Can't measure up to the "cool" aunt

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Registered: 09-08-1999
Can't measure up to the "cool" aunt
Thu, 06-01-2006 - 7:43am

Good morning and happy June!!

What do you do when your seven-year-old makes it abundantly clear that you don't hold a candle to her "cool" aunt? When she constantly draws comparisons between her and me and I always come up short? I used to shrug it off, but it happens so often now that I'm starting to take it personally and feel hurt.

My SIL's life often does appear to be too perfect. I love her dearly but there are times I feel a little envious at how easy she makes it look. She quit her job after having her first, easily had her second and is now expecting twins. She dresses her two little girls impeccably (although she has a nauseating tendency to dress them -- and herself -- alike). She's constantly on the run taking them to school, dance lessons, gymnastics, Daisy scouts, t-ball. She's a very active member of the PTA...never misses a meeting, volunteers for every PTA event. Naturally she's also a class mother. She puts together goody bags for her daughters' classmates for Halloween and Easter. She throws pumpkin carving parties after school for them. She has freshly-baked cookies made from scratch for her daughters and their friends when they go to her house for playdates. She never forgets a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion and always has a card and gift perfectly wrapped well ahead of time.

And she still finds time to work out, clean the house and cook elaborate meals. Her husband earns well over six figures, so she has plenty of disposable income to buy her kids designer clothes and shoes, elaborate gifts and every toy she can cram into her SUV.

By contrast, I continued working full time after my DD was born because at the time DH & I couldn't afford my staying home. Eventually I switched to part-time work and took the requisite pay cut. Now I'm running my own home-based business, which is still fairly new and not yet profitable. My DH works for the town and makes a decent salary, and we're not necessarily hurting for cash. But we can't afford elaborate gifts, I shop for DD's clothes on sale and only splurge on her during the holidays and her birthday. My business takes up all of my time...I work like a dog during the day so I can take a break to pick up DD from school and spend time with her in the afternoon and evening, only to resume working after she goes to bed. I help her with homework and read to her, and lately I've been taking taekwando classes with her.

DH and I had a terrible time trying to conceive a second child. After nearly four years, during which we suffered two miscarriages and a failed IVF attempt, we gave up.

But I don't have time to clean the house or work out. I don't have time to cook elaborate meals. In fact, I hate cooking and usually throw something together in 30 minutes or less. It's uninspiring, but it's healthy and my family eats it without complaint. I volunteer in DD's class once a week but have no time beyond that. I'm a member of the PTA but have yet to attend a meeting or help out with an event.

Birthdays? Anniversaries? They're marked on my calendar, but somehow I'm always scrambling at the last minute for a card and gift, which I throw into a gift bag. I can't tell you how many times I've had to send a "sorry I missed your birthday" card.

I know there's a dark underside to my SIL's life; I know she has to be exhausted and frazzled but is determined not to show it. But DD doesn't see that. She sees a cool aunt who's perfect in every way.

Some of the questions my DD has posed recently:

How come Aunt R gets to have all the babies and you don't?
How come you never bake cookies for me? Aunt R does it all the time.
How come I don't have nice clothes like _____ and _____ (her cousins)?
Why don't you ever help in school like Aunt R does?
I love Aunt R's cooking. How come you don't cook like that?
Aunt R is really cool. I can't wait to sleep over again.
Can we go to Aunt R's house today? I like her house better.

That's just a sample.

So what do I do? I can't rip Aunt R apart because in many ways DD is right. But it makes me feel so inadequate and I find I'm tripping all over myself to win DD over. I feel as if I'm constantly in the shadow of my SIL and I'll never measure up. I've tried expressing my feelings to DH, who simply shrugs it off and says, "Honey, she's a kid. Every kid thinks their friends' mom is better than their own."

He's got a point because I remember feeling the same way at DD's age. But I certainly don't remember hitting my mother over the head repeatedly about it.

Am I overreacting here? Should I just wait it out? Should I say something to DD to the effect that I'm feeling hurt? This is one I have absolutely no idea how to deal with.



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Registered: 08-31-2004
Fri, 06-02-2006 - 10:50pm

Soni, I have been thinking about your situation on and off all day and first of all I'm so sorry you have to deal with this hurtful behavior. The kind of things you are hearing from your daughter would just really kill me.

The only thing I can think of is to sit down with her and explain to her that she is hurting your feelings, and making you feel jealous and badly toward your sister-in-law.

I think I would be pretty succint about it. At age seven, she is capable of knowing that her words have power - the power to hurt others or the power to make them feel better.

