It was National Siblings Day last week. Of course it was – it seems everyone and everything has a ‘day’ now. Surely I can’t have been the only one to roll my eyes at National Unicorn Day (you’re going to tell me it has roots in a charity now, aren’t you and I’m going to feel like a VERY BAD PERSON.)
But perhaps controversially, National Siblings Day made me do a little eye roll too. Hang on, what kind of person could possibly have an issue with siblings being celebrated? People LOVE their brothers and sisters, right?
Yes, lots of people do. Some of my favourite people in the world happen to be someone’s sibling. But in the last few years, I’ve noticed a growing number of people putting sibling status up there on a big pedestal, as if it’s THE GOAL. Give your child a sibling because it’s the most wonderful thing ever. Cute photos are posted on social media of brothers and sisters cuddling, words describing the strong bond between them, how they’re inseparable and best friends. Hashtag sibling love.
Which is absolutely fantastic for these kids – really, I mean that. But as with most things on social media and the internet, it’s often only part of the story. We don’t see many photos and descriptions of mammoth hair-pulling fights, arguments over toys, jealousy and mean words. Because let’s face it, sometimes having a brother or sister can suck. I say this from experience – my brother (who nicknamed me “Asson” because he said I was an ass….) and I fought like cat and dog (“He started it!” “Yeah and I’m going to finish it too!”). Of course we had laughs and played nicely sometimes (when he wasn’t making me watch him play games on the ZX Spectrum and refusing to let me have a turn) but for most people, the reality of having a sibling is fun and fighting in equal measure.
So is there a problem with only showing one side, and glorifying the notion of giving your children siblings?
As someone who has spent five years trying to add to our family, and give our child a sibling, it’s been pretty tough to see so much glory being placed on the relationship between brothers or sisters. Would we ever be able to provide that for our child? Have my failing ovaries robbed my daughter of the magical chance to be a sister? Of course, like a lot of things out there on the internet that upset or offend, the simple answer is to mute/unfollow. It’s my feelings, my problem, not theirs.
But should people be offering up a more balanced view of sibling relationships? After all, we’re moving past parenthood being painted as this blissful, heavenly, always incredible thing (hashtag blessed) and now see much more balance being portrayed on social media. We sometimes cook healthy wholesome meals for our children, but we sometimes turn to Captain Birdseye and hurriedly whack a freezer tea in the oven. We sometimes have fun days out at the local National Trust and we sometimes spend the whole day despairingly threatening to go home (“right now!”) if behaviour doesn’t improve. There aren’t many people who talk about one, without the other, these days.
On the flip side of the argument, we can’t tiptoe around everyone else when we’re posting about our lives on social media, can we? If I feel passionately about the fierce bond that my son and daughter have, then I should damn well be able to talk about it.
I guess it all comes down to personal experience. Because I’ve struggled with fertility, it’s unlikely I’ll ever post bump shot after bump shot online. Someone who feels like they’ve been single forever, in a sea of coupled up friends, is unlikely to ever post smug couple shots, gushing about meeting their soulmate. When you’ve struggled, you become sensitive to others in that situation.
And yes, my seven-year-old is beside herself with excitement that she is going to become a big sister, but I’m under no illusions. I’m not expecting it to be a Disney-esque experience filled only with love, joy and wonder as we watch a deep sibling bond develop. I’m fully expecting envy, frustration, disappointment and probably a bit of anger thrown in there too.
So I think perhaps it’s time to start being more honest about sibling love – it’s a complex thing and I’m not sure showering it with endless adoration is doing anyone any favours.
Totally agree. I felt like this with “it takes a village” thing on instagram a few weeks ago when I really feel as if I have no village. Good for people who do – but it just feels like a bit of smack in the face to those who don’t innit.
I think a few people felt that way about the ‘it takes a village’ campaign. It’s hard isn’t it, as it’s easy to think you’re ALWAYS going to upset someone, whatever you talk about.
This ^^^. I really struggled with the village campaign. The premise was so good, but it made me feel lonely. And I can absolutely see why wanting to provide a sibling for your child, and struggling to, would be painful. Just like I find it hard to see people’s kids running around like they don’t have a care, and condemning sugary drinks – because for my daughter to run around it’s a whole flipping maths equation that we often get wrong, and sometimes her life depends on sugary drinks. Equally, going back to the sibling thing, having one adds extra pressure – I’m constantly telling my kids that they have older parents, that one day they will only have each other (I am such a bad mother!) so they need to get on. But Instagram probably wouldn’t want to see that side of it. I know siblings who adore each other, and those who can’t stand the sight of each other, and I don’t think I’m able to influence that a lot for my two. At the end of the day, whatever we big up, we will portray an image that someone can’t identify with – it’s coming to terms with that, as the sharer or as the receiver that should be each of our goals I think.
