Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Sister Tries Too Hard to Portray a Perfect Life on Facebook”

sisters

I’m the youngest of three girls, and the oldest, who has three kids and recently moved back to our town, stresses me out. Now that she’s back, we have begun to see more of her daily struggles. Her two older children are in elementary school and her youngest is one. She gets so frustrated with them and doesn’t seem to enjoy motherhood, yet she works hard to make her life appear perfect on Facebook.

She just texted us (my other sister, who also has kids, and me) that she is upset that the kids are out of school again for a snow day. Her husband works from home, and it appears that she doesn’t feel like she is able to send the youngest to preschool and still stay home without feeling like a failure. This has been going on since her oldest, who is now nine, was born. She home-schooled the two older kids until the baby was born, which was a HUGE struggle for her.

There are other problems, and it is hard for me to watch her be so unhappy in her life while working so hard to portray it as perfect. Do we say something to her? I’ve encouraged therapy in the past, but she has a habit of not telling the whole truth to doctors. For example, she didn’t her doctor that her youngest is now forward-facing in his car seat when the recommendations are to be rear-facing for at least two years. When she did make an effort to go to therapy, she made it to about three sessions before the therapist apparently told her she was fine. It seemed to me that she may have misled the therapist about what really goes on at home. Her older kids ask why she is so mean to them when we are around, and she texts us saying that they say that about her when their dad isn’t around, too. She has a much harder time when she doesn’t have backup from him, and she often snaps at the kids then.

She has a long history of huge expectations and setting herself up for failure, which is always easy for us to see from the outside. Any time we get to hang out as sisters she expects to be a blowout party, when really all I ever want is a quiet night with some wine and conversation. If she has plans to leave the kids and the plans get cancelled, she throws a fit.

I could go on. Any advice is appreciated. We are so close to the situation that it can be tough to think about it objectively. — Concerned For Unhappy Sister

What is it that you’re asking advice about? How to be a better sister or how to convince your sister that she needs professional help? From the tone and content of your letter, it certainly seems like the latter, but it really should be the former. Sure, therapy would probably help your sister. It would help most of us. But you know what would help your sister even more? Having a support system that actually… supported her rather than judged her at every turn.

Maybe you and the rest of your family DO support your sister and you simply didn’t include any examples of that in this letter, instead citing numerous examples of your judging your sister and her being stressed out in your presence. Do you think it’s merely coincidence that the two times she “is mean” to her children (and by the way, I don’t know any mother who doesn’t occasionally snap at her kids!) are when her husband isn’t around and she doesn’t have his help, and when you happen to be visiting? I’m going to make a wild guess here and say that your presence doesn’t put her at ease. I’m going to guess that the same judgmental tone that permeates this letter is probably pretty obvious in person, too.

I’m sure you do love your sister. I’m going to trust that you simply want her to be happy. But here’s the thing: maybe she IS happy. Maybe her happy just looks different than your happy. Maybe her private happy looks different than the happy she portrays on social media. Maybe what she portrays on social media isn’t a lie but is a representation of her happiest moments. Maybe all that work she does (?) to make it appear on social media that her life is perfect isn’t so much to convince other people that she’s happy but to convince herself. Because, let me tell you as mother of two young children, sometimes you need to remind yourself that the sum of all these moments — the tearful, screaming, crying ones, and the laughing ones, and the sink-full-of-dishes ones, and the laundry-piled-in-every-corner ones, and the what-the-fuck-am-I-going-to-cook-for-dinner ones, and the all-too-brief moments when all the kids are content and not demanding something — that the great sum of all of these moments is, in fact, happiness (exhausted, weary, bone-tired happiness, but happiness all the same).

So, maybe your sister IS happy, in the way a mother of three young children can be happy, and maybe that kind of happiness looks different from your kind of happiness. Maybe it looks different from your other sister’s happiness even though they’re both mothers. Having different kids and different spouses and different schedules and different demands and different personalities means that things will be…different. The happiness I experience now with two children is different than the happiness I had with one, for example. My stress level is different, too. It’s greater. There’s more at stake. There’s more to balance and juggle.

