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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Mini Money Mustaches => Topic started by: fasteddie911 on August 03, 2021, 05:50:02 PM

Title: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: fasteddie911 on August 03, 2021, 05:50:02 PM
My wife and I go back and forth on trying for another. We're in a very happy place with our toddler. Wife is getting older, in the prime of her career. Money is a small factor, though we're certainly comfortable and can afford another. I guess our biggest fear is our only being lonely or regretting not having a sibling. Any regrets of parents of only's? Do your kids feel like they're missing out?
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: AccidentialMustache on August 03, 2021, 06:46:49 PM
There was certainly a day DS wanted a sibling. Of course, he told us this as a 5-6 yo that he wanted a 4-5 yo sibling. Challenging, you know? I hadn't invented time travel, so we said no. A second would have been really convenient during lockdown... if the two children played together. If not, well, that gets complicated quick. I don't want to play referee between an introvert and an extrovert.

Affording another was never our problem, it was always a question of stress and sanity. I'm happy to not need to work an extra year or two, but that wasn't our why not. Had we had DS when we were younger, maybe we would have made different choices.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: nereo on August 03, 2021, 06:51:45 PM
Both my spouse and I have multiple siblings, and now we have a single daughter and no plans or desire for another.  For us itís the right decision.

I donít believe that sheís ever felt lonely for not having a sibling, or that she is missing out.  She has her friends at daycare (sheís 3) and from around the neighborhood.  Granted - sheís three - so perhaps some of this will change when sheís a teenager, but I kinda doubt it. Our friends and cousins who are only children never felt like they were missing out.  Whether you are an only child or one of a half-dozen, thatís what normal is for you. 

Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Abe on August 03, 2021, 08:05:51 PM
Initially my wife and I wanted two kids. I have one sibling who is significantly older, and she doesnít have any. She decided to have only one (who is 5) mostly due to stead of taking care of multiple children. Initially I wasnít happy with that plan but now I see how much stress my friends with multiple kids are under. Also, our son doesnít care since he has several close friends his age that are our friendsí children. He sees them regularly but doesnít have to share his room with them!

This guy he doesnít seem to care now, I do sometimes wonder if heíll be lonely as he gets older like my wife and I were while growing up. Iíve realized itís important we donít project our anxieties and baggage onto the kids. We just need to make extra effort to avoid the downsides of our childhoods.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: hdatontodo on August 03, 2021, 09:28:15 PM
I have a 13 year old son who is just fine with being an only child. His college is paid for. He has been on a bike team for 6 years. We play tennis and go to arcades and amusement parks. He likes computer games. He got a lot of parental attention while doing school from home.

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Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Malossi792 on August 04, 2021, 03:29:08 AM
Tough question.
We also have a toddler.
Wife is an only child, and loves to be one.
I am not, but I loved to be one while it lasted... Overall having a younger sibling I didn't want (and how my parents chose to raise us) made many aspects of my childhood pretty miserable to the point I think I should seek therapy.
Now my wife started playing with the idea of a second child, which freaks me out more than it should.
So... A long and convoluted way to say PTF i guess.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: NonprofitER on August 04, 2021, 09:50:43 AM
We are parents of a 12yo daughter "only".

Pros:

Cons:

It was not an easy decision for us to have one (I say this because often people respond that they "just knew" when they were done - that was not the case for us! We went back and forth for years). We had planned to have 0 - 2, and when our daughter was 18 months old or so, a series of circumstances out of control delayed our decision to have more kids. Once those external circumstances lifted, she was age 5, and we struggled with the idea of going back to newborn life at that point. I loved the idea of a close age gap, if I was going to have multiple kids. I have a sister 13 years my senior, and while I love her and we get along well, I don't think either of us benefited from the type of sibling relationship most people picture. My husband has a sister 18 months older than him, but they aren't very close (go figure). But I know a *super close* family who have kids age 0, 6, 12, and 18!  So clearly some families can master the big age gaps - its just not what I pictured or wanted.

Our daughter is close to her cousins (one on each side of the family, 5 years apart from her both younger and older). We also prioritize closeness with some friends of ours with kids our daughter's age - such as having yearly vacations together, etc. Nothing is the same as having a sibling (the good and bad that comes with that), but hopefully we're mitigating some of the cons by creating close, long-term relationships that have their own sets of traditions, inside jokes, shared experiences, support network, etc.