Fab article Alison. I hear you but I am guilty of sharing pics of my kids bit because, well I have three of them and I can’t only post pics of one kid at a time for fear of offending someone. I do think it comes down to personal experience though. Yes mine do fight but on balance they get on incredibly (ridiculously actually) well and I hope this comes through genuinely in pics rather than sickening staged #soblessed fashion!! Who knows. Anyway, just had to jump in here and say YES ME TOO to Mummyneversleeps as I felt exactly that with the Village one the other week. I didn’t even know it was going on til a few blogging besties tagged me (which was nice but ultimately made me rather aware of my lack of village status!). But as you said Alison, we can get all feel upset or get the hump about anything on social media so live and let live etc. And here (finally) endeth the overly long blog comment!
I totally agree that social media make everything look perfect-everything. However it took me so long to have my second and I never thought my eldest would have a sibling so I do not apologise for photographing them when they look like they love each other.
I do like to think I still show the times when they are not so happy with each other too.
Oh no need to apologise Emma! ❤️ I don’t even think it’s photography that is necessarily the issue, it’s the language used to describe siblings. You photograph away!
*raises hand* I am definitely guilty of #siblinglove and gushing posts about sibling bonds, etc. We do have our sibling rivalry issues, and I’m sitting here wondering why I DON’T mention that as much (I actually do mean to mention one aspect of it at some point on instagram, because we genuinely need advice!) But I think the crux of it for me is that when they show each other love or have a particularly lovely moment together, it’s one of my greatest joys and my favourite thing ever. Another aspect of this is that our eldest is the most caring and sweet big brother to his younger siblings – honestly never any hint of animosity or jealousy ever. And I do like to talk about that a lot because he is on the autistic spectrum so that always feels like a bit of a big deal – although I don’t tend to go into detail about his ASD on instagram or my blog so admittedly that one is hard to read between the lines of a gushing post about how lovely he is to his siblings. I think this is another one of those subjective topics where the full details can never possibly be known and different things will mean different things depending who’s reading. Instagram never shows the full story. I can completely understand how these types of gushing post may come across to parents with secondary infertility and that thought is always in the back of my mind when I post on the topic of siblings x
I don’t blame you at all Chloe and just reading this comment makes me feel warm in my heart at the thought of the pride you must feel xx
I have to agree.
I do post about the fact my kids come close to killing each other.
I hope to powers at be that my siblings one day are close enough to always look after each other but I am under no illusion.
I am the eldest of 4 and we do not get on, some of them do but I see them a few times a year. I remember everyone telling me as I would get older we would be close, they would be the ones that would help me and it is not the case.
In fact I work with my brother and it is awful.
My only hope is my siblings are not like mine I won’t lie I feel a pang of jealously when I see those amazing sibling shots but I guess also happiness for them.
Sorry rant over. It’s a subject that does get me a little.
I think mostly as I am always worried about the relationship between my kiddies as it certainly is not the norm of siblings.
It’s just a complex issue isn’t it, for most of us but more so for you I think Kara.
Really love the honesty of this post. I try hard to show both sides of the sibling thing and do roll my eyes a bit at the sentimentality on the internet around siblings. My girls love and fight in equal measure, just like me and my sister used to. It’s a natural part of childhood when you have a sibling I think! For what it’s worth you might be able to avoid that with G. Si has a brother who is 8 years younger than him and they’ve never fought, ever. Well, apart from the time Si went through a horrible teen phase and stole all his poor little brother’s pocket money!!!
I think loving and fighting in equal measure is totally totally normal. Love the thought of Si stealing his brother’s pocket money!! Naughty boy!
My two little boys tolerate each other at best. And I’ve never felt the need to say otherwise on social media. They are who they are, and they are so different in personality despite only be two years apart. That said, I don’t really mind all the #siblinglove and #blessed posts, to be honest, but that’s perhaps because I rarely believe that those photos are the full story. They’re to be taken with a pinch of salt and an occasional eye roll. But I agree, all these concocted celebratory days are getting a bit ridiculous.
I think personality plays such a huge part in this doesn’t it? Some siblings will be closer than others.