In the moments and days that are more challenging than others, you know what helps me? Having a supportive spouse and supportive community who give me permission to vent and be flawed and who check in and ask where and how they can help (and I do the same for them). You know what makes me feel worse? Thinking that I’m a bad mom. I guarantee that there is nothing worse for a hard-working mother than to feel like she’s failing. One of my worst moments in motherhood came one afternoon on the playground when I took my eye off Jackson for two minutes and he misbehaved and a neighborhood nanny screamed at me (in front of everyone) that I was a bad mother. It was one of those challenging days and I was commiserating with a new mom friend and then, suddenly, I was being ambushed in such an aggressive, hostile, embarrassing way. It really shook me. Later that evening, my friend emailed me and said, “You’re a good mom.” Sometimes, that’s all you need to hear.

Tell your sister she’s a good mom. Ask her what she needs to make things a little easier. Can you offer to take the two older kids out on a Saturday afternoon (or an overnight at their aunt’s)? Can you offer to babysit all three of them one night when they’re in bed so she and her husband can get out? Can you indulge her in fun night out every once in a while so she can blow off steam and remember that she’s more than just a wife and a mother? And can you listen to her like you would want to be listened to and reserve passing judgment on the state of her life or marriage or mental state and accept that what she’s venting about may just be a reflection of the worst moments and not the sum of all of them?

Maybe you aren’t asking advice for how to be a better sister, a better person. But that’s the advice I’m giving. After all, there’s nothing else in your sister’s life you can control except how your treat her and how you help foster a relationship with her. If you care about her and her well-being, don’t under-estimate the impact just being there can have. The rest of it is for her to work out. And she’ll be better able to if she knows her loved ones have her back.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

54 comments… add one
  • avatar

    laurahope January 25, 2016, 8:52 am

    First of all, homeschooling 2 kids for a few years is enough to put anyone over the edge. But even if she doesn’t do it, these are very hard years (but oh, how we miss them when they’re gone). You know how when you fly, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first? Well, that’s what she needs to do. She can’t be there for the kids unless she’s okay. And ultimately, her family is more important than public perception of her. So she needs to do whatever it is that she needs to do– work, take a vacation,even hire a babysitter to help out..whatever. She sounds burnt out and everyone will suffer for it if she doesn’t attend to her own needs. Tell her it’s okay.

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    • avatar

      Hannanas January 25, 2016, 10:04 am

      I love the flying comparison! So true.

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  • avatar

    keyblade January 25, 2016, 9:51 am

    I love Wendy’s advice! I made a longer comment because I accidentally caught a glimpse of the question earlier. I’ll post what I wrote but really just WDWS.

    This woman does sound like she is burnt out by the demands she puts on herself and perhaps her family. I think the last thing she needs is more judgment. Letter writer, you say you are having a difficult time being objective. So I’ll lend you my objective opinion for some of your observations.

    “She gets so frustrated with them and doesn’t seem to enjoy motherhood, yet she works hard to make her life appear perfect on social media.”

    Are you trying to point out an inconsistency with the way your sister portrays herself versus what she really feels? I’ll bet it is a jagging difference to see an online avatar mother, versus the reality you know. I’d really sit with the fact that your sister doesn’t feel comfortable representing her default on social media. She doesn’t feel comfortable blogging about the downs, yet she does feel she can show that part of herself to you. She trusts you to see her at her unflattering times. She feels comfortable venting to you, when she wouldn’t feel that way with someone else. I think motherhood tends to come with a lot of judgement. Especially in affluent parts of the world where people have time to worry about such things. It’s hard to admit a mom might be having moments she just plain doesn’t enjoy. Sometimes a toddler throwing a tantrum, or having to rearrange your entire day consistently and on ten minutes’ notice when there’s a half inch of snow can be frustrating. Life is full of ups and downs for all of us. Like nurses, therapists, teachers, there are moments of burnout when you just can’t leave. Of course we are obliged to handle our shit, considerately. Consider that your sister might be handling hers the best way she presently knows how.
    I think you are writing in because you aren’t sure what role you are supposed to play for your sister. You aren’t comfortable being the person she vents with. You feel her current status isn’t healthy for her or for her children but you aren’t sure what or how much you should say about it. You have directed her to a therapist and it didn’t seem to resolve anything.
    I don’t think you need to say anything. You don’t have to be her outlet. You don’t have to worry about how she handles her day-to-day life. You can choose to ignore text-complains and stop visiting her Facebook page. You can choose to not to hang out with her when you don’t have the energy to be a sounding board. Before you hang out you tell your sisters that you could really use a night with them that is just positive and fun. When she begins to gripe, you can tell her that it’s bringing you down and you want to keep things upbeat. Be prepared for her to stop sharing her inner details with you. You might no longer be her go-to confidante. You can decide to give that up.
    If you don’t want to give up that role and you just want to give your sister a piece of your mind, be prepared that she might not want to accept it. Especially from someone who doesn’t have any experience as a parent. Even among the most experienced care-givers, opinions vary greatly. Some people will flip the seat around for short car rides when the seat is in the middle because keeping an older toddler engaged and happy might seem to create a safer driving environment than having keeping the child facing the back of a seat. Some parents homeschool because even if it is hard and frustrating they think it makes the most financial and educational sense for their family. There are always recommendations for sleeping arrangements, feeding, preschool, etc. Most families try to make choices that are best for them. It doesn’t always come with a consensus of approval.
    If you truly want to help your sister with advice, I would focus on telling her she deserves to be happy and healthy and she doesn’t come across like she is either. Be encouraging and positive. If she wants a stark wake-up call there are better sources to get it from than you. Be a good example by knowing and applying our own limits. Don’t let yourself soak up negativity and get resentful.
    I don’t know if that is helpful, but I can’t think of anything else you can really do. Good luck with it. I hope your sister makes choices that make her happier.