I don't think anyone will be able to give you definitive peace on one vs. two+. It's something every family has to wrestle with and figure out. The fact that there are no guarantees made our decision a little easier because it enabled me to let go of the preconcieved notions of both an "only" family and a larger family. There's no guarantee your "only" won't resent not having a sibling. There's no guarantee your second or third child won't hate being in the shadow of a sibling, or have a health issue, or reject the close family notion. Understanding the lack of gurantees, we felt like we lucked out with our daughter and that helped give us a sense of peace. Over time, we came to feel fully complete as a threesome and now I can't imagine it any other way.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: soulpatchmike on August 04, 2021, 10:32:25 AM
I have three people close to me that are in their 30s(all only children) that have not enjoyed being an only child as an adult.  One of them even said he thinks having an only child is child abuse.  The main challenge each of them has faced has been the transition to marriage.  Their parents were unable/unwilling to let go of the only child and allow them to cleave to their new spouse and make their own decisions without lots and lots of challenge.  On the flip side, they have all said being an only child as a kid was great. They didn't realize the challenges it would build in them as adults, mostly around codependency.  All three wanted for nothing growing up. 

Do let this discourage you.  You and your only child might have a very different experience than this, but these three people were each very challenged by their parents when transitioning to marriage.  I also know of kids from large families that also feel like it was child abuse to have 10+ kids.  The reality is, you as parents have to make these decisions.  Just know that your decision to have none, 1 or 20 kids will all have a different impact on you.  More importantly, how you parent them will have an impact on the child(ren).
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Visitation on August 04, 2021, 10:50:13 AM
Both my wife and I are middle children, each having two siblings.

As children, we mostly fought with our older siblings.  We are with in 2 years of our older siblings.

Both of our younger siblings are about 5 years younger than us.

As adults, my wife and I are much closer to both of our older siblings.  We go out to dinner, vacation together, etc.  Not so much with our younger siblings.

So I think the age gap has alot to do with it.  The closer the gap, the closer as adults.  Never had alot in common with the sibling that has a larger age gap, and still don't as adults.

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Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: trollwithamustache on August 04, 2021, 10:51:54 AM
The main challenge each of them has faced has been the transition to marriage.  Their parents were unable/unwilling to let go of the only child and allow them to cleave to their new spouse and make their own decisions without lots and lots of challenge. 

Is this really a problem with only children or these specific parents?  My mother in law would love to have a much higher level of involvement in all of her children's marriages.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: soulpatchmike on August 04, 2021, 11:54:03 AM
The main challenge each of them has faced has been the transition to marriage.  Their parents were unable/unwilling to let go of the only child and allow them to cleave to their new spouse and make their own decisions without lots and lots of challenge. 

Is this really a problem with only children or these specific parents?  My mother in law would love to have a much higher level of involvement in all of her children's marriages.

Not sure, might just be three very strange and dysfunctional sets of parents.  I have known a lot of married people and been involved in new married groups of people since I was newly married 20 years ago and have never heard of as dysfunctional of marriage transitions as brought on by parents as with these three only children.  Again, not saying your only child's adult experience will be the same, just that parenting is often the driving factor, not the number of kids.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: TheFrenchCat on August 04, 2021, 12:18:47 PM
We had been planning to have a good number of children, say around 5 or so.  But then pregnancy was so horrific, so we decided not to have any more.  So I can't tell you if it's a good decision or not because we didn't have much of a choice.  But I can tell you that it seems easier to me, at least so far.  Our daughter is almost 6 and is doing well.  Maybe if she had a sibling closer in age they'd entertain each other by playing together.  But my daughter plays by herself a good bit and I don't have to break up fights.  I certainly don't think it's anywhere close to child abuse, that's ridiculous.   I think it helps that she has a lot of cousins nearby, some older, some her age or younger.  She also has some friends near her age within walking distance.  This wasn't the case when she was younger than 3, but we'd go to the park to play with other kids or play groups at the library.  So you may have to make more of an effort to get your child enough socialization.  But I think how much easier it seems to me makes up for that.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Abe on August 04, 2021, 05:04:54 PM
That child abuse statement is confusing - it's child abuse because as an adults they haven't figured out how to keep their parents out of their business? Sounds like more of an adult-adult problem than a child-adult problem...

Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: AccidentialMustache on August 04, 2021, 10:39:10 PM
The main challenge each of them has faced has been the transition to marriage.  Their parents were unable/unwilling to let go of the only child and allow them to cleave to their new spouse and make their own decisions without lots and lots of challenge. 

Is this really a problem with only children or these specific parents?  My mother in law would love to have a much higher level of involvement in all of her children's marriages.

