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The Social and Emotional Benefits of Being an Only Child vs Having Siblings

March 5, 2024

So you may or may not know this, but I am an only child. And not only am I an only child, but my husband is as well. Now, the irony behind all of that is when I was in high school, I distinctly remember writing in my journal for a Humanities class, that I would never, like in capital letters, never marry another only child.

But make plans and God laughs. And it’s no secret that families aren’t as large as they once were, right? My mom is one of four. And all of her siblings have four to five kids each.

And my dad is one of five and I have seven cousins on that side. The only anomaly that I’ve heard of, beyond their generation of having multiple kids, is my husband’s former boss who has 12 children.

How much has the average family size changed over the years?

But for the most part, families are generally much smaller these days. In 1965, the average family had 2.44 children. I know the 44 is throwing you off, but it’s an average, right? Because obviously some would have 3, 4, etc, 2, 1, right? So that’s what gives you the point 44. But that number in 2023 dropped to 1.94. So essentially lost half a child in that time period.

Factors Contributing to Smaller Families Such As Women in the Workforce, Financial Necessity, and Time Constraints

And why is this happening? I think a lot has to do with the fact that women are full force in the workplace, partially because it was socially encouraged and engineered in my humble opinion, for decades with this whole feminism movement, girl power, break glass ceilings, yada yada yada.

They wanted women out of the home, because it benefits the government, right? More taxes, putting your children into schools, daycare that they can control and that they can start pushing their agenda, but I digress.

But also, it’s become financially necessary for women to provide a second income for the family. And therefore, resources have been depleted, you know, resources of time, because there’s only so many hours in a day. Help, it takes a village all to raise a family. And finances.

While kids are wonderful, and certainly worth it. You also as a parent want to be able to provide for them, let’s be real. So I think those factors definitely have played into why families are significantly smaller than they once were.

What are some challenges of getting children into daycare?

Right now, most parents are spending time on daycare waitlists. According to a survey done by care.com, 65% of parents who responded have spent time on a daycare center waitlist with 81% of those waitlisted parents juggling multiple waitlists simultaneously, and 43% waiting four months or longer.

I mean, getting your kid into a daycare these days is like trying to get them into college. It’s unreal. And are you aware of what the average cost for childcare is in the United States currently? I’m going to give you a breakdown.

So here are the average weekly childcare costs. So this is going to be everything from nanny costs, babysitters, daycare, and family care centers. And it’s going to be broken down by age and the number of kids for 2024.

And obviously, the more children that you have under care, and the type of care will increase the cost. So the average weekly nanny cost is $766 so this is gonna be your most expensive, right? Because it’s 1 on 1 care. And obviously, they’re most likely coming into your home.

And that’s up 4% in just two years. It used to be $736. The average weekly daycare cost is $321, which is up 13% from $284 in 2022.

The average weekly family care center cost is $230, which thankfully is only up a measly 0.4 percent from $229 in 2022.

And the average weekly babysitter cost is $192 which is up 7% from 1.79 in 2022.

Now, don’t forget, in order to spend, say, let’s go for the weekly daycare costs, right, the average $3.21 per week on daycare, that means you need to be earning $6.42 a week just to cover childcare.

But obviously, you have other bills, you have water bills, you have electricity, you have a car payment, you have a mortgage, you have rent, you have just life, right?

So think about all those other bills. There’s a reason why so many moms who were making 30 to $50,000 per year are quitting their jobs. Financially, it just doesn’t make sense. You’re literally working to pay for childcare.

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I must say I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at home for almost 2 years with my daughter. And since I went back to teaching golf full time, I have had the help of my parents who live 10 minutes from me.

And I have multiple streams of income that’s what enabled me to be at home and to do that. But not everyone has had that foresight, so to speak, of having that in their plan, right? To have the rainy day fund, so to speak, to support a growing family.

Although I wish people would, because whether it’s a child or maybe an illness that pops up in your family, whatever or, you know, all of a sudden you’re in a car accident, you gotta get a new car, whatever it is, you always should have this rainy day fund.

And I know not everyone also has the type of help that I do. And I understand that both the finance side and the help support side could definitely be a contributing factor as to why someone would be hesitant to have a child or have another child, right, grow from being, you know, a parent of an only child to having siblings.

The Impact of Family Size on Resources, Attention, and Relationships with Parents and Extended Family

And as an only child, I can tell you there are certainly benefits for that child. But also there are challenges. You know? Yes.