I might say something to her such as, "I have been noticing lately that you seem to wish that I was more like Aunt R. I have to tell you that I am so glad that you have such a terrific Aunt and I am so glad that you have such a good relationship with her. She is a great person and I love her dearly. But you must understand that I am NOT Aunt R., nor will I become Aunt R. nor will I ever TRY to become Aunt R. I am my own person and just the way that God intended for me to be, just like Aunt R. is just the way that she is supposed to be. When you say things to me, like 'why can't you be more like Aunt R.' it hurts my feelings. Not only does it hurt my feelings, but it makes me feel badly toward Aunt R. It makes me almost not want to spend time with her. So I do not want to hear any more of your opinions about how I should be more like Aunt R, or that Aunt R's life is better then ours. You are not allowed to hurt my feelings that way."

And then, I might say something like, "Now, if Aunt R is doing something that you think might be fun for our family to do together, then by all means, suggest it! I want to do fun things too when I can. But I want you to say it like this: "Last week Aunt R. was baking cookies. Do you think maybe sometime we could do that too? It looked like a lot of fun.' Do you see how that is not hurtful for me to hear? You are not saying, "Man, I sure wish you were more like Aunt R - she bakes cookies!" Do you hear how that IS hurtful? When you ask me if we can do something fun that Aunt R does, I will do my best to try to schedule a time that we can do it. But remember this: I am NOT Aunt R and I don't appreciate your treating me like I am not as good as she is."

You obviously don't have to include the religious reference if it doesn't fit with your beliefs - that is just how I would word it. But the more I think about this, the more I think that it is like any other negative behavior that must be nipped in the bud. You wouldn't put up with her treating other people that way - why put up with it just because it is directed at you?

Just my .02!

Susan :)

Avatar for nlas99
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Registered: 03-27-2003
Sat, 06-03-2006 - 12:51pm

I've been thinking about this one, too, for a while. I do agree with Susan, just sit her down and have a heart-to-heart with her.

I had a similar situation with my DD, only she was comparing me with her dad. When DD would go visit him she would have the best times, he made a lot of money and would shower her with gifts, neat trips, and days on his new boat. (You get the idea...) Meanwhile, we were sharing a one bedroom apartment and barely making it. (Don't ask, re:support, he was self employed and was very good at hiding was a struggle for years...)

Anyway, it was always daddy this, daddy that. I don't think she was doing it to be mean and she certainly didn't realize how much it hurt, so I finally had to have a talk with her.

Things were much better after that.

You brought up a very valid point, your SIL is hurting and is trying to fill that hole, which if you are a Christian you realize is a God-sized hole that only HE can fill. She needs compassion and prayer.

Meanwhile, make the best of the time you have with your daughter. Make sure you are focused on HER and not trying to do other things when you are together. Make special dates for baking or doing hair and nails, or going somewhere she likes to go. She will remember these times forever, and if you don't you will have lost those opportunities forever.

Take care.


PS: I also wanted to add, it sounds like your daughter is struggling with envy and comparing her life to others and she finds her life isn't adding up. Maybe she needs a lesson on how damaging envy and comparing can be. Just a thought.

Edited 6/3/2006 12:54 pm ET by nlas99
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Registered: 06-20-2000
Sat, 06-03-2006 - 4:25pm

I agree fully with the other two - but also wanted to add something that seems (IMO) sorely lacking lately, at least in our town. Empathy.
Here's a chance to very simply say "How would that make YOU feel?" Very easy thing to ask & discuss, but for some reason, very few parents of our generation ask their kids to step into someone else's shoes. And it's a very valuable thing to do.

She needs to be aware the effect she can have on others, she's old enough to learn responsibility for what she says & does.

