Although This Is Us is on hiatus until fall, there was one episode from season two that has really stayed with me since I first watched it in the comfort of my living rooms with tears flowing down my face. “The Fifth Wheel” addresses Kevin’s stint in rehab and during a visit from his family, some old feelings are dredged up when Kevin admits he always felt like second fiddle to his brother and sister. Kevin tells his family, “I guess, my entire childhood, I always felt like I came in second to you two with Mom and Dad. You know, like I was a fifth wheel of the family.”
That spoke right to my inner middle child and feelings of inadequacy, and of being forgotten. Call it classic “middle child syndrome” or whatever stereotype you want to throw at it, but it is very real and has lasting ramifications years after childhood.
Many of us middles are not like Jan Brady, Laura Ingalls, or Maggie Simpson. We don’t always act out, seem desperate for attention or suffer from feelings of not being loved. In my case, I never felt like my parents didn’t love me or that I was neglected. For me, it was more about the ease of the transition from being the baby of my family for eight years to the arrival of my little brother. It was difficult for me to handle the shift of focus from my older sister and me to my little brother. I love my parents immensely, but this was not a transition they handled well.
I often felt like my needs took a backseat to my older sister’s needs as the firstborn and everything that comes with that. She was the first to enter high school, the first to have a boyfriend, the first to drive, and the first to test boundaries. While I was grateful for that in many ways since she paved the road for me, in many ways I resented her because I tried to compensate for any headaches she may have caused my parents as a teenager. I was very straight-laced, did well in school, and barely spoke of boys to my parents. I worked extra hard to be “the good one” and in some ways I regret trying to fill this role in my family.
Then there was my baby brother, the one who changed my whole world with his arrival. I hated him for the better part of his first year of life. He was the one who stole my parents’ attention from me. It wasn’t until he started walking that I began to have any kind of appreciation for him. I started to realize it was never really him I was mad at, but rather my parents for “replacing” me with a new baby.
I know I sound like a spoiled brat and here I am at 32 -years-old with two children of my own complaining about the fact that my parents wanted to expand their family way back when. Yet, hearing Kevin Pearson discuss how he felt growing up, I felt a kinship with the character in that moment. I firmly believe every family that has more than two children in it has that one sibling who felt forgotten about many times. They feel like everything they did to please their parents was for nothing, and at times still feel unloved or like the black sheep.
I’ve discussed my feelings with my mother over the years. How being the middle child really helped to form the adult I’ve become. I’m extremely independent, severely defensive, approval-seeking, and I’m very hard on those in my inner circle if they let me down. I know I’m like this because of being born in the middle. I tried to please my parents and get their attention at every twist and turn, fought with my older sister because I had no other place to channel my anger (and she was mean), and I’m hard on those around me because I’m always afraid of losing their love.
My husband has done a good job of taming many of these qualities with his unconditional love and support, but they still linger.
My mom has opened up to me about that period in her life, about having postpartum depression after the birth of my brother—it made her feel withdrawn, overwhelmed and stretched too thin. Being a mom myself now, who has also suffered from PPD, I can now see why her attention might have been elsewhere in those early years with three kids. As far as my dad, I can just imagine the pressure that was on his shoulders being the breadwinner during the day, watching us kids at night while my mom went to her job and helping his wife through one of the worst forms of depression a human can withstand. It must’ve been hard for them. I get that now.
Yet, that didn’t stop me from crying during that episode of This Is Us. I was instantly an eight-year-old girl again who just wanted a little extra time with her dad at night while they watched a television show or an outing out with just her and her mom to buy some new clothes. I will always have a special place in my heart for my fellow middle children, even if they were part of “The Big Three” or not.
This post originally appeared on Her View From Home
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Well, I’m one of those unicorns that actually cleans her house every day, manages to fold my laundry by the time my head hits my pillow most nights and makes my kids pick up their own toys when they are done playing with them.
I don’t say these things to brag or compare my home’s level of organization and cleanliness to yours. I’m saying this because I’m sick of people looking at moms that keep their homes clean and orderly like we have it all together and think we are better than those of you that don’t.”
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Visual: one-year-old baby
Running on 95% energy
Caution: diaper full of poop
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Caution: may smell like old gym socks
My mind never stops. The list of things that need to get done, places my children need to be, and appointments yet to be made never does either after all. I’m in a constant state of GO—if I stop to have a quick bite to eat while the baby is down for his nap that’s about it. I think I feel this way because in some ways our modern society has made me and maybe you feel this way, too?”
