In Life

Are only children lonely?

I may very well end up with an Only Bun.

I had imagined previously I would have at least 2 kids, maximum 4, but this is turning out to not be the case as my partner doesn’t want more children.

This is a quick post to ask people who are only children to tell me what it was like growing up as an only child.

I want to know the pros and cons to see if I should really push this. I am happy with just having one Baby Bun but I want to be sure he will be happy too, even without siblings.

Thanks in advance.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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49 Comments

  1. E
    Elli MCay

    I, as an only child, am very lonely. I wish I had siblings really bad. So even if your children beg to be only, they will be mad at first, but give them another sibling. It’s better for them and they WILL thank you in the future.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh dear. I will consider it strongly but as a parent I’m also super tired and not sure I can do a newborn again

      Reply
  2. A
    Anonymous

    My mom made sure that I was around kids my own age as an only. I used to wish I had siblings because some siblings have amazing bonds, but now I’m not so sure. I had friends growing up who told me the parents favored their sibling. It was depressing to hear. It created a lot of problems in those families. I wish parents would keep it to themselves if they have favorites.

    In a way I’m happy I’m an only because I’m the favorite by default but my mom doesn’t believe in favorites so she probably would have treated me and a sibling fairly. She gave money to two of my cousins so they could go to college and get bachelor’s degrees. I thought it was sweet she did that but these two cousins were very serious about their studies in h.s. so she had confidence they would finish college which they did. I think there are trade-offs either way.

    And yes I’m very independent and I was very comfortable around adults as a kid. The only problem with only children is that many parents spoil their only children or shelter them too much.

    My mom didn’t want to send me to sleep away camp because she thought I’d get molested which never happened and she didn’t want me riding horses because Christopher Reeve rode a horse and ended up disabled. She did allow me to get on a horse and pose with it but riding lessons weren’t allowed. I laugh at this now but my mom was over worrying.

    One of my cousins is also an only and she was spoiled beyond belief. To the point where she is kind of snotty and the rest of my relatives can’t tolerate her at times.

    Sometimes people say only kids are spoiled and the thing is that its not always true because in a family of 2-5 kids, resources must be spread out but in a family of three the parents have more resources, so they can afford to buy their only child a lot more than in a bigger family.

    I think there is a difference between blessed/thankful and spoiled. Like I had a TV in my room, and I was given a car growing up. It was a 4-5 year old car my folks had driven and taken care of before they gave it to me. I always knew I was lucky that my folks did this. I saw friends whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t help them and they struggled a lot.

    My folks also put money away for college, in addition I also worked and got grants. My bf’s dad told my bf and his siblings that they would all have college funds and the thing is it turned out he saved nothing for them which annoyed all of them. So my bf had to make it on his own but he and his siblings felt disappointed their parents lied to them.

    My bf also told me one of his guy friends who was an only child that got whatever he wanted, and would drop other friends over stupid reasons. Anyway this guy friend grew to be pretentious to the point that my bf couldn’t stand to be around him and eventually bf quit being his friend. So yes there are those stereotypical children of only children because sometimes the stereotype is true.

    I also had a friend who told me he had a sister but he was never close to her. So it happens where siblings aren’t close, the only link they have is they were born into the same family. So I’ve come across a lot of different experiences growing up with friends that had siblings and others that had them and hated them.

    Maybe you should watch this video on how being an only child and having an only child is a wonderful thing. http://www.today.com/video/today/52166706#52166706

    The author has a book, http://www.amazon.com/One-Only-Freedom-Having-Child/dp/1451626967

    There are other factors to consider, sometimes people end up with siblings only to lose an entire family to accidents.

    http://collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/08/18/austin-hatch-who-twice-survived-plane-crashes-plays-for-michigan/

    I think whatever you decide to do, its up to you and your partner to make sure your family is a happy one. There are trade-offs to everything. Neither is better just different. Maybe you should decide which trade-off you can live with and which ones you can’t.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You have no idea how much this has helped me.

      I was going back and forth multiple times about Only, Siblings, thinking about my situation where I have siblings but we aren’t close at all…

      I think it is the same for people who choose to be single for life, they aren’t lonely — they have friends and family to talk to or hang out with and don’t necessarily need a significant other.

      I will have to be careful not to spoil him and dote on him. I’m pretty lenient though, it is more my partner who over-worries. I’m less of a worrywart which can be good and bad.

      Thank you!!!!!!

      Reply
    2. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh and P.S., after reading your comment in particular, I’ve finally come to terms with having an Only Bun if that is what it turns out to be.

