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Baby Sister and the Baby

By Amalah

Oh wise and lovely Amalah,

I have a dilemma and need an objective opinion. Let’s start with the back story. I am almost 27, hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education although I am currently going back to school to finish the prereqs to get into a Physician Assistant program, I am the oldest of 3 girls, and am a single mom to a 10 month old son. All of these things separately are GREAT! The problem lies with my youngest sister. When I found out I was pregnant, (SURPRISE!!), I moved back home to live with my mom. This has been working out nicely both for support and finances. My sister was a senior in high school (8 yr. age gap), and made no secret about the fact that she was less than thrilled about having a nephew. She did not support the fact that I was going to raise him alone, as she worried about my finances and what not. He was born 5 days before she graduated from HS and we did EVERYTHING in our power to be at the celebration and make it about her, not the baby. Still, something is not right with our relationship since. I had an emergency C-section and wasn’t prepared to not be able to do stairs or drive for 2 weeks before we came home. All of the bedrooms are on the 2nd floor, so my son and I camped out on the couch in the living room with the bassinet. She is a NEAT FREAK and would make consistent comments about when we got to move back upstairs. I was kind of a mess for the first few weeks, what with HORMONES, breastfeeding not working, OMG I have a baby, pumping exclusively, OMG I have a baby, single parent, OMG!! All of this has settled down now and things are as normal as they get. On my end.

Here’s the tricky part to all of this. I’m not sure if it’s because she is the baby, or because she got the worst end of the deal when our parents got divorced, or what, but it seems that everyone in our household is afraid of disrupting her routine. Everyone does what she wants to spare ourselves her wrath. I KNOW! We created this monster!

She makes rude comments about my parenting, gets bent out of shape if the baby cries when we are in public, doesn’t support my efforts to cloth diaper, etc, etc, etc. I pump in the living room because, GOD FORBID, I spend more time attached to the pump than I do anything else and would like to be able to watch TV or something. This makes her bonkers. She treats it as this horribly offensive thing that should be done in some dark corner.

I have a hearty appetite with the pumping and she says degrading things about how much I’m eating. Keep in mind I have lost all of the baby weight, plus 40 lbs. I haven’t been this size since Jr. High. YAY!!

I mentioned to her at Christmas time how sometimes she needs to think about what she is saying as it hurts feelings. Things have been great while she is away at college. But as soon as she comes home, it all hits the fan again.

Here is the latest. We have a 3 bedroom house. My mom has a room, my sister has a room, and my son and I shared a room when he was tiny. This was fine. My sister has the biggest bedroom in the house. It goes unused 8 months of the year. I asked if I could sleep in the extra bed in her room so that my son and I didn’t have to share. I wasn’t asking to move any furniture, clothing, take up closet or drawer space. Just sleep in a bed. She said no. It was her space and she would like it to stay that way. 2nd case: My son has food allergies, so we are both limited in what we can eat and where we can eat out. We had made a plan earlier in the week to go to dinner on Tuesday. When my sister and mom got home from work, they asked if we could eat anything at one particular restaurant. I said no, that was the one place in town that we can’t go. I asked if we could go somewhere else. My sister really wanted this place, so she and my mom went there and left me and my son at home to eat alone.

Wow, this is really long. And I have yet to ask my question. Ok. All this being said, am I blowing things out of proportion? Being excessively emotional? Expecting too much from her? I dealt with Christmas break, but we are only a few days into the week of her being home on spring break and I’m already pulling my hair out. I am DREADING summer. What do I do?

Thank you, thank you, thank you,
Fed up Sister

I shall just lead off with what we’re all probably thinking: Wow. Your sister is a tremendous brat. No, I don’t think you’re blowing things out of proportion (if they are indeed happening as you described, and why would an email lie to a person?), or being overly emotional and NO, I don’t think you’re expecting too much from her. She’s…how old now? 19? 20? No longer in high school and off attending college and working? She’s not a child, she’s an adult. And a really big part of being a functional adult is realizing that the world does not revolve around you. Sounds like she’s missed that memo.

(Disclaimer: I am probably the WORST person to bring woe-is-me late high school/early college stories to, as I was married at 20 years old. My opinions always seem to fall along the lines of Grow up! Sack up! Etc.!)

(But don’t get married at 20.)