It goes without saying, you get more attention from your parents.

Only children often receive more individualized attention from their parents, which can then foster a close relationship and provide ample support.

I can tell you that my parents are my best friends. Although I can tell you that that isn’t always the case with only children. Like I said, my husband and I are both only children. And while many of our experiences are similar, there are others that are just drastically different from one another.

You know, growing up, I was able to travel a lot with my parents and I had access to quite frankly, like very expensive things and activities. Right.

I started skiing when I was three, playing golf when I was five. Those aren’t exactly, you know, inexpensive sports. And I can say that I don’t believe it was just a financial thing. Because I’m comparing myself to many of my fellow middle upper class peers that I grew up with. I grew up in a very nice town.

But the main difference between myself and my peers was that I didn’t have siblings and they did. You know, it wasn’t so much so that like, oh, you come from a family with a ton of money. No.

It wasn’t like that. It was straight up, I didn’t have siblings and they did. So obviously, the finances and all of the activities for them were divided. You know, in finances, as I mentioned repeatedly throughout all of my podcasts, they’re a huge burden for some people. Not some people. Let’s be real. Most. Right? Money is important.

It isn’t everything, but not having it is. And the finances is a huge reason why you’re seeing people have smaller and smaller families or choosing to not have children, sadly.

Whether it’s the resources you’re putting towards sports and activities, like I mentioned, you know, the ones you’re signing your kids up for, the clothing they’re wearing, college tuition, weddings, all of it.

If you think about it, the less people to, so to speak, split the pot with, the better, right? Like it, it benefits the kids. The other thing about being an only child is that you build close relationships with adults.

I noticed that a big difference between myself and my peers who had siblings was how our time was spent.

You know, I can honestly say that as an only child, I developed strong bonds with many more adults than my friends did.

Whether it was extended family members, family friends, and these people played a significant role in my life, including my aunt who is even visiting me here right now in Florida.

To this day, she’s one of the closest people to me in my life. And I spent a ton of time with her growing up, and not just her, but like my nana and my great aunts and uncles and my grandparents and you know, so it definitely played an impact on me.

And as an only child, despite having this big extended family, you know, if you’re around your parents’ friends. So you’re just around adults a lot.

And this obviously can be a positive thing with maturity, extending your vocabulary, making you a more worldly person, you’re talking about things that may be necessarily your peers aren’t or aren’t exposed to, right? And I’m saying this in a positive light, right?

But there are also times where it can definitely be… I know this sounds pretty heavy, but like lonely, right?

You’re forced to become independent and self-reliant as an only child because you don’t have that built-in playmate, so to speak. And it isn’t realistic to think that a parent, especially ones who work, can spend all of their time with you.

So you as a child just have to adjust. But the reality is when there is only one child, the parent doesn’t have to split their precious time either.

So that means the child’s going to have more access to attention. So it’s kind of like a double edged sword there. But in a good way, you know, for both the parent and the child. And you definitely enjoy more quiet time with no siblings, right? Like it’s a quiet house.

I look at some of my friends who come from big Italian families, and they’re just, you know, it’s madness, right? When you’re an only child, it’s definitely an acquired environment and there’s more opportunities for solitude.

Being An Only Child In Adulthood

And this definitely carries over when you’re an adult. Both my husband and I, we don’t have any issues being alone. And it’s actually very beneficial for our marriage, given how busy our schedules are with work and travel.

And we love being with one another, don’t get me wrong, we’re best friends, we’ve been together over 17 years. You name it, we can finish one another sentence as we know how we’re thinking, but also, we’re totally okay with space.

We’re not reliant on one another. We’re not needy. It’s the type of thing where he and I can be separated. And we have been for 1, 2, 3 weeks, and we survive, right? Whereas I know that that’s not always the same for other relationships.

I know some people that can just never be apart or if they’re apart from their spouse for a couple of days, they have a meltdown. Nick and I not so much, you’re not like that.

And now by the time you’ve listened to this podcast, you have probably seen the announcement that my husband and I are expecting our second child.

So while this was certainly a surprise at first, it was an experience we had talked about giving our daughter for a while now. You know, we weighed all the pros and cons of only having one child.

And ultimately, as two only children, we believe there are more benefits to having siblings than not.

