The Lonely Child

I admit, I get defensive when people talk negatively about “only” children, or “lonely” children. Before I go further, let me just say, I hate the word “only” in this context. Synonyms for only include merely and just, words that essentially mean “not enough”. No child should ever be described as not enough. Once upon a time, I could never understand why people would “only” have one child. But I know now, only children aren’t always created from intention. And if they are, so what? Who makes anyone else the authority on how many children a person should have?

A few weeks ago Nick and I met a friend and her 1 year old daughter at a play center. There were heaps of other kids around, being school holidays and all. My son is used to having to entertain himself, but he also enjoys playing with other kids, and isn’t too fussed on who they are or whether or not he knows them, he will try to join in with anyone. So it broke my heart when I saw him at the play center, trying to join in with some other kids but they seemed disinterested. He came up to me and said, “Mummy, no one will play with me.” I could see the boys he was trying to play with; two different sets of brothers. And of course the guilt hit me immediately…if things had gone to plan, he’d have at least a 2 if not 3 year old brother to run around and play with.

I guess only children can often find themselves being lonely. I got on the phone to see if one of his friends wanted to meet us for a play in the afternoon, and thankfully they were free. That’s a fine temporary fix, but there’ll never be a permanent fix. Even if a miracle were to happen, and we were to have another child sooner rather than later, there would still be at least a 6 year gap between them.

I threw myself into reading about only children and came to the conclusion that no matter how many children you have, kids can still find themselves feeling lonely. I also came to the conclusion that as an only child, Nick will benefit in ways children with siblings don’t. He gets all of our attention, he (may) have more opportunities for other activities (hello, I already shuffle him to swimming, tennis, now soccer). We may be able to travel more since we should have less financial restrictions (all good in theory!). Our home is relatively quiet and relaxed. No chaos here!

My son is well adjusted, has settled in beautifully to school, plays well with others, but also plays well on his own. I don’t feel like we’ve done him a disservice by not having more children, and I’ve finally decided I’m no longer going to feel guilty over it, either.

Linking up with Jess for IBOT, as always! Have you linked up yet?


31 thoughts on “The Lonely Child

  1. YAY for letting go of the guilt !!!
    As you know, we made the decision to have one child, mainly due to the fact that there was no way I could have coped with another child. Having said that, before we got married, our plan was to have two – but after one, I had such a different perspective on it that it just wasn’t going to happen.
    We were criticised for having only one child but of the people who criticised us, nobody offered to help with the cost of raising another child, nobody offered to run one child around while we fetched and carried the other child, nobody offered to pay for two hotel rooms when we went on holiday because we couldn’t get two trundle beds into our room.
    At the end of the day, whether it is your decision or circumstances dictate, it really has nothing to do with anybody else.
    K learned to amuse/entertain herself without us having to provide constant interaction with her. I know families where, if one child is not there, the parents cannot do anything because they have to entertain the other child who cannot amuse themselves because they have no company.
    I had an older brother and I was probably more lonely than an only child because we never played together – we fought and we argued but we never played.
    In a few years time when you are juggling homework and extra-curricular activities, I think you will really appreciate having one child.
    I know how much you want another child but there is so much to be said for having one child – don’t let having one child cloud the good times you have with him.
    Love, hugs and positive energy !

  2. I know that feeling of guilt, and sometimes sadness that my daughter doesn’t have a sibling that she can grow up with but it is what it is, and she seems to have very close friendships and has done since she was at day care. I think all kids regardless of their background have good and bad, as long as the feel loved I don’t think it matters x

  3. I like your resolve, I am from a family of 4 but all my siblings were boys! So I felt a little lonely too, but I never got hand me downs, and I didn’t have to share my barbies!!!
    He has two parents who love him, that is the most important thing!! x Karen

  4. Being alone is different from being lonely. He has loving parents, friends, close cousins, activities to look forward to and all the advantages that we can give him but might not be able to if we had more children. It is not ideal at times but it is the experience we were given. I don’t feel guilt but I do feel sad.

    I often say that we wanted more children for Dex, not us. I can be happy as family of three (ok so there’s been a whole lot of adjustment and healing to get here and I’m not quite there yet but you get what I mean)… but whenever he seems to notice that there’s something missing is when I feel the loss the most. Not sure that will ever change.

    Good on you for letting go of the guilt. It’s a huge step xx

    • Thanks Kyla. Yep, I’ve always wanted another child for Nick, not necessarily for us. I totally get what you mean. I’m not sure we’ll ever completely get “there” to 100% happiness over it, but perhaps we can fully come to accept it. Thank you for commenting, I know you truly “get it”. xo

  5. So happy to hear you are letting go of the guilt Aroha. I have a few friends who have one child and the love and attention and the joy they have a a tight family unit is wonderful to witness – I’m sure that’s the same for your beautiful little family too!

