I'm the oldest of five siblings. When I was much younger, I felt there was an army of us and being the oldest, I couldn't run away from having the responsibility of always having to take care, have a watchful eye on them whilst helping my mom around the house. Quite frankly, it wasn't much fun for me.
Now that we're older and have our own families and lives, amazingly enough, we're closer than we've ever been, and I'm so very grateful for them. And I will still kick butt if anyone were to hurt them.
Being a single parent to an only child has brought reflections and comparisons to when I grew up with what felt like constantly being surrounded by a million people.
I have never put much thought into my son being an only child and the stereotyping of it. Through research, I know that they have been found to be spoilt, selfish/self-absorbed, maladjusted, bossy, antisocial, and lonely. And also, through more recent research, they have debunked these earlier research findings.
Well, I have an only child, and I have siblings, so I can safely say stereotyping only children as such is total BS.
Single parenting an only child is what you make of it, really. I love being a single parent, and I am honoured to have been given the chance of being the mother to my son.
The Good Bits
1. More One-on-One Time
Having my son has no doubt given me the opportunity to solely focus on him. Whether it is school activities, after school activities, one-on-one playtime, school work, holidays, I've always been there for him.
I'm lucky that my boss understands that I'm a single parent and gives me the flexibility to not miss out on my son's life. It wasn't so easy earlier on when I had to prove myself at work whilst my son was still young, but I still managed with the support from my parents and siblings, which I will always be grateful for.
As years went by and I learnt how to manage my overall life, it became easier to be with my son whenever he needed me, even if it meant taking half-day off from work to spend the rest of the day with him or plain play hooky.
I must admit, we did have good times just, him and me.
As a teenager now, naturally, he's more focused on his life and friends, and times with me are infrequent, but whatever time we have is quality time spent.
2. More Free Time For Yourself
When my son was much younger, I never had time to myself, and I used to crave it, wish for it.
Having one child allowed me to drop him off at his grandparents without putting too much pressure on them. They were younger, and he was their only grandchild then, so of course, they doted on him and would have him anytime.
This gave me the chance to do my own thing and also catch up on work. This was always a blessing because I could other stuff knowing that he was in good hands.
As he's grown older, I have free time coming out of my ears. Now I have no idea what to do with myself. I literally find myself on standby mode for my son. Ready to serve - meals, snacks, drive him someplace, get him something from the store, whatever.
I mean, I want free time but not THIS much, but the good thing is, I now have the time to pursue my own interests.
3. Your Child Gets More Opportunities
I was determined to give my son all the opportunities he needed and those that came his way. Not just to fill in his time, but to allow him the opportunity to develop his interests and to allow him to develop social skills with a different set of friends, other than those he has in school that are familiar to him.
I knew that not having any siblings would mean I would have to allow him to develop socially outside of his familiar circle. So, there has been sports, clubs, gaming tournaments, camps, art classes and so on. As long as it was within my means, I would help make it happen. Scheduling my time was also an important factor: time and affordability.
Quite frankly, where my time and finances are concerned, I don't think I would be able to provide my son with the same opportunities if I had more children.
4. It's Quieter
I don't want to come across as insensitive, but this is the truth. I am SO grateful there's no squabbling or fights in my home. Nor are there more voices than it should. It would have overwhelmed me.
The only voice I hear is my son's, and nowadays, it's my son talking to his friends online or yelling at the TV watching football. It can be loud, but it's only him.
5. You Never Have To Take Sides
I've had my share of sibling squabbles, and I know what it's like and how sometimes I would feel like my parents favoured my brother or sister rather than me because of the side they took. Because I was the eldest, it was seldom my side as apparently, I should've known better. I'm not sure how my parents felt, but when this happened, I hurt.
I'm glad that I don't have to take sides and that my son would never have to go through the feeling that his mom preferred his sibling rather than him for some reason or another.
For whatever he faces through life, he is very clear on whose side I'll take.
