Disappointed in Adult Siblings

Updated on August 21, 2012
K.S. asks from Littleton, CO
9 answers

I have two sisters and one brother. My parents live near me and my brother, but the two sisters live on the east coast. I see my parents fairly regularly, my brother only a few times a year (he lives 10 minutes away, pathetic). So both sisters just came out for a visit and we were all together a lot. I seriously feel depressed now that they are gone. Not because I miss them, but because of how difficult the relationship has become between all of us. We are all in our early 40s, but I don't feel like anyone acts like adults yet. For example, both sisters say 'who can I stay with, we don't want to pay for a hotel'. And 'we could rent a car, but it seems silly to pay for that'. I feel like the rest of that sentence is 'it seems silly to pay for that when we can just use everyone else's car, gas, time, etc.' This was the theme of the week. The biggest frustration for me is that I feel like everyone takes advantage of my parents. They are older and don't have money. But everyone expects a ride from them, babysitting, dog watching, and on and on. It seems that my parents work for my siblings, some more than others.

I am certainly not perfect. I get wrapped up in my own world as well, and I can be difficult to get along with. But I feel like it is high time that we transition from taking from my parents to doing for my parents, and I am tired of being the only one. Again, not perfect. My parents have a million quirks that drive me nuts and I have been snippy with them at times. But we take them to church, out to dinner, museums, etc. Nothing to gain from them, just things we think they would like to do. I can't think of the last time my siblings did anything like that. My brother wanted a carnival theme for his DD's birthday, and my parents said "I think so-and-so has some carnival games that might work". My brother said 'why don't you find out and pick those up for us, they need to be here the night before'. And then once the party was over- you guessed it- 'you guys can pick these up tomorrow to take back'. Are you kidding me? It makes me want to scream.

I've tried before mentioning to my parents that they need to enforce some boundaries and not be taken advantage of. But I've found that it stresses my mom out to think that her kids aren't getting along. Plus, I realize that it really isn't my business. I do realize this, despite this post! I don't suppose that I can change any of them. I guess what I'm asking is do any of you have this kind of imbalance in your families? How do you handle siblings who take more than they give? These aren't terrible people we are talking about. Selfish and unaware, yes. They aren't bleeding my parents dry. I don't want to feel like a martyr, and believe me, I'm not qualified! I spend a lot of time trying to be more understanding of the folks' quirks and treat them nicer.

Like I said, my mom is stressed at the thought of kids who don't get along. But at the moment, it is their doormat attitude that is causing the rift. I'm just not sure how to live with this feeling of resentment. I hope someone can relate! Thanks for sharing...

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So What Happened?

Thanks so far- especially Hazel and Purple Mom. I guess that is what I need to hear, that my parents are not seeming to feel burdened, they like to help and feel needed. So yes, I need to be reminded that this is 'my' stuff. But I appreciate the non-snarky replies! I haven't mastered the art of the loving confrontation so I'm taking notes! I'm also hoping to not feel alone in this, so others' struggles are always helpful, to see how others deal. Plus, I'm just feeling sad about the state of our relationships. And to be clear, I don't see my brother much because he has no use for me. He only sees people that can offer him something. He sees my parents plenty when they babysit, drop this off for him or pick that up, etc. And my sisters are mostly just taking advantage when they visit, once or twice a year. Like sending shopping lists of things that they 'require' during their visits (diapers, snapple, this brand or that brand, etc.) Thanks everyone, keep 'em coming!

More Answers



answers from Portland on

Just one observation, K.... if you are shouldering the emotional burden of your sibs not getting along, your parents don't really have to address it with them. You are getting mad FOR them and then they get to be in the 'helpless to change it' role.

Do they really feel that way? And are you voicing your disgust at their asking to stay with family/get rides to your folks or sibs? I would keep a lid on that.

As someone who has seen a lot of convoluted family dynamics, I've learned to make my own boundaries that I can live with, and let others do the same. I won't do it for them. I have watched one sibling rely on my folks to the detriment of my folks, and while other sibs got frustrated with that sib, I just reminded myself that while it was appalling, it was *their* stuff, not mine. Your parents are capable of telling your brother "oh, no, we won't be able to get the party stuff"... they choose not to. That's *their* stuff. Don't take it on. There's nothing progressive that will come from it. Just know in your own heart that you are doing for your parents as YOU feel you should and let that be your guide.

(I just have to add: are your parents asking the sisters what they need before they come, or are the sisters demanding this with their shopping lists? My in-laws were very sweet and did ask us what we needed when we visited; we paid them back for the groceries and then made sure that we did a shopping trip with them, picking up our own baby items and food for all of us for the next several meals. So they were different scenarios....)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

K., I feel sorry for you. What's going to happen in the coming years is that you will end up being your parents' caretaker. Your sisters will never come help, your brother will only want to come over and dictate to you what you should be doing, and then when your parents die, your brother will come empty the house of everything he wants. Goodness knows what will happen with the little bit of money they have.

This sounds awful, but I'm going to say it anyway. When it comes to the point that you have to take care of them, charge them a caretaking fee per week. It will not hurt THEM. It will take money out of your selfish sibling's hands once your parents die. When your siblings cry foul, ignore them. You will need to get your parents to sign medical and financial powers of attorney to YOU before your jerk of a brother does it. If you don't, he'll start draining their bank account for any excuse he can find.

I really mean this. Bide your time, and when you start seeing them struggle some, bring the powers of attorney and tell them you want them to sign them so that you can take care of them later when they need it.

Good luck,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Sibling rivalry. We see what our siblings are doing, we don't like it, can't control it, and it pisses us off. So we complain to mom. Who doesn't see the problem.