It sounds you need to have a really long talk with your mom about your sister’s selfishness and get her to agree that it’s high time everybody STOP walking on eggshells around her and catering to her me-me-me-me whims. Like choosing exclusionary restaurants and declaring her bed off-limits. You can’t force her to be polite in day to day conversations (though sounds like you could probably call her on it a bit more), but you and mom can and should stop letting her rule the majority through minority rule.

(I would also just totally sleep in her room and just change the sheets back before she came home or something. Hypothetically. I’m the youngest of SEVEN. [Also with a significant age gap, so I was more or less an only child as a teenager.] And I…uh…would never have gotten away with that kind of crap, and grew up pretty used to having my preshus snowflake speshalness trampled on a regular basis. My parents also moved my freshman year and I lost “my” room and you know what? I survived. Somehow!)

Yes, divorce is a really hard thing for kids to go through. Yes, her high school graduation got overshadowed by the birth of a child and it’s certainly not unusual for a girl her age to view things like birth and babies and diapers and breastfeeding with overwhelming disgust. (On the plus side, you are probably serving as fantastic birth control for her.) Yes, she’s entitled to have opinions about your life choices and resent inconveniences and disruptions — we all do! — but that still doesn’t give her carte blanche to be rude and selfish and hurt feelings and well…act like a total brat. You guys are coddling her out of…guilt? Because you guys maybe viewed her as “the baby” for a bit too long? This has to stop, for your sanity and her sake, because ooooohmygod, is she in for a rude awakening out in the real world. Stop padding the nest, so to speak.

And that can be as simple as saying, “Dude. Shut up.” the next time she rudely comments on your appetite or the baby crying or anything else. Talk to your mom about all of this too, so you’ll have an ally the next time she pitches a fit about restaurant choices or whatever she’s doing to purposely exclude you and your son. You guys are sisters, but you’ve got to figure out how to work as roommates, and it seems like your mom needs to be a part of the new House Rules. (Rule #1: Don’t be an asshole.)

And finally: This very well could just be a phase. Her relationship with you and her nephew may naturally improve as he gets older and she can see him as more of a person and not just a messy blob of high-maintenance inconvenience who stole her place as “the baby.” She’s at a tough point in early adulthood and plenty of people her age have a lot of difficulty letting go of certain trappings of childhood — namely, getting your own way and being the center of your family’s attention and your rooooooom and all of that. But the end result, for all of us, is the same: YOU HAVE TO LET GO OF THESE THINGS.

Good luck. (And let us know who caves and gets their own apartment first.)

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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christina
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christina

Wow…Um, yeah. Brat city. I agree: Call her out, get your mom on the same page, and try not to take it all to heart. She is young, and although that’s not an excuse to act this poorly, I do think it merits a wee bit of slack. I look back at how I acted at that age and shudder. Again — not a free pass to bully everyone around, but I do think you need to laugh off some of her behavior, and ignore her demands to a degree. And totally just sleep in her bed while she’s gone.

Kat
Guest
Kat

I understand the complaints about the younger sister’s behavior and all that.. however, the writer needs to get a life. She is 27, has a degree and a baby – her 19 year old sister that is away at college 8 months of the year is her biggest issue? So what if they go to dinner without you – they are not your entertainment and you are a guest in their house. It sounds like the writer is also spoiled by the mother and that the mother may be supporting her financially. Certainly it is hard to be a single… Read more »

Stacey
Guest
Stacey

I’m in a similar situation — unmarried, pregnant, living at home, disapproving sibling off at college for most of the year. When my older brother first found out I was pregnant his reaction was, “well just get rid of it. Nobody needs to know.” Naturally yelling and tears (on my side) followed. And he backed off. We’ve never had the best relationship, but I actually think things are getting better. So my advice is to confront her about it. You’ve certainly had to give up a lot, but I’m sure you totally think that it was all worth it (I… Read more »

Julie
Guest
Julie

Hmmm…I can comment on this. I have experience! I was 13 years old (and the baby of three girls!) when my oldest sister had her first baby. (she was 19 at the time.) She didn’t actually live at home, as she was married; but it wasn’t a good or happy marriage, so she spent a LOT of time in our parents house. Pretty much every weekend, and quite often a lot of time during the weeks, too. Granted, I was 13, and this situation is about an ‘older’ younger sister, but still…my baby niece slept in MY room when they… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Uggh. What a total spoiled brat. She’s no longer in high school, so guess what? Her room shouldn’t be “her” room anymore if she’s not living at home full time. But this is something that has to come from your mom, not from you. She needs to be the one to lay down the law.