This is a problem with the parents, not a problem with being an only child. It may be magnified by being an only child, but you see the same thing with siblings and parents who really really really want grandkids. Having some helps those siblings without kids, but it doesn't end the push from the would-be-grandparents.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: LonerMatt on August 05, 2021, 03:33:14 AM
I think that the idea that only children may be less social or poorly adapted or lonely or deprived only holds water if they don't have family friends, cousins, friends of their own, etc, their own age. I have 2 siblings, growing up was a mess, we're ok now, but my friends are really a type of family too.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Frugalroogal on August 05, 2021, 04:18:48 AM
Iím pretty excited to see a thread on only children with a sensible discussion! For some reason I can quite figure out there are a lot of negative feelings in society about only children. I think it probably stems from a bunch of now disproven studies from a long time ago that painted only children as strange, spoilt and unsocial beings.

Iím an only child (by my parentís choice, not infertility or anything else) and I have an only child too. Iíve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about only children, and in summary, there appears to be very little difference between only children and children with siblings in regards to social skills, loneliness, number of friends etc. in fact the only negative thing I can think of off the top of my head (from research studies) is that only children are more likely to be overweight in adulthood than adults with siblings.

Studies have also shown that only children tend to be ahead of the academic curve, which makes sense as parents have more time to help and teach their child. Their parenting resources are not divided between multiple children.

Some of the other benefits have been ably expanded upon in this thread already so I wonít repeat here e.g. financial benefits, easier to travel. Itís also better environmentally to have fewer children due to each additional child using more of Earthís resources.

If youíre interested, there is a Facebook group called One and Done: Parents of an Only Child by Choice which focuses on the positive aspects of having an only child. I was in a bunch of similar Ďnot by choiceí or Ďon the fenceí groups but I ended up leaving them as they were a bit depressing and negative and not representative of my decision to have an only child by choice. Thereís also a podcast called Ďonly you: a one and done podcastí which discusses all sorts of aspects of having an only child (they discuss by choice and not by choice) which is worth a listen. Thereís also a book by Lauren Sanders which comprehensively covers the studies done on only children and intertwines this with the authors narrative on having an only child.

Just to address the common complaints/misconceptions below (there are more but Iíve gone on too long in this post already)
1. Your child will be lonely having no one to play with - my son (and myself as a child) had plenty of friends to play with, and weíre able to have a lot of decompression time at home when needed.
2. What if they die, you will have no children left (a favourite of my MIL) - no matter how many children you have, if one dies youíre never going to get over it fully and the death may impact your relationship with your other kids. It would be terrible and tragic if my son died but I donít think having other children would fix the problem
3. Theyíll be the only ones to help you when you get old, all the responsibilities will be put on them - as an only child Iím glad I donít have to negotiate with a sibling on how best to look after parents as they age and anyway from what Iíve seen itís generally left to one or two siblings to look after the parents, with varying results on how this impacts the family dynamic.

Hope this was useful, thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: brandon1827 on August 05, 2021, 06:54:22 AM
My wife and I have only one child, a son. Before we decided it was time to have children, we'd both thought that we would have two. We had a little difficulty during his birth, but nothing terrible. When my son was a little older, we started talking about having another and started trying for a second child. My wife was perfectly happy with one and after not having initial success getting pregnant a second time, we decided to wait a little while longer. By the time the topic came up again, my son was 5 or 6...old enough to have input on whether or not he wanted a sibling. When we brought the subject up to him, he was adamantly against having a brother or sister. At first, we chalked this up to him being accustomed to having 100% of our attention and not needing to share any of his things. A little more time went by and we just decided that things were perfect as they were and that we weren't going to rock the boat by bringing another person into our home. Occasionally we'll ask my son if he regrets not having siblings (he'll be 12 next month) and every single time, he emphatically says that he's very glad he doesn't have siblings. For us, it turned out to be the right choice and all three of us absolutely love our family dynamic. We have experienced many of the advantages that others in this thread have posted, and none of us have any regrets. Life is easy...and good...and hardly ever stressful with how things are. For us, it turned out to be the perfect decision to only have one...a decision that is reinforced over and over again when I see my family and friends stressed about all the things that go with having 2 or more kids requires.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: TheFrenchCat on August 05, 2021, 08:14:28 AM
Iím pretty excited to see a thread on only children with a sensible discussion! For some reason I can quite figure out there are a lot of negative feelings in society about only children. I think it probably stems from a bunch of now disproven studies from a long time ago that painted only children as strange, spoilt and unsocial beings.

