Relating to my family can be difficult for me. My brother and I are almost five years apart, and, as children, we never got along. It doesn't help that he's always seemed to have many more things in common with our parents, like sports. If I'm being honest, I’ve always been a bit jealous of how my mom, dad and brother seem to enjoy a lot more activities together. Now that we're adults, we're much closer, but we still have this little rivalry that just refuses to die.
When he graduated law school, my brother said, “Well, I guess we know who Mom and Dad love the most now — the guy that’s gonna pay for their nice retirement home.” His tone was joking, but there was an undercurrent of that old friction there.
“Hey, all I have to do is get pregnant, and they’re not gonna care about that law degree anymore,” I replied, with the same layered tone.
And I was right.
I’m not saying my parents don’t care that my brother is a successful lawyer, but when I got pregnant with my daughter, I was the golden child. At last, my mom and I had something really tangible to bond over: motherhood.
My parents were so pumped to become grandparents, and I reveled in their special attention. Their attention and care was especially important to me in the final days of my pregnancy and during the birth. I had to be induced, due to preeclampsia, and my daughter was born a few weeks premature. While it was a tough time, it was nice to be taken care of and on center stage for once.
I know I’m a little biased, but my daughter is pretty perfect. And for the past three and a half years, she has been the life of every family party, the one everyone is so excited to see. Even my brother has fallen under her spell. And I am this perfect angel’s mother — what an accomplishment!
I felt — and still feel —awful about the resentment that built inside me.
Then, last year, my brother’s wife got pregnant. I knew this was going to happen eventually, but I was not prepared for how I would feel about it.
As my sister-in-law’s belly grew, the attention and admiration of my family slowly pulled away from my daughter, and, by proxy, me. Everything became about how my sister-in-law was doing, the size of the baby, the showers, etc. Then, she had to have an emergency C-section, and my niece was in the NICU for about three weeks.
I felt — and still feel —awful about the resentment that built inside me. My niece is home now, at a healthy weight and doing just fine. Of course, I’m happy for my brother and glad the baby is OK, but whenever I hear that my mom is going over to their house to babysit, or see her Facebook page where my niece is now her profile picture, I can’t help but feel as though my daughter and I have been forgotten.
A mean little voice in my head says things like, “Wow, they’re letting their baby get too chubby. She won’t be as cute as my daughter” or even terrible things like “Maybe my sister-in-law wouldn’t have needed emergency surgery if she had slowed down on the exercise classes while she was pregnant. She should have been more careful.”
I’ve always planned to have two or more children, but I have to be honest with myself: My desire to get pregnant ASAP has a lot to do with my insecurities about how I fit in (or don't fit in) with my family. I know there's no logical reason for me to feel this way. My daughter will always be the first grandchild and I don’t expect her grandma to play favorites.
In the end, we are all a family, and it is time to put this silly rivalry to rest. I know this.
My brain can say that. But my heart? Well, that’s another story.