Being the only child as an adult is more pressure than I imagined

April 21, 2021

Being the only child was my favorite thing about growing up. Not only was I the only child my parents had, but I was the only child on my father’s side of the family. His mother had three boys, and my father was the only one to have kids. 

My grandma finally felt like she had the daughter she never had when I was born. Someone to do shopping trips and nail appointments with, something her three boys were not interested in. 

Being the only child was everything. I didn’t have to share clothes, food, a room, or pretty much anything. Christmas was all about me. I didn’t have to worry about another sibling getting a better birthday party than me or receiving a better gift. 

I even had two best friends, who are still my friends today, that are also only children. We became unofficial brothers and sisters. When one of us got in trouble, all of us got in trouble. You know you had friends growing up who would get a whooping right along with you. 

As I’ve gotten older, the thrilling and exciting feeling of being the only child has worn completely off. Being a newlywed, in my 30s, with one living parent and a grandmother who lost two of her three sons, I am exhausted. Everyone expects my time. 

The burden of being the only child did not set in until my late 20s/early 30s. The excuse of being a kid, teenager, college student, and early career professional was my scapegoat for years. Once I became an established adult, the light switch flipped. I am ultimately the only person responsible for both sides of my family. 

My parents divorced when I was very young. I lived with my mom full time but spent almost the same amount of time with my father. My dad was my best friend and always will be. He passed away when I was 15 from brain cancer. 

After my parents divorced, my mom tried her hand at dating and marriage again; unfortunately, nothing worked in her favor. So it became all about me. Instead of her continuing with her own identity as an adult, she labeled herself as Mia’s mom, my nickname growing up.

Bobby Bandz Photography

My dad passed in 2001; two years after that, my grandfather passed. In 2010 my grandmother’s oldest son passed away. Our mid-sized family of six dwindled to three. The pressure of being close and a present family member became heavy. 

Let me also mention that my mother and my dad’s side of the family are very separate. We don’t spend holidays together. There is no “pass the phone to” when I am at one of their homes; it’s separate. 

This makes the pressure of being the only child even more of a burden. I can’t knock out two visits in one or invite everyone to my home for a family gathering. I had to talk with my mother and uncle before my wedding to make sure they would be cordial. Mainly I had to tell my uncle to be nice, lol. 

As the years progress my time is requested more and more from each side. 

My mother is a ray of sunshine, full of life, and very very single. 

I didn’t think her relationship status would ever affect me, but it 1000% does. I am all she has. Of course, there are other family members, and she has an array of friends to last her three lifetimes, but they also have children or spouses of their own to look out for first. 

I am ultimately responsible for all my mother’s needs for the foreseeable future. One would think, well, she is your mom; you have to be responsible. Very true. However, what I did not take into consideration before that it is only me. I don’t have to share this responsibility with a sibling or a spouse of her own; it’s just me. 

My husband is one of three. His mother has three sons to rotate her time with. One holiday she could go to see a son in California, another year she could visit us, and so on. That is not an option for me. 

What makes my situation even more challenging is, my mother and I have an ebb and flow relationship. I think we both wish it were better than what it was, but it’s not. I wouldn’t say I am extremely close with my mother, which makes the pressure a little more difficult. 

Being newly married has also been a challenge for my mom. Before, if she suggested we plan a trip or a day full of activities, the only person I had to consult with was me, myself, and I. There is another person in the mix now, my amazing husband. 

I’m not particularly eager to make time-consuming decisions without my husband and vice versa. Meaning I would not plan a vacation or a full day away from the house without checking with my husband first. Not to gain permission, but out of consideration. Maybe he was planning something for us, or something else was going on. My mom has had to get used to this. 

Now her only child, me, has to be shared three ways. With my dad’s side of the family, and now my husband. 

My grandmother turned 94 this past February, and she still sharp. When my father passed, my grandmother became my unofficial link to my dad. I’m her only grandbaby. With so much loss in her life, I feel the pressure to be there and support her as much as I can. And as much as she is one of my absolute favorite people in the entire world, it’s still demanding. 

Being the only child and grandchild came with more birthday and Christmas gifts than I could imagine as a kid. It came with the hottest back-to-school gear. The latest and greatest technology. Vacations and trips that others had to wait until they were an adult to take. I had it all as a kid and early teenager. I loved every moment of it. I still do. But the pressure is still there.

Over the years, I even changed my outlook from having one kid to at least having two. So they can always be there for each other and share the responsibility of caring for their parents together. Because if I turn out like my mom in any way, they will need some assistance. 

I used to imagine what life would be if I had a sibling, or if my parents stayed together, my father was still alive, or even if one of the following two marriages for my mom worked out. But trying to imagine an alternate universe won’t help me. 

Instead, I will be thankful for the family that I do have. I am thankful for a healthy and vibrant mother; my father’s youngest brother, my uncle, treating me as his daughter. And my amazing strong-willed grandmother, who I aspire to be just like. They all demand a piece of me, they are my family, and I love them with every piece of my being.

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