I love this post. You are so spot on. It’s sonething that really grates in me on social media. I’m not close at all to my brother and when I look at my kids, you’re right, it’s much more complex than that. Mine fight and argue and are jealous and it’s a real balancing act, but they also love, laugh and entertain each other. They *seem* pretty close fundamentally, but I have no idea if that’ll continue and I don’t want to put that pressure on them to be best friends. I also think it’s a bit weird. I want them to have their own friends, outside of family, not have to be best friends with their sibling.
Do you know what’s worse though….? Parents who say their CHILD is their best friend!
With you on that one!
I always like to think I’m pretty balanced about my life and my kids. I think having a sibling rocks – and I’ve got an annoying little brother who winds me up even now. I think it’s hard – I’ve been on a flip-side of many coins as a parent. When I was a single mum I’d be sad about happy families and strong relationships. But then it always reminded me why I was single and what I was fighting for. And then when Daisy was poorly I had so many friends with healthy babies. And while it was hard to compare my worries to other people’s worries and not struggle. I also appreciated that it’s all relative. I felt the same with Stanley’s pregnancy too – because I just really wished I could let go and…enjoy it. But I was too scared to. It’s made me realise that I’ve got to grab on to the good stuff. And celebrate it. My kids do get on spectacularly well. But they also scrap fantastically well too. I think the thing with social media is that we aren’t really taking the time to write a status or take a photograph when the shit hits the fan because that’s when we have to parent the most. I’ll always say when I’ve had a bad day with the kids. Or over something else. But I am also wary about posting their struggles online too. It always feels like I’m bitching about them behind their backs if I do. And I suppose that, ultimately, my loyalty is always to my kids over anyone else. It all comes back to the question of what ‘real’ is. Everyone’s version of real is different. And while we all have a responsibility to try and be real. We also have to be responsible enough to remember the ‘a pinch of salt’ rule and also that none of us really have a right to know the ins and outs of everyone’s lives, wholly and completely, too. xx
Oh! And on the other end of the spectrum – when Daisy was recovering from her surgery (it all went a bit downhill and she struggled) someone commented and said: “You should be grateful she isn’t dead.” Absolutely broke me at the time. Because I was terrified that she was going backwards. You really can never win. Xx
It’s definitely good to take it all with a pinch of salt, but I also think it’s good to be aware of what we’re putting out there too. I often look at my social media output and think “What am I saying a lot of?” “Is there too much of something? Not enough of something else?” I think we do have a responsibility, especially when we have thousands of followers to be mindful. Totally agree about loyalty to children being important. I guess I wonder whether sharing intimate good moments is any different to sharing intimate frustrating/fighty moments – both might embarrass the child(ren) in the future. Ultimately it’s up to us as parents to make the call we are comfortable with but we can definitely do it in a way that is mindful of others’ struggles too.
I’m really sorry to disagree with you. My brothers and sister and I definitely have our moments and argue the bit out a lot of the time but they are the ones who I know I can call on any time of the day or night. They might grumble at bit at first but they will always be there and do whatever I ask (or demand!!) we are all very different but that’s what makes us “us”
My own two are by no means your instragm picture of silbling love but no offence to anyone, I don’t believe the half or quarter of what I read or see on instagram. It’s fun to look at the pretty pictures and full of wisdom words but a lot of it is a load of crap!
I suppose the idea of sibling day to to show those who you wouldn’t normally show some love to cause I know for sure I don’t tell my brothers or sister how much they mean to me. I’ve seen how important it is to tell/show those close to you what they mean to you and I guess I’ll take every opportunity to do that even if it’s a made up day!!
I don’t see you disagreeing with me! I agree with everything you say here – when siblings get on it’s brilliant! But my point is more about only showing that side rather than the balance we see elsewhere when it comes to being a parent 🙂
Sorry! I reread your post and read it wrong to start with. Sorry!
Totally! I def think both sides should be recorded. The fights and arguments make the best stories when your older!!
I have literally just posted a moody photo of my children and then deleted it as I was worried their friends would see it 🙂 My children argue ALL day long so I very rarely have gushing words regarding sibling love, but I am definitely guilty of only posting the good times.
I think I posted one pregnant photo, partly because I don’t like photos of myself and partly because I do worry about the effect on people who might be struggling. It took us 4 years to have our first baby and I remember finding it very hard when other people seemed to find it so easy. X
A thought-provoking post! National sibling day was tough on those that choose (for whatever reason) not to have a second child. Society and social media can make you feel incredibly selfish and guilty for that.
I agree with the mute/unfollow approach generally (like the people who complain to Ofcom about a tv show which they watched in its entirety rather than turn it off!) However, I’d hate to unfollow some of my social media faves just for them celebrating their wonderful families. It’s a toughy!
