We had just buckled ourselves in the car, when my 4-year-old asked the question: “Do you think we should get a baby?”
“Um, yeah, sure. I guess,” was my knee-jerk response to her question, which, in retrospect, wasn’t the smartest one. But hey, I’d been blindsided.
This was my first born – and up till that point my only child.
I asked her if she wanted to have a sibling. She just kind of shrugged and said, “If you want to,” like we were talking about grabbing some popcorn from the store on the way back home.
Fortunately, the topic didn’t come up again. Until one day, she came home from a friend’s house who had two sisters.
Now this got me thinking, “Do I owe my only child a sibling?”
Was my daughter missing out on a bonding experience? Would my decision to stick with one child result in her feeling lonely in adulthood? What about after we were gone? It’s always nice to have some family to grieve with you- to have a sister or brother to call and recall the old days.
I still called mine every week and joked about the way we acted like mum and dad.
Would her kids miss having uncles and aunts who coo over them, shower them with presents, and spill the beans on their mum’s antics when she was young?
Or was I overthinking the whole thing?
The pros of being an only child
As an only child, my daughter enjoyed some major advantages. First and foremost, she had her parents’ undivided love and attention. Our routines revolved around her needs and her schedule.
If we had more than one, I’m quite positive she would be skipping out on birthdays, and I wouldn’t have been able to sit during her football, ballet and swim lessons. Given how expensive it is to raise a child in Australia, with the cost being somewhere between AUD$3,000 and AUD$13,000 in the first year alone, having two or three kids would mean a tighter budget.
And we would have to forget about flying for a family vacation every summer.
Clearly, being an only child also brings the benefit of being the sole owner of all the resources your parents have to offer, like financial resources, educational opportunities, and extracurricular activities.
Research suggests that children without siblings also grow up into independent, self-sufficient individuals, develop better problem-solving skills, and learn how to entertain themselves due to the lack of siblings to rely on. With so much focus and attention and more targeted parental support, only children also perform well academically.
As only children, many become flexible and more adaptive to change.
I could see that in my daughter. With no sibling to offer her support, she learned early on how to be on her own and easily made new friends.
So why did she want a sibling?
The cons of being an only child
Growing up without siblings means missing out on the special bond and support of having brothers or sisters. Only children also struggle with concepts such as sharing and conflict resolution—lessons that are easily learned when sharing resources with a sibling.
My sister and I shared a room growing up. She was sloppy and loved being messy. I was organised and couldn’t focus in a dirty room. We had arguments and battles for weeks and months until we finally learned to live with each other.
But life was just preparing me for what lay ahead. My college roommate was a slob too, but since I had lived and survived my sister’s mess, I knew how to tackle the issues that arose.
Then I moved in with my husband, and well, I thank my sister for those endless years of training.
Another con of being an only child is that you are the centre of your parents’ universe. With more than one child, you can expect at least one of them to be an A student and get into the college of your dreams.
But an only child becomes the sole focus of parental attention, aspirations, and dreams. The result: increased pressure and high expectations, which can get overwhelming for kids.
Only children are also solely responsible for caring for their parents, and that can get emotionally and financially taxing.
While being an only child may have its advantages, without the companionship of a sibling, children and adults, may need to seek support from friends and extended family when faced with challenges.
The pros of having siblings
Of course, having a sibling is great too! Sibling bonds and friendships last a lifetime, and if done right, siblings can become the support you need at various stages of life. During tough times like divorce or death, siblings can be a valuable source of emotional support. Siblings are, in a way, built-in playmates and companions. Plus, all those endless jokes, staying up late, and endless memories make having siblings great!
As kids grow older, siblings also allow for mutual development by teaching valuable lessons in empathy, compromise, and understanding. They can help form a supportive network, assisting with practical matters such as childcare, moving, and professional advice.
Unfortunately, disagreements among siblings are quite common but teach valuable lessons in negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution. As adults, children can be a source of support for aging and can share the workload while providing emotional assistance during difficult times.
The cons of having a sibling
The cons of having a sibling: rivalry, jealousy, and conflicts over attention, possessions, or parental favouritism aren’t new to this world. Even kings killed their own brothers for the throne.
Unfortunately, not all sibling relationships are great. Siblings are frequently compared academically, socially, and in other areas of life, leading to feelings of inadequacy or pressure to live up to expectations. Similarly, a sibling’s negative behaviour or poor choices can affect others in the family.
But the truth is, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Maybe I was doing my daughter a favour by focusing all my energy and resources on her. After all, with the economic conditions and the cost of living increasing every year, it made sense.
But then again, maybe she did deserve a chance to have a sibling. And so we went ahead and had two more. And loved the chaos that came with it!
But my sister, who was in the same boat as me, decided that for her family, one child was perfect. And her daughter is the most confident, brilliant, and happiest child I know.
Like I said, there is and has never been a right or wrong answer to this question. It will always depend on what works for your family, so trust your gut and know that either outcome will be beautiful.