      I’d still love to be pregnant and have a second, but if that doesn’t work it, it doesn’t mean I won’t be happy. I can live with having an Only Bun…

      Reply
      1. A
        Anonymous

        @save. spend. splurge.:I’m happy it helped you. 😀 Whatever you decide I’m sure you’ll make a great mom either way. You already seem to have a great head on your shoulders. Have a great weekend.

        Reply
  3. J
    Jenn

    I was an only child until my mom remarried when I was 14. I was always so envious of my friends who had siblings and once my step brother came into my life I can honestly say that I don’t know what I would do without him. I hated everything about being an only child and vowed to never do that to my children. That said, I also had no cousins or other family around which I think would have made a world of difference. If you do end up with an only bun hopefully he can have cousins and other family members around. My sister in law had no siblings but was very close to 2 of her cousins and she says that is probably why being an only child never bothered her. Cousins are the closest thing to siblings without being siblings!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      No cousins on this side of the pond 🙁 I was thinking of that…

      Reply
  4. Michelle

    I am an only child and for my family’s situation that was a very good thing. I actually didn’t feel lonely BUT my mom spent a lot of time making sure that I was socialized. So, I started pre-pre school around 2 1/2 years old when we were living in Japan. I really think that this was the foundation for me to be the people person that I am today (seriously!) I was also involved in a ton of activities so I met people all of the time: Brownies (hated it) cheerleading (loved) gymnastics (LOVED) ballet (LOVED) various clubs, and a sorority.

    I will say that as an adult like NOW there are moments where I wish I had siblings that could help me balance out future issues with my mom that I’m starting to think about. But, there is no guarantee that a sibling would feel as strongly as I do about those type of issues. Remember, only children only know their reality just like people with siblings can’t imagine not having them. I do hope to marry someone with siblings. Other than that-I’m fine and Baby Bun will be too whatever you decide. Just make sure he is involved in activities.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I will keep those activities in mind

      Reply
  5. H
    Heather H

    You have to decide what is best for you both as a family. That said, as an only child myself if there was one thing I could change about my life it would be to have a sibling.

    Reply
    1. H
      Heather H

      @Heather H: PS, I have two kids 4 1/2 years apart. I didn’t feel a need for a second child when the first was still a baby and that desire didn’t hit until my first was around 2. I do wish they were 3 years apart but it didn’t work out that way. My point is, your partner may change his mind as baby bun gets out of the infant stages.

      Reply
      1. save. spend. splurge.

        I am hoping so!!!

        Reply
        1. H
          Heather H

          @save. spend. splurge.: You could always do the age old technique of insisting on more than you want (3 or 4) and then “settle” for 2. My husband didn’t want kids as young as we had them and wasn’t sure he really wanted a second, but of course he is happy it all worked out as it did. I think men tend to need a lot of “guidance” in this area.

          Reply
          1. save. spend. splurge.

            LOL!!! OK. We did agree on 3 when we started dating but now after Baby Bun he is exhausted … May need to give him time to recuperate.

    2. save. spend. splurge.

      That’s how I feel too and I had siblings but they were much older than I….

      Reply
    3. E
      Elli MCay

      Same

      Reply
  6. R
    Rose

    There is a whole dynamic of socialization that only children do not get because it is learned from being and having siblings, Only children do not learn the sibling dynamic that actually prepares them for the world of working with others. We tend to be more selfish and less patient with others. Unless our parents taught us that the world stopped revolving around us when we were five, we tend to expect this from others, especially in relationships. Not having siblings, makes it more difficult to understand that our actions effect others that love us, because we do not see it as one does that grew up with others and learning to live with others of our age. Siblings are best friends, they know your past and still will be there for you.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Which is one of the reasons why I really wanted a sibling for Baby Bun but .. we have to be on the same page. I can’t just force him to want a second child. Maybe after we start sleeping more.

      Reply
  7. Melissa

    I was never, ever lonely as a single child and honestly? I loved it. Books, computer games, the backyard was all my playground and I could do anything I wanted on my own. Play house? Why not! Start my own business? Sure! There was not a single thing (A SINGLE THING) I missed out on growing up. My parents were able to take me traveling, teach me to be a responsible adult, help me be an entrepreneur, and give me all sorts of attention and help with homework. It was AMAZING and I grew to be a better, smarter person because of it.