This made me cross to read…initially but only because I’ve been lucky enough to have great sibling relationships; thank you for letting me think about it from the other side and maybe think about showing a little more tact with my posts! Great read.
I get this. My son is an only child and after a pretty horrific experience I’m not sure I am medically able to or could mentally face having another child. I feel horrendously guilty about not giving him that. Is it wrong to be happy as a family of 3……
Really thought provoking post Alison thank you. I’m not one to buy into these silly made up days, I didn’t post anything on national sibling day (although perhaps national burger day I might get on board with? ). But I’m definitely someone who talks about my children and their siblings- I often post photos of them together. I often try and balance out what I’m saying, I might post a photo of them cuddling but say they argue lots too. But for me it’s one of my true greatest pleasures as a mother to see them together and I guess social media is my version of my life (although of course I hope most people take all social media with a pinch of salt and realise it’s the highlights I hope) and I’m just sharing my experiences. I must admit I didnt even think about the fact someone who was struggling to give their child a sibling might feel sad looking at my photos, that’s my own naievity I guess, and you’ve definitely made me feel mindful for the future.
But at the same time, do you you ever wonder if it’s all getting a bit too censored if that makes sense? I think most people think about posting too many pregnancy and bump photos because we are all too aware of ladies might be experiencing infertility. But should someone not post photos of their happy news they have bought a house because there are people out there who are desperate to and can’t afford too? Or post a photo of them eating their burger on national burger day (haha) because it might upset a percentage of vegetarians that follow them? Or post a photo of their group of best friends because there are people out there (me included in all honesty) who would love to find a ‘proper’ tribe? I don’t know, I think this whole world of social media is getting increasingly hard to navigate. I’m naturally a very emotional person and I like to think I’m considerate of others. I couldn’t bear to make another person feel bad. But when you write and your account is just really your life, it’s hard to know when you are crossing boundaries. I guess it’s like anything, we are learning as we go along.
Anyway thanks for the thought provoking post, I really enjoyed it and it’s definitely made me think of another thing to be mindful of when posting. X
Katie (your comment has got mixed up with someone else’s, so just making sure you know this is a reply to you!) I think your thoughts echo mine, in the post, where I say that we can’t tiptoe around everyone else when we post on social media – surely there will always be someone being offended! But it’s still something I am mindful of. You could argue that me posting about motherhood might make people – who can’t or never got the chance to become parents – feel sad. That’s something I’ve thought about lots, but I figure that those people won’t follow parents online. But then once you are a parent, you want to follow those accounts (and you become friends with those people in some cases!) so it becomes more complex. I think we do have a responsibility to share our lives while at the same time being mindful of others. I think your example of buying a house is a good one – of course its fine for someone to share that they’ve bought a house, but then if they kept talking about it all the time, mentioning how happy they are because they’ve bought their house and thank goodness they’re not renting… it would be fair for people to feel like they’re being a bit smug and thoughtless.
Hi Laura, no not at all! There are so many siblings who wish they were an only child. It’s not a given that giving your son a brother or sister would be the best thing for him, so stop the guilt 🙂
My two boys tolerate each other at best. I would say the youngest has more fond feelings for his big brother than vice versa. They don’t cuddle, one will push the other away if one tries to. They argue and they fight and call each other the most awful names. In fact my eldest told me a couple of years ago that he would have been fine on his own. I was mortified. But then, they are people in their own right. I can’t force them to have a cookie cutter, instagrammable sibling relationship. They love each other in their own way and to be honest I think I prefer the slap stick way they ‘love’ each other. It makes them laugh and it makes us laugh too.
They sound ace!
Really interesting points. I try not to think about it too much anymore, but when we first had our daughter, people almost immediately asked when we were going to have another. On telling one particular Aunt that we were happy as we were & weren’t planning on more, she was outraged & proclaimed “you can’t not have more, it’s not fair on her, what about when she’s older & has to look after you alone?”. !!!
And my then SIL said one day that it wasn’t a family unless it was 2:4!!
I just refused to take in others opinion & conformity that a family has to have at least two children or that children “need” siblings or they’ll grow up spoilt, lonely & narcissistic.
I never had a great relationship with my sibling either, so I don’t know it from the other side of having a sibling relationship that genuinely gets on great together.
Occasionally, social media tugs the guilt strings, but on the whole, I’m strong in the fact that we made the right decision for us & that keeps me able to be happy for others, whilst aware there’s always two sides.
