I’m learning the hard way that sibling rivalry doesn’t disappear once siblings are under their own roof. It continues well into adulthood. Most recently, my sibling rivalry has turned into an ugly case of Mommy Wars.
My sister and I have children that are only 6 months apart. We did not plan to have our children close together; it was a happy accident. Initially our bond became stronger when we learned I was pregnant and our children would be so close in age. But then my worries started to set in. I felt that having children so close together would open the door for a constant comparison in their lives. Who would walk first? Who would read first? Who would be on the honor roll? Would every major milestone be a point of comparison?
To my surprise, instead of the comparison of the kiddos, I realized I was the target of constant comparison. At first it started as innocent comments about the foods I ate during my pregnancy, the brand of prenatal vitamins I was taking, and the hospital we choose to deliver our son. Most comments were easy to shrug off and adopt the attitude of “to each his own.” However, things quickly escalated once the baby arrived.
I was subjected to a barrage of unsolicited advice:
This is the ONLY brand of swaddle you should use.
You HAVE to send birth announcements.
Lactation consultants are overrated.
Are you pumping enough to keep up your milk supply?
You’re using a pacifier already?
I don’t think you’re swaddling him tight enough.
Cloth diapers are SO much better than disposable.
Baby-led weaning is the best way to start solids.
Those car seat straps need to be tighter.
At one point, things were so bad that my husband and I had to pack up and leave a family holiday party early because I couldn’t endure the constant onslaught of advice and critiques.
I expected to have my confidence shaken by moms in my circle of friends, but I never expected to feel this way from my own family member. I know my sister has good intentions. I know she wants the best for my son. And I know this phase will pass (I hope). However, I don’t think I am willing to confront her and create a rift in our relationship that will surely have a long-term impact.
I’ve done some soul searching and talked with several close friends about how to peacefully co-exist with my sister. Here are a few tips from our collaboration that I have found to be helpful in dealing with this situation:
Sometimes I’m so quick to put up a defensive front that I’m not really listening to my sister. I’m ready to dismiss her ideas without really hearing what she is saying. I need to go in with a positive attitude and LISTEN. Perhaps instead of hearing unsolicited advice, she is really trying to validate what she is doing as a parent. Which brings me to my next point…..
I find myself sharing things that are working with my son because I’m proud of my achievements as a mom. To share her advice and feel as though she is helping me may be her way of validating her own parenting choices. Even if I don’t agree with her suggestions, I should encourage and help celebrate her success.
Change the subject
Sometimes it might be more appropriate to just change the subject. We’ve been sisters and friends longer than we’ve been mothers. Theoretically, we should have a lot to talk about outside of our parenting choices and abilities. Before we get together I make a mental list of important things I want to talk about with her that draw attention away from any uncomfortable conversations about our kids.
In the end, we are family and despite our differences I love her and my nephew with the whole of my heart. She needs to feel that love and know that regardless of how we parent our children I am her biggest cheerleader, ready to celebrate every milestone.
Have you experienced a similar situation? What advice would you add above?