I am 32 years old, an only child born in Poland and now living in the UK. Happily married to a man much older than me and enjoying bringing up my two young children. My parents still live in Poland. I text my mum everyday and we speak on the phone once a week. Part of me is happy with the decision I made while another part cannot shake off the feeling of guilt. Back in Poland, over 10 years ago, I felt I was just a ‘background’, an attachment to their life, a bit of a nuisance – they were pursuing their careers and filled their spare time with gardening and other ‘useful’ things. Things had to have their purpose, not much room for fun. They chose not to have a second child – and perhaps they still think it was a good choice, or maybe they regret it now, as they are on their own.
I’m a ‘typical’ only
Having read a lot about only children recently, I think that I am quite a typical one. Independent, tidy, polite, enjoying my own company, but also sociable and active. Responsible – and perhaps sometimes taking on too much that I can cope with. Choosing an older husband, apart from falling in love, probably originated from being used to company of adults. My greatest worry is that things will start going wrong with both my husband and my parents at the same time and I will not be able to be in Poland and England at the same time.
Trying to please and meet others expectations
Another thing that makes my life difficult is always trying to please and meet other people’s expectations, even before they even verbalise them. That comes from always trying to meet my parents expectations, even if they did not say anything. But things were always assumed. So I am glad that I am too far away to follow the routine – that used to make me really unhappy in my early twenties. I feel guilty about my parents not being able to see their grandchildren more often. I live a life very different to my old one. It’s a busy, happy, noisy household, full of my kids, their playmates, my stepdaughters and their nomadic groups of friends and international students we host. Still, sometimes I have the need to hide and I cherish quiet moments I’ve got to myself.
I wish I could get rid of the feeling of guilt though and stopped trying so hard to meet other people’s expectations. There is this anger in me bubbling underneath the surface and it comes from not being brave enough to express my needs. This evolves from always trying to contradict the stereotype that only children are selfish. D.
You express that only child dilemma very well. Feeling the need to please and counteracting the stereotype of being selfish. But you need to let your parents take responsibility for their decision to only have one child and learn to express your needs – we all have them and I think as only children we often learn to ignore them as we are so attuned to our parents needs as children- whereas it should be the other way round.
stay tuned to your children’s needs but learn to ask for what you need form your husband and let go of feeling responsible for your parent’s choices!
Thank you for this email – Bernice
Thank you for replying so promptly and for your words of advice. Please feel free to use my email in a blog and changing identifying details is a good idea. I have waited for the opportunity of comparing my experiences with other only children long enough, so I will be very interested to read some comments.