  6. Glad you have stopped feeling guilty. I was one of three and my mum still remembers when I told one of her friends ” Mum doesn’t have time for me anymore” when my youngest sibling was born. There are many pro’s & cons to the sibling/only child debate. Just enjoy the fact, you don’t have to worry about lack of sleep and changing nappies anymore…ha ha (See-lots of pro’s to no more kids haha)

  7. I needed to read this today. Thank you. The guilt is my biggest problem too. Zeb is sitting in his play room, playing with his Thomas track and I wonder if he gets lonely. He plays well by himself, but it must get boring at some times having to resort to Mummy or the dog as playmates 😦 I like how you have pointed out the positives to be in a single child family and I am going to be holding on tight to them xxxxxxxx

    • I’m glad it helped you today. There are SO MANY positives to being a single child family. I think it’s important to remember them when you are feeling less enthusiastic about the situation. Sending lots of love to you xo

  8. I think there is a powerful message to be heard in the line “I’m no longer going to feel guilty over it” – in saying that, I found this post heart breaking Aroha – you do an amazing job with Nick and have such a fabulous attitude about conceiving again – I just wish the Universe would shift and listen xx

    • I think the universe HAS listened, and has decided it’s not in my best interest! ha! I think I do a wonderful job with Nick b/c I am pretty conscious of how lucky I am to have him. I sometimes think it can be easy to take our beautiful healthy kids for granted. And I just want to hold on to every bit of him because I know he’ll be an adult before I know it! Thanks for your support Josefa xo

  9. Oh, I love the idea of the chaos free home. Both of my older sons have great pals who are sibling-free children and we were around for their years of trying to have other children, all that pain and distress. But luckily we all finally do make peace with what we have got or have not had happen, and there’s a great release in that. Those days are long gone for my dearest pal now, not that she wouldn’t occasionally have a moment. Glad to read of your comings to term.

  10. Good on you for not feeling guilty about it! There is nothing wrong with being an only child and the ones that I know absolutely loved it. Sure they have sometimes wondered what having a sibling would be like but all had said they wouldn’t change their only-child status for the world!

    #teamIBOT was here xx

    • Thanks Kylez. I know a few adults who don’t have siblings too, and they’re mostly surrounded by the family they’ve chosen – their friends, spouses, etc. I’m sure he’ll still have plenty of happiness in his life! x

  11. I think that some children can have 3 or 4 siblings and still feel lonely, it’s a state of mind, it’s not who you are with. I admit when they are younger they gravitate to who and what they know, but this doesn’t last forever.
    And we all have guilt. I have guilt that my third is NEVER given the WOW that our first got and that my middle is often at times fumbling on his own while I sort out the oldest or youngest. All we can do is our best! Em xxx

  12. I grew up with my sisters being 16, 14 and 11 years older than me, so I spent a lot of time as an ‘only’ child. I don’t ever feel like it disadvantaged me at all. I kinda loved it tbh, because I got opportunities the others never had with three of the, around

  13. I’ve come to the conclusion people will always have judgements. Whether you have multiple kids and struggle to afford things or if you have one and all the support in the world and are well off. I know I can see you’ve had guilt but I firmly believe there’s no right or wrong it’s all about your perspective. He has all the love in the world, playmates and opportunities. loneliness will come and go but I believe that important stuff will remain constant

    • Thank you so much. You’re right, the important stuff will remain constant. We can all get lonely at times, even if we’re surrounded by lots of people (sometimes even more so then!). xo

  14. You should not feel guilty! Honestly, even with 4 boys they often just don’t want to play with each other anyway. And I get sad boys telling me no one will play or that they are bored. I often think how it is hard to give them all enough time, they just don’t get one on one time with me or hubby very often at all.

    • Thanks Sophie. I had 2 sisters and don’t remember playing with them when I was younger! It’s now that we’re all older that I really appreciate them though. I’m sure your boys will be the same once they’re grown. x

  15. Hi Aroha – Don’t feel guilty – it doesn’t do any of us any good. I feel guilty with two adoped children – feeling like I don’t appreciate the gift I have been given enough! My kids are 6.5 years apart – they fight more than I ever imagined. I have thought that I had a special kind of guilt due to adoption and a debt of gratitude I could never repay. But I reckon that most mothers feel guilt – with one, two, three or six chidren, regardless how they come to mother them.

    • We certainly do. It is such a shame! I think it’s wonderful you have 2 children, adopted or otherwise. And the fact they fight more than ever just means you’re giving them a very normal upbringing! ha!

  16. I think letting go of guilt has gotta be a good thing! I also think not doesn’t matter how many children you have, there will always be advantages and disadvantages to the number.

    My son, who is the first born of three, got four years as an ‘only’ child before his sister came along. That was great for him in a lot of ways, he got a lot of one on one time many of his friends missed out on. On the other hand, he’s got a four year gap between him and his sister which often seems less than ideal. And, he was old enough when she was born to remember the time before, and although they often play well together, other times he thinks her birth ruined his life!

    In the end, its what you (as parents and as child) do with the hand you’re dealt that matters, not whats in the hand. Largely.

    Anyway, Good in you for letting go if the guilt!!

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