child and see how you think another child would fit into your family before you decide.

I can relate and I agree with this 100%.

I’m not an only child, but my brother is significantly older than me so I tend to think of my experience as being closer to an “only” than a “sibling” (even though I love my brother, obviously, we didn’t do sibling-type things like playing or fighting because he was already a teen by the time I was born). I wasn’t lonely – though I am more independent than most, so that could be a factor. I can’t remember wishing I has a closer-in-age sibling, though I did sometimes wish I had a twin. I had school friends nearby so it’s not like I never had anyone to play with, and all the time I did have to play by myself really taught me to be imaginative, and very good at making up fleshed-out imaginary friends, which is a skill I really use as a writer and one I don’t think would have been nurtured so much if I had others to keep me company. Similarly, I got to spend a lot of time learning from my parents (I think onlies and firstborns statistically do better academically because of this extra attention). I probably was a bit spoiled at times, but my parents really made sure I was aware of my relative privilege, so I think I’m OK now.

Really, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. If you grow up in a healthy, loving environment, you’re probably going to be OK, and appreciate the life you have. [name]Happy[/name] people who had lots of siblings will remember all the fun they had playing with those siblings. [name]Happy[/name] onlies will remember the special attention they got and the games they played with themselves. It’s best, I think, to have the number of kids you want, so you can be the best parent you can be to them, rather than pushing yourself past your limits just to fit some arbitrary norm.

(As an aside, onlies are become more and more normal as birth rates decline in most of the western world, so chances are your kid would know lots of other onlies and therefore not feel left out.)

I was an only child for 8 years before my parents had my sister (whom I begged them for almost 8 years for!) While being an only child has its perks, I cannot imagine my life without a sibling. My sister and I are far apart in age and at very different stages in our lives (I’m 28 and married, she’s 20 and in college) but I think we have a really close relationship even with the age difference. I’ve often thought about having only one child (I don’t have any kids yet and am not TTC until next year), but I think about my young self dying for a sibling and I don’t think I can make my future child an only child. There is such a strong bond between siblings that no one can understand or come between. I wouldn’t wait eight years between children like my parents did, as I think my sister and I have certainly had some difficulty relating due to always being in such different phases of our lives, but once she is older (out of college, living on her own, possibly married), we’ll be able to relate a whole lot easier.

That being said, if you think you only want one child, there is nothing wrong with that. While I think having a sibling is hugely beneficial to a child, there’s also nothing wrong with being an only child. I just personally think my life has been much, much better since having a sister.

I’m kind of an only child, but kind of have siblings, so I think I can comment on both sides of the discussion.

Being an only child is fine. You do get extra attention from the adults in your life, and you don’t have to compete, which is nice. My mom raised me herself, and our lives were a lot less hectic than they would have been if we’d had to juggle her schedule around me and a few siblings. It’s not “lonely”, per se, because you learn how to be creative and do things on your own. There’s more resources for you available when you’re looking at things like buying your first car or going to college, too (not in my case, because we were broke, but still). I had a few close friends in my neighborhood that I played with growing up that was almost as nice as having siblings. The issues I ran into were when my mom and I fought, there was no one to back me up. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to besides her, so I did wind up getting more emotionally attached to her than other people. In some ways I think I’m more independent and creative about things than I might have been if I’d had siblings all the time, and in some ways I think I’m less independent. Plus, I always wanted a little sister. My mom wanted another baby too, so I did get lonely, but it annoys me when people say only children are all lonely, spoiled, clingy, and unable to share.

However, I also had my dad’s family, and on that side I have 3 half-siblings (all grown and moved out of the house by the time I was five so I don’t remember living with them) and 2 step-brothers. Having my two step-brothers was fun because they were only 1 and 2 years older than me. There was always someone to play with and talk to, and we backed each other up if our parents were mad. Plus when they got older and could drive, I had someone who could pick me up and drive me to work if I needed it, or take us for ice cream or to the movies. We had TONS of neighborhood friends who were always around, and we were like one huge family. I loved having my brothers around, and I do call them my brothers and not step-brothers. The bad parts were that the middle brother got nasty in his teenage years and used to hit me or yell at me if I didn’t do what he said (we don’t get along to this day). Sometimes having older siblings is tough because they can beat up on you, but other times it’s great. I think the loneliest part of my life was not being an only child, but growing up with them and then having them move out to go to college. And of course siblings don’t always stick together, sometimes they rat you out to your parents for doing something bad! But I loved having siblings, too.

I think either way is fine, and your kids will appreciate whatever they have. They’ll be lucky to have a mom like you who takes the time to think about stuff like this in advance!

The first part of this comment is on having an only versus being an only.

I think the decision to have one or more often depends on the lifestyle you want. If for example you wanted a career right through your life without time off to look after baby then a one child family is good. If you are not a high energy person then one child is good too.
I think that there is far too much pressure in society for people to have more children than they can look after properly. People will inevitably ask you five minutes after your first child when are you going to have another and so the pressure to conform is on and unless you are very set on having a one child family you will drift on and probably have another down the track.

My DH is an only and he does not regret not having siblings at all. He isn’t the stereotype so often trotted out as an argument against having an only which is that they are spoilt rotten and very self centred. He is polite, helpful and not an attention seeker.

He thought it would be nice to join my family but after seeing how they treated me there is no way that he would want to have siblings.

The biggest mistake I think is having three children. Yes, the favourite number these days, but as one of three siblings I found that one of the three was always left out of the mix.

I do not advocate siblings closer than 2yrs and 9mths either.

The biggest mistake I think is having three children. Yes, the favourite number these days, but as one of three siblings I found that one of the three was always left out of the mix.

I do not advocate siblings closer than 2yrs and 9mths either.[/QUOTE]

Thats interesting as I was thinking three kids would be good if we cant afford having four or five! I am one of four (the oldest) and never felt left out.
Also, if you dont mind me asking, why 2 years and 9 months specifically?

In reply to pp re space between siblings. If you have a shorter space between siblings then the sibling the new baby replaces regardless of the love they feel for the new sibling will feel supplanted because up to that point they have been the centre of attention and because they are so young the parents cannot adequately explain to a child as young as that the why of the situation, but once they become older then the older child is able to understand more clearly, (of course this is a generalisation and there are obviously going to be exceptions but I am talking optimally). I have noted that some children carry the problem of feeling ‘cheated’ of their limelight for a long time.

I think four children is perfect if you are going for a larger family.

Thanks ‘rollo’. So many things to consider when starting a family but luckily that is still a while off for me!