Iím an only child (by my parentís choice, not infertility or anything else) and I have an only child too. Iíve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about only children, and in summary, there appears to be very little difference between only children and children with siblings in regards to social skills, loneliness, number of friends etc. in fact the only negative thing I can think of off the top of my head (from research studies) is that only children are more likely to be overweight in adulthood than adults with siblings.

Studies have also shown that only children tend to be ahead of the academic curve, which makes sense as parents have more time to help and teach their child. Their parenting resources are not divided between multiple children.

Some of the other benefits have been ably expanded upon in this thread already so I wonít repeat here e.g. financial benefits, easier to travel. Itís also better environmentally to have fewer children due to each additional child using more of Earthís resources.

If youíre interested, there is a Facebook group called One and Done: Parents of an Only Child by Choice which focuses on the positive aspects of having an only child. I was in a bunch of similar Ďnot by choiceí or Ďon the fenceí groups but I ended up leaving them as they were a bit depressing and negative and not representative of my decision to have an only child by choice. Thereís also a podcast called Ďonly you: a one and done podcastí which discusses all sorts of aspects of having an only child (they discuss by choice and not by choice) which is worth a listen. Thereís also a book by Lauren Sanders which comprehensively covers the studies done on only children and intertwines this with the authors narrative on having an only child.

Just to address the common complaints/misconceptions below (there are more but Iíve gone on too long in this post already)
1. Your child will be lonely having no one to play with - my son (and myself as a child) had plenty of friends to play with, and weíre able to have a lot of decompression time at home when needed.
2. What if they die, you will have no children left (a favourite of my MIL) - no matter how many children you have, if one dies youíre never going to get over it fully and the death may impact your relationship with your other kids. It would be terrible and tragic if my son died but I donít think having other children would fix the problem
3. Theyíll be the only ones to help you when you get old, all the responsibilities will be put on them - as an only child Iím glad I donít have to negotiate with a sibling on how best to look after parents as they age and anyway from what Iíve seen itís generally left to one or two siblings to look after the parents, with varying results on how this impacts the family dynamic.

Hope this was useful, thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Wow, the bolded is some next level guilt-tripping.  I can barely imagine a grandmother saying something like that.  Sorry you have to deal with that.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Frugalroogal on August 05, 2021, 02:00:17 PM
2. What if they die, you will have no children left (a favourite of my MIL) - no matter how many children you have, if one dies youíre never going to get over it fully and the death may impact your relationship with your other kids. It would be terrible and tragic if my son died but I donít think having other children would fix the problem

[/quote]
Wow, the bolded is some next level guilt-tripping.  I can barely imagine a grandmother saying something like that.  Sorry you have to deal with that.
[/quote]

Thanks, we get on ok and Iím (mostly) forgiving when she says this as when she was a teenager she had a sibling pass away in a very tragic and unexpected way, a life event that probably shaped her views and left her with some unresolved trauma. Though having said that, exactly the same thing happened to my mum (although she was 5 or 6 when her sibling passed) and she thinks itís a dumb reason to have more kids and had an only child herself. I guess it goes to show how people react differently to similar life events!
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: FLBiker on August 12, 2021, 05:54:19 AM
I've really enjoyed reading this thread.  We have an only daughter, age 6.  For us, it is has been great.  DW is also an only child, so it has always felt normal to her.  I have two siblings, who I'm close to in the sense that we have a good relationship, but I left my hometown (and country) 20+ years ago so my actual interactions with them have been very limited for a long time.  And, we're all pretty terrible about picking up the phone.

There are some things, though, that we've been intentional about with DD being an only.  For one thing, when we decided to move to Canada, that decision was partly informed by DW wanting to be somewhere that DD could truly feel like the belonged.  We're originally American, and I lived for most of my 20s in Taiwan and China.  While I enjoyed those places, expat kids who were born there (in my experience) were never truly considered to be of that place.  Similarly, even though we are both trained as ESL teachers, we didn't consider bouncing around from country to country every couple of years (even though we'd enjoy that) because we wanted our daughter to be able to develop long term peer relationships.  If she had a bunch of siblings, we might have felt differently.

And, this summer, even though DW was mostly not working, we put DD in day camp most weeks, just for the peer interaction.  She absolutely loves it.  We moved to this town in Canada last summer, and I joke with her that she's the mayor because she knows everyone -- she has friends from school, from camp, from soccer.  Whereas me, as a work from home (for a US company) introvert, I know virtually no one.  We live in a small town in Nova Scotia, and I love the fact that she's going to be seeing a lot of these same kids in various contexts for the next 12 (or more) years.

