Time has a way of slipping past you and before you know it, your only daughter is attending university virtual fairs and asking you about your own college (mis)adventures.
I became a mother when I was 23, just a month shy of my first year anniversary in my first-ever regular job. I also wanted to fulfill childhood dreams, while finding my footing in the world of work. By the time I was 30, we already moved in and out of four homes, across two cities in Metro Manila, went on my first-ever trip to Europe through a study grant, and barely made the cut-off age for a two-month education volunteer project in Cambodia.
In between, I attended parent-teacher conferences, endured two- to three-hour daily commutes to and from work in vans packed like sardines, organized cultural work events, shuttled between my own weekend pursuits and soccer mom duties, along the way, encountering more yaya problems than I could care to count. All the while, my husband juggled an advertising career that knew no time boundaries while pursuing the underground music scene.
Flexibility, Freedom, Choice
Each year it got lighter, better, until we settled into a healthy rhythm and pace of life. Our daughter was 8 years old when we went on our first family trip outside the Philippines. Over the years, we’ve become a little more curious, exploring parts of South East Asia when budget and time allowed. We’ve hopped on and off buses across Malacca and Penang, swam with elephants in the muddy pools of Chiang Mai, have gone tubing in Vang Vieng, and soaked in the mystic waters of Luang Prabang. Just us three with our backpacks, no baby sibling in tow.
With my husband’s music career, it was easy to pack-and-go at a moment’s notice, joining him on out-of-town gigs in Subic, Ilocos Norte, Tagaytay. Eventually, my husband was able to travel the world because of music, while I held the fort at home. Conversely, I was able to do some development work across Mindanao while he stayed put.
I think that pretty much cemented our magical little trio as the way to go for the kind of life we wanted to live. Grounded in stability, with the flexibility to just go and “enjoy life.” The ease, savings, and convenience of a plus 1 when booking accommodation, sneaking our way backstage, and taking her to grown-up events was unmatched. There was only one school calendar to consider and each life stage was momentous.
Having just one child allowed us to adapt easily and quickly to any situation, and with the New Normal even more so. We’re currently hunkered down in a cozy one-bedroom, a sudden decision given the winds of change as we map out how the next three to five years will look like, waiting in anticipation as we transition towards an even Better Normal.
Identity and Independence
In many ways, I’d like to think that being an only child has contributed to her strong sense of identity. She is known by her name and not in reference to a birth order. I speak from experience, being the eldest and having both my siblings and all 14 cousins, even my own parents and their peers, calling me by the very dry and very generic ‘Ate.’
Mindful of the perils of raising a spoiled child, there were time-outs and mini-chores and lots of explaining and talking. We showered her with time, love, and attention but made sure that she knew the world did not revolve around her. She knows how to stand up for herself (bullies from her previous school taught her that), and has the best of friends with whom she confides in.
One of my favorite memories was when she was 12. She had asked to go on her first mini-grocery run, more of an excuse to go out to use her skateboard; the dozen eggs survived the 2 km transport home, but in a split second of joy, ended up smashing all but one.
Is the grass greener on the sibling side?
I ask my daughter if being an only child was ever lonely. She simply, “I dunno, I never thought about it,” and goes back to her YouTube video. I push further, “Do you think you’ll be happier if you had a sibling?” She smiles and answers quickly, “Oh no, I like the attention and having the family fun budget all to myself.” This, coming from the December birthday girl who gets double the presents each time the season rolls around.
Whether its the tight bond with one or the raucous joy of a brood of 5, parenting is the gift that keeps on giving. It teaches you how to become a better person, regardless of number. Next to my classic, black-and-white Chat Peypoch high school graduation photo is my grown-up aspiration: “Married with 2 kids, and living life to the fullest.” I was a bit off target on the numeral, but I can’t imagine this crazy, beautiful life as other than. We are a tiny family of 3 and gently, contently, happily so.
About The Writer
A third-culture kid, Andrea grew up in a small expat community in West Java, Indonesia. Early on, she knew that her education and career would involve working with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Armed with an International Relations degree, Andrea has experience in the areas of marketing communications, cultural affairs and diplomacy, and has done development work in Mindanao and Cambodia. Currently, she works in a human resources role in a global affairs organization. Andrea lives in Manila with her musician husband and 15-year old daughter.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.