Oldest Child Problems

A couple of weeks ago I read this great article over at Bougie Black Girl (BBG) about how parents use their older children to watch their younger siblings, much to the expense of the older child. I’m not speaking about an occasional babysitting job, but a child having to cook and clean and take care of her siblings like she birthed the babies. This article hit home for me.

See, because I was one of the girls that she was talking about. It happens a lot in the African American community. We tend to make our older girls the caregivers for their younger siblings. They didn’t give birth to your children.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that my mother was a bad mom. She wasn’t. Do I agree with everything she did? Nope. Do I believe she tried her best with the information and skills that she had at that time. Yep. But, there was damage.

You see when my daddy walked out of our lives, I was the oldest. I was 9 years old and my sister was 6. My brother was just 9 months old.  I had to become an “adult” and parent my siblings because my mother was in the military and worked swing shift. That means she was on for 18 hours and then off and back at work. She was exhausted.

I would have to pick my sister up from her classroom (we went to the same school) and walk her to pick up my brother from the babysitter to then go home. My mother left instructions for how to heat up dinner (she was exhausted but thankfully she still managed to cook). I would help my sister with her homework and we would eat dinner. I would bathe them both and put them to bed.

I would then sit down and do my homework, take a bath and head to bed. It was exhausting. I was a child. I had no choice. My mom didn’t have a choice. This was our lot in life.

When my mom got out of the military and we moved to Maryland, she had to work three jobs to take care of us. My dad didn’t pay child support and she made $10.00 too much to qualify for food stamps so working that many jobs put food on the table and clothes on our backs.  I received reduced lunches. I wasn’t embarrassed. I needed to eat.

I became their “de facto mother”. I doled out punishments and enforced chores. I had to make sure everything was done so that I wouldn’t be held liable.

I didn’t want to be a mother when I was still a child. I didn’t know how not to be. This kind of forced motherhood made me never want to have children. This made me feel as though my needs didn’t matter. The needs of my siblings came before my own needs.

The thing about not having your needs met is that you feel like you don’t matter. I couldn’t create boundaries because no one would respect them. I had no choice. I had no voice. I had to take care of my siblings.

I had a lot of pain during that time because I was a child raising children. I felt like my siblings didn’t respect me. Even now I sometimes feel the pain of past issues that manifest itself as disrespect. I’m sure that they don’t think of it in those terms, but they don’t know the sacrifices that I made too. Not just the ones made by our mother.

I didn’t get to participate in any after school activities until they were old enough to be left alone or my mom could watch them. There was no money for extras and no time. There was a schedule that had to be maintained.

I remember telling my mother a few years ago that I am tired of the disrespect of this family. I told her that I did everything to raise children that I didn’t bear. That I got raped and had to go home to take care of her children because that was my responsibility. I asked her who was ever going to take care of me?

It seemed as if no one was going to take care of me. I was on my own. That is why I am fiercely independent and choose not to show weakness. I hate being vulnerable. I hate not being able to do something. I’ve always taken care of me.

Even when it hurt to do so. Being in a healthy relationship allows me to appreciate the things that I didn’t even realize that I had. Things that I took for granted. Being a mother of an only child allows me the opportunity to give him experiences that I never had. I want Munch to enjoy being a child. No pressure. Not too much responsibility.

Does this mean that I don’t give him any responsibility? Nope. I do. I dole it out in stages. Cleaning your room, getting good grades and being civic minded have rewards attached to them. He’s a child. He’s learning.

I’m still learning and you know what? I’m pretty happy that BBG spoke about this topic. It’s pretty taboo in the black community, but the point of it all is that you as a parent have a responsibility to make sure that your children are children. Not the surrogate parent to their siblings.

 

Want to keep in touch? You can find me on social media at the following links: Twitter @mskeeinmd, Facebook page A Thomas Point of View and my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/mskeeinmd/.

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26 thoughts on “Oldest Child Problems

  1. Wow. I hardly believed anyone else had a similar childhood to me. It’s painful, T. I do all these things for my kids that kids need from their parents. I feel like I should remember being in their shoes, but I don’t. I only remember raising my sister. It’s painful to hold my son and have no idea what it must feel like to be a young child in the security of your parents.
    Thank you for the repost.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with this! I watched my older cousin take care of her younger brother(1-2 yrs younger than her)who’s autistic for most of her adolescent life. I felt like she suffered tremendously because there were times she would start a course and have to drop out. He also had seizures from time to time and she was always the one to go to the hospital with him and knew every tablet he took to inform the doctors when asked. She cooked,cleaned, bathe him etc and I always felt that even though it’s her brother and I know she loves him to death, that responsibility should never have been on her. She should have been able to enjoy her teenage years.

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    1. Absolutely. I think parents don’t think about that. Maybe her mother was working by herself and had no choice, but there are always consequences for making your children suffer.

