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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.)

Published April 14, 2010. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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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