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    • avatar

      keyblade January 25, 2016, 2:25 pm

      *edits

      – I’ll bet it is a *jarring (or jagged) difference..

      -She trusts you *enough to let you* see her at her unflattering times.

      – It’s hard *for a mom to admit she might be having moments she just plain doesn’t enjoy.

      – You can choose to ignore text-*complaints

      – Before you hang out, *you could tell both of your sisters that you could really use a night with them that is just positive and fun.

      – Be a good example *by knowing your limits and applying boundaries around them.

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  • avatar

    BecBoo84 January 25, 2016, 10:43 am

    LW, The only word I have for you is “compassion.” Given that you don’t have children yet, I’m sure it can be difficult to understand the dichotomy that is motherhood (I’m sure your sister loves her children to death, but they simultaneously drive her nuts). I like Wendy’s suggestion of offering babysitting services somewhat regularly (even a few hours one day a month could be a huge help). In regards to the car seat situation though, given that it’s a safety issue, I would try and bring it up tactfully. If her oldest is nine, the rear facing until two recommendation wasn’t around when she was little, so it’s possible she just doesn’t know. I know it can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s one worth having (https://mommyofanagel51313.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/why-didnt-anyone-tell-me-i-was-wrong/). As a side note, in order to be as safe as possible, kids should really be rear facing until around age 4.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover January 25, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Sometimes the “absolute safest” approach isn’t necessarily the best. My son got to the point in his rear-facing seat where he refused to go in, we had to force him, and he would proceed to scream the entire time he was in the seat. Even if it was a 2-hour drive. Is that better for him than turning him around? He was very big for his age as well, which may have been part of the issue. His knees were practically in his face. He was already well past the size that the car seat manufacturer said was allowable for front-facing. I know rear-facing was the recommended approach for him still, and I personally didn’t want to change it, but after we did he improved so much.
      .
      Also I’ve never in my life seen a carseat that enabled rear-facing till the age of 4. Unless maybe the child is very small for their age. And while the LW says that this child is 1, it makes a big difference whether he’s 12 months or 22 months, and also how big he is.

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      • avatar

        BecBoo84 January 25, 2016, 2:59 pm

        My son turns 3 next month, is at the 90% for height, and is still perfectly comfortable in his rear facing convertible car seat (which cost less than $100 on Amazon, so it’s not some high priced fancy seat). Most convertible seats should safely fit a child rear facing until 4, or close to it (the fit of their legs is irrelevant; main requirement is that there is at least one inch between the top of their head and the top of their car seat, and that they haven’t exceeded the rear facing weight limit, which is at least 40 lbs for most rear facing seats).