I also feel like we have a great family dynamic with just the three of us -- she sometimes requires more attention (both conversationally and otherwise) than an adult would, and we're able to give it to her consistently because she's the only kid.  I also feel like her verbal skills (both speaking and reading) are crazy high because she has so much experience interacting with adults (although some of that could just be her).  I also appreciate the convenience / cost benefits -- in terms of flights, hotel rooms, etc.  That's pretty small potatoes, though.

Our daughter has never (literally, I think) asked for a sibling, which is kind of interesting.  She definitely went through phases where she loved playing with baby dolls (and actual neighborhood babies) but I don't remember her ever asking for one.

And as other have shared -- I do sometimes feel a bit bad about her not having the built in long term relationship of siblings.  At the same time, those can really go sideways.  And, even when they're good, they can sometimes (like mine) not ultimately be all that important.  Bigger picture, I think I sometimes feel guilty about not giving her more time with family in general.  At the same time, I love where we live, and it isn't near family.  Plus, some of our extended family dynamics are a bit complicated.

Ultimately, though, this wasn't like a master plan on our part.  We were old -- I was 39, DW was 35 -- when we had our daughter.  If we would have been younger, I suspect we would have had another.  At the same time, I don't think any one of us feels deprived or that we're missing out.  Being a parent is awesome and I love our family just as it is.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: caleb on August 12, 2021, 11:11:02 AM

My older brother is mentally ill. His mental illness manifested fully as a young adult, and I was a teenager. 100% of the family attention and resources turned toward him for a few years, because he had some very serious problems. As a teenaged girl, I could have probably used a little more guidance and support - but instead, I walked around on tiptoes and avoided asking my parents for help because I didn't want to cause more stress/problems.

Nothing horribly bad happened, but I did end up being independent and distant, emotionally, from my family. It's like at some point, I just put up a wall and chose my own path, which led me farther and farther away from them.

Siblings don't always cure loneliness - sometimes they're the cause of it.


Sometimes I think people imagine having a big family as a set of Norman Rockwell holiday paintings, or a Ralph Lauren ad, or pick your favored aesthetic.

Yet, I know way too many families where they had a good thing going and then a trailing child blew it up.  We don't often publicly talk about the downside risk to having kids, but the more you have, the greater your odds of having one that's a major problem.  Sometimes it makes sense to quit while you're ahead.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: CNM on August 12, 2021, 11:50:00 AM
It is impossible to say whether having more children or only one child is the best decision.  There are pros and cons to each.

I will say that in my personal experience, having my sisters (who are both more than 5 years older than me) has been a godsend now that my parents are elderly.  My siblings and I have a great relationship and it has been really helpful to discuss challenging things with them, particularly when it comes to issues surrounding our aging parents.  It was also nice as a teenager to have someone to vent to about our "awful" parents! :) (They're not awful, but you know how teenagers are!)

Other people I know have had really fraught and terrible relationships with their siblings and are estranged from their families because of this.

For my spouse and I, we decided to have a second child and it has been fine so far.  She's only 2.5 and her brother is 8, so *shrug* we'll see how it goes. If we were younger, maybe we'd even try for a 3rd. 
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 12, 2021, 12:21:38 PM
Disclaimer: I'm pregnant with #3 and was the eldest of two (2.5y age gap).

But my husband has a sibling so much younger that in practice he identifies as being an only child. He feels very positively about it and doesn't feel he lacked anything from not having siblings growing up.

I know several adults who are only children. They're all perfectly fine, well-adjusted human beings. That said, I also know someone who is the eldest of seven, and someone who is the somethingth of TWELVE. They are both perfectly fine, well-adjusted human beings. People who have Problems with the parents or who were unhappy during their childhood - the reality is, it's not about the number of siblings you have. It's about the atmosphere of your home life and how your parents treated you.

There's no magic universal optimal number of children, or some magic universal optimal age gap. All of them have their pros and cons.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: ericrugiero on August 13, 2021, 06:49:21 AM
- the reality is, it's not about the number of siblings you have. It's about the atmosphere of your home life and how your parents treated you.

+1

Family dynamics will change depending on number of kids, personalities of kids, personalities of parents, etc.  At the end of the day, really good parents are going to be really good parents with one kid or with six.  That will lead to good relationships with their kids and well adjusted adults. 