And let’s start with the biggest one that my husband and I discussed. And that’s the fact that as two only children, our daughter, she wouldn’t have any direct aunts, uncles or cousins. So while I, unlike my husband, have a large extended family, none of them live near us in Florida.

And while I believe that close friends can certainly feel like family, the reality is it’s just different. Right? You hear the term blood is thicker than water, and I really do believe that to be true in most circumstances, which leads me to the emotional support that siblings can provide, especially as an adult.

Obviously, it’s not a guarantee, right?

But the reality is that siblings equate to companionship.

It’s a built in support system through life’s ups and downs, especially as an adult, when it comes to things like going through pregnancy, you know, relationships, marriage, other types of topics that well, you know, you’re very comfortable speaking to your parents about with a sibling, it’s just it hits different, right?

And not only that, but as your parents age, having that other person to help you kind of navigate that whole process, rather than it falling on you as the only child is definitely a benefit.

Now, of course, I will reiterate once again that I know not every family is perfect. I’m also a firm believer in nurture over nature.

But I do find that most siblings have a bond rather than being like, major issues. And one of the key differences between only children and those with siblings is the shared experiences piece. So like I said, that’s a lot of the nurture, right?

Obviously, the nature part is we’re all different. And that goes without saying but as a parent, when you’re nurturing two children, and you’re creating that family environment, there is a lot that you can control.

Benefits of Sibling Bonds and Companionship 

Growing up with siblings means sharing experiences, creating lasting memories together and having someone to reminisce about these things with in adulthood.

And I see this type of thing all the time with my parents and their siblings, plus with my friends and their brothers and sisters, always laughing and joking about moments when they were growing up and, and these memories they carry over decades later.

I mean, my dad and his siblings are all in their 70s 80s. And they still joke about things and remember things that happen when they were, you know, memories from when they were children.

And having siblings also develops social skills, and the ability to learn from one another. That’s why it’s so important, as introverted as I am, but I want to make sure that I’m exposing myself to so many people.

Because when you have constant interaction, which siblings obviously provide, it helps kids learn important social skills, cooperation, negotiation, and how to resolve a conflict.

And they learn from one another, like we learn from people, right? We learn and we develop as humans by exposing ourselves to others.

That’s how we learn valuable life lessons and skills. That’s how we have different perspectives. And it really fosters personal growth and development.

Not only that, but having siblings, it can lead to greater empathy for others and understanding their perspectives.

As children we learn to navigate relationships with different personalities and preferences, obviously that carries over into adulthood, but it starts with kids.

Social experiences are important for the one child family.

I see this a lot in my daughter’s class. So that’s a perfect example where I was making sure that I don’t necessarily want her in a public school. When she does reach that age, I understand the importance of having social skills and interaction, which is why I have her at swimming class every week.

So she sees other kids of different ethnicities, right and ages. It’s why she goes to her little Nature Sense class every week. So she can experience being around other kids sharing with them.

It’s so important. And I think that those things are important in general. But when you have an only child, think about this, I’m paying money every week for this experience, right? But this can be done in the home with siblings.

And having a sibling prepares you for different types of relationships. Whether it’s building future friendships with people, colleagues at work, They’re learning important lessons, how to communicate, compromise, and how to cooperate with one another.

I can tell you that straight up, I noticed that those kids who aren’t exposed to that type of thing, like, whether it is as an only child and they’re not going to classes or, you know, around other kids or, you know, versus the ones that have siblings, right, and are going to class, like they they just know how to do those things better.

So whether you decide to build your family and grow it or not, I highly encourage you to expose your children to different types of kids, their age, and different activities so they can learn these life skills.

And I just wanted to provide this perspective in general because, like I said, I’m an only child, my husband’s an only child.

And I wouldn’t change how I grew up at all. But that doesn’t mean that I also want to carry it over to my daughter either. You know, I think change is positive. And we learn from our experiences, and I certainly have.

I’m transferring it over into her childhood with her future sibling. And then I’m also learning from the things that maybe I, you know, I wouldn’t say I would change, right? So I wouldn’t change anything, but maybe as a kid I wished it were a little different.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Because I know that this is a topic that many women are struggling with. Do I have kids? Do I expand my family? And I know it can be hard, right?

It’s a decision that you don’t go back on. So please feel free. Always reach out to me on Instagram to continue the conversation.

If you wanna get more of this type of content, make sure you follow me on Instagram at @macrowley. And if you love this episode, let me know by tagging me on IG or even leaving a podcast review. See you next week.

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