How only child prejudice affects the family

by on January 3, 2015

in Emails

I received this email from ‘Jo’ which I think contrasts very well both the prejudice parents of only children face as well as that of only-children themselves. Jo also describes how the idea of a sibling is so dear to her as well.

I am so thankful to find your site! I have often times thought of starting something of my own in order to connect with other “onlies.”

I have always hated being the only child. Both of my parents come from large families, and I had many cousins. All of them except one had siblings. Even though I knew I was loved by them, I always felt different, an outsider. Another problem I encountered was the prejudice against only children:

As a child I was very sensitive to what others would say. I wanted to fit in. In Kindergarten I made up a story that I had several siblings. Of course, my teacher made me tell the truth. I think I did this in part because I did have a large extended family and I realized my situation was different than most.

At times adults would say things about me being an only child in a derogatory fashion. I felt that I was inadequate, something bad, something not to be desired; yet, I had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t my choice.

I’ve had people also be critical of my parents, even though my mother lost my sibling during pregnancy and almost died, too. She could not have any more. Even a doctor made a statement to me in a derogatory tone about “Why didn’t your parents have more children?” Really??? I couldn’t believe it. I have had so many people say negative things about only children directly to me, as though they don’t even realize they are talking to one and it could hurt my feelings! On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me , “You don’t seem like an only child.” I think that is what is called a “left-handed compliment.” I have been shocked over and over at the rudeness of people throughout the years. I don’t have room to write the insults I have received without people even knowing who I am–sometimes having just me me.

I longed for someone to love me truly as a sister. And even though I felt very close to them, I knew that they did not love me as much as their siblings. I was by myself.

So, I lived in a fantasy world much of the time in which I was their sister. I convinced myself that they really loved me as a sister. But, time and time again over the years, I have come up on the short-end of the stick. For even if someone tells you they do love you as a sister, blood is thicker than water. When it comes down to it, you are just a cousin or a friend. They are always more loyal to their siblings.

Even though I probably shouldn’t have, I had two more children after my firstborn so that he would not have to suffer the prejudices against only children and would not have to feel so alone. However, it is sad to me, that my three children are not even close, and they do not appreciate each other. It breaks my heart. I have often wondered why “God” would let my sibling die, why my personality so horribly suited for an only child, but I am one; and, yet, my children would all have made good only children, but aren’t! Jo

  • Jane

    I am so glad I found this site. I am nearly 60 years old. I absolutely hate being an only child. I also got derogatory remarks from adults and peers. I recall one classmate, every time I saw her she would ask me if I were an only child, as if I were some freak. I usually lie and say I have an older sister. I fit all the stereotypes…spoiled, selfish, over-protected. I do not blend in with other people and I do not know how to do things other people do, even basic things like cooking. (What if I burned myself? What if a pot boiled over?) There is a negative side to being an only child, but this is not often discussed.

  • gettingtoooldtocare

    NOTHING – absolutely nothing – would have made me leave my oldest child as an only child. I must have been one of the least spoilt onlies ever, my parents’ one mistake (they were determined never to repeat). I was hit and humiliated, never spoilt with toys or other possessions (had to pay for my own driving lessons, certainly never had a car), was never praised for good school work When I got nine good O levels, I was told “I suppose you know you’re clever now. You always thought you were”. I got A levels and went to university, and saw very little of my parents in my twenties and thirties. However, in my late thirties I married and had three children, and made a real effort to reconcile. It worked up to a point, but nothing was still ever quite right for them. I am now an “orphan”, in my 60s, and a grandmother myself. My husband, children, daughters in law and granddaughter are everything to me. When I hear of people deliberately having an only child, I want to BEG them not to. I don’t, because it’s none of my business, but it still makes me feel very sad.

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