    That said… there is a con to this giant pro 😉 Now that I am in my late 20s, my parents are much, much older and they’re breaking down. It is heartbreaking for me to be alone, watching them decline and having no one to talk to about it. No one knows our memories like the 3 of us do. We are/were the 3 Amigos, and even if I tell my fiance about our lives pre-him, he’ll never understand. When my parents pass away, they’ll take away a huge chunk of my identity that I’ll never be able to talk about with anyone.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want you to change your mind for this reason. IF I have children (big if, as fiance doesn’t want them either), I would only have one. However, as a parent, I would take the best care of my health as possible. To let yourself go (as one of my parents has in particular) while your child is still “young” (as I would call the 20s) is cruel. I think parents, if they only have one, owe it to their onlies to be around at least until the onlies are 35 and have launched their own families.

    Just my two cents, as an only child.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you so much. If we do end up with an Only Bun, I feel better in knowing this.

      We have been taking care of ourselves as much as possible. We eat well, stay slim and try to be active so we can always be there as long as possible for The Bun.

      Thank you.

      Reply
  8. J
    Jen

    I was an only child until I was 8. I was bored and lonely a lot. I used to tell my mom: “I DEMAND a brother or sister right now!” I got a little brother when I was 8 and surprised to realize he was not an immediate playmate. However he became my little baby doll. I became a 2nd mother to him…which has it’s own set of issues. However, I now have 2 kids of my own that are 20 months apart (a surprise 2nd baby…I was 42 and not trying). I am so glad they have each other. They are so close and such good friends. And even though they are opposite sex I did not have to buy a ton of new equipment since I already had the stuff. So what if my daughter is in a boy’s sleeper. She doesn’t care! The only tough part is the cost of childcare. I live in San Francisco and the cost is absolutely crippling. Thankfully my husband owned his house outright. Good luck to you!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      LOL.. “I DEMAND”.. Very cute

      I think if we do have a second it will be in the next 5 years. I do not want children too far apart and too late in life, I’ll be too old and lazy for that shizz…

      Thank you.

      Reply
  9. cosmogirl2100

    I’m an only child and when I was much younger I did get lonely a fair bit (mostly because I wasn’t really able to hang out with my friends after school) but had I had siblings my parents would probably not have been able to afford the amazing education I had. And I grew out of it fairly quickly and I’m happy being an only child now.

    Reply
  10. pumzie

    I am an only child and it was horrible. All parental expectations are on you. the good and the bad. My parents had no one to compare me to so it was always compared to the best of the best (as in why are you not as good as blah blah) or the worst of the worst (so and so did this so you will too). Now that I am in my 30s I dread having to be the only one taking care of my two parents. I am jealous of people who have siblings to help out with elderly parents or someone to talk to. I just had my first child 3 months ago, and there is no way she will be an only

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Thank you so much for telling me. I definitely need to know what NOT to do if he ends up an Only Bun.

      Reply
  11. C
    Catherine

    I am an only child and I didn’t struggle with being lonely. It is also a difficult question to answer as how do I miss or comment on something I never had? It was just how I grew up. I suppose there are moments of the grass is greener for having siblings or not. I was lucky to have opportunities provided to me because I had no siblings, and was socialized with both kids and adults throughout childhood onwards. I love being able to have the choice of being with people or being alone to recharge, and my parents liked how I could entertain myself.
    I have a 15 month old who is going to be an only child- I do the same for her with respect to socializing and going out to library programs etc. I was also not “spoiled rotten” as that can be the assumption of only children.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      That’s true. I am asking for help on something that you’ve never experienced.

      I don’t think Onlies are spoiled rotten.. that was not my concern at all. I just wanted to know the range of good and bad of being an Only.

      To be honest, I myself felt a bit like an Only child growing up. We were so far apart in age (my siblings and I) that I was alone a lot.

      Reply
  12. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    I thought that I was going to have two to three children and I never thought that I would have an only child. Well, after less than a year with my son, my hubby and I both realized we couldn’t handle any more children. My son is now 9 and I think he is a happy and well-adjusted child. My hubby and I say that we are focused on raising quality not quantity. I talk to only children adults all the time that say they may have missed out on siblings, but they all had really close and strong relationships with their parents. Plus they have good friends who they love as much as siblings. I personally have 6 siblings and I have friends that I love more than them.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Good to hear it from your side knowing you had 6 siblings and you have strong relationships with friends in lieu. I think that is probably my biggest relief — knowing that friends can take place of siblings.

      I don’t feel close to my siblings at all so that’s why I’m hemming and hawing.

