My Sister Gave Up Her Dreams And Sometimes I Hate Her For It

If you ask my sister, Jennifer, our roles in the family were pre-determined before we had a say in the matter. It was the weekend my parents came back from their getaway at the Copley Plaza bearing gifts that my sister recalls quite clearly as the moment in which we were defined, at least in the eyes of our parents. My parents brought back a Matisse t-shirt for me; for my sister, one with the Harvard logo. I do not remember these gifts as anything life altering, but my sister remembers otherwise: I was the artist; she, the academic.

My sister and I are painfully close. For a day to pass by in which we do not talk is a rare occasion; a day in which we talk at least three or four times, even briefly, is normal. Before she had kids, we were constantly on the phone with each other. She was the first person I talked to in the morning, and the last person I talked to at night. She is, in all honesty, my best friend.

My relationship with my sister has defined the way I view my relationships with my friends and significant others. If someone isn’t close with their siblings, I’m immediately hesitant. If they’re not even on speaking terms with their brother or sister, I’m quite certain our relationship is doomed. Although my first interaction with my sister resulted in me smacking her face when my parents brought her home from the hospital and introduced her to me, I have since then regarded her as a gift – the best gift my parents ever gave me.

I do not know anything about sibling rivalry. For my sister and I, there was never a competition. While in high school she ran with the “cool” crowd in her class and I ran with the artsy kids in mine (we were a year apart in school and 18 months apart in age), the least of our problems was rivalry – it was more about accepting each other in high school world. I was anti her popularity and she despised the fact that she was the sister of someone whom the boys in my grade, the ones who were hitting on her, didn’t know existed. A longing for popularity has never been at my core; a longing for individuality always took precedence.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write, or rather, I have written. My sister, the devil’s advocate, always claimed an interest in law. So that’s where we were divided as pre-determined by our parents according to my sister: she, the lawyer; me, the writer.

However, despite the roles in which were “inflicted” upon us (my sister’s words, not mine), we both gravitated toward writing. We had been spawned by a tumultuous relationship that was worth a movie of its own, and with our father as the head storyteller, our knack for telling tales was inevitable. While my sister kept a diary, I chose to vocalize everything. By the time we graduated, I was the writer and she, the lawyer… and that’s how we parted.

But along the lines my sister found her voice and with the help of a boyfriend (whom we condemn to this day), she put aside law and indulged, or rather embraced, the part of her that was a writer. How could she not? We were plucked from a Big Fish scenario… writing and literary license was in our blood.

Before long we were writers, my sister and I; writers to the core, and the rest of the world be damned. At the time we were both in college, but we liked to envision ourselves as the Brontë sisters of the future. We exchanged writing, were painfully honest on each others’ words and at the end of the night slept soundly… that’s what writers do after an appropriate critique: sleep.

But then came love…

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    • Cee

      I feel this way about educated stay at home moms. You know, the ones that have a bachelor’s sometimes a masters and give up the next step which is finding a career with their degree to be a mother and wife. I find it hard to reconcile the tossing off of the hard work you did, pursuing a passion you had independently of anybody else just to stay at home cook, change diapers do laundry and troll around mom blogs arguing how “breast is best” and how to naming your child Mishelle would be sooo unique! That’s the crowd you’re now going to roll with after a college education?!

      My cousin sacrificed any type of social life to take a million AP classes in high school to get accepted to a UC school (California University). She got accepted to 4. She went to one and got her undergrad in two years and a half! Because financial aid deemed her “too rich,” my uncle and aunt paid her tuition AND board! A year later she is now pregnant, no job, living at her boyfriends home with his parents and has no plan to go back to school or pursue a career, mind you this was no accidental pregnancy. This is what she wants. It aggravates me to no end! I feel terrible but sometimes when I see her I just think “Wow, what a waste!”

      I know when the baby comes, I will feel just like you, but I just can’t help but to wonder why some women would make that choice. I mean, I support it and love them for being doting mothers but like I said, I just can’t reconcile that for some..this is practically the rest of their lives with little to no interest in doing much else.

      • Eagle Eye

        I don’t know, I’m almost offended as the product of a brilliant mother (Cal then Harvard) who decided to be a SAHM, and honestly, I think that she loved it and FWIW, she was (and still is) a great mom, and just by being who she is, I don’t think that she would have been as happy as a working mom.

        Also, I would like to add, that she is a great writer, and since my sister and i moved out of the house, she’s started writing again. So, just wait until the boys are older and she has more free time. Nothing is ever truly lost.

      • Lo

        I see it like this: women have a right to make their own choices. We live in a world now where women can be anything… so to tell a woman her choice is wrong, or is in some way throwing away her gifts, seems to undermine and belittle her choice in the matter. (Not that that was your intention.)

        If a woman wants to go to college and then be a stay at home mom, that’s her choice. If she wants to run off to Paris and be a painter, that’s also her choice.

        If your cousin is happy, that’s all that matters. Judging her for having children is just as bad as if people judged you for remaining childless.

        Besides, I agree with Eagle Eye…kids don’t have to mean you give up the rest of your life. My mother is the primary breadwinner of the family, has had a long career in sales/marketing, and still managed to make cupcakes for every bake sale and show up for every dance recital.

