When You Are Friends with an Only Child

As a kid, being an only child felt FANTASTIC (most of the time)! As an adult, it's HARD! Many times in my adult life I've been informed that I don't understand what it means to have a sibling and the bond, to which I agree. However, it goes both ways and it's nearly impossible to explain what it's like to be an only child as an adult. So, if you aren't an only child but you are friends with at least one, please take the time to read below to learn a bit more about the struggles of the adult only child life and how your engagement in the friendship matters. 
1. Friendships are IMPORTANT.  I know this doesn't only apply to only children, but unlike those who have active siblings, we don't have an a built in support system. Yes, I have a fantastic mother and stepfather who are always there for me and my mom is like a best friend, but sometimes I just wish I had one sibling.  One peer to call to just vent and not have to worry about burdening my mother with my struggles but also understands. Because after all, she is my mother which as a mother myself, I understand the wanting to take away all of your child's pain immediately and how overwhelming that can be.

For the only child, we need to put more effort into friendships but aren't given any more hours in the busy day to do so.  We also tend to make people a part of our friend circle more instantaneously because we NEED to create a village for ourselves and we are just looking everywhere and anywhere for that one person or few people that can be the closest to a sibling. It's hard. Really hard. When we think we've made a connection with someone and realize that they don't feel the same way. I can honestly say I've done this more times than I can count in the last 10 years and almost every single time I realize that I'm not on their "A" list. Usually this is when a party comes and goes and I didn't receive an invite. It's just a fact. I let people into my life more easily because I yearn for strong sibling-like connections and most of them, at this point in life, just don't "need" me like I do them.
2. We are more sensitive and can be high-maintenance. I have heard this a lot about only children. How we are spoiled and needy and too much work to be friends with. This goes back to point number one. The reason we may come off this way is because we genuinely NEED and WANT your friendship more than you need ours. It's just part of this lack of having an "automatic friend" and needing regular support that drives this. It's also a bit driven from those many childhood moments when our friends went home at dinnertime and we felt alone in the world of adults. If you aren't into putting a bit more effort into the friendship, I get it. Please just try to remember that while we may need a bit more attention as a friend, we also will likely dedicate ourselves to the friendship a bit more deeper than others. For me, I usually put everything I have into friendships from day one. I will love you and your family like my own and be there to help as I can.
3. We make great "benchwarmer" friends. This is so true it makes me sick to say it. I feel like more times than not, I am the friend that others "put on the field" only when they desperately need me. Whether they are having a big party and want to have a ton of guests or they have a child and need advice. Every. single. time. I just jump right in acting like we didn't miss a beat and put myself 100% into the friendship. And most times...I'm put back on the bench.
4. We'll never be automatically picked to be part of a special day. This is one of the hardest things for me as an adult. I am very lucky that I have been chosen three times to stand up friend and family weddings. This was never a guarantee and it meant more than I could ever explain when asked to do so. It's unlikely, in my lifetime, that I'll ever be chosen as a godmother to a child and the only way I have nieces and nephews are through marriage. Without my marriage, I don't have any of that. It's just something to consider when you are choosing those to stand up in your wedding or the godparents of your child(ren). I'm not saying you shouldn't choose who you want, just that you should consider that for some people (the only children in your life), it could be way more impactful than you understand. Just try to remember that the things you are automatically (most of the time) granted with siblings, an only child is not and that can be a hard pill to swallow as an adult.
5. We strongly fear our parents death. Again, this is obviously not limited to the only child, but think of it this way. Our parents are the only strong biological connection we have outside our own children (if we have any). When we lose them, we are not only losing our parents, but we are losing our support system entirely. And yes, I know my spouse and kids are important but my parents are my safety net. They are the ones I can count on any time of day. They are the only ones who were there through my entire life and stepped in to be my on-demand support as needed. Losing them is SCARY. No, it's beyond scary. Because when it happens, who do I call?
Honestly, not everything about being an only child as an adult is awful. Not even close. I think the biggest struggle is friendships and feeling that our dedication to them isn't reciprocated. I have some really great friends who have been there for me throughout the years and really appreciate all of them. I know that many of us might not talk regularly but I'm always sent an invite to their important engagements and they always respond when I reach out. It's the others...the countless others who have allowed me to let them be integral parts of our lives for brief moments and then treated me like I didn't exist. Those are the ones that hurt me down deep. So, if you are friends with an only child just try to read this and remember that while we don't understand siblings, you don't understand us. The best we can do is be real and be faithful in our friendships.
Thanks for reading, 

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