Being the one child in your family isn’t as easy as it seems. There’s the stereotype that you get spoilt rotten and you don’t have to compete with other siblings at Christmas. But the truth is it’s tough!
Last weekend, I whisked my mum away for a country weekend retreat. This is a new tradition for us Hall ladies. I started it last year for mother’s day.
When I sat down to think about what I was going to get her, I wanted to do something that I knew would show her how much I appreciated her as a mother. You know the feeling? It’s hard because they can just buy their own bits and bobs as they want them. I knew what my mum values most is time with me.
We had a fabulous weekend together and during our time away, we got talking about life, as we always do. Mum and I have such a great relationship now and I feel so lucky that I can talk to her about anything. We talk about people, work, hobbies, travel, values, ideas, Hitler, veganism, the gender pay gap and sex (yes, really).
This is amazing, right? Well, yes and no.
A quarter life crisis
Mum is my sounding board, my advisor, my friend, as I am hers. Except, I’m not just a friend, I’m her only daughter. She has been watching me struggle with this awkward phase of life that is your twenties.
You’re figuring out what you actually give a toss about, what the hell you’re going to do with the next 50 (at least! Yay!) years of working life and still half-dreaming about running away and joining the circus.
Since I started uni, I think I’ve had about 8 different jobs (I’ve never been fired – I’ve just never been in the same place for very long). Like most people, I spent my final year of uni trying to figure out what the hell I could do to be useful in the world.
When I did, my parents were happy I’d got a grad job sorted – 2 years of stability, in the same place, in the same job Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out.
In the last year, I’ve moved out of graduate maths teaching into cryptocurrency. Due to family health concerns and a bit of a personal meltdown, I ended up working with a friend. I know that was hard for my parents. They just want me to be happy, and yes, settled.
But I’m not even sure that’s possible in your twenties? At least, not for me. I don’t think it’s an easy time to be a parent, no matter how many indecisive, slightly lost, offspring you have running around. But I do think the growing pains are felt more acutely by everyone involved if there’s only one of you.
To set the scene, I’m an extreme case of only childhood. Yes, I’m a nightmare to be around. I cheat at family board games, have never had to share a dessert and expect all eyes on me. At all times.
I joke – I didn’t mean that kind of extreme. I’m referring to the fact that I have no brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews. It’s just little old me and my lucky lucky parents.
So what’s different about being an only child?
- You’re first up to walk the plank. I was the first and only one to abandon my mum to go to uni. There was no one paving the way and no one behind me to keep my parents company while I went off on my adventures.
- You choose the nursing home. What I’m saying here is I feel a sense of sole responsibility. If my parents need full-time care when they’re older, I will need to make sure I can fund that and be there for them. There’s a reason people used to have football team sized families: to make sure they well cared for in their senior years.This is perhaps the toughest one. No one would want to be away from their parents when they need them but if you know a sibling is looking after them, that makes it easier. There’s only me.
If I move abroad, they have no one. If I never have any money, they better hope their pension covers them. It’s a sense of duty that falls only on your shoulders.
- There are no distractions. Of course, not having anyone to grass on you (when you said you’re staying at Amy’s but you’re actually going to a party on the moors) in your teenage years is great.On the flip side, if you are grappling with the life questions, “who are you?” and “who do you want to be?” as most people, admittedly or not, are in their twenties, your parents live all of that struggle with you.
You don’t have a sibling who is killing life to direct attention towards while you get your shit together. My mum admitted she had “put all of her eggs in one basket”.
- You only have your parents. Just as they only have you, family-wise, you only have them to talk to. Some conversations can only really be had with family. I don’t have siblings to chat to so I have to talk to my parents when I’m having a hard time.This is only a problem because parents worry. They can’t help but worry. If they’ve only got you to focus on, and you’re not 100% stable (which I’m certainly not), it’s difficult not to worry them.
So what now? You can’t change it…
Of course, I’m not saying that these issues don’t apply to people with siblings. You guys have these and loads more issues in the transitional period that is “growing up”. The purpose of writing this really is so that you lonely only children like me realise that feeling under a bit more pressure is normal but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
If you’re not an only child, you can maybe understand our whacky relationships with our parents a little better now?
Although I’ve focused more on the challenges of being an only child as they are affecting my life at the moment, there are plenty of reasons to be happy about it. And there is one thing I know, I will only ever be an only child so I have to embrace it.
I love being part of the 3 musketeers and I feel so lucky to have such a close relationship with my parents. Saying that, if I ever decide to bring any mini Elizas into the world (Lord, help you all), I will be having at least a couple!
ARE YOU AN ONLY CHILD? TELL US WHAT YOU LOVE OR HATE ABOUT HAVING/NOT HAVING SIBLINGS IN THE COMMENTS