I’m an only child, and both my mother and my grandmother were only children. My father’s brothers are/were significantly older, and therefore their children, my cousins, are a lot older than I am, and I don’t know them, so I don’t have a lot of extended family.
It doesn’t bother me, but people have a lot of questions and misconceptions about being an only child, and I’ve learned to address them.
Though it was largely theoretical to me for most of my life, I knew I’d have the sole responsibility of taking care of parents as they aged. It became very real when my mother was diagnosed with and lost a long battle to cancer 2 years ago this week.
I have a full-time job and three young children of my own, so there were times that dealing with my mother’s illness was brutal. My boss doesn’t call me the “Sandwich Generation Poster Child” for nothing.
Only children know that this time is coming. We hesitate to move far from home because the burden will be on us, yet we try not to let it consume us. Often, we are launched into the caregiver role suddenly, and you just do it, leaving all those, “I wonder what it will be likes” behind.
While it can be lonely in that there’s no sibling to mull over decisions with, and there’s very little relief for you, there’s also a certain freedom in being the one responsble for things such as health care and housing choices.
I have seen the families of my friends torn apart when mom or dad became ill and the siblings couldn’t agree on how best to care for them. It can be brutal as adults slip back into family roles that were long thought to be left behind in childhood.
The fact is though, that even with the most supportive of spouse and children, only children are often alone in caring for aging parents and must rely on outside help and though it’s hard for people like me, it’s a good idea to reach out to the kindness of friends, no one can do it alone and you don’t have to.