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When Siblings Become Parents

November 1, 2014

Get ready for a post about that life milestone that I’m sure is crowding everyone’s newsfeeds more and more these days, parenthood.

"Hee hee! I'm here to change absolutely everything!"

“Hee hee! I’m here to change absolutely everything!”

I married into a family where kids were already the main event; my husband’s two siblings had two kids a piece when we got married, and now they each have three, and one even has a fourth on the way. While it is super fun to be an auntie, and I love those kids to death, over the years I’ve felt a bit sad that I never got to know my brothers and sisters-in-law before they had kids. Of course, my husband did, but so much has changed since the days when he and his siblings could all hang out—it’s just a distant memory.

Things change when people get married and become part of a couple, sure. But they don’t change nearly as much as when those same people become parents. At least, in our family, having kids pretty much meant saying goodbye to a real, deep relationship with our siblings.

Now, every family event is oriented around the needs of the children. Their nap-times, bed-times, likes, dislikes, tantrums, and whims pretty much dictate what we can and can’t do as a family. When we do all get together, they take center stage (of course, since we’re all pretty enamored with their adorable-ness) and definitely monopolize the attentions of the grandparents. Even when we all stay at my in-laws house for days on end, such as during Christmas or our annual summer family week, there are usually just one or two hours in the evening when we can talk and interact as adults. And even that can be interrupted by a crying baby, or the fact that everyone is just plain exhausted.

My sister-in-law is a great example of someone who tries hard to give us her attention when we do spend time together—she’ll ask a great question about how work is going or what we’ve been up to, but then, inevitably, before we can answer in any depth, one of her kids has distracted her and the moment is lost. Then there’s my husband’s brother. I know my husband would love to have a closer relationship with his older brother, but they simply never get to talk. Again, when they do get together, they might be able to talk about video games or work for a few minutes, but it’s always interrupted before they can get deep. Furthermore, my brother-in-law is usually so exhausted from working full time and raising three kids that he zones out on his phone more often than he initiates conversations with his only little brother.

All of this is definitely exacerbated by the fact that we live so far away from everyone. Living abroad makes us miss our family more and be even more disappointed when the limited time we do get with them is cut short or kept at a superficial level. Take Skype calls, for example. With both sets of parents, it works great: we call them at least once or twice a week and usually are able to talk for about an hour. As a result, our parents know much, much more about our lives than any of our siblings do. But when my sister-in-law calls on Skype, it is literally a five-minute experience, max. Her three kids make faces at us or tell us what they want to be for Halloween (which is great, don’t get me wrong) but if their mom tries to weigh in or ask us anything about our lives, the kids soon ruin it by making noises, getting into fights with each other, crying, or just wandering off so she has to follow them. Regardless, we’re not able to have any kind of real conversation. The other set of siblings just never even bother to call us at all.

I don’t want to whine and make things all about me, but after spending the better part of three years in this family, I would have thought I’d have gotten to know my siblings-in-law better than this. I just don’t feel like they really know me, because we never get to interact. One day, their kids will be older, and maybe then things will be easier? But then the day will come that I’ll have kids of my own, and I’ll probably be just as frazzled and preoccupied.

Well, at least then we’ll have something in common.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2014 10:09 am

    Thanks for a terrific, truth in love post! It’s sooo true. If there isn’t any adult only time planned, it doesn’t happen. Well said, well noted.

  2. November 1, 2014 3:03 pm

    so true. once a baby is in the room it becomes so hard to focus on anything else. but i think it’s completely possible to do so. we just have to consciously put in the effort. same goes for interactions without babies. your brother in law should put away the phone.

  3. November 2, 2014 5:38 am

    We are the only couple in either of our families to have a child, and have experienced this loss of relationship. We make an effort to try and keep in touch but working full time and having a baby makes it so difficult to find time – l miss hanging out with them too but at the moment our lives are just have different priorities 🙂

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