I have observed that only children can (on average) be a little more self absorbed.  But, that's a product of how their parents raise them.  I know only kids who this is true of and others who it's not. 
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: lutorm on August 16, 2021, 12:47:38 AM
We have #2 on the way now (I'm definitely worried about the extra workload... ;-) But for us the social part of the argument was not so much while they're kids, I think the age difference (will be 4 years for us) makes it unlikely they'll be very close unless you're really cranking them out back to back, but more about having family peers as adults. Of course, who knows how they'll turn out.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: BeanCounter on August 16, 2021, 06:52:27 AM
Iím a 43 yo only child. So Iíll add in my 43 years of experience on this topic.
As a child I rarely felt lonely. I was close with my parents, grandparents and cousins (who lived out of town but we spent many summers together). I went to a small Catholic school where being an only child was an oddity but I had a strong community at that church and school.
As an adult after having a variety of roommates and being married I can see that I do have some (minor) blind spots regarding other peopleís needs because in my house I was always cane first. But other than that I see no difference in me versus those with siblings.
But here is the tough part-
My father died when I was 17, and then my mother died shortly after I turned 40. All of my grandparents are gone. (After a long battle with cancer where I had to help care for her) There are many days where I feel like my spouse and two children are all I really have. I know thatís not really true but I do feel a deep sense of loneliness. I donít have family to invite for holidays or to celebrate my children, nobody calls to check on me on Sundays. Friends and cousins are involved with their kids and parents etc.
Just something to think about. There is no guarantee that if you have more than one child that they will be close. My spouse has one brother they are six years apart and are not close but still a few times a year they get on the phone and catch up and reminisce about their childhood. Iím the only one that remembers my childhood or life with my parents and that is lonely.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: BeanCounter on August 16, 2021, 06:59:58 AM
We have #2 on the way now (I'm definitely worried about the extra workload... ;-) But for us the social part of the argument was not so much while they're kids, I think the age difference (will be 4 years for us) makes it unlikely they'll be very close unless you're really cranking them out back to back, but more about having family peers as adults. Of course, who knows how they'll turn out.
My boys are 4 years apart and are VERY close. In fact just last year when my oldest turned 12 did they finally ask for their own rooms. I think when my oldest goes off to high school in 2 years, and then college they may have a long period of drifting apart but Iím very confident that they have a great foundation.
Things that I think have helped-
-Sharing a room
- before I FIREd having a nanny instead sending them to camps or daycare where they would be separated by age
-having them in a k-8 private school where they are actually on the same campus for four years
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 16, 2021, 07:33:35 AM
One thing I notice is tricky for my husband (the only child) is parenting siblings now we have two with a third on the way. We have very different angles on the sibling dynamic, and I think he finds it hard to handle the petty squabbling, whereas I find it hard to handle what I perceive as real meanness because that's a dynamic I don't want to become entrenched. I suspect that having three kids in the house will be harder for my husband than me, because he's always lived a quiet orderly life. (He was one of those ultra grown up only children.)

Re: age gaps: there is no magic age gap that means your children will be close or not close. I am now very distant from my 2.5y younger brother, and I put it down to some lifestyle choices my parents made (e.g. we both went to different schools with a long commute so hardly saw each other during term time weeks) and the lack of a positive family culture where we all spent time hanging out as a family. Among my friends are siblings with all sorts of age gaps and gender combos and it's perfectly possible to be estranged from a close in age sibling or very close to a distant age sibling.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Hash Brown on August 16, 2021, 08:01:32 AM
I was raised in a Catholic neighborhood where only-child families were virtually unheard of.  Divorce was completely unheard of - some people had a parent die of an illness or in an accident, but I knew of nobody whose parents separated or got a divorce. 

Some of the families were immense - I had a teacher who claimed to have 64 first cousins (I have a mere 15 or 16). People self-regulated their behavior so as to not embarrass their families.

If you only have one child you are depleting the richness of the extended family from the perspective of your own siblings and their kids.  I am the oldest of all of the cousins (oldest child of the oldest child) but run into my cousins out in public 10+ times per year.  I know and socialize with several of my first cousin's first cousins.  If I were to leave the city I'd lose that broad network.

