I am seven months pregnant and facing a dilemma. I am 33 and have an older sister who is not married and does not have children, nor is she even dating anyone. This is my husband’s and my first baby, and he is an only child. My dilemma is that I don’t want to ask my sister to be Godmother to my baby. She and I do not always get along, and though things are”okay” right now, she has a history of getting mad at me over absolutely nothing and running to our parents to complain about how I’m not a good sister to her (because I text instead of call, for example). My mother and others have suggested that this is an extreme case of jealousy, and that she’s upset that I’m passing her by in terms of life milestones. She has barely asked me anything about being pregnant and the upcoming birth, or shown any excitement about her future (and only) niece or nephew. She also behaved similarly when I got engaged and at my wedding — barely speaking to me beforehand, vindictively not even opening the invitation to my bacherlorette party, coming late to and leaving early from the wedding.
She is pretty socially awkward, and I know (from our conversations when we are getting along) that she would love more than anything to get married and have kids. I know that I’m happier in my life right now than she is in hers, and I want to be empathetic and magnanimous. But I’m struggling with the notion that she can’t seem to look beyond herself to be happy for me. It has even been suggested that she might have mild autism, which could explain her odd reactions and poor self-expression.
Unfortunately, it would crush my mother if I did not ask my sister to be Godmother, and I’m at a loss. We’re not very religious, so it’s more of an honorary title, but since I have a great relationship with my Godmother, I want to pick someone special for my child. I suggested not picking a Godmother at all, but my mother seemed upset by that too.
Am I obligated to ask my sister, in the weak hope that it will improve our relationship in the future? — Godmother Drama
Oh Good lord, you’re 33 — it’s time to start living your life for you, not for your mother. What’s the worst that will happen if you forgo having a Godmother for your child? Is your mom going to stop talking to you? Is she going to avoid her only grandchild? I mean, really. What will probably happen is she’ll be so overcome with being a new grandmother she’ll either forget all about this whole Godmother business or she’ll passive-aggressively bring it up from time to time in the years to come. And if she chooses the latter route, you can simply tell her, “The decision has been made, Mom. It was my decision to make, I made it and the discussion — not that it ever included you — is long over. It’s time to move on.”
Honestly, I get letters like yours all the time — from grown adults who are so afraid to make decisions that will make their moms mad. Ladies! It’s time to cut the apron strings. Have you always agreed with every single decision your mother has made? No? Have you been able to carry on and have a relationship with her despite it? If so, then why on earth do you assume your mother is incapable of doing the same? Your mom isn’t going to ground you or withhold your allowance or anything else she may have done when you were a child and you did something against her wishes. You are a grown-up now. It’s perfectly OK — nay, healthy — to choose what is best for you and your immediate family even if it isn’t your mother’s first choice for you.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say you do decide to make your sister your baby’s Godmother. Since you aren’t religious, the role is pretty much honorary, as you say. I mean, you wouldn’t be expecting your sister to carry out religious-themed duties; you’d expect your sister to, like, be a special person in your kid’s life … kinda the same way you’d expect her to be a special person in your kid’s life as an aunt. The role between an honorary Godmother and an Aunt are basically the same. If anything, the expectations for an aunt are much greater than for a Godmother. And if your sister fails to meet them, do you think your kid is going to think, “Man, by Godmother sucks”? No, she’s going to think, “Man, my aunt sucks.” What I’m saying is the role of Aunt, whether it’s embraced or not, trumps the role of Godmother. So, if it keeps some peace among your family members, make the honorary designation. It’ll make your mother happy and your baby won’t really care one way or the other.
One final point: If you have someone in your life — a close friend — you’d like to give the honor of being your child’s Godmother to, I say go for it. But if it’s a choice between your sister and some random person you’d probably lose touch with in a few years without the help of Facebook, go with your sister. It won’t be any skin off your nose, and it may help create a deeper connection between her and your child. Don’t use your kid to try to improve your relationship with your sister, though. That’s a road better left untraveled (even if your destination is well-intentioned). Kids need to be kids, not pawns in a variety of relationship games.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.