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      • avatar

        BecBoo84 January 25, 2016, 3:01 pm

        *Last line should read at least 40 lbs for most convertible seats

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 25, 2016, 3:05 pm

        I mean, you can say the fit of their legs is irrelevant, but in reality if it leads to them screaming the whole time, then I can’t really see how it’s irrelevant. He even threw up several times. It was basically a choice between driving distracted anytime he was in the car, or turning him around. My husband and I decided that the chances of getting in an accident were higher if we were constantly trying to calm him, or rush to where we’re going to end the screaming, so for us it was safer to turn the seat around.
        .
        I’m not saying that people should just ignore the safety recommendations willy-nilly. What I’m saying is you have to consider each specific situation, and it would be nice if there was less judgement from people who aren’t dealing with that situation.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth January 25, 2016, 10:45 am

    I do not get the obsession with pointing out the fallacy of Facebook image versus reality. I know what happens on Facebook is not always the truth and do not judge a parent by it. If you want these quiet nights in with your sister, ask for them. Tell her you will go out with her one night if she stays in with you another. Maybe she gets upset when plans are cancelled because she really needed that time to decompress. Stop judging her. Life is hard and we all have expectations we fall short of – we do not need it constantly pointed out to us. Offer her love, support, kindness and compassion. Give her some grace.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 11:15 am

      I’m going to start updating my facebook every hour to ensure that it is entirely accurate and expresses exactly what’s going on and how I’m doing. So right now I’m on break at work, drinking a Pepsi and contemplating going to the court house.

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      • avatar

        Miss MJ January 25, 2016, 11:28 am

        Good idea. I’ll go post about how I woke up late and left my coffee cup in the sink and didn’t make the bed. Probably should have taken pictures. Also, I didn’t wash my hair today. And my undies don’t match my bra.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 11:55 am

        Ahh crap, I didn’t wash my hair either, my undies never match my bra, and I think I have boogers on my pant leg (and I’m pretty sure they’re not mine).

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      • Portia

        Portia January 25, 2016, 11:29 am

        If I did that, there would be so many pictures of me knitting and watching Castle.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 25, 2016, 11:49 am

        Another DW knitter? YEAH!!!!! 🙂

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 11:57 am

        My husband crochets. Can I be part of the club? 😛 I have no artistic talent.

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        RedRoverRedRover January 25, 2016, 12:02 pm

        Lol sure! 🙂 I hope he made some little booties!!!

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      • Portia

        Portia January 25, 2016, 2:35 pm

        You can totally be part of the club! What does he crochet?

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 3:06 pm

        He does a lot of blankets (mostly for kids for the Linus Projects) and hats/mittens to donate to homeless people and low income kids. He gets almost all of his yarn for free so he only makes things to donate or give away.

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      • othy

        othy January 25, 2016, 7:53 pm

        Ooh, I want in on the DW Knitting Squad. I’m going to make the 4th Doctor’s Scarf for Othello sometime soon 🙂

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      • Portia

        Portia January 25, 2016, 2:34 pm

        🙂 I’m currently making a double knit scarf and its the most tedious project, but I keep reminding myself how warm and pretty it’s going to be. It is a pretty ideal snow day project…

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover January 25, 2016, 3:02 pm

        I have a pattern for a gorgeous double-knit blanket that I’ve wanted to do for years… but the cost of the yarn is stopping me. 🙂 Right now what I’m trying to figure out is how to make a baby-wearing poncho, but have the baby-wearing piece be removable. I figure I can do a poncho that buttons down the front, and then make a second piece that can button in if I want to wear the baby with it. I’ve just been so tired that I don’t know if I’m up to writing a pattern right now. I have the yarn and everything! But I can’t even get up the energy to knit up a gauge swatch with it, because then I know the next step will be a lot harder. 🙂

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  • muchachaenlaventana

    muchachaenlaventana January 25, 2016, 10:48 am

    This whole letter comes off as so concern trolly and like a passive aggressive call out of your sisters’s social media presence, you gives a shit what she portrays on social media. Be a good sister to her in real life, and seriously who cares what she is putting out on the facebook or instagram or whatever other app or platform. You know what is actually going on, but you also want her to post her shittiest, hardest moments on her facebook page, so everyone else knows too? Because, why….

    Just be her sister in real life and off of the internet and if it really bugs you that much, unfollow her on social media if you don’t want to see pictures of the times she actually is maybe legitimately happy, and you know, posting things for that reason.

