From cooking, cleaning and helping out with chores, eldest daughters often shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility from a young age. As they mature into adults, they are left with emotional baggage from their childhood while striving for perfection.
Growing up, Amirah, the eldest of three, was given a lot of responsibility when it came to looking after her younger siblings. Now, over a decade later, the 24-year-old woman has vowed she will never have children, as she suffers from eldest daughter syndrome.
“The reason I don’t want to have kids is directly correlated to me being the oldest child. I have always had so many responsibilities so young and already felt like I’ve had kids,” she told Newsweek.
What Is Eldest Daughter Syndrome?
While it isn’t a psychological condition, it is recognized by many women who have a younger sibling. In fact, the #eldestdaughtersyndrome hashtag on TikTok boasts more than 25 million views and hundreds of thousands of women have turned to the internet to share their story.
Psychotherapist Mia Amini has spoken about eldest daughter syndrome on TikTok and racked up 386,200 views.
An excerpt from the video caption says: “Being the eldest daughter is no easy task. You’re often expected to be a second parent, a role model, and a mediator, all while navigating your own life. These coping strategies, while they might have helped you in the past, might not be serving you well anymore stealing the joy and peace from your life.”
Amini shared 15 signs that indicate you have eldest daughter syndrome. The symptoms include:
- Putting your needs last.
- Unable to make mistakes because you need to be a good role model.
- Being a perfectionist and always anxious.
- You feel like achievements are overlooked because they are expected.
- You feel like you can’t make mistakes because you need to be a good role model.
‘It Can Definitely Hurt Seeing Your Siblings Receive Treatment You Didn’t’
Provided by Amirah
Amirah, an emergency room nurse from Brooklyn, New York, was 8 years old when she became a sister. She recalls looking after her brother, now 17, and sister, 14, a lot as her mom worked 12-hour shifts, six days per week.
Amirah told Newsweek: “We were at our grandmother’s house, but I was primarily looking after my siblings. I had to make sure they got to school, got home from school, helped with homework, showered them, fed them and made sure everything was set for school the next day.
“When I was old enough to start working, I had to give them allowance weekly as well. Doing all of this at the time at such a young age made me realize how much work it is to have children and shifted my perspective on birthing kids very early.”
Amirah, who doesn’t wish to share her surname, previously shared her story on TikTok, racking up over 95,700 views. In the clip, she speaks about the trauma of being the oldest sibling. She states she was forced to grow up at a young age and had to watch her siblings get away with more than she ever could. You can watch the full video here.
She told Newsweek: “My relationship with my parents is different compared to the relationship my siblings have, especially the youngest. This isn’t always a bad thing though.
“Being a logical thinker, I realize that when you have kids so far apart, it’s only normal to be a different person with a different mindset and mentality with each kid. My mom had me when she was 22, my brother and I are 8 years apart and my sister and I are 11 years apart.
“So of course, my parents have become wiser during that time and learned from the mistakes they have made with me growing up. Sometimes it can definitely hurt seeing your siblings receive treatment you didn’t but I’m just happy to see growth and change.”
Amirah explained she didn’t just feel overburdened but under extreme pressure to be perfect.
She said: “I always felt like I could never fail because I always had my siblings watching my every move and my parents made sure to tell me to set a good example for them.
“Growing up, I didn’t think much of it but I do feel like most of my childhood was rooted in satisfying everyone else around me instead of me being able to be my own person, this has even spilled into my adult life as I’ve realized I have people-pleasing ways and have recently set boundaries in my life to discontinue those ways! Nevertheless, I’ve always felt pressured to succeed, please others and be a good example since I was 8 years old.”
‘Some Eldest Daughters Worry About Repeating Negative Parenting Patterns’
In 2022, there was an average of 1.94 children under 18 per family in the United States, according to Statista. The data has revealed two-parent households in the U.S. are declining and the number of families with no children is increasing.
Amini told Newsweek why some older sisters may opt against starting a family of their own.
She said: “Eldest daughters often take on a ‘second mom’ role in their families, which exhausts their parental instincts as they know how much work It takes to be a parent.
“As adults, they value their independence much higher as they always had others relying on them when they were young, so the idea of the lifetime commitment that comes with having children seems daunting.
“Some eldest daughters worry about repeating negative parenting patterns they experienced themselves, opting for childlessness as a precaution.
“Some eldest daughters find fulfillment in roles other than motherhood, such as being a mentor, an aunt, or excelling in their careers.”
How to Deal With Eldest Sister Syndrome
It is never too late to try to break from childhood trauma. Newsweek reached out to an online counselor for women for advice. Georgina Sturmer helps women understand what is holding them back from true happiness. She has shared three tips to help women cope with eldest daughter syndrome:
- Explore and strengthen your boundaries—If you weren’t offered choices or opportunities when you were growing up, then it’s likely that you struggle to say no. Think about the impact that this has on your everyday life. You might gain satisfaction from doing things for other people. But it’s possible that this is layered on top of other feelings that you have suppressed beneath, maybe anger, frustration or resentment. Ask yourself what it might feel like to say no, or to make choices for yourself. It might feel scary or unfamiliar. But it’s a way of building up your own sense of who you are and how you deserve to be treated. It sends a signal to those around you and shows that you are not a doormat or pushover.
- Embrace opportunities to feel carefree and creative—If you were asked to be an adult when you were still a child, then you may have missed out on the exploration and creativity that form an important part of child development. Taking risks and trying new things are important ways of figuring out who we are and what we like.
- Consider how you can explore your past so that you can understand yourself better—A counselor can help you to understand the feelings that you have now, and also to connect with that younger version of yourself. To think about your ‘inner child’ and what they deserved, and maybe how their needs weren’t met. This isn’t about assigning blame. It’s simply about understanding why we feel the way that we do. It can help us to entangle our feelings and figure out which ones belong in the present and which ones we can let go of from the past.
If you have a family dilemma, let us know via email@example.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.