Sara M
Guest
Sara M

Whoa. I would never have gotten away with this crap. Mom needs to step up (as the freaking parent) and tell the sister to calm the eff down. Also agree on sleeping in her bed when she is gone. I can’t even form words on how shocked I am at how this person is acting.

Liz
Guest
Liz

Yes, going solely on your description of the situation, your sister sounds like a total brat. And I know all too well from the dynamics of my in-laws the frustration of walking on eggshells around the youngest to keep her happy, even though she is WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY past the age where that should be going on. THIRTY-THREE YEARS past the age where that should be going on. But I digress. However, I do sort of feel like there’s two sides to every story, and we’re only getting your take on things. Your moving back in with your mom may have been… Read more »

Abby
Guest
Abby

I haven’t finished reading the response because my eyes are popping out of my head! I just finished reading a book that I’ll recommend to you (you know, in all your spare time!: The Pampered Child Syndrome. I see it in big bold italicized letters that have flashing lights floating just above baby sister’s head. She’s acting like a baby and is being enabled. How does her roommate at college tolerate this? I agree with sleeping in her bed regardless and reminding the child on a regular basis that the real baby of the house rules the roost and she… Read more »

Muirnait
Guest

I agree with the others that it needs to come from the mom.

Beth
Guest
Beth

Holy hell. I want to slap a bitch, figuratively, and I don’t even know this person.
I agree with Amy, this must end. NOW.

Jessica V
Guest

Wow – tough situation. I agree with Liz above regarding the need to have a one-on-one with your sister first (if you haven’t already done that). As Amy and the other comments have noted, she needs to start acting like an adult, and one of the best ways for that to happen is for her to be approached like an adult. Then, if she reacts in a bratty manner, it is time for a family discussion – but at least you’ve given her the opportunity to work it out directly first. And, this discussion should probably be only about how… Read more »

MommiePie
Guest

You need to confront your sister. If it turns into a fight, then so what? Sounds like she’s on the edge of confrontation all the time anyway. I think you should ask her what exactly her problem is. Why does she feel the need to be so blatantly rude and act like a spoiled brat all the time? Why does the baby bother her so much? She needs to take a step back and look at her disgusting behavior. Maybe asking her to explain it will help her see it?

Cobblestone
Guest
Cobblestone

Ok, dissenting a bit here. Both sisters are grown. I think that mom needs to know where the older sister is going to draw a line in the sand, but it is not mom’s job to manage this. We already know how mom reacts to little sister and there hasn’t been enough motivation for her to change her own behavior *yet*.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I think she’s acting like a brat, sure, but I’m kind of sympathetic (see Liz’s comment above). I’m seeing a lot — a LOT — of disruption for her. Graduation overshadowed not just by the baby being born but all the attendant complications; you’re back in the house, A, and for a while there, not being particularly unobtrusive (NOT that you should have been), B; pumping in the living room makes it much more difficult for her to invite friends over if that’s her thing; the restaurant thing is a little confusing to me as well so maybe it seemed… Read more »

Bethany
Guest

Talk to the sister yourself, don’t involve your mom. You’re an adult, she’s (almost) an adult. This is apparently a house with three grown women. From a younger sib point of view, it might appear as though she’s been doing everything right and now it’s getting screwed up by her older sister getting special treatment. Maybe she’s writing a letter elsewhere stating that her older sister got knocked up and is living at home, sponging off her parents, and she’s having to pay for college on her own, and deal with a baby on top of it. I know I… Read more »

Aimee
Guest
Aimee

I agree, the tension between you and your sister should be dealt with just between you two. HOWEVER, your mother needs to be invoved as far as your space limitations. Does your sister help pay for your mother’s mortgage in a percentage equal to the sq ft percentage of “her” room? If not, then I’m sorry but it is not “her” room. I got kicked out of my bedroom two weeks before I left for college because my parents wanted my brothers to have separate bedrooms. Did it suck for me? Yes. Did I get over it? Yes. A few… Read more »

Amy in StL
Guest
Amy in StL

I’ll probaby get pummelled for this but I kind of sympathize with the baby sister. In some families having “your room” goes away when you go to college; but not in all families. For me, having my room when I came home to visit made me happy and gave me a sanctuary when the rest of the world was crazy. I was asked when my parents had people staying if it was okay if they slept in there; but it would have bothered me to realize someone was in my private sanctuary without asking. Since you asked her, violating her… Read more »

Jay
Guest
Jay

I think we’re missing a side to this story, and I heartily disagree that the mom should be placed in the middle of her two daughters (and grandchild). It does sound like your sister is acting like a mega brat, but it also sounds like you’re under-acknowledging how your moving back in has affected her and her life and her plans. It’s easy to say “tough” to her, but it’s also easy to say “tough” to you too–if things are so bad, you can move out to your own place.