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl January 25, 2016, 11:07 am

    LW – I think you need to take a step back and really assess what it is that is truly at the root of your frustration with your sister. After all, everyone only presents the best of their life on social media. Do you post unflattering images, daily disasters, or any of the myriad things that go wrong in your life? I doubt it, when we post pictures on instagram or give status updates on facebook, we are showing the fancy dinners we ate, the beautiful vacation we took, or the fun we are having with friends and family.

    So if you find you cannot stand that your sister’s social media presence and the reality you see don’t match, I would say hide her feed and butt out of her decisions. Only if you think she is a danger to herself or others should you push for therapy, because ultimately if she does not want to address her stresses then no amount of time with a therapist will help.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 11:11 am

    LW, I think you need to calm down. Most people (either on purpose or not) present a cleaned up version of their life on FB. The opposite are the people I end up blocking – the poor me, my life sucks, this is terrible. Yuck. Even I post a cleaned up version, though not on purpose. Everyone always comments on how the baby is *ALWAYS* so happy…. you know why? Because I generally don’t have the time or energy to take pictures when he’s melting down because I won’t let him eat the cat or when he’s up 5 times in a night because he can’t breathe through his stuffed up nose. So yeah, people think he never cries. But believe me, he does. I’m exhausted and often overwhelmed, but I don’t feel the need to post that shit all over FB!
    .
    I think you need to focus on being a better sister and a better listener. If she doesn’t want help, she’s not going to benefit from therapy. Offer your assistance for things that need to be done (cleaning, babysitting, etc). And if you have a true genuine concern, bring it up in a nice, respectful matter. For example – the carseat. Who cares what she does or doesn’t tell her doctor? In most states, its legal (if not recommended) to forward face at 1. Some states are proper use states, so if the seat manufacturer puts in their manual to rear face until 2 or until a certain height or weight, then legally speaking she should follow that but I can pretty much assure you she won’t get a ticket. But if this is something you truly care about, bring it up ONCE (not repeatedly and don’t be passive-aggressive) and offer to help her. But then let it go. Not your kid, not your decision.

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  • Portia

    Portia January 25, 2016, 11:43 am

    Funny, right now I’m in a coffee shop and they’re shooting a commercial. Talk about a curated image! It’s fascinating to see how much effort i being put into about 5 seconds of video.
    .
    But yeah, LW, give it a break. I get the feeling that you make an effort not to put up this “perfect” image on social media, but most people only put the good up. I have a lot of control over my social media and, although I don’t engineer it, I’m not going to show my dirty dishes or my pile of clothes. I think Wendy nailed it. If you’re concerned with her being overwhelmed, offer to help out, but stop being part of the judgmental chorus she has likely internalized already.

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  • avatar

    Anonymousse January 25, 2016, 11:44 am

    WWS. I’m not really understanding what the problem is. Being a mother is hard. She probably is venting to you and your other sister. Just because it’s not how you would vent, doesn’t mean it’s bad.
    I vent. I vent all the damn time. I have two kids and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s rewarding, too, sure. But it’s also often so freaking hard. I’ve said horrible things to the people I vent to. Is that my reality? No, not all the time, not even a lot of the time. But it’s also very important to me to be able to say all those things to let my stress out. It’s also important that the person listening not take anything I say literally and not judge me for it. And my Facebook page? Cute pictures of my kids and my family p, because that’s what my relatives want, and as honeybee says, when my kids are screaming or throwin poop at my husband, I’m not pulling out a camera.
    Stop judging. Start supporting. And a healthy measure of compassion for the people around you and all their flaws would do you well.

    And about the forward facing car seat…what was she supposed to tell her therapist about that? And how do you know what she tells her doctors?
    For the record, my 19 month old is insanely tall, and although I do have him crammed into a rear facing seat, I wish I didn’t. Luckily, he doesn’t know what it means to be comfortable in a car. I’m counting the days to have him forward facing.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 11:56 am

      I wondered how she knows what’s being told to Drs too… although I thought she meant that her sister told her kid’s doctor that he was still rear faced? I dunno. We’re going to RF until 2 but probably no longer even though I have a tiny little barely-in-the-15th percentile baby.

