Each family is unique. Some families have only one child, others have enough kids to form a football team. But besides the obvious difference in numbers, how else do they vary?
Are kids with siblings happier or are they downright miserable? Will the only child be more independent or are they too entitled?
We spoke to a variety of people and here are what they had to say:
The Only Child – More Entitled? Yay Or Nay.
There is the stereotype that people who grew up as an only child tend to be more selfish, or in other words, entitled.
After all, not needing to share with siblings means you get the full attention of both parents throughout your childhood.
But how true is this stereotype?
(Full name withheld for privacy)
Ms. Wong grew up in a middle-class family as an only child. She remembers feeling extremely blessed not having to fight over toys like her cousins did and being able to travel in comfort more.
Her family would fly using MAS just to go from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend at Genting.
In comparison, her cousins’ only vacations included being jammed like sardines in the family car for 10-hour rides from Kuching to Miri.
One time, her youngest cousin refused to go back home after playing at her house.
When asked why, she started to cry.
“I wish I could trade places with Wong! She has her own room and toys to herself. Why can’t I too?” She wailed.
[Ling and her grandfather]
Ling, on the other hand, disagrees about being more entitled. Her father made sure that her Christmases were spent buying presents and giving them to the children at orphanages.
“I remember handing out presents to other kids my age on those special occasions and visiting them every other weekend to help clean up the compound, “ she reminisced.
Ling believes that her childhood experience made her focus on giving to others rather than receiving gifts from others.
Siblings – More Companionship Or Endless Wars?
Having siblings can mean you have a best friend you play with — but it can also be more competition for your parents’ love and affection. What are the experiences of these siblings?
Rebecca, Kricia and Alicia John
The three sisters grew up as a close-knit unit, being separated by only 1 year each.
Like many other siblings, there were endless fights and countless tears due to sibling rivalry.
But having grown up in Dalat, Sarawak, they were taught that ‘Family Is Numero Uno’,
“There is a saying we have: The greater the number, the stronger we are as a tribe,” shares Kricia.
Kricia recalls this one time she fell into the river as a child.
“We used to play by the river at the back of our house. We would swing like monkeys on the branches of the tree that grew next to the river. One day, I got too carried away and fell into the river. The water was quite deep, and to top it off, I couldn’t swim!” She recalled.
Thinking that her life was over, she despaired — only to have her older sister Rebecca pull her back up.
To avoid getting a scolding, they made a pact to say nothing to their parents. They have kept it a secret between siblings to this day.
Looking back, the grown-up siblings agree that they are lucky to have each other.
“I feel like we grew up to be more in tune with the feelings and needs of others because of our family bonds,” Alicia reflected.
Now that they have families of their own, they take turns helping each other look after their children while one of them gets some ‘me time’.
Simon Ak Abel
Simon hails from a family of 4. He remembers having to share food and sweet treats with the rest of his siblings.
This competition for resources resulted in constant fights with one another.
“I was the youngest, so I was usually given more treats and fewer chores by my parents,” Simon says. He remembers constantly being picked on by his older siblings for it.
To this day, they are not very close and communicate only through WhatsApp and other social media.
Growing up in a large family enabled him to be more expressive and competitive, however.
“I became more vocal and spoke up for myself, mostly to be heard and to gain our parents’ favor,” Simon says.
This has greatly helped in securing his job as a reporter today.
Who Shoulders More Responsibility?
(Full name withheld for privacy)
Do parents who have more than one child shoulder greater responsibility in rearing their children?
Mon’s parents believed that top-notch education was essential for a better future.
As such, Mon and all his siblings received higher education in various universities around the world.
Today, his parents enjoy travelling all over Malaysia and to the US to visit their children.
How do they feel about having so many mouths to feed during their youth?
“Our sacrifices paid off!” Mon’s parents said proudly.
Ching and Amy
Does having siblings help share the responsibility of taking care of elderly parents?
“Yes, it does — to a certain degree. Our siblings chip in financially for our parents’ allowances, but most of the physical work still falls on us,” they shared.
Ching and Amy are best friends and share many commonalities; one being that they are both the eldest in their respective families.
While they are not only children, the responsibility of caring for their parents falls squarely on their shoulders.
This is due to the Chinese culture of the eldest son or daughter having the most opportunities, and therefore, also having the most responsibilities to shoulder.
Does the only child shoulder more responsibility later in life?
As a child, Azlina had all the attention in the world, but she also lost 2 siblings to a car accident.
This greatly impacted her view on life.
Later as she grew up, her parents started falling sick, one after the other.
Since she could not afford to send them to adult care centers, she had to resign from her 9-to-5 job and work from home to care for both her aging and sick parents.
“I feel that if my siblings were still around, life would be much less stressful,” lamented Azlina.
In many different ways, there are pros and cons of being an only child and having siblings.
Whatever the differences may be, it’s the mutual appreciation and love in the family that binds people together.
Why? Because the love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.
For more stories like this, read: 4 Things Every Eldest Child Can Relate To and My Sister And I Were Separated For Almost 3 Decades. This Is How We Reconnected.