Are you the youngest in your family or do you have younger siblings? I’m the youngest in my family, and I’m here to say that there are incredible perks. You often have siblings who are protective yet cool, and everyone seems to shower you with affection. I refuse to lie and say I didn’t enjoy this when I was younger. Even today, if someone in my family mentions that I was spoiled as the “baby” in the family, I humbly accept it and agree.
Even today, if someone in my family mentions that I was spoiled as the ‘baby’ in the family, I humbly accept it and agree.
But I didn’t factor in how overwhelming being labeled the “baby” could become. I began to be introduced as my older sibling’s “baby sister,” and in turn, other people began to monitor my comings and goings. At almost every school growing up, a faculty member or older student knew someone in my family. Granted, I wasn’t a troublemaker, but there were times where an innocent conversation with a boy from one of my classes would get reported. This often meant I received talks about making sure I focused on my schoolwork and avoided dating (or anything remotely sexual).
Growing Up as “The Baby”
The older I grew, the more I was also told to make sure I didn’t grow up too fast. I knew my family was concerned about me being taken advantage of in different areas of my life. Even though I understood their concern, it became overbearing to the point where I began to rebel once I neared my senior year of high school. As life tends to work out, I had to face harsh consequences due to some of my actions, but my experiences made me wiser. I also learned how to begin expressing my frustrations with the way my family treated me.
Everything seemed to be going well until I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant. It felt as if it undid the years of conversations I’d had with my family about trusting my decisions as a young adult. It’s not that I didn’t factor in their concerns, but I wanted them to respect the fact that who they saw as the “baby” was in fact an independent adult—who at 29 became pregnant while living on her own and gave birth at 30.
I wanted them to respect the fact that who they saw as the ‘baby’ was in fact an independent adult—who at 29 became pregnant while living on her own and gave birth at 30.
I have to say I suffered an identity crisis during my pregnancy because it felt as if I reverted back to being a child. I was told to move back home so I could have a support system in-house and there were countless conversations about me and my partner’s future as parents. I honestly didn’t trust that I knew what I was doing as an adult, and it made me fearful about becoming responsible for an infant.
It took some time, but here are some ways I found my identity as the youngest in the family after becoming a mom.
1. Lean Into the Things That Make Me Who I Am
Our family and society can tell us who they’d like us to be, but that doesn’t always change who we inherently are. I had to remember the things about my personality that came naturally, like being quirky and creative, and lean into them. The more I did that, the less I replayed the voices of others in my mind. I stopped feeling like I had to heed to every single thing they suggested.
2. Date Myself
OK, I know this sounds bizarre. Dating is commercialized as something that involves another person or multiple people, but hear me out: Date yourself. I often schedule lingerie and wine nights with myself to this day. I ask myself probing questions: what were my passions and things I enjoyed before I became a parent? What would I do if I didn’t feel lost in my position as the youngest in my family? Dating myself helps me sort through how I really feel.
3. Learn to Trust Myself as a Parent
If we’re being really honest, parenting has never been a one-size-fits-all thing. Even the most seasoned parent has moments where they feel confused about decisions they’re making. I worried myself sick about whether or not I would know how to be a parent to my child while I was pregnant and during the first six months of my son’s life. I learned that all I can do is trust my instincts and learn how to make decisions that work for him. Being a parent is not a competition, and my position in my family doesn’t diminish my efforts.
4. Have Hard Conversations with Family
Like I previously stated, sometimes, certain conversations need to be held with family. People are not always aware of how their actions or opinions may make you feel, so it can help to be vocal. Family members can have good intentions but may unintentionally project their feelings onto us. When I began explaining how I felt, I found my family was (surprisingly) receptive to listening.
5. Set Boundaries
Boundaries have become essential in my life and they’re something I love to talk about. They may not seem hard to you or they may feel dreadful. Wherever you stand, they’re meant to help us navigate life and our relationships. I found I needed to set boundaries with my family, especially when their concern felt overbearing or invasive. I’m a firm believer that families can help guide us, but they should not control how we choose to operate within our households.
Younger siblings may feel like they have to prove that they’re responsible and sensible adults, but guess what? You don’t have to do that, especially as a parent. What you can do is be yourself, however you choose to show up in the world, and let that be enough for you.