Mother prefers one daughter, neglects other
Dear Annie: At what point does a child quit trying to have a relationship with her mother? Is it natural for a mother to have to call her firstborn every single time before she calls another child? I have tried for years to have a relaxed and friendly relationship with my mother. We come from a large family, and the birth order does play a huge factor. My mother was very young when she gave birth to my eldest sibling. Because of that, I feel that their relationship is not healthy for either of them. They are more like friends than mother and daughter.
Here is one example. My mother, my sister and I were sitting in a restaurant, when my aunt came in with a friend. Mom was really excited and said, “Let me introduce you to my daughter.” Mom proceeded to introduce my sister but did not mention me at all. After everything settled down, I said, “Well, I guess I must be chopped liver, because I also am her daughter.” Mom did not even see that this was a problem.
One slip of the tongue is quickly forgiven, but what should one do when slights happen often? There have been family reunions and funerals I have not been invited to, and my mother has said, “Oh, I thought you might be working.” I have to stress to her that if she invites one sibling for a big family function, she should invite all siblings who live in the same city. Do you know how hard it is when other relatives ask me why I didn’t go to a family reunion? I have to tell them that my mother didn’t care enough about me to pick up the phone. Do other children from large families ever wish their mothers thought about or called them? Quite often, invitations are sent to the heads of families in hopes that they will tell the rest of their immediate families.
One ray of hope is that my sister goes away during the wintertime. Mom will make an effort to see or talk to me then. However, even this hurts, because then I feel as if I’m getting used. She doesn’t make any effort until my sister is gone. Help me! Other relatives have been noticing and mentioning the unfair treatment. — Younger Sister
Dear Younger Sister: Wow, your mom sounds like a class act! I hope the sarcasm is detectable in writing.
Your mother is creating a difficult family situation by treating your sister like the golden child and you like the odd one out. Whether it is conscious or not, your mom feels that if you and your sister became close, she might be left out. So instead, she favors your elder sister and creates a sibling rivalry. Sadly, this is a common phenomenon. Your mom must be very unhappy to purposely omit you from family reunions. You sound like a very thoughtful, kind and intelligent young woman, and your mom is missing out on having a relationship with you.
As for what you can do, start by opening up to your elder sister about your feelings and trying to limit any further sibling rivalry. Encourage your relatives who are noticing the unfair treatment to reach out to you directly whenever they are planning events. And as much as you can, try not to take your mother’s actions personally. They are not a reflection on you. Lastly, find support outside of your family. It is always a good idea to speak to a professional, especially if you desire to start a family one day and want to ensure the cycle isn’t repeated.
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