I need to take tips from you SarahLou 🙂
Interesting read as always Alison … I have to say the day for ‘everything’ is tiresome but really most should be taken with a pinch of salt as really they are just marketing ploys or I guess great social media prompts – and should really be seen as a bit of fun content. Some yes are going to bother people (but there is always something that will bother someone right?) like how I now find Father’s Day tough or grandparents day. I just scroll on by or use the mute button as you say – and know that someone celebrating a # will be just as tough for the next person but then it will be something else the next day. To be honest sibling day passed me by – I guess because Marnie is an only child – by choice- it just didn’t register with me. And I have 3 sisters and 4 brothers …. and come to think of it not one of them tagged me. And I’m ok with that. I think the world has got so sensitive to stuff that really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
I think so many of them are marketing ploys, you’re right there Bonnie! I’d never heard of Siblings Day until this year but it looks like it’s been a thing in the US for a while (of course it has!). As for the world getting sensitive to stuff that isn’t important, I think that’s my point: different things are important to different people. Like you say, there are days or content you see that makes you feel sad – that shouldn’t be dismissed just because me or the next person doesn’t share your feelings xx
Siblings possibly the most complex of all family relationships. They might fight like cat and dog at times but if anyone else says a bad word about the other they would kill them lol! I think it is perhaps the most fierce love of all and it is definitely something to be celebrated. You could argue that all “hashtag blessed” social media posts are bullcrap but whether it is #siblinglove #relationshipgoals or anything else, it is only ever a fleeting moment or feeling. Personally I don’t take any of it to heart, the whole “day” thing really is nonsense.
I am an only child so have never had a bond, good or bad with a sibling. Having 2 children I always thought we would drift along with Disney music playing in the background, my son and daughter being the best of friends. In reality they tolerate each other, and they are getting on better now they are older. But the majority of the time they just lead seperate lives, grunting at each other occasionally x
You’d probably like my recent post Alison ‘When sisters do fight club’!!! It’s definitely not always sunshine and unicorns over here, and I agree it’s no bad thing to show that x
As one of three children I see both sides of the argument. In our adult lives sadly my siblings and I do not keep in touch for reasons which would take too long to explain here. I am happy to say that my teenage daughters get along immensely well although they are two very different people. I have learnt lessons from
my own upbringing and have been very careful to make sure they feel loved and valued in equal measure, but I don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops (although I don’t object if others want a sibling day to do that). When I see some wonderful glimpses of a deep connection between my daughters, I think to myself ‘good job’. I am by no means perfect but I did at least get something right when raising them.
I’ve never glorified mine. They bicker. But they also love each other and I will mark that when it happens. I am also trying really hard to see the positive and the joy in the ordinary moments so talk more positively than I used to on social media. I think the world has gone PC/fear of offending others mad. We are all guilty of offending someone, unintentionally. ‘Lean back’ is my new mantra. We have a choice to get attached to our reactions or to let them just pass by. My friend also has a great phrase ‘life is always working out for us.’ Congratulations again on your pregnancy, Alison, hope you’re feeling well x
Bringing up kids is hard, hard, hard! It doesn’t matter how many you have, it is always a challenge. We had a third six months ago and everyone is still adjusting. Yes she is gorgeous and we certainly have lots of gushy sibling moments, but also lots of spite, jealousy and indifference between them. Currently I feel very haunted by everything my older two have ‘lost’ by us adding a third – closeness with us, money to spend on things for them, energy for them, lost opportunities to go out and do certain things because bringing a baby along too isn’t practical… My point is that family life is like a balance sheet – while kids gain things by having a sibling/siblings, they are also likely losing other things from their lives with every new addition. The same goes for their parents too!
This is so true Alison, such a fab post. I’m struggling with the fact that almost a year on, Elsie still isn’t happy she’s got a little sister. She barely acknowledges her and it’s so sad because Billie used to smile and laugh at everything her big sister did, but she’s doing it less and less because she’s clearly not getting anything in return. It breaks my heart. All this “special bond” and friends forever crap does me in a little. I had visions of them playing nicely together and sharing a bedroom, and even though I know there will be arguments and fights, I do feel sad that there isn’t even a glimmer of love being shown at the moment 🙁 xx
My three year old had major meltdowns when her brother arrived. She hit, resented him and played up when he was being fed. Typical jealousy. Didn’t want to share ‘her’ mummy. The baby was boring didn’t do anything etc etc. Eventually after about two months she got used to the idea. I would agree with anyone that you need to make time for your first born.