Letter #166

Content Warnings: Family Stress, Self-deprecating


Dear Reader. 


When asked what word defines me the most, I always reply “smart” or “kind” or “caring”. Sometimes, depending on who is asking, I might even say “creative” or “sarcastic”. But every single time, in my head, I want to say “the eldest daughter”. I don’t, of course, because that would be wrong. I am much more than just being the eldest daughter in my family…right?


I have always been the third parent of the household, ever since I got a younger sibling. Don’t get me wrong, I always have and always will love being an older sister, being allowed to care for my younger sibling. We might fight or disagree, but at the end of the day, my younger sibling is one of the people I love the most. But there is a huge difference between being an older sibling and a third parent. There are set boundaries and walls, but for years, that wall has gotten thinner and thinner till it has practically vanished.


I never really realized just how much I filled in the gaps at home, whether it be in making food in the evening, helping my parents with their work, or in taking care of my younger sibling’s schedule. To me, at that time, this was normal. I was simply being a good daughter, a helpful older sibling, and I ignored the signs. I went ahead, telling myself I did so much for myself, that I was a horribly selfish person if I didn’t help out a little.


I thought that once I went to university, my parents wouldn’t keep asking me to act as the third parent, especially if I lived far away from home. Instead, every phone call, every text message, everything seems to be centered around me completing a task, making phone calls, helping with homework, or something along those lines. Even when I am “free” and away from home, I am still forced to be that third parent, that personal secretary, and every time I try to talk about something for myself, the conversation is redirected towards the family as a whole.


I love my family and I would never not want to be there for them. I appreciate the trust they have in me, but sometimes, I feel like I am being taken advantage of. I belong to a collectivist cultural household, so I never had that “individual” ideology, and I perhaps never will. But, at the same time, I would love to be listened to and prioritized sometimes, especially for the small stuff. I want to be able to complain about homework or being completely lost in a social situation. I want to be able to know I can call about a random epiphany or roadblock, and not feel guilty for taking away my parent’s time.


I feel like I am asking for too much most times. I feel like I am both giving up too much and giving enough, and this internal struggle is tearing me apart. I love my family. I love being an elder sibling. I love being helpful. But I hate being the eldest daughter. I hate being the third parent. I hate being useful. And now, as that wall vanishes, I don’t know what to do. I used to love the status quo, but I want change too. Am I being selfish? Because it kind of feels like I am.

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