My sister had a baby a few months ago, and I have to say, motherhood has made her pretty annoying. She’s always been really opinionated (though woefully insecure underneath it all), but she used to have a little humility. Now it seems like she needs to pump herself up by constantly complaining about everyone else doing things wrong. I’ve gotten the impression that she thinks the same thing about me and complains about me to her boyfriend, if not to everyone else she knows. ( I have a two-year-old.) Do I even bother bringing it up with her? I’m not sure I can put up with her snide comments indefinitely. – Sister Sick
Dear Sister Sick,
Your sister’s reaction to parenthood, while irritating, is not uncommon. We have seen many parents snap into self-defensive self-aggrandizement when confronted with a new baby. Usually it’s a phase, one that passes when the new parent either gets confident enough to show her vulnerability, or gets humbled by something that happens along the way. (The foolproof sleep plan suddenly stops working; the perfect baby becomes a bitch of a toddler.) True, there are parents who never seem to get their comeuppance, but let’s assume for now that your sister isn’t one of them. Chances are she’ll realize, as most do, that her early cockiness was a little premature.
In the meantime, you’re probably better off trying not to educate her. She’s acting this way for a reason – it makes her feel like she’s in control when she is almost definitely completely freaking out. You, on the other hand, as a seasoned parent of a two-year-old, are comparatively settled, meaning that you’re either freaking out a lot less than you used to, or you’ve gotten a lot more used to freaking out. Try to look at your sister’s high horse as a crutch, because that’s what it is.
It’s a total drag to feel like you’re being judged. But unless she’s actually saying things about your parenting (in which case you are fully within your jurisdiction to tell her to shut the hell up/let her know she’s hurting your feelings), it’s probably not going to do you any good to raise the issue. She may not even realize what she’s doing, and she may accuse you of attacking her or being paranoid.
Remember, she’s the new kid, and you’re the expert. She may actually think you’re the best mother she’s ever seen, and worry that she won’t live up to your example. This is your sister we’re talking about here. Who knows what neuroses lurk beneath the surface? Now that you’ve got your own kids, all the issues that have been swimming around between you for a lifetime have an entirely new playground to explore. There’ll be plenty of time to muddle through them after the newborn desperation settles.
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