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Here is my first original piece on Perfection Pending by Meredith Ethington…
“Do you remember when you were a child and you would do something or say something to your mom and she’d give you a one sentence reply that either really irritated you or wasn’t the response you were looking for? Mom phrases if you will.
Most of them were old adages passed down from her grandma, to your grandma, to your mom. Sayings that over time slipped off of the tongues of moms everywhere, even if they made no sense they somehow became logical with each passing generation. To the displeasure of kids everywhere these responses would stay in our memories and spoken to our own children now that we are the adults in the situation.”
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My latest piece on Her View From Home:
“My husband and I have been together 14 years and married for eight. To some that may not seem like a very long time, but to us, it’s a very long time. Like so many other marriages, we’ve been through a lot as a couple. We’ve struggled. We’ve fallen down. We’ve both thought about throwing in the towel many times. Yet, here we are, still married.
The past few years have probably been the hardest on us overall. We suffered two miscarriages in 2015, got hit hard with an autism diagnosis for our older son, struggled financially from the aftermath of us both going back to college as adults, sold a house we spent all of our hard-earned savings on at a loss to get into our dream home, all while welcoming another baby and both secretly battling crippling depression and anxiety. All of the things that we’ve been dealing with over the past few years came to a head in 2017.”
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I was once at a playdate with a fellow stay-at-home mom friend and she said, “I make myself shower, get dressed and put on makeup every day just to feel like a human again.” She went on to tell me it was the one way she felt like her old self, the before kids woman she used to be before her life was consumed by breastfeeding and trips back and forth to preschool every day.
She’s a better woman than me.
When I first became a stay-at-home mom five years ago, I used to be the same way. I’d plan my shower and beauty routine around my son’s morning nap. When he woke up, we’d hop in the car and head to town to run some errand or go visit this relative or that friend, just to get out of the house and be a part of society.
Until one day, something changed.
I can’t really say there was an event that changed my desire to make myself “presentable” to the world outside the walls of my home. But, gradually I stopped putting on so much makeup for our outings and I started wearing sweatpants more than jeans.
By the time I had my second baby, I became a minimalist in the getting ready department. I basically took a shower and did all of the other basics to maintain my overall hygiene (brush teeth, pluck eyebrows, etc.) but that was about it. No makeup, no fancy hairdo, and certainly no flashy clothing. When I get out of the shower, I put clean pajamas on. Yes, pajamas. Or yoga pants with one of my husband’s oversized t-shirts. In the winter, I toss on one of my 20 black ski hats (I love hats) and I’m done for the day.
Most days I resemble a hobo or vagrant (a decent smelling one) more than the fashionable gal I once was.
I get my son off the bus like this. I go to the grocery store like this. I go to my son’s school like this. I go to doctor’s appointments like this. You know why? I don’t care enough to get “all dolled up” anymore. Who’s got the time? I mean really?
Do you think my sons’ teachers (who are also moms) give a crap if I have mascara on? Or do you think my dentist minds if I have a full face of foundation on while she’s drilling at a cavity in the depths of my mouth? No, she probably would prefer not to have remnants of my makeup caked onto her medical gloves and white coat from leaning over my face. And guess what? The teenage kid at the grocery store check out has probably seen 50 other moms already this morning, and he probably didn’t notice which mom had her hair blown out as the salon and who barely had time to run a comb through hers.
You know who else doesn’t care if I am wearing my Reba McEntire concert tee, purple leggings and red beanie when he gets home? My husband. He doesn’t care. He loves me regardless of my sense of fashion. I believe the words “I can’t even tell the difference between when you have makeup on and don’t,” have even come out of his mouth once or twice. Reason 6,876 why I love the guy.
My kids don’t care what I look like either. All they care about is if I fulfill their order for more juice and agree to read them another book before bed time. To them, I’m mom—regardless of if I’m dressed up with full makeup for a night on the town with my guy or still in my pajamas at 11 a.m. I’m still mom to them.
There will come a day when I’ll return to the workforce and I’ll have to wear pleated skirts, nice blouses and yes, even makeup. I’ll look on point everyday all day and I will probably care more about those things then. But for now, I don’t mind rocking my sweatpants and being a minimalist in all things glamor. But for now, these are the days I get to be present with my babies in my most sacred space—my home. The days I get to dress how I feel: safe, comfortable and practical. And also in Target, where I also feel at home.
Originally published on Her View From Home