Years ago, when my parents went to the doctor for their second or third pregnancy scan, the doctor didn’t see any organs yet, which was surprising at the time. But the next day, the doctor saw me happy and healthy. My parents were then asked if they wanted to know the sex of their child. Both of them secretly wanted a girl in their life, especially my mother. They held each other’s hand and said, ‘yes’. Soon they had this pervasive feeling that everything, absolutely everything was as magical and amazing as it should be, that their lives were complete. I am a single child by choice, my parents didn’t need another, and because of that, all the attention is on me. Today I’m gonna talk all about being a single child; there’s a lot to it.
Growing up as an only child, you tend to get a lot of curious questions and comments from people who are fascinated by the concept of a life without siblings. From the stereotypical “You must be really spoiled” to my frequent favourite, “What’s it like to not have siblings?” (how would I know? — I’ve never had them!). I grew accustomed to these questions after a while, and usually rattled off the same tedious response - ‘it’s ok’. I’ve never really needed to go into pros and cons or how it feels to be a single child because the majority of people around me probably have their own perceptions of it. From the presumption that single children are too self-centred all the way to the thought of us being nothing but ‘spoilt brats’. Maybe these perceptions would change if single children talked about their lifestyle more often, which is what I’m going to do now.
The single-child life has pros, cons and everything in between. It’s hard to put things as strictly pros or strictly cons, but here’s a start. Firstly, when you’re a single child, you are more likely to have a vast imagination. Time alone helps you become more resourceful and helps to develop your imagination and creativity. I think the freedom to operate on your own can give you the determination and confidence to strive for the best in life. Many, if not all of you, know that I have an immense passion for mathematics. I want to be a mathematician when I grow up, and I think being an only child helped me realise it sooner because I didn’t have anyone breathing down my neck all the time criticising my dreams.
You also develop a closer relationship with your parents and get to know them as individuals. My mother has always been the one I listen to the most. She isn’t strict, but if she tells me to do something, I instantly do it. She’s the person whose approval means the most to me, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve started to see who she really is as a person. She’s someone with one of the biggest hearts I know. She’s selfless, kind and loving. With my father, I’ve always respected his guidance, and I hope he knows that. He’s the one who I think I have a love-hate relationship with. We fight almost all the time about the most trivial things, then forget about it all the next day. When our lives get stressful my parents never give up. They are the only ones, in my opinion, who know how to really handle any situation and deal with it with a positive attitude.
Those are some of the things that are definitely pros. But there are some murkier sides to this life. The most obvious one is loneliness. Having siblings doesn’t automatically give you the perfect person to lean on for every high and low you experience, but it does increase your options as well as the chance to have someone else who'll listen to your meltdowns at any time of the day. This understanding has augmented my desire to pursue and maintain close friendships, knowing how important they’ll be in my life.
One thing I appreciate about being an only child is that I’m comfortable in solitude. At times, when you have no one but yourself, it’s nice to be okay with that. My parents have also noticed that being an only child has given me resilience among all else. Since I don’t have any siblings to tackle problems with, I’ve learnt to tackle them alone, but, sometimes, the comfort of solitude gets to be too much. You realise mid-Sunday that you haven’t responded to eight texts; you spent the entire weekend watching reality TV in your pyjamas, and you’ve gotten hairier, all because you didn't notice you became a hermit. Not having a sibling to play with regularly or to share your thoughts and memories with is also a disadvantage of being an only child. When my parents are no longer around, not having a sibling to talk about things with or look up to for help and support is a thought that’s genuinely daunting. Also, when your parents get older, being an only child, you would have to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of your parents alone, which sounds overwhelming to me.
Another murky aspect is my independence. A strong sense of freedom to explore life outside of the parental threshold is one of the most common traits of an only child. This is something that has served me in a variety of ways — I’ve always profoundly valued and protected my alone time. But this sense of independence that I’ve become so proud of has also created certain setbacks along the way. I still struggle to bring my deepest feelings and fears to the surface. Saying them out loud or broaching the topic with others can feel like I’m incapable of handling things on my own, even though I know that’s not the case. It’s taken a while, but I’m starting to learn that asking for help or just someone to listen to me is more a testament to my strength than an admission of defeat.
I don't know if you can tell, but it sounds like there are more cons than pros at this point, right? Well, many things help me overcome these challenges. Family is a big part of that, and sometimes, I don't realise how much of an impact they have on me. As I grow up, I'll probably start distancing myself from them when I have to go to university and onwards, but at the same time, I'll hold them close to my heart. At the end of the day, I know that I'm here because of them. I'm so grateful for them walking with me every step of the way in life, even when it was hard to do so. They're my role models. I also have amazing friends, and I don't think I'd be me without them. Every person who's walked into my life, whether they are different or similar, has shown me a different perspective of life. Everyone has something to teach about life. Maybe it was their personality, or perhaps it was those turnouts that taught me something new. Regardless, we all have stories of friends who have made our lives better.
When I’m at a place to start a family, I think I would have an only child, preferably a girl. The main reason for this is that I have experienced, and am still experiencing, the life of a single child. By knowing what my child’s going through, I’d be able to understand her problems, whether it’s when she gets her first period, or whether it’s the numerous times she feels under pressure to do something great. I know I’ll always be there for her.
The life of an only child can be a burden sometimes, but I can't imagine a better way to live and for me, being an only child has just made every bond that much more precious.