Fed Up Sister
Guest
Fed Up Sister

Thanks for answering my question and for all the advice here. Just to clear up a couple things in case it might help?
-I don’t pump in the living room if there are other guests over. I always cover up when she’s home.
-I don’t sleep in her bed. I use the extra one in the room. Her bed is hers.
-I am paying half of all bills to live here and her college is being paid for by my Dad.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Yeah, I don’t know about this. I think you are a guest in the house, and you should be respectful of the space. Pumping in the living room? Even covered up? Um… that would bother ME and I am pumping for my 7 month old.
The restaurant thing? That was pretty rude.
I’d just talk to her. Ask what she wants out of you – why she’s being hateful at times.
And I’m insanely jealous of the weight loss thing. That has not happened to me AT ALL.

cassie
Guest
cassie

“because ooooohmygod, is she in for a rude awakening out in the real world.” I work at a University and from what I see, um, maybe not so much? Coddling abounds here. So. Much. On the other hand, I have experience with my hubby’s much younger (12 year difference) sister and can say for certain that she was always given in to on every occasion when she was in HS and college. (Totally off topic, but when she was 16 she participated in our wedding and afterwards expected to be able to hang out with us and our twenty-something year… Read more »

Katie
Guest

Wow. I agree with Amy and most of the commenters, your sister needs to suck it up and grow up. You need to call her on her shit a lot more (I got the impression that you rarely did and kind of just simmer instead). Whenever she is rude about something like that my response would be along the lines of “You don’t speak to me like that.” You are paying to live there, she doesn’t live there anymore. It’s not her bed anymore. I am 21 and if we had guests over and they needed my old room? You… Read more »

Suzy Q
Guest
Suzy Q

Well, I’ll probably be a lot less sympathetic to the younger sister than were some of the commenters, even though I’m a younger sister. First of all: Why isn’t your mother sleeping in the largest bedroom? She’s the Alpha Adult and mortgage holder, after all. (I knew someone who did this with her VERY spoiled adult child, and it still bewilders me.) Second, there are TWO people in your unit now, you and your son. I would totally move into her room, not just sleep in it on the sly. Just present it as a fait accompli when she gets… Read more »

erica
Guest
erica

OMG! Amy can you PUH-lease have a heart-to-heart w my SIL. She’s 27 and the last time (like a year ago) we went on a family vacay she *literally* threw a temper tantrum (crying, door slamming, huffing an puffing, sulking) because we didn’t play the board game she wanted to play. Still played one, were going to play hers next, annnnd… Yeah.
Some people just need to GET.OVER.BEING.THE.BABY.
Post haste.

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

I think it would have been good to know from the beginning that you are paying half of all the bills. That changes things completely and I hope that your sister’s sympathizers have changed their minds. You aren’t living at home with your mom and sister, you are a roommate to your mom and your mom’s child, since obviously she isn’t acting like an adult. Paying rent and utilities entitles you to the living space and she needs to suck it up. The spacial issues are slightly separate from the dinner/restaurant issues, she is just being childish, selfish and rude… Read more »

crabbyappleseed
Guest

Yeah, WOW. Paying half of the bills changes absolutely EVERYTHING, in my mind. Is your sister contributing anything to the household? If not, I think it’s more your house than hers, to be honest. At the very least, you’re on equal footing (ie: no validity to any sponging complaints), and I’m not sure at all why she’s allowed to act like she’s been acting.
I agree with the “younger sister is an obnoxious brat” contingent. I mean, WOW.