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      • avatar

        keyblade January 25, 2016, 12:05 pm

        We were told to keep our kids rear-facing as long as possible with the car seats weight limit, even past two if we could because its the safest position possible. I know a mom with an almost two year old (who is big enough to be wearing 3T clothes) who does forward facing in her large crossover with the car seat in the middle so that she can comfort and soothe her tot during drives. We don’t live in a big city or high traffic area. She made a judgment call.

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        Anonymousse January 25, 2016, 12:21 pm

        I just put him in 2T and they just fit. I have a giant son!

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 12:56 pm

        They say 2-4 years old, but after 2 it is perfectly safe since its about bone development, not size 🙂 Unless he somehow really likes rear facing, we’ll probably turn him at 2 since its safe.

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      • avatar

        Anonymousse January 25, 2016, 12:36 pm

        During his last appointment my son was over the 100th percentile for height.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 12:58 pm

        Wow! We’re around 13-15 for height weight and head, which is bigger than 5-7 he was at 4 months.

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      • avatar

        Anonymousse January 25, 2016, 1:46 pm

        It’s my husband’s side of the family. They are all 6′ or above.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 25, 2016, 2:29 pm

        We picked a tall donor hoping that he would be tall, but so far that’s not happening. But we have lots of time. I was on the upper side of the percentiles for height as a kid but am now a whopping 5’1″ 😉

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      • Lady_Red

        Lady_Red January 25, 2016, 3:36 pm

        My kid was under the 10th percentile his whole first year, but he just had his 15 month check up, and he’s almost 50%! And I can’t wait to turn his car seat around! It’ll be so nice to have some leg room in the front seat again.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh January 25, 2016, 12:06 pm

    I think you need to figure out what is actually concerning here and what is just fluff. Social media, fluff. Feeling overwhelmed, real issue.

    It’s sad that she feels so much guilt about sending her youngest to pre-school. Is someone judging her for that? You mention that her husband works from home, it sounds like she’s a stay at home Mom. What kind of support does she have in the home? I will say also that I do understand her being frustrated with finding childcare for three kids and then having the plans be cancelled. I would learn to be a little more compassionate in that situation.

    I would say take a step back, go over to her house, bring a cup of coffee and some lunch. Talk to her and be frank. I’m not sure what kind of relationship you guys have. But, with my sister I would just say look how is life going right now? And then just listen. Maybe even having a chance to vent would make her able to articulate what she needs better. And maybe once you understand how she’s feeling you’ll be able to be more compassionate to her situation.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster January 25, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I really, really loved this advice, Wendy. The whole tone of the letter made me increasingly uncomfortable. Sometimes, LW, the advice you need isn’t the advice you want. I bet your sister could really, really use some compassionate support from you and I hope you take Wendy’s advice to heart.

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  • avatar

    judge sheryl January 25, 2016, 12:34 pm

    This lw infuriates me… Probably because it hits a little close to home. I’m super stressed with little ones right now, and have been known to be unhappy and frustrated from time to time, but I am very happy with the ‘big picture’— and I have an awesome sister who lets me vent, doesn’t judge, and helps out when I really need her.

    Also, my Facebook (only) friends know none of this. Smiling pictures are all they get. And that is all I see in my feed from others, because you know what? Chronic complainers get blocked- I don’t need that crap, too.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph January 25, 2016, 1:02 pm

    I wonder if the issue is that the LW only had the sister’s FB version of life to go off of before she moved closer, and now the LW is shocked by the disparity between FB and real life.
    If that’s the case, she needs a news flash: everyone portrays a sanitized version of their life on FB. Everyone posts the picture of the prettiest pancake, but not the extra brown one they pulled off the griddle a few minutes later, or a pic of their house after it’s been vacuumed, or posts about how happy they are on their anniversary without mentioning the huge fight they had about dishes 2 weeks ago. I’m sure if the LW were to think about it, she’d realize she wasn’t being totally honest with fb either in some respects, because really our casual acquaintances and old HS buds don’t get to hear the nitty gritty of our lives.
    That is reserved for best friends– the ones who have the HONOR of being recipients of our vents, our sounding boards, and the people we turn to for advice. You, LW, know the grim realities of your sister’s life because she chooses to share them with you, to let you in past the upbeat facebook exterior into reality. Listen when she vents, and respond with encouragement not criticism or advice (unless specifically asked for advice). And, as Wendy says, offer to babysit every once in awhile. Maybe if you spend a couple hours dealing with her three little ones, you’ll have a bit more compassion.

