What Life is Like As An Only Child

If you’re an only child like me, I can guarantee you’ve been told by a sibling-bound individual that they’re “so jealous” of you and they’ll gladly give you their brother and/or sister if you so choose.

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If you’re not an only child, then you probably cannot understand why we don’t see the reason to be jealous of us, and why we would gladly accept the offer of taking your brother and/or sister off your hands.  

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You see, life as an only child isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, you have your parent or guardian’s undivided attention. Yes, you don’t have to share your clothes or toys or the TV remote with anyone. And, yes, you don’t grow up play fighting – or real fighting – with whoever you shared a room with or lived down the hall from.


But, in order to live that life, you also have to survive the downsides. You don’t have anyone to lean on when your parents fight. You don’t have anyone to really hang out with on family vacations. You are your parents’ only hope when they don’t understand how to use their smartphone. You’re the only one for your parents to worry about too, so you’re constantly in touch with them to keep them updated with just about every aspect of your life.


This might be far off, but in the chance that you fall in love and marry another only child and choose to have children with them, then your kid(s) won’t have any ‘real’ aunts, uncles, or cousins.


May be a bit sadder than you thought, right?


Don’t get me wrong, I love being an only child too, but it has taken upward of 19 years for me to realize that and reap the benefits of it.

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I’ve grown up spending so much time with my parents and other adults in my family, so relating to kids my own age who had younger people around them could be a challenge. Although, on the flip side, I’m comfortable talking to those older than me and am able to find common ground with them.


I also was forced to learn how to enjoy alone time at a very young age, which, when I was younger, was fun, but painful. I desperately wished that I would have had someone to banter with, play with, and enjoy down time with other than my parents – not because I don’t love spending time with them, but for the change of pace and the relatable factor of youth. Sure, I’m productive and comfortable and able to be on my own and truly live it up in the way that I know and am used to, but until you’re old enough to use alone time as a reflective period of productivity and self care, it’s a bit of lonely time.

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Never having to share a room, a bathroom, a toy, a computer, or anything of that nature with a sibling is a great thing; I’ll give you that. Although, not having to share also means that when the time comes that you have to, it’s a bit difficult.


I remember having my friend from Texas stay with me at my house in New Jersey for a week, and by day three, I was having a bit of a meltdown. I loved her to death, but having her everywhere I went and using what was mine and putting things in places that I deemed they shouldn’t be kind of, sort of made me go crazy. Why? Because it’s always been me, myself, and I. Whatever rules were made were only meant for me to follow. Nobody else. Again, this is both a pro and a con.

This, the concept of not learning how to share, is one of the major ‘side effects’ of only child syndrome.


What is this ‘syndrome,’ you ask? It is the issues and effects that come with growing up without any brothers or sisters, including the inability to share, taking a likeness to being alone, having issues socially, and being considered spoiled and self-centered. Apparently, studies have shown that these are attributes of only children. Of course, this is majorly subjective, but not entirely untrue, in my experience.

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I was recently at a job interview and the man interviewing me knew straight away that I was an only child because I have “only child characteristics and tendencies.” While I don’t find that an insult at all, it’s an interesting thing that people can note that. Granted, he was an only child himself so he had a deeper level of insight and understanding, but that wasn’t the first time somebody in my life has told me that.


I’ve never asked what these characteristics are, but the fact that it is noticeable to some proves that being an only child has much more of an effect on who you are as a person and how you grow and develop – both positively and negatively – than those with siblings may understand.

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