July 27, 2023
Thushanthi Ponweera, a Sri Lanka-based children’s author, is getting ready to leave Colombo for Qatar, where her husband relocated earlier this year. But she can’t help but feel guilty for leaving her father and mother, ages 80 and 74.
Ponweera, 38, is her parents’ only child. Without other kids, her parents doted on Ponweera, tending to her every need. Ponweera said she was “almost on a friend level” with her mom, sharing everything in her life. “I feel like I’m sandwiched between these two generations: my parents who need me and my kids who also need me. I feel like I’m having to choose. That’s tough, and if I had a sibling, some of that might have been at least shared.”
South Asians traditionally value large families, but with fertility issues, rising childcare costs, and women waiting longer to have children, the diaspora’s generation of “only children” — once a rarity — is on the horizon. Not only do South Asian parents who end up having only one child face judgment, South Asians who grew up without siblings told The Juggernaut that they had to do it all: care for their parents, get along with kids and adults alike, and meet sky-high professional expectations.