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Registered: 04-15-2006
Mon, 06-05-2006 - 1:20pm
Soni, I really feel for you, you're SIL sounds like super-woman! I agree you and your daughter should have a chat, probably the next time she does this to you, so you can use the situation at hand as a reference to her show her how the way she phrased the question hurt you and then help her to refrase it so she can get her point accross in a more acceptable way. Keep it short and not too long winded, I find at this age a 15 minute lecture goes in one ear and out the next and try to offer a solution or ask your daughter to come up with a solution that would be acceptable to you both. It's hard not to be envious, when you see some one close to you with so much more and at this age children have no concept of money and what things cost.
I had a similar problem when my husband and I split up, money was tighter so the things we used to do so often couldn't happen cause the bills had to be paid. Here are some of the things I did that help me save face in front of the kids without breaking the bank.
Clothes - Ebay - There are a lot of popular brand name clothes going on ebay for a fraction of the cost either new or barely used, I remember I was able to get a complete summer wardrobe for my daughter for about $50- with names like Gap, Old Navy, Gymboree etc. I told my daughter this was an online shop, let her look at the pictures and pick which she liked best and then bid on them and she was thrilled when they arrived. This worked till she was about 10 and her body shape started changing and then it was best to go to a store to make sure she was getting the right fit but up until then you can take her measurements and ask the seller the measurements of the clothes before you bid.
Birthday/Christmas cards I did the same thing, Ebay. People sell bunches of cards for one set price, I'd buy them at the begining of the year, have my kids pick out the best one to send to each person, wrote them out and kept them in a box with each bithday in the correct month and at the begining of the month would send the whole lot for that month out, some people would get theirs early some on time, but then I could forget about it for another month lol!It was like paying a bill each month.
After school - You say you set after school and evening until she goes to bed for time to be with her. Why don't the 2 of you sit down and make a box of "to do's" together. We have ours laminated on 4x6 cards with things like "Bake cookies" "Painting project", "Paper Mache" "Go to a movie" "Swim" Decorate house for.... (Christmas,Easter etc)" or anything that she likes to do and have her pick out the cards for the week on Sunday night or the night before if you want to do day by day. We have a rule that things that cost money can only be once every 2 weeks or once a month , whatever your budget allows but my kids then get to pick a project a day. I go on recipe web sites and find recipes that don't take a lot of ingrediants and are quick to make, that the kids are able to complete with my supervision themselves. I also find that if you allow a friend to come over and do this with you, the kids enjoy it even more. My kids say that their friends think I'm cool for doing this stuff and they like to come over to do it too (peer pressure, nothing worse than having uncool parents lol!) I like to do that because you get in some great conversations with the kids and probably learn a lot more about whats going on in your kids lives by listening to them talk with their friends. Most of the time the projects last an hour of quality time with your kids before their attention span wanders, but the fact that they get to pick the project and have your undivided attention for that time really seems to work.
Dinner - What a nightmare, who has time to cook any more, I'm always eating on the run, but saying that,a real life saver to me is my crock pot. You can cook some pretty fancy meals in it. Throw the ingrediants in, leave it all day and then just steam some vegtables or make a quick salad to accompany it. How about having her help you in the kitchen, chopping vegtables, laying the table. I have lots of recipes or craft projects I can give you if you need some ideas, just email me from the address in my profile.
Housework - I do as I can, the rule in my house is the kids must pick up their toys, books, etc by dinner time. Clothes must be in the hamper if they want to be washed, I do a chore a day, Laundry Saturday, vaccum Sunday, wash floors Monday etc, if I get time to do it more than once a week the great if not, what can you do? There are only so many hours in the week.
PTA and meetings - I never belonged to them as I didn't have the time with my work schedule to attend, what I did was become the craft lady in my childs class. I would do a craft every major holiday season. I would organise it by ordering stuff off of oriental trading or by gathering milk bottles to paper mache etc. If we needed donations to pay for the craft I would let the teacher know so the kids could bring in a couple of dollars to help out. Every christmas i would make mini gingerbread houses and the kids would collect candy and we would have a decorating party. (gosh am I sounding like the SIL here, sorry don't mean to) But that ment a guarenteed 5 times a year helping out in the class that was fun. I make a point of being one of the drivers on the school trips that they go on 3-4 times a year and if any more time allows I will help out in class when I can. It's not every week but the kids appreciate the times that I am there because it is always fun times and again it was their Mum that was doing the fun things for the class.
Now this may sound like your sister in law but, the projects are an hour after school or so each night, then dinner and everyday stuff takes over. the most time taken is getting it started, taking the time to write 30 cards out in the begining of January etc. My day is crammed,but I find the time doing the things with the kids relaxing. The only other thing is a only let them do one out side activity a week, whether it be dance, gymnastics, swim club etc, any more than that and your after school hours before bedtime seem to be taken up with driving to and from the activity, waiting while they complete activity and then a rush to get home ,cook the quickest thing possible and then it's time for bed, at least it is for me, you have to drive every where where I live.
Yikes sorry for such a long post. I hope it doesn't come off as a life like SIL, but what it boils down to is maybe 1 1/2 hours of quality time with the kids each night after school, 5 craft days at school, 3-4 school trips and the odd helping out at school whenever possible, cutting the cost of things by shopping on ebay and writting my birthday and christmas cards in one day at the begining of the year. These sugestions may not be helpful to you at all with your own schedule, but hopefully it may give you some ideas that will work ;-) jo.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Mon, 06-05-2006 - 2:03pm

Those are some TERRIFIC organizational ideas!

Thanks for sharing!


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2006
Mon, 06-05-2006 - 4:38pm
Thank you Susan, I hope to post again soon.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sat, 06-24-2006 - 3:11pm

Hi, JO. I just realized my post never registered and it was pages long! UG!!

Now that I am back, I am relizing also that you are going through a divorce. I think that could be some of her problem. She's just needing time to adjust.

HUGS!! How are things going now???


A proud mommy

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