      Reply
  13. j
    jolie

    My siblings are 7, 8 and 9 years older than I am so for awhile I was the resented little sister and for the rest I was an only child. My cousins were all of the older sibling generation as well. I was often lonely. Whether my personality contributed to the loneliness or the only child did, I couldn’t say.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I had a similar experience growing up. I was too far apart in age from my siblings so I felt a lot like an Only. Everyone was in college and I was still in elementary…

      Reply
  14. L
    Liz

    Only child here of single parent. While school years were rough for bullying/academic reasons, my adult life has been fine. After reflecting on my childhood and watching friends have kids, I decided against having any as a single parent, so I’m not in your situation. But my advice would be stick with one child.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I would have been happy with more than one kid before, but hearing what people are writing in about their experiences as an Only, makes me feel better and more accepting of having only One Bun. It’s not that he isn’t my everything, I just want to know what the good and bad would be of doing so.

      Reply
  15. N
    Nicoleandmaggie

    Not an only child, but most of the research on sibling order shows onlies get the same benefits as oldests.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      In that case I grew up like an Only then…. seeing as my siblings were very far apart in age from me.

      Reply
  16. StackingCash

    I’m an only child and so is my wife. I would like to think we both turned out pretty great. I never really felt lonely because I had many friends and a few who treated me like their younger brother. Back then tv was a great form of entertainment which distracted me from ever feeling lonely. I can only imagine if I had the internet back then. Only when I had lost both of my parents did I feel a little lonely. Thankfully, my future wife came along shortly after.
    The more I think back, the more I think I really liked being an only child. I know I was spoiled but I appreciated every moment of it and there are countless times I’m overly generous when I should be more selfish. Something weird about me is that I fit my astrological signs of the rat and Cancer to a T.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I am hearing a lot of comments saying that the biggest pros: Independent, Close to Parents, Friends become Siblings.

      Downside, lonely (perhaps) as a very young child if you have no one to play with after school… but in adult years, it’s fine.

      Reply
  17. NZ Muse

    Meh, there’s a big gap between me and my brother and to be honest I really resented him for most of my childhood. (We get along much better now as grownups.) Personally I think I would have liked being an only child just fine, I recall being pretty happy before he came along.

    The other day this topic came up with some coworkers, someone said that all the people they knew who were only children were a bit weird. Thinking about everyone I know I can really only think of one person who’s an only. Not sure ‘weird’ is the right word but I would say she is kind of selfish but that’s certainly not the domain of only children.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      We have had a big age gap too between my siblings and I, so I felt like an Only…

      I just have to be careful I guess, to make sure that if The Bun stays as an Only, he will not be selfish. Going to make him share with Mommy. 😛

      Reply
  18. Kathleen

    As an only child I was extremely lonely! Even now at times I wish I had a sister or brother to call and talk to or go out with, and I do get jealous when I see siblings hanging out together :(. So I always said that I would have 2-4 children. It may be different for other people, but I hated it!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Well…. I had siblings and I don’t talk to them or hang out with them. So I think age also makes a difference, not just having siblings.

      Reply
  19. R
    Revanche

    Not an only of course but speaking for a good friend who was: she was out and out grateful that she was an only. She’d seen so many of us with shitty siblings leave all the hard life crap to us and said that if she had one who was that way she’d have landed in jail for killing him/her. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I look around and while some friends eventually got on with their siblings, there are quite a few of us who wish we’d been onlys.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I felt like an Only but I can imagine in your case, it would have been better as an Only… but that’s a product of siblings who have been rotten.

      Reply
  20. Abigail

    It could be a little lonely at times. Then again, I just made friends. I’m sure I missed out on some socialization, but I probably got more attention.

    Meanwhile, My husband has a ne’er-do-well brother who really messed up his childhood in ways that still affect him today. So there’s that.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Probably you made friends quicker than kids with siblings because you had to.

      I hear that about ne’er-do-well siblings.

      Reply
  21. Tiffany

    I was totally happy as an only child. I think sometimes we just can grow up a little differently. I didn’t have much exposure to kids my own age for a long time so I became much more comfortable just hanging out with adults like my parents’ friends. This could be fixed with daycare or playgroups or preschool and things like that. I wasn’t lonely or anything and now that I’m an adult I don’t feel like I’m missing out on having siblings either. 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Baby Bun may not hang out with kids his own age very much but he will be in daycare eventually… and preschool. I want him to be independent and comfortable with adults which I am hearing is a strong theme in Onlies.

      Reply

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