I had no idea what an inheritance was or how they worked.  It never occurred to me that siblings in large families inherited much less than those in small families or - gasp - only children.  I have a friend who has made it his life's mission to pass on as much money as possible - presumably millions and millions -   to his 3 year-old son.  Even though is wife is only 29, they have already declared that they're done.  I can only roll my eyes at this situation - I can't relate to being made the complete center of attention AND the whole goal being the transfer of as much wealth as possible.  Seems like a whole pile of nothing to me.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 16, 2021, 09:42:27 AM
@jmecklenborg You paint a lovely picture, and I don't doubt that it's true, but merely having an extended family means nothing. I haven't seen my uncles or aunts for years, and my cousins for even longer -a decade? More? Being family does not necessarily equal closeness, and I think people often underestimate how much work it is to foster these relationships and think they'll just happen by magic.

If you want kids and you'll love them, other factors (number of kids, age gaps, etc) are negligible. But parenting and fostering a culture of family togetherness are active, purposeful things.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: ChpBstrd on August 16, 2021, 09:53:17 AM
My only child 6 year old experiences quite a bit of loneliness and looks to us parents as the ones who should be entertaining them. They have all the toys and attention they need, but their biggest problem is boredom.

We said "one and done" when the stress and sleep deprivation of raising a baby while working jobs just about broke us. Things get easier as kids learn to do stuff for themselves (feeding, toilet, dressing, teeth brushing, showering...), and as things get easier the bored-kid issue comes up and as parents you realize the most acute phase of suffering was temporary. Also, you realize that whether you have one kid or 3, your life will still be dominated by the activity of being a parent. So it's not like by having only one kid you can still devote yourself fully to anything else.

As things settled down and the years passed, we realized our only child also will have no cousins. Both of our entire family trees will end with my child. They will be alone in the world. At some point, there will be no big family gatherings, no sense of rootedness, identity, or attachment. Additionally, as we and the kid's uncles/aunts enter our elder years, our kid will be the only member of the next generation to carry our burdens. We didn't give these ideas much thought when toddler life was dominating everything, but now we do.

So much of our behavior and our cultural values are about making as much money as possible and buying more shit than we need. Family takes a backseat, but the right relationships can be their own kind of asset. The reason people aren't having kids is because in our current culture, money and stuff are more highly valued than family. This also explains why family structures so often don't work out (divorce, estrangement, bitter fighting). We don't value the relationships as much as our own convenience. Maybe we are impoverishing ourselves in a way we'll only understand in hindsight?

On a lighter note, everything from hot dog buns to board games is designed for 4 people, and when you have 3 there's always something unused. 
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: GuitarStv on August 16, 2021, 10:22:19 AM
There's always an assumption that having a sibling is a good thing in all cases - and it may be true sometimes.

But my sister and I are three and a half years apart and never got along.  We fought constantly for our entire childhood.  Our parents provided a good and loving environment, and were constantly trying to get us to get along better.  We tolerate each other much better as adults, but aren't (and I suspect never will be) particularly close.

Just an anecdote, but I wouldn't expect that having a second child is somehow going to be better for the first.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: DadJokes on August 16, 2021, 10:59:29 AM
@jmecklenborg You paint a lovely picture, and I don't doubt that it's true, but merely having an extended family means nothing.

Truly a lovely picture

I don't like most of my immediate or extended family. I moved halfway across the country to get away from my family, and I haven't spoken to most of them in years.

My wife is the youngest of three siblings, though the other two are 6 & 8 years older than her. She has a better relationship with one of her cousins who is closer to her age. She goes back and forth on whether or not she wants more children or to stop where we are now. I'm set on one child, for a multitude of reasons (most of which were covered earlier in this thread).
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 16, 2021, 02:02:55 PM
@ChpBstrd
Quote
So much of our behavior and our cultural values are about making as much money as possible and buying more shit than we need. Family takes a backseat, but the right relationships can be their own kind of asset. The reason people aren't having kids is because in our current culture, money and stuff are more highly valued than family. This also explains why family structures so often don't work out (divorce, estrangement, bitter fighting). We don't value the relationships as much as our own convenience. Maybe we are impoverishing ourselves in a way we'll only understand in hindsight?

I really agree with this, but I think the capacity of various individuals to counter this in their own lives varies. We feel that we are making big sacrifices to put family (and other human relationships) first. And we believe it is and will be worth it. However, it's a constant uphill struggle against so many things: we keep moving city for work reasons that we can't do much about, therefore breaking ties we have built up and having to start again; it can be hard to find friends who share our values and budget, especially when we have to do this repeatedly; our kids will get a lot of messages as they grow older that we will have to make an effort to counter, and they'll have to put up with being "the weird ones" (e.g. no TV, no car).

