I wanted to write this post for months. I drafted this post in my head several times. How would I start it? What would I say?. So after much deliberation (and a tall glass of pink gin) here we are.
There are many only child stereotypes. I heard it all. From being “spoilt to being loners who lack social skills” Funnily enough, all those things can be true however with everything it depends on the person.
As a child, I often longed for siblings, for a variety of reasons. My main reason for this was wanting some of the pressure lifted off my shoulders.
The earlier days
Coming from an African household many of us will understand the pressures that come with being the first born.
All my mother’s hopes and dreams were thrust onto my young shoulders. From an early age I knew that I was the torch bearer for my family. I was reminded constantly whenever I would reach a milestone in my education.
“You will be the first one in our family to go to university”— Most African Parents
I heard that statement often. From early on I knew me going to university was not optional. I was going. As an only child, the room for fuck ups (Excuse my french) was very minimal. Every move is scrutinised. For me, I could not really explore all of my choices freely. Everything that I did I had to be good at it from the onset.
Wanting to be good at something is everyone’s end goal.
That goal can often become crippling knowing that someone has incredibly high expectations of you, which often would lead to me adding intense pressure on myself and it made any failures I had in life hurt 10x more. I was extremely hard on myself which till this day is something I still struggle with.
As an adult. The skills I picked up as an only child came in very handy. Becoming independent was something I strived for growing up. I did not really rely on mother very much. She was not a bad mother by societies standards but there were a large number of reasons why we weren’t close as I grew up.
However I think the biggest reminder of being an only child came when my I became the sole carer for my mother after she came back to the UK. It was exhausting. It was so draining mentally and physically. Suddenly my life had to be put on hold to look after her. When I was just about pulling together the strings of my life. Our relationship was in tatters and now I was having to play the dotting daughter?
It was not until a conversation, I had with my boyfriend recently, Did I actually really digest the impact that growing up an only child had on me.
The key issues I detected were;
- My constant need to do good.
- Over critical of myself and everything I did
These two things only were impacting so much of my day to day life. It was almost comical I had not picked up on it sooner.
So please next time to you meet someone who is an only child please don’t project your silly assumptions onto them.
The real tea is that people who tend to be the youngest in the family are way worse but then again….