Only Child Guilt

Dr. Laura,

Hello, I am 48, married and have one ds, 9.5 who is an only child Not by choice. I was 36 when I got married, had him at 38. Had one mc before and after his birth, and due to chemotherapy went into early menopause when he was three. I am still dealing with only child guilt! How do I deal with this??

We moved to Utah where big families are the norm. We've been here 6 months and I've only met one woman with an only child! How do I not feel sorry for ds so he doesn't feel sorry for himself? It is so hard doing playdates, kids here have multiple sibs and I think some moms hesitate because the other sibs won't have anyone to play with. I have found this with my friends that only have two children as well (back home).

Above all, I don't want ds to grow up lonely! I had a sib and I still was lonely a lot of the time, can't imagine life without at least one sib! Ds does well in school, seems happy but I know he would love to play more. Sometimes kids just aren't available, and I get so tired of constantly being 'activity director'. Any helpful advice would be much appreciated! Does the only child guilt ever end??

Thank you!

Utah Mum

Utah Mum-

You've been given some great advice already. The truth is, when you have an only child, you do need to work hard to set up playdates and to be the activity director. You can also make this easier on yourself by encouraging his passions with organized activities, whether sport teams or after school chess clubs, or Saturday film-making classes.

But you wrote to me as an expert because you feel guilty not to give your son a sibling and you want to know how to get rid of that guilt.

Every situation has pluses and minuses. Since you are already aware of the minuses of being an only child, let me remind you of a few pluses:

Your son is lucky to have a loving mom, that is what is most important.

Some siblings fight and hate each other as kids.

Some siblings don't stay close as adults.

Your son never has to compete for your attention.

You never feel divided in two the way many moms do.

You have more time to yourself to stay centered so you can be a better mom.

I could go on and on, because there are so many pluses in your situation. Focusing on them instead of the negatives will help you a lot.

But what if, try as you might, you find that you can't talk yourself out of your guilt?

That's a sign that you need to explore what is under the guilt. I suspect it is grief. In other words, the guilt is a wall you have put up in your heart to keep the grief from spilling out. You wanted something different. More children. No miscarriage. No chemo. My goodness, how could you not have a heart full of tears?

The guilt is there to keep the tears inside. Why not make a date with yourself to cry? Light a candle. Write down all those desires that can't be in this lifetime. Write it as a goodbye. Then burn it, in a fireplace or in a sink. Cry as much as you need to.

You might need to do some version of this a few times to unlock those tears. But I suspect that after you do, your guilt will shift and lessen.

And you'll find yourself more able to focus on the many blessings in your life. Beginning with the fact that you have a terrific son whom you adore, and to whom you are giving a wonderful life!

Dr. Laura


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