My girls do this to me daily, all three of them, and I know they're going to do this when they're adults.

My kid brother, who is 28, takes major advantage of my mother. He behaves like he's in middle school sometimes and she coddles him and gives him money and does things for him that she won't do for me or my other brother. And he's been married going on three years. It drives me NUTS. I know it drives my other brother nuts. My mom won't stop, because he's her baby. And really, she shouldn't. What should stop is how ungrateful my kid brother is, and how entitled he feels about what she does for him.

Honestly, when I need help she gives it to me too, just in different ways. She does help my other brother too. I just have to take off the Sibling Rivalry Glasses to notice what my parents do for us and ignore what they do for my siblings. When my parents are inconvenienced, they say so. We know not to push them.

EDIT: I also should add that we help my parents out when we can too. We don't behave in an ungrateful manner.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My guess is that because they are traveling from out of town, they may feel entitled to some special treatment. I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that...unless it goes too far, or takes too much without giving anything back. Sending shopping lists for personal things IS going too far in my opinion. Perhaps you feel you do a lot for your parents, and it's insulting when they seemingly waltz in and expect to be taken care of also? I would say find an honest, straightforward and non-confrontational way to speak with your siblings and ask for what you want from them. Many times, if we try to see others as basically decent human beings, and we speak to them from that place, we can help transform things for the better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If your sisters live on the east coast, I hardly think they're asking your parents for rides, babysitting and dog watching on a regular basis. That must be you and your brother. If so, then just stop asking. You can't make your brother stop, but your parents are perfectly able to say no.

I hate to tell you, but it is like this in most families - at least the ones I know. Kids, no matter their age, depend on their parents. How many posts have you read that state that a person's mother or MIL watches their kids for them while they work? And I bet none of them are paying their parents because parents are not usually looking to be compensated.

We love our kids - young and old - and we are always trying to help them, no matter how old they are. You will understand the dynamic better when your children are adults. You will still see them as your kids and want to do as much for them as possible even though they are grown adults.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Um, no, it is not your parents attitude that is causing the rift, pretty sure that is you. I have adult children, if they flew in I would not expect them to rent a car, I would expect they would stay here. That is actually normal parental responses to kids visiting.

You on the other hand seem very, and frankly irrationally, jealous of them.

You keep saying your mom is stressed because you don't get along. Why don't you try to own your part in that?

Sorry if this isn't what you want to hear but I have four kids, if one of mine just said what you did I would lay it all on your doorstep.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

You sound like my family - in fact, at first I thot it was one of my sisters writing this! I also have two sisters and one brother. In spite of having my own family, I was the one always there for my parents but never once took advantage of them. Then the last several years of my parents lives, my two sisters finally started giving them a little more attention. My brother, on the other hand, is in his own little world down in Florida; doesn't really have much use for his family up here in Ohio.

I'm confused as to who is taking advantage of your parents? If you say your brother is close but never visits and your two sisters aren't there, doesn't that leave just YOU? Or are you talking about neighbors and/or friends? Maybe your parents enjoy doing things for other people? Maybe it's a way for them to keep busy?

You say you've spoken to your parents - that's about all you can do in regard to them. Maybe talk to your brother and sisters? If that all fails, I would just be there for your parents and do what you can for them. They're adults and can make their own decisions as to how to handle their children.

As for a rental car, I would definitely let people stay with me instead of a hotel, but it would give my guests much more freedom if they had a rental car instead of relying on rides while visiting.

Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Well, I am going back to see my family in a few weeks and I'm not renting a car or staying in a hotel.... but my family would be completely offended if I didn't stay with them and since I'm there for a family visit, there's not a huge need for me to rent a car.

Your brother sounds pretty inconsiderate and entitled. But if he's been allowed by your parents to use them for what he needs then why would he be any different. Are they bothered by it?

In terms of your sisters... I think it's always hard when family is spread apart like this. You are close and see all of the things that your parents need and things that they like. They fly in for a few days and don't have any idea of the day to day stuff that that goes on. They have no idea how much you do for and with your parents. And it may be quite a different world for them when they visit. Was everyone happy to be together?

I have found with my own siblings that some of us have grown closer as we get older and others barely speak. There's not a lot of animosity, there just isn't a lot in common and life gets busy. When we get together we usually have a good time seeing each other though.

My mother and father in-law have done a lot for a few of my siblings and for my FIL's kids. They did it because they wanted to help, however if their help wasn't appreciated (or money wasn't paid back if someone said they would) that person sort of burned their bridges. So I guess, though it might make you nuts, they may not be troubled by it. And if they are they need to speak up about it. Maybe they give more to your brother because they think he needs more and they worry about him. That has been the case with my parents.

You can't control what people do think or say, K.. You just have to do your best with the right intention and let the rest go sometimes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I have always been raised with the notion that if company comes, no matter who they are, they are to stay at your house, in your best room, and you are to feed them and if need be drive them around. They may be able to afford it, but they have taken time out of their schedule to travel to visit and shouldn't be burdened with the responsibility of hotels and rental car expenses, unless they choose to.
I am sure that your parents thoroughly enjoy everything you do for them and with them. Just as much as they enjoy every moment they get from your siblings. It may not be the same relationship you have with them, but at least they get a relationship and that is what they are thinking. There may be a lot happening via telephone calls, emails, letters, visits, that you don't know about as well.
What you need to do is to pray or find your inner calm and let it go. Be the best daughter and sister you can for your family and enjoy and be grateful for the returns you get and not worry about them. They will have to answer for how they are.

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