Being an Only

Posted by Katy Stager on

We live in a land where Gallup polls reveal that along with a white picket fence, America’s domestic dream seems, more often than not, to involve 2.5 children. Being and growing up an only child in a world of brothers and sisters is… interesting. It’s a unique experience in and of itself, and for every “only,” it means something different.

“Really? You don’t seem like an only…” or, “Oh, well that makes sense.” If you’re an only, you’ve heard these two reactions more times than you can count, and you’re no stranger to preconceived stereotypical judgment. Trust me, there comes a time in the life of every only child when he/she will stand back and realize that there is some inkling of truth to any one of the plethora of stereotypes we so voraciously deny. Whether we choose to admit those “ah-ha” moments to anyone else - well that’s a whole ‘nother post. 

In the late nineteenth century, American psychologist and founder of child psychology, G. Stanley Hall stated that, “being an only child is a disease in and of itself.” There were times growing up when I was totally onboard with this assessment. Hall was referring to the alleged inclination of only children toward spoiled, selfish and bratty behavior.  I was referring to all the times when I wished I had a brother or sister to play with or walk to school with, go shopping together, tell jokes, go for runs, learn to drive with… the list goes on. There are times now when I wish I had a sibling to call or visit – someone to share the tumultuous ups and downs of adult and parenthood with. And of course, I would give a limb for Nora to have aunts/uncles and cousins from my side of the family. A big family is something I wanted to give to Nora before Nora was.

Last weekend, I had the chance to tailgate and watch Penn State school Michigan (WE ARE…) with a dear friend who is not only a twin, but also one of five children. I am always genuinely intrigued by her relationships with her siblings, and sometimes find myself interrogating her about what it was like growing up with three sisters and a brother.

On the flip side, I am also curious as to what parenting five children (or even two) would be like. My parents did their best to set reasonable expectations, be mindful of loneliness, and model sharing and generosity – just a few of the many ways that I now recognize were a conscious effort to raise a well-rounded only child. I’m sure it was challenging to avoid smothering and overprotecting their only. Watching Nora stumble, fall and pick herself back up again certainly isn’t and won’t be easy – some things are the same no matter how many children are in your brood.

Right now Nora is an only child. We plan to have more (God willing), but I am so grateful for this one-on-one time with my little girl. This is new but familiar territory for me. Sure, sometimes it can be scary – particularly the rate of change. Just when I think I’ve got a thing all figured out and under control, BAM! She’s figured out how to put her face in the dog’s water dish and blow bubbles. Yeah. Everyday I learn as much about who she is and what makes her tick as I do about who I am as a mom – both including and regardless of my only child status.

With that being said, am I strong-willed to the point of stubborn? Sometimes. Do I prefer order and consistency? Uh huh. Did the possessive control freak in me ever hide my Sega Genesis control paddles when my mini-me younger cousin came to visit? Absolutely. But seriously, everyone color-coordinates their underwear drawer, freaks out if the toothpaste isn’t squeezed from the bottom, and has been known to go to the bar alone on a Friday night so she can drink a glass of wine and read a book like a true weirdo loner… right?

Oh. Right.

Me neither…


Katy Stager, proud mom and wife, is a fan of all things "active." She's a marathon running, swimming, cycling, hiking, art loving, community volunteering, book reading, Instagraming, Animal Kingdom shopping kind of mom who does it all with her little girl in tow. A Bloomsburg University grad, she now studies homemaking, successful childrearing, and thriftiness through the school of life's successful parenting program. 

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