I note with both interest and a great deal of pleasure that I have received a number of emails after my recent posts on the characteristic of adult onlies, as partners. Not just from adult onlies but also their partners. I am now going to post some of the former as they offer more insights into the range of only child experience to both onlies and non-onlies! You will soon see familiar themes!
I believe other people’s stories help us to feel more comfortable with our own experience. When you have no siblings to share your memories, and you move into middle age, there is often no one to help you remember incidents from your early life or share and compare experiences. I think this often leaves onlies feeling separate and apart from others and this, I believe, becomes greater the older we get, especially after the death of our parents.
For these stories I have picked people who fall into different decades of life as this gives a fuller flavour of the only child experience. I used the same device in my book Only Child Experience and Adulthood (2008) so it is good to have some new stories which extend, compare and compliment the original ones.
You will notice recurring themes. On the positive side: the sense many only child adults have of feeling able to be alone, appearing outwardly confident, independent, and able to create their own fun and enjoying doing things like travel on their own.
On the less positive side: a sense of feeling dependent, finding it hard to separate from parents, problems with sharing, and dealing with conflict. Also the usual difficulties experiencing the only-child stereotype of being spoilt, selfish and lonely. Some speak about the envy from people with siblings. Finally many people express the longings for a sibling, and a ‘normal’ family.
Relationships with parents are an important aspect of the experience. These relationships can be very positive when parents are aware of the importance of being available but not intrusive; able to step aside but not be neglectful; able to have expectations but not to the extent of inhibiting the growing sense of self of the only child.
Other important themes are concerns with being left alone when parent’s die, and inevitably the care of elderly parents, who can sometimes expect a great deal more of their on child than is possible.
Whilst these may be recurring themes in many peoples lives, for only child adults, the sense of apartness is very strong and tends to colour all experience in a very specific and profound way.
I have tried to choose a selection of stories highlighting important themes. Some are lighter than others but overall they give an interesting perspective of only child experience through the life span.
The next post will be the first of these stories from a 22 year old only.