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy January 25, 2016, 2:03 pm

    First of all, little sister, I am going to guess you don’t have kids. Otherwise, you would know when to shut your fucking pie hole about your sisters parenting skills. Two years may be the recommendation on forward facing (it wasn’t always!), but there are plenty of folks, myself included, who faced them front early. People have their own reasons for doing things the way they do, and it’s not your place to judge- which clearly you do often.
    *
    Her kids think she is mean? Awwww, let’s call child services! Please. She gets mad when her plans get cancelled and she has to stay home? Shit, me too! Moms look forward to that break! She wants to have fun when she is with you, and you just want to sit around in silence and drink wine? No shit she wants more excitement, she is sitting around her own home all day, schooling kids and taking care of a toddler. She posts only nice, positive things about her family on Facebook? Great!! I get sick of people who air all their dirty laundry and fish for sympathy online! Do you think I post every fight I have with my husband or bitch about my kids?? No way! It’s called being civilized, not acting like a big attention whore.
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    You want to help your sister? Offer to babysit. Arrange for a sitter and take her to a restaurant. Go pick up her snow bound kids. Hell, I would be losing my mind in her place! We can’t all sit by the fire and drink wine during a storm. HELP her. Because right now, all it seems like you are doing is judging her- and it makes you come off as the one who needs to seek therapy…

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  • avatar

    Dovies January 25, 2016, 3:36 pm

    Neither of my children were rear facing after the first year or so, maybe even 6 months. Not sure who came up with that but I’ve never even seen a rear facing car seat for a toddler. I guess I’m a bad mom.

    I’ve also hated being a mother from time to time, especially When mine were young and I suffered from post-partum. I sure didn’t post my struggles to social media; strangers didn’t need to know my issues then any more than they need to know them now. My life looks pretty damn good on the surface but I’ve got my problems and issues like anyone else. I just choose not to blurt them to all and sundry. I guess that makes me in need of therapy.

    Or perhaps, perhaps instead of being a bad mom or in need of therapy, I’m normal. Perhaps it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at certain stages of parenthood. Perhaps it’s normal to just not enjoy motherhood from time to time. Perhaps not wanting to invite strangers in to look at ones dirty laundry is acceptable. Perhaps keeping my venting to the people I feel closest to in the world is ok.
    Personally, I think LW needs to examine why she’s judging her sister quite so harshly.

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  • BlueKate

    BlueKate January 25, 2016, 3:52 pm

    I think she’s doing great not venting out stupid frustrations on FB. Not everyone wants to live the twitter style life, where every gripe/fight/perfect espresso end on their wall or feed. I didn’t catch if the mom works, but having 3 kids, one of which is a baby, and then a work-from-home husband has to be hard. She probably has 0 downtime to herself. So if she wants to be able to control something as small as her FB persona, then why not?

    LW has a lot of growing up to do.

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  • avatar

    Ron January 25, 2016, 4:24 pm

    I suspect little sister is a tad jealous/resentful, because her parents have been holding up oldest sister’s FB life to her as an example of success she hasn’t achieved. Now she learns that the FB life wasn’t real and she got all that grief from her parents over a charade and she feels harmed by big sister’s false persona.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ January 25, 2016, 5:06 pm

    The thing that stands out to me every time I read this letter is that most amongst the LW’s litany of complaints about how her sister is a bad mom and failing at life, she includes that the sister’s therapist told her she was…wait for it, fine!!! and the LW just cannot accept that. The therapist told your sister, she’s fine, LW, because she is. Normal people who are doing fine people don’t word vomit their dirty laundry on Facebook. Normal people who are doing fine can love their three kids – ages 9, 1 and somewhere in between – and their spouse and yet still get fed up and vent and snap at times. Normal people who are doing fine even want to get out of the house on occasion! Congratulations, LW, you have a totally normal sister who is doing just fine. Her therapist said so. And so has the DW community, at least based on what you’ve written.
    .
    So, now you can relax, take a deep breath, and stop letting your totally fine sister’s life “stress you out.” And, if you can’t, if hearing her vent is really stressing you out that much, then you should very nicely ask her to stop confiding in you because adding her issues to your own is more than you can handle at this point in time. And – and this is in no way sarcasm or mockery, it is a very sincere suggestion – you might want to speak with a therapist about how to deal with family and set boundaries so that you are able to put other people’s routine life events into context and they don’t add to your emotional load.

