Oldest children are disproportionately more likely to become CEOs, and youngest children are more likely to grow up to be comedians. But middle children have their own set of strengths that they bring to the table — and to the workplace.
As National Middle Child Day approaches on August 12th, it's the perfect time to acknowledge the important roles middle children play. Unfortunately, middle children and the assets they bring with them are under threat of extinction. As discussed recently in an article in The Cut, the number of middle children nationwide are declining as people choose to have fewer children.
In 1976, by the end of her childbearing years, the average mother had birthed more than three children, and having four children or more was the most common family model, but now, most families only have one or two children, which means there are fewer middle children being born.
It could be argued that the hardship of being overlooked, which many middle children admit to experiencing, becomes a positive later in life.
Psychiatrist Alfred Adler studied the impact of birth order and proposed that experiencing neither the extreme pressure to succeed placed on eldest children nor the extreme coddling experienced by youngest children makes middle children more likely to triumph.
“I’ve always been the go-getter in my family,” Margaret Hoynes, Fahrenheit Marketing Strategies founder, said. “This competitive trait I've had since youth continues into my career and adulthood. Over the past few years and several jobs later, I've come to realize that I HATE settling. I always strive to be the best I can be. Thus, leading to my decision to start my own company. I think middle children march to the beat of their own drum, and that's how I've always been.”
Other successful middle children include pop stars Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears and multi-billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates — all glowing examples of middle children whose dedication and perseverance definitely paid off.
In addition to being driven, growing up between at least two siblings can lead middle children to cultivate mediation skills early on.
“I am the middle of three sisters, and while I may have felt a little neglected by everyone as a teenager, I've always been the negotiator between my sisters and pretty much everyone else,” said Cecily Wolfe, an author and librarian. “I learned early how to find middle ground. In the workplace, I am always the one to bring a sense of humor to a serious situation if it is called for.”
The knack of easily finding common ground is an often cited skill that many middle children possess.
“Being stuck in the middle growing up, I learned to be very diplomatic the peacekeeper. At times I was often by myself, so my imagination was essential and has helped me with the books that I’ve written and published. I developed the skill to calm a chaotic or anxious situation,” Yanatha Desouvre, an author and educator, said.
The slight neglect Wolfe mentioned that some middle children go through promotes another valuable workplace skill: tenacity.
“As a middle child, I am often the black sheep and the odd man out, but my independent, social nature draws my family to me,” Julia Angelen, a PR strategist, said. “I rarely run with the crowd. It is easy for me to point out issues, identify flaws in a plan, or bring up difficult items because I do not need to follow the crowd. This serves me well in PR.”
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.