spookie
Guest
spookie

I hate to say it, and although the younger sister may sound like a bit of a brat, I can understand to some degree, where she is coming from. The transition to college for many kids is a tough thing. Your entire world is thrown apart, you’re living in a cramped tiny dorm room with someone you may hate. Having the security of knowing what to expect when you come home can be a huge relief. I imagine that is what little sister is trying to hold onto in her room. Sure she’s being a brat, but I imagine the… Read more »

eliza
Guest
eliza

i saw that you commented that you are actually paying to live there so to me that means its your home too… just like in any roommate situation, both sides have to make compromises so that all the people who live there feel comfortable and “at home”… in my mind, your sister doesn’t live there anymore, she’s moved out to go to college, she’s the visitor now when she comes home and should act accordingly. I had to learn the same thing when I went away to college- that my family went on living their lives without me there and… Read more »

andrea
Guest
andrea

Because I don’t know .. maybe you need to hear it.. I survived my parent’s divorce and my much older sister had a baby on my 17th birthday. Not only did I think it was the bestest birthday gift ever! but I couldn’t wait to see my niece and help with her. I am so glad now that I spent as much time as I could with her and can’t believe what a remarkable lady she’s turned into. and now I can’t believe she is about to start college! Talk to her I’d hate for your sister to miss out… Read more »

Umi
Guest

My comment might be redundant, but… 1) I know that at her age, I would have still claimed my room as my room. Although she’s off to college, being in the position she’s in, home is still home. If she’s in dorms, that’s NOT her home. She probably has lots of stuff in her room. She probably doesn’t know what she wants to do out of college… I’m sure she was reacting to not being displaced. She had the reign on the house and she is getting defensive. In your original question it sounds like you’ve all ready established that… Read more »

Sara
Guest
Sara

Yuck, that sounds rough. I agree with Amy’s advice, I don’t see how any change will happen without everyone’s involvement (including your mother’s), but I really hope your mother is open to standing up to sis’s behavior. Like some other commenters, I have a super bratty/entitled/spoiled SIL whose parents refuse to acknowledge any problem with her behavior, and will probably continue to enable her indefinitely. It’s really sad, because she’s 25, and they’ve sacrificed the quality of their relationship with their son in order to continually appease their daughter. When family members put up with bad behavior for so long… Read more »

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

With the additional information, yeah, she is being a brat. Maybe an adult 3 way conversation is in order to clear the air and set expectations. Sometimes they outgrow the brattiness – but it took until my youngest sister turned 21 to have an ‘adult’ relationship with her (I’m 5 years older) since we were in completely different points of our lives. Most of the time I pump in the family room but when we have guests, I’ll go upstairs so no one has to see it. I have no modesty anymore (hell, my mother, father and mother in law… Read more »

Megan
Guest
Megan

Something else is going on here. I can’t believe your sister is this angry/bratty for no reason at all. I am the youngest of two and WAS NOT an easy teenager…or young adult. My brother was a good kid and never caused my parents any problems. We were not close and he was my mothers sounding board when I was out of control. I got pregnant at 20 and my boyfriend (father of the child) left me when I was 5 months pregnant. My parents were not sympathetic to my cause and I moved out of their house and had… Read more »

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

You (and your mom, and potentially the rest of your family) need to call her on it now. I was the only one to call my “baby” sister out on her bratty behavior (everyone else did the walking on eggshells don’t rock the boat thing) and as a result she is just now growing out of it at 27.

Crissy
Guest
Crissy

You need to sit down talk to your mom, and your sister. There is a lot going on here, but the biggest problem (to me) is letting her get away with demaning and getting her own way. Otherwise, it will just continue. Like many others, I have a future sister in law, who has been given into her entire life by everyone. Now at nearly 35, she a whiny manipulative brat who does whatever it takes to have everything HER way. The latest was when she went so far as to have her best friend call and yell at my… Read more »

Caitlyn
Guest
Caitlyn

just agreeing with everyone here – my baby is three months old and my 13-year-old sister is better behaved than this. (I’m not living with them, though I have moved in for a weekend or two when my husband was away.) The other night we were there for dinner and my brother (16 yrs old) got grossed out by the discussion of her diapers at the dinner table and my mom scolded him for it and refused to change the subject, telling him it was part of life and he needs to be used to it. So yes, I’d sleep… Read more »

Meg
Guest
Meg

Holy Shit! So much thought about this woman’s sister’s feeeeelings and dissection of the subject… I feel like most people should take a step back and look at the whole picture. This girl is not the only member of this family and she needs to remember that it is both their Mother. I say get Mom involved, this is not a disagreement between coworkers, it is a Family Matter! If this was going on in my home and for whatever reason I was completely oblivious to a rift I would be quite annoyed if it was not brought to my… Read more »