If you were an older daughter, do you feel that you were expected to play “mother” for your younger siblings? Explain.
I wasn’t the older daughter but I can explain about my eldest sister.
She was not expected to play the mother and not even expected to be responsible if anything happened to any of her younger siblings. Every one of us had the responsibility to be obedient and worshipful of Mama at every minute of every day. My sister did take on the responsibility of being the seeing-eye dog for Mama for all of our indiscretions. This pissed me off to no end and caused a humongous rift between my sister and I. She apologized for it a few years back but the apology was entirely unnecessary. I would have done the same thing in her position.
One thing she did do, as well, was to mother us in the area of the Bible. I was always complaining about religious crap and spewing common sense out of my mouth (as well as swear words) and she would march me to the Bible and read me whole books in a rage. She was one of the reasons that I knew my Bible so well and the fact that I picked up a heavy dose of skepticism.
As the oldest of three, and I definitely spent a lot of time watching my young sister for my mom. I also occasionally helped her with her school work. However, I never felt responsible for training or disciplining her. As for my brother, he and I were too close in age, so my parents never allowed me to boss him around.
I definitely played mother for my younger siblings, but I wasn’t really a very good one. A ten-, twelve-, or fourteen-year-old girl caring for her siblings doesn’t really know how to “mother.” It’s more like being a babysitter in some ways. I had all the mechanics down – diaper changes, caring for sick children, supervising the kids outside – but being a mother is more than mechanics. I ended up being rather bossy and not very compassionate. This actually damaged my relationships with many of my siblings.
At one point in my early teens I virtually adopted my latest infant sibling, and we became so close over the following years that when hurt the child would come crying to me as first choice. Leaving that little one behind when I left for college was incredibly difficult. It felt like abandoning my own child, and to this day there is some tension still there because my sibling did indeed feel abandoned. I saw this repeated with several of my sisters, as they did the same with this or that new baby. This was never an official assignment, though.
Well, as the oldest daughter, it was likely I would be the first one to get married. So of course having younger siblings was the perfect chance for me to train my skills as a future wife and mother. It always runs under the definition of “training” for your future but it’s really just a way to get the daughters to help more than an average kids would be expected to do or even capable of. The heavy period of training started when I was around 12, an age I was considered old enough to take actual responsibility for kids. Of course I had to do chores long before that, but the period of really mothering my siblings started at the age of 12. Different chores with the younger ones were given to me, making sure everybody wears appropriate clothing, changing diapers, feeding a small one, making sure they don’t do stuff that will hurt them.
The older I got, the more motherly responsibilities I had. This went as far as me physically punishing my siblings for smaller offenses (like not making their beds, for example). Of course the major offenses were still punished by my Dad. My mother had some physical difficulties during a number of her pregnancies and the sheer number of pregnancies made it impossible for her to do everything a mother usually does. A lot of times my Mother was simply too stressed out or physically drained and my siblings rather came to me with their issues and problems. Nobody wanted to feel like the heaviest of Mom’s burdens. I never felt like I could really talk to her about problems simply because I felt she had too much to do to be bothered with it.
My mom had twin boys when I was 13. Because of the timing and the stress of having twins and various other factors, I was heavily involved in helping out with them (and the two babies that came after them) until they were about four years old. My senior year of high school I asked to be relieved of a lot of these babysitting and mothering responsibilities so I could focus on school and graduate on time, and my parents rearranged schedules and chores to accommodate that request.
However, I still feel closely bonded to the twins and their little brother, as I invested a lot of time and love in them during my teens. I’m their godmother now, and I think that’s both appropriate and special.
Yes. My mother was often pregnant or caring for a new baby and was tired. We had a buddy system, where the older child was responsible for bathing, dressing, feeding and possibly educating the younger child. Discipline authority was designated to older children, including authority to spank disobedient children.
I am number four out eleven kids. We implemented “the buddy system” in our house, which basically meant each child over twelve had their own baby to take care of. My “buddy” was Catherine. She is fourteen years younger than me. Catherine and I did everything together. I fed her, bathed her, dressed her, cleaned up after her, did her laundry, and even occasionally disciplined her. I hated it when I had to spank her; it made me so angry with myself. Leaving for college was like leaving my baby behind. I still miss her desperately. It’s like watching someone else raise my baby.
Since my interactions with other boys and girls came mostly from other families in my church, I’ll answer this question as it pertains to them.
Older daughters in my church absolutely were mini-mothers to their younger siblings. They constantly sought out young children to “practice” on. For my part, I had no interest in raising children and avoided the other girls out of boredom. The result was that the little children loved me and pursued me because I treated them like they were my age.
I was always available to help out with my younger siblings, housework, ailing grandparents, etc. These were not things I resented or even thought much about, as they were simply taken for granted as what was reasonable to expect of me, and I was fond of my siblings in any case. I suppose if I resent any of that now, it isn’t because I was expected to be a contributing member of the family, but because my sense of life purpose and value was narrowed to that limited range.