      • Cee

        To both Eagle and Lo,

        Like I said, I feel terrible about feeling this way and am trying to understand the choice being a stay at home mom for a career that these ladies were pursuing.

        I do look forward to meeting the little critter when it is born and will undoubtedly see another facet of my cousins life begin.

        No I did not mean to belittle the choice of being a Stay at Home Mom. I guess a person pursuing a graduate degree and putting all that money, time and research. I just can’t fully grasp why a person would go through all that sacrifice and effort to not use it.

        But both of you provided a good perspective. Maybe when her child or children (who knows?) get older she will put her professional skills to work.

        I know I will evolve on this, particularly as I watch my cousin and undoubtedly other people I know have children and make different choices.

    • Marissa

      My own insecurities with my relationship and career choices are probably coming out with this, but a major appeal of writing for me is that it allows me to feel connected to these great human truths. I think having a family would be the only thing that could possibly overwhelm me more with those feelings.

      And what if having a family is your sister’s real passion? Not that writing wasn’t her dream, but maybe it was also a vehicle for connecting with you and that’s part of why it was so important to her. Your Bronte-esque critiquing relationship sounds lovely, by the way!

    • Maggie

      I think the important question is: is your sister happy? If she is, then it’s best to let her be and not remind her of a career or dream she sacrificed to become a mother. But I agree with Eagle Eye: when you have a passion, I don’t think it ever truly dies. Maybe your nephews will become your sister’s inspiration to pick up writing again when they’re older. Just because a woman puts her career on hold to become a mom doesn’t mean that career is dead, or that her education and hard work have been wasted.

      • Maggie

        P.S. That picture of the two of you is adorable :)

      • Amanda Chatel

        Thanks, Maggie!

    • Cec

      I went to UCLA and now am happily looking for a little nest for fiance and I to start a family. I have a full-time job, but if he’s able to support me, I’d like to be a SAHM for a bit. I don’t consider going to college then being a SAHM a “waste”, college was a good place to grow up, to travel, to learn and have pretentious conversations with other kids. If your sister is happy then be happy for her, ultimately, she’s chosen her life and you yours. Don’t let the need to “rescue” someone from their lives trump the fact that they don’t need to be “rescued”.

    • Amanda Chatel

      I would just like to say, I stared at “SAHM” for a good 15 minutes before I realized what it was…

      • Lo

        This might help… it also might make you want to cry over what’s happened to the English language…

        http://mymomrecycles.com/ds-dh-and-other-blog-acronyms/

      • Amanda Chatel

        What I just learned from that link:

        IMO, our society is doomed. I guess all I can do is CIO, scream WTF then just blame it on my AF, KWIM?

    • Eagle Eyeye

      I commented early to a post by Cee, but I just wanted to expand a bit

      My mom graduated Phi Beta Capa from Berkeley and got her MA from Harvard, she’s brilliant – which is the first thing that my bf told me after he met her for the first time.

      However, my mom is NOT good at juggling alot of tasks and with her brilliance also comes a great capacity to care for those other than herself. In fact, that’s probably the most amazing thing about my mother, after my sister and I graduated from high school, she spent the years caring for my grandparents, tending to their every need until they passed away.

      People are multifaceted individuals, and life (God-willing) is long, so there’s a lot to do between becoming an adult and the end, so taking 10-15 years off to be a mom, or do anything really, isn’t the beginning of the end, its just a stage.

      I don’t know if I will do what my mother did, but I do know that it was a thoughtfully considered choice on my parent’s end AND I know that if given all of the choices she’s made in life, both her education AND raising her children, I’m sure that she would do it all over again.

    • Other Lo

      I know your sister is concentrating entirely on parenthood at the moment, but that might not mean giving up writing forever. The kids are still young, and they’ll be off by themselves one day. It’s still a huge gap that would terrify me, but it might be a gap until she can fit in ‘mom and writer’.

    • Sabrina

      As someone who pursues her dreams, it’s really hard to watch someone you love who doesn’t. And it can be hard to watch as someone’s dreams change, when you know the person they were before. The only thing you really can do is trust that they know what’s best for them and roll with it. But this has caused a lot of fights in my life as well, and it’s hard because it’s fighting with the person you care about most in the world.

    • Trish

      Why does being a mom mean she can’t also be a writer? There are lots of women who are working mothers. If she really was that passionate about being a writer, she would still be a writer, in addition to being a mom.

    • NtrlGAGirl

      That picture of the two of you is lovely. Although this is YOUR perspective, did you consider that she IS living her dream? That what you wrote about, actually, is that she isn’t living what is YOUR dream for her?

      • MR

        I think educated women aren’t having enough children, and it’s bad for feminism. Both my mother and grandmother were very strong career women, trailblazers for their generations. I know it influences how I view women. I think educated women should not give up a family to focus solely on a career. They should do both.

    • Steph

      I don’t see the point in being upset with how another woman chose to spend her life. Sure she’s your sister, but you don’t get to decide what she does.

    • Sass

      Your sister has matured and has experienced a profound shift in her life priorities. Because it’s not a shared priority with you, makes (you) this article seem incredibly immature and self centered. Write on.