Of course it's what every mustachian goes through in a way, but somehow it doesn't cut as deep when it's just about money.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Sugaree on August 16, 2021, 02:18:29 PM
My son is an only.  He's asked for a sibling a handful of times, and has yet to take me up on the offer to get a puppy instead.  The truth is that with one we are able to offer him everything.  Cool vacations, paid for college, probably-too-extravagant holidays, etc.  At this point, he's 8 so any sibling he would have now wouldn't be close enough in age to really count. 


My BIL/SIL have 4 kids that are all very close in age.  The last time we saw them, I overheard the oldest of his cousins ask my son "You live alone?  I wish I lived alone."
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 16, 2021, 02:48:33 PM
Do all you people saying an age gap of X years means they would never be close only ever spend time with people within, say, two years of your own age? Do you not have any friends who are four or eight or ten years older or younger than you? Do you never hang out with your friends kids, or family members of different ages? It's different, sure, but I see no reason why you can't have a close and loving sibling relationship with someone further than 2.5y apart in age.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: GuitarStv on August 16, 2021, 02:56:17 PM
Do all you people saying an age gap of X years means they would never be close only ever spend time with people within, say, two years of your own age? Do you not have any friends who are four or eight or ten years older or younger than you? Do you never hang out with your friends kids, or family members of different ages? It's different, sure, but I see no reason why you can't have a close and loving sibling relationship with someone further than 2.5y apart in age.

Age difference is larger in youth than adulthood.

A 44 year old who is friends with someone 3.5 years younger (40.5) has about an 8% age difference.

A 7 year old who is friends with someone 3.5 years younger (3.5) has a 50% age difference.



A 44 year old hanging out with someone with a 50% age difference (88 or 22) would be somewhat of an odd pairing as they'd probably have less in common.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: chasingthegoodlife on August 16, 2021, 03:06:14 PM
Do all you people saying an age gap of X years means they would never be close only ever spend time with people within, say, two years of your own age? Do you not have any friends who are four or eight or ten years older or younger than you? Do you never hang out with your friends kids, or family members of different ages? It's different, sure, but I see no reason why you can't have a close and loving sibling relationship with someone further than 2.5y apart in age.
My husband is 13 years younger than his eldest sister. She and his elder brother have very fond memories of playing with him as a child, describing him to me as their Ďtreasureí.

Of course these age gaps matter even less now theyíre grown and in similar life stages.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: ysette9 on August 16, 2021, 04:24:51 PM
I think as others have said that the experience is unique and therefore the right answer on how many will be unique for each family situation.

I have a younger sister and alternatively got along/fought with her as a kid. Once I turned 18 something clicked and we have been close ever since. I really value that relationship. Now that our family members are getting older it helps a lot having someone to share that mental load. As someone touched upon, she knows me like no one else, with memories no one else can share.

When my #2 and #1 started interacting together it brought such immense and unexpected joy to watch the friendship dynamic that I had with my sister play out again with my girls. I donít know how their younger brother will fit into it all; so far they mostly ignore him as he is only 2. Personally I feel 2 is a good amount of work vs reward. 3 is too much for me and the last 2 years brought a tremendous amount of struggle and sacrifice i wasnít really ready to sign up for. Water under the bridge thoughÖ

And yes, things are designed for families of 4. Thankfully we didnít have to buy a new car but we have to get two hotel rooms all of a sudden due to such-and-such hotel rules.
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: lutorm on August 16, 2021, 07:58:51 PM
We have #2 on the way now (I'm definitely worried about the extra workload... ;-) But for us the social part of the argument was not so much while they're kids, I think the age difference (will be 4 years for us) makes it unlikely they'll be very close unless you're really cranking them out back to back, but more about having family peers as adults. Of course, who knows how they'll turn out.
My boys are 4 years apart and are VERY close. In fact just last year when my oldest turned 12 did they finally ask for their own rooms. I think when my oldest goes off to high school in 2 years, and then college they may have a long period of drifting apart but Iím very confident that they have a great foundation.
Things that I think have helped-
-Sharing a room
- before I FIREd having a nanny instead sending them to camps or daycare where they would be separated by age
-having them in a k-8 private school where they are actually on the same campus for four years
That's good to know. Sharing a room will be a must for the foreseeable future since we don't have another room... ;-)
Title: Re: Parents of only children, how is it?
Post by: Malossi792 on August 17, 2021, 03:40:42 AM
Just an anecdote, but I wouldn't expect that having a second child is somehow going to be better for the first.
+1