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  • avatar

    WhatKatyDid January 25, 2016, 5:42 pm

    LW …your sister just sounds stressed out….you said its hard for you to see her unhappy and working so hard to make her life perfect. Then help her out!!!! How are you concretely trying to help her out??? By listing what’s wrong with her?? A sister would do exactly the things wendy has mentioned…offer to babysit…bring her cooked food …take her out for some fun time at least half the times that you guys meet up. Are you jealous of her FB posts??? That’s quite natural, its only human to be jealous…you can either ignore the posts or again be a sister on FB….give her the validation she needs through likes or comments. Its totally fine to ignore the posts too since you anyways communicate with her on a much more intimate level. the FB stuff doesnt really matter…I dont think you are her intended FB audience…its probably friends and acquaintances who know her superficially.
    Don’t judge, be there for her as much as you can, help her out by doing stuff for her. You don’t have to advise her on how to parent her kids, that’s her job. Don’t worry about what expectations she sets for herself and her family..not really your business. Family should be there to support.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros January 25, 2016, 7:02 pm

    I honestly didn’t understand what the second paragraph meant. and to me, if the situation you’re describing cannot be understood, it’s probably something too petty to matter.

    Wendy is wiser than me, because all I would have said was, OK? Because you do sound like you want advice on how to make your sister do things how you think she should do them, but it’s not really your business. And if you find her so exhausting, that should be good news that you aren’t expected to pay attention to every little thing she does. But because Wendy is wiser, she gave great advice on how to be a good sister.

    The Facebook thing, though a small bit of your letter was a good thing for Wendy to pull out for the headline. Because it seems rather unrelated to the matter at hand, which makes me think that it’s a bigger deal to you that she pretends to be perfect when she isn’t. But I really am not a fan of that criticism of social media, because what do people expect? I would never be Facebook friends with people who complained all the time. I think instead of shaming people who post happy, positive things and keep their private lives private, we should all acknowledge that there is more to people’s lives than what they post of Facebook and move on. Your sister’s portrayal of her life doesn’t have any bearing on your life. If you are worried that her life looks better than yours, you may want to take a break from social media.

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  • avatar

    Sabrina January 25, 2016, 10:13 pm

    LW send your sis a link like this: http://www.parenting.com/article/car-seats-safety
    Or talk to her about the car seat thing, if you haven’t yet. Talk to her clearly and confidently but also listen. If she’s really doing something terrible or unsafe you can call the police but you can’t force her so you might as well be as kind and persuasive as possible. I would leave the other stuff alone, tell yourself it’s not your problems to solve. Except when you’re hanging out. If she’s ruining the hangout by acting totally out of line say something, in a nice way. Also look at how you are acting (check yourself, just in case) and consider her expectations for the hang out. Only read this once but if she wants a fancy hang out and arranged a caregiver, why not get fancy with her, on a budget if need be. Take some dolled up pics for all of your facebooks!

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    • avatar

      saneinca January 25, 2016, 11:49 pm

      Try putting a baby in a rear facing seat after 1 year. Almost all the kids I know resist it like crazy. In fact I don’t know any kids who are seated that way after that age. Moms don’t really have any options if they want to drive anywhere without a crying baby in the backseat.

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      • avatar

        Sabrina January 26, 2016, 10:19 pm

        Weve never had this problem for 3 kids actually. We used the diono radian seats. You do have to remove their shoes to not get the seat dirty, which gets old . Also the front seats have less room but whatever , safety first (Including if your kid is too noisy for it to be safe rear facing )

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      • avatar

        saneinca January 26, 2016, 10:31 pm

        God – of course never front seats. I meant back of car but facing baby seat towards front.

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      • avatar

        saneinca January 27, 2016, 4:48 am

        And that is what is criticized in the post. May be you did not read it fully but no one mentioned front seats

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      • avatar

        keyblade January 27, 2016, 6:53 am

        I think she meant the adults have to move their front seats forward more if they have a rear-facing car seat in the row behind them.

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      • avatar

        Sabrina January 27, 2016, 10:04 pm

        Yep that’s what I meant! Sorry to be unclear.

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