6. Wise Beyond Their Years and Self-Reliant
My son grew up surrounded by adults. Being the first grandkid and only child in the whole family somehow matured him in many ways, especially in the way he speaks and his thinking, and I think everyone noticed this in him at a very young age. He is very comfortable around adults and engages in conversations with them without a problem.
At the age that he is now, he is able to articulate his thoughts so well that every time I hear him speak especially on his thoughts on a certain issue, it makes me feel all wonderful being in his presence, so very proud. Even though nothing extraordinary is being expressed or done, he makes it extraordinary.
Boredom might have stricken him when he was younger, which in return resulted in him being creative in the ways he occupied himself. Being on his own and having to rely on himself for fun, especially when it was no longer cool to play with his own mother, he started to build a group of friends that are now as thick as thieves. The camaraderie they have is truly inspiring.
7. They are Comfortable in their Own Company
My son is an extrovert, might take a bit of warming up, but definitely an extrovert. Give him a bit of time, and he thrives when in a group of people. On the other hand, he has no problems being in his own company with his own thoughts.
As adults, being comfortable in our own company is such a trivial thing but one that surprisingly few people can do. There are times for being social and certainly times for being alone, and being comfortable with either of those scenarios can hugely positively affect so many aspects of our lives.
When we're by ourselves, we can develop an understanding of who we are as a person and have the confidence in making choices without any outside influence.
For me personally, seeing my son him being comfortable in both scenarios and especially in his own company makes me really proud, knowing he has the upper hand where being comfortable alone and knowing yourself is something many people still struggle with.
8. The Bond You Have is Unlike Any Other
We only have each other's company most of the time, so naturally, the bond we have is special. I am the one constant in his life, and so is he mine.
I'll just leave it at that as it's hard to describe the closeness that we have. I know for sure that our relationship is definitely closer than what I had with my parents growing up.
I can only hope that this unique bond that we have developed will be the foundation of our relationship for the rest of our lives.
9. No Confusion
Single parenting means there is no inconsistency and confusion when it comes to setting rules for my son. It's not only easier for him but for me too.
There are no arguments and bickering that my son has to be witness to, and he himself doesn't have to take sides, not that he would have to, but he'll probably feel the need to.
There is only one parenting style, which is mine. I am the judge and the jury of the decisions that I take, but at least there's no outlying conflict on top of all the other pressures we face.
The One Bad Bit (...or bits)
I am quite certain many parents raising children, be it an only child or many children, go through it with a tremendous level of guilt, doubt and constant questioning, which we continuously wrestle with.
Having two sisters, I always have someone to call or text in any form of crisis, major or minor, or even just to talk and catch up on life. If one sister doesn’t answer, I'll just move on to the next. My son will never have that connection.
Being the only parent in the home also means every time there is tension or disagreements between us, he has no one else to turn to. No one else to diffuse the tension.
The other thing that has been bugging me is the fact that I feel extreme guilt that as I grow older (like when I'm really old!), he'd have the burden of being my sole caregiver. There will be nobody else to share the burden with him. I know it might be too early to think about that, but I do.
And if I were to go too soon, there will not be anybody there for him. To celebrate his triumphs and to just be there for him in his not so triumphant moments. At least not like a mother would.
I do hope my son forgives me.
From His Perspective...
He doesn't deny the perks of being an only child. The attention and focus that he has been given. Not having to share his prized possessions. The chance at having endless opportunities to fuel his interests. The space, freedom and privileges that came with being the one and only.
But one lack that weighs over him is, at times, he's needed, maybe a sibling, to where he could turn and talk to about issues only siblings would understand.
Much like the relationship I have with my siblings now, he sometimes wished he had that.
I realise what I have mentioned might not apply to all only children, but at least it does where mine is concerned. And as a single parent with only this boy to focus on, I have given and will always give my fullest and my best self as a mother, even if it may come with some imperfections.