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      1. Well the thing about it is she was a divorcée but their dad always visited and took them for weekends etc. He was always part of their lives up til this day but my aunt however was simply selfish. When my grandma was alive she took care of them from small while my aunt vacationed all over and when she died they went back across(they live across the street from us) but she still never really took care of them like a parent should it was all on my cousin.

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      2. Wow! See those parents are the worse. I mean I have sympathy if you don’t have a husband or father in your kids lives and you have to do it on your own. It’s another thing when you’re just being selfish as hell.

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  3. I absolute relate to what you wrote in this post Miss T. I wasn’t the first born, and in a way, I was privileged to have a stay at home mom growing up. Regardless, most of my friends who were the first daughters experienced similar to what you wrote. I remember I had a friend in grade 6, whose mother would send for her to leave school so she could come back home and take care of her baby brother when the matter had work to do.

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    1. See, this is scary as heck. I’m happy to know that it is not just our culture, or country, but men and other races and people in other countries saw or experienced similar things. We just need to let our children be children.

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  4. I can only imagine how tough that would be. I can understand growing up quicker than most others may have to, but I’ve never walked in your shoes. I believe you have turned into a beautiful, strong woman whom I respect!

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    1. Aww, thanks Matthew! But, God! If it had not been for His grace, mercy and protection that may not have been the case. I’m just thankful that people understand it’s no judgement. Just think about the ramifications of your choices and how they affect your children. Children should definitely not have to forgo their childhood.

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  5. Well said Tikeetha. It is tough having to parent your siblings. May we have grace to give our children a better childhood . God bless our parents too… Some don’t just have a choice and some don’t understand what it means to be a parent.

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    1. Absolutely. I felt like BBG was bringing awareness to something parents don’t consider. My mom had no choice. My dad didn’t pay child support. But, their choice as parents affected me.

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  6. Tikeetha, this is an ongoing situation. I hear you loud and clear and understand fully what you are saying. Your post actually brought a tear to my eye, because the child should not be the parent, but circumstances made it that way.
    This is quite a subject ! Munch is a lucky boy to have you as his mom. You are amazing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks Lynne. I don’t hate my mom. She had no choice. I think the whole point is to not blame parents, but make them aware how their actions or choices may affect their older children. I don’t have a problem with parents who pay their children to babysit that’s not an issue. It’s the raising of said children while parents are out partying or unconcerned that their older children are missing out on being kids. I never want that for anyone. It’s a tough life to grow up in.

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  7. Great post, this really hit home, I’m a single parent too and find myself in this situation. Even though I try not to put too much on my oldest son I find myself needing him to pick his sister up from her class. They are both in the same school, I feel guilty but I don’t have a choice. I’m so glad you shared this post with us, it’s nice to get a glimpse of how he maybe feeling, I try to make it worth his while by paying him a little something for his efforts but then again I guess it doesn’t make it any right. It’s such a tough one, thanks for sharing.

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    1. You’re welcome. When she wrote her piece about it I was like “I was one of those children.” It’s a hard balancing act and I guess the overall message of her post was what I did…wait until I could afford children on my own before having them in case things don’t work out. At least you’re giving him money. There was no money to give so it was a no choice or no reward situation for me.

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  8. This was an excellent post, sis. My oldest daughter and her husband have always said they didn’t want children because they felt like they had already raised a family. Although my girl wasn’t strapped with being a mom, she took on the role later in life….and she was a little bitch! LOL. Her siblings weren’t allowed to make mistakes or do something SHE thought they shouldn’t. (She’s gotten a little better now.)
Her husband had four brothers and he DID have to raise them. Even now, when they’re in their late thirties and early forties, when something goes wrong, his mama calls him!
I can only imagine how hard it was for you. You never really got to have a childhood. Considering that…you are a remarkable woman and I am proud to know you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks sis. It’s hard on the oldest and sometimes we just have to play the hand we’re dealt. Hopefully people will think about it before having children. Less stress for everyone.

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  9. This is an excellent piece that expose your own vulnerability. It’s great that you were finally able to reveal your feelings to your mom too. In a way, it’s like a form of (unintentional) abandonment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Lord. We are a work in progress. I know that my mom loves me. She just never really told me growing up. We just don’t know each other. We’re getting there. In that I see the efforts she’s making and I can truly appreciate that. She and I are probably closer now than we’ve ever been in my life. That’s saying something at 42.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, this hits home bc at 8,my sister was born. I am the oldest of 3 girls. I would change her diapers, feed her, watch her, etc. I’ve said the same thing to myself, “who is going to take care of me?” Unfortunately, I have no answer. It’s hard to grow up quick. You had it far worse. I had both parents at home but my dad worked 7 days a week and my mother avoided us.

    Liked by 1 person

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