11 Women Reveal How They Really Felt About Growing Up as Only Children

11 Women Reveal How They Really Felt About Growing Up as Only Children

Women share what it’s like to not have siblings while growing up.


By Lauren Brown

Being an only child comes with some big stigmas – they’re spoiled, selfish, need a ton of attention, can’t share because they never had to share toys, clothes, a room, mom and dad …. But in all seriousness, only children want you to know it wasn’t just all about extra presents at the holidays and unlimited attention. It goes a lot deeper than that, and as adults, it can be more of a burden not to have siblings to share the responsibility of caring for aging parents or being the giver of grandchildren. Here, 15 women reflect on their lives as only children and go deep about what it’s really like.

1. “The worst part is that my non-only-child friends learned that conflicts with others isn't the end of the world or even the end of the relationship. They fought with their siblings and remained siblings and moved on. Conflicts still feel like the biggest deal to me, and I go inward to go over and over things. Best part is that I learned to appreciate and thrive in moments of solitude. Another worst part is the famous and goes-almost-without-saying pressure only children feel to not disappoint. But what many non-only-children people don't know is that it's often self-inflicted!” -- Maggie G., Atlanta, Georgia

2. “There are some pretty obvious perks to being an only child, such as never having to compete for my parents’ attention/affection when I was growing up. I also always had my own room and never had to dress in hand-me-downs or share my toys. And, because my parents saved a lot of money by only having one child, we were able to live pretty comfortably, financially speaking … But I think there are a number of detriments that don't get talked about a lot. First, I never had a built-in playmate or babysitter. I always wished that I had had an older sibling that I could go to for advice. Now that I'm in my 30s and my parents are getting older, I definitely am thinking a lot about how I'll shoulder the responsibility of caring for them completely solo -- which is especially intimidating because they're in Florida, and I'm in New York. … I'm also my parents' only hope for having grandchildren, and have never been particularly enthused about the idea of having kids, so I think that's a bit disappointing for them.” -- Liz R., New York City

3. “As I get older, I think more about this often. Being an only kid did have its perks. I didn't have to share with anyone and everything was new, never a hand-me-down. But I didn't have anyone to play with. It was either my parents or the au pair that raised me. As I got older, having a car and all the materialistic items were great, but making individual relationships with my parents surpassed that. Traveling with my mom and just sitting on the couch laughing with my dad. My dad became my best friend. After losing my dad, and having all of the weight on my shoulders, I knew having two kids would be the right fit for me.” -- Michelle G., Coral Springs, Florida

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4. “The biggest misconception about being an only child is that being the center of your parents’ universe is the greatest thing ever. It goes both ways. Of course it’s great that all of your birthdays and milestones feel like national holidays, but that also comes with an expectation to always be perfect. What I missed out on was having siblings to deflect attention or blame to. You get away with nothing as an only child, because your parents only have one kid’s business to be in. I personally loved being an only child and the thought of siblings makes me cringe. No siblings meant no bickering, fighting, or compromising. Being an only child also forces you to be more independent and comfortable being alone. Those qualities have helped me in life. One of the funny things I realized when I met my husband – also an only child -- is that the TV is on a lot … to produce some noise in the house, because there were no other kids making noise. That was an interesting realization for me.” -- Jaime S., Orlando, Florida

5. “I always wanted siblings but was lucky to have cousins close in age and five girls in my neighborhood close in age to play with -- including my best friend growing up. I appreciate the opportunities I had but would have liked the companionship, love, and friendship of a sibling and still would like that to this day. As a new mom, I understand why people only have one child, whether by choice or circumstance. However, I married an only child and feel pressure for my son's sake to have at least two children given that he has no aunts, uncles, or first cousins.” -- Stacy R., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

6. “I grew up having amazing conversations with my mom. Adults never intimidated me. I wasn't a shy kid. I'm not talking about stranger danger here -- I grew up in New York City and knew not to talk to strangers. I'm talking about my mom's friends, uncles, aunts, etc. I never clammed up around adults. I was perfectly fine talking to them about my day, my schoolwork, asking them questions. I was always confident about myself in that respect.” -- Cara S., Jersey City, New Jersey

7. “I didn't really mind not having siblings. I made friends really easily, and my cousin was an only child too and his mom and my mom were really close, so we were practically raised as brother and sister. But I didn't have to live with him, so I got the best of both worlds – ha ha! As an adult, however … there are times I wish I had a brother or sister to call and confide in about my parents. My wife is an only child as well, so our children won't have any actual aunts or uncles. As a parent you feel guilty about that. It’s not that it's our fault but still. Our close friends are sweet though and happily go by ‘Aunt’ or ‘Uncle.’ Additionally, my son is an only child at our house. He has a 4-year-old brother and newborn baby sister at his dad's house. Honestly, he is having a hard time dealing with getting all the attention at one house and being the ‘big brother’ at the other. Seeing it from his eyes is interesting as well.” -- Elissa M., Marietta, Georgia

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8. “I love being an only child. I have a great relationship with my parents, and I think because I was always around adults, I was never shy when it came to meeting people. My mom is my best friend. My parents always tried to give me everything they had, but they always instilled good values, which I hope I am passing down to my son. There are only two things that I don't love and that is thinking about having all of the responsibility when they are older. If you had a sibling, in theory you have help, but that isn't always the case, as I have learned. And secondly, it would be nice for holidays to have an extra sibling around … to worry so much about if I am going to my in-laws and that my parents won't have anyone for the holidays. Aside from that, I wouldn't change it!” -- Randy R., Norwalk, Connecticut

9. “What was amazing about being an only child was having my parents’ undivided attention all the time – though as an adult, all that attention can be a little too much sometimes. As a kid, I also loved the fact that since I was the only kid, I was always allowed to bring friends with me to do stuff -- even if it was just running errands with my mom. Having a friend with me always made it fun. There were also times where being an only child could be lonely. My mom traveled a lot for work, and we moved a few times. I always felt like things like that would've been easier with a sibling to commiserate with.” -- Annie G., Stamford, Connecticut

10. “I learned how to be alone. It's been a great benefit to my life. My parents were usually busy. I loved being an only child -- so many hours climbing trees and having great adventures on my own. – Jamie S., Munford, Tennessee

11. “It's amazing for independence. I almost never had fears of exploring and spending the night out, or away from my family because I wanted to be included in larger gatherings! I wanted so much to have lots of people around, because sometimes only is lonely. So I was ALWAYS sharing, to a fault probably. Also, my parents always let me bring a friend on vacation so I wasn't bored. I did at times feel a bit smothered because [my] parents watched my every move with great interest -- so I often wanted space! I notice myself now doing that to my poor daughter! Like, ‘Awww, she chews so adorably!’” -- Emily S., Los Angeles, California

Do these observations about growing up as an “only” ring true to you?


Lauren Brown is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie/expert who just took on her most exciting and exhilarating assignment yet – new mom to an adorable baby girl!

Image ©iStock.com/catscandotcom


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