The Perils Of Having A More Successful Younger Sibling

You're supposed to be the wise one. Not them. GOD.


by Stephanie Bolton |

You may have noticed a YouGov survey that did the rounds last month, saying that last-borns are so much funnier than their older brothers/sisters. Cue: every youngest sibling sharing it on Facebook. As an eldest sibling, I agree with that part of the survey, but what I didn’t agree with was the rest of it. I mean, it’s one thing being funnier, but what about when your younger sibling is way more successful than you and obviously winning at life?

You’re expected to be ‘the sensible one’ but definitely aren’t

My younger brother and I are the complete opposite of YouGov’s poll, and in fact, every single other poll I’ve ever read on birth order. I’m constantly reading that it’s me who should be the responsible, sensible, organised one. The one who grows up quickly, does everything right and becomes the most successful, giving the youngest sibling the chance to doss about until whenever they feel like getting a job/house/steady income.

I am, however, not this. At all.

I am, I confess, the dosser. I’m the dreamer, the creative one, the one who booked tickets to Australia four months before going out there for a year.

It’s my brother who took on the role of eldest sibling; he may be the funniest but he’s also the sensible one. He did an apprenticeship at 16 instead of going to uni, is on a salary I can only dream of and bought his own house at 20(!). How the hell do I compete with that? I don’t, is the answer. I’m 25, went to uni, spent summers travelling, had long stints of unemployment, moved to London from the glorious north and might never own my own place.

You’re constantly justifying your actions…

To our parents, it’s a source of amusement. I was always the studious one with the good grades and ambitions; Dean was the one who’d have to be practically tied to the table to do his homework. To him, it’s no big deal. As long as I’m happy, who cares what path I’ve taken?

To me, and others who know, or become aware of my not-so-coveted position, it’s not such a comfortable situation. If you’re a fellow older sibling in the same situation then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I talk about the constant justification of what you’ve achieved, so it makes it sound that little bit better.

For instance, I’ll tell people that I went travelling to get the travel bug out of my system before I settled down, which is one of the biggest and outright lies I’ve ever told. I went travelling because I wanted to. Because I wanted to see the world, experience another country and delay getting caught up in general ‘life’ stuff for a bit longer.

None of which you can actually say when your brother is building areoplane engines in one of the biggest companies in the world – because then you’d just seem like an under-achieving loser.

…But being judged anyway

With the justification comes, of course, the judgement. I’m sure this is the same for all older siblings who have, on paper, achieved significantly less than their younger siblings. However I feel that I was always expected to achieve more just on the basis that I’m the girl and I always worked so hard (as girls do. Apparently.)

There are eye rolls and wondering where it all went wrong for the elder sister that was so clever. Er, hello, I’m still smart. Just because I’ve chosen a career in the media and am just about on the bottom rung of that career ladder after years of what you call ‘dossing about’ doesn’t mean it went wrong. In fact, it’s gone really well. Just in a completely different direction to that of my brother.

They earn a salary you can only dream of

Did I mention that the direction his career’s gone in is a bit more rewarding in the money department, too? Yeah. One of the worst bits about having a younger, yet more successful, sibling is finances. It doesn’t matter whether or not they notice, but we do.

Us older siblings are meant to be the providers; we’re meant to be able to take care of our little brothers and/or sisters, not accept the nicest, widest range of gifts for Christmas because they ‘just saw it and thought you’d like it’, while we’ve spent the year accumulating gifts so that everyone can get a couple of nice things without us having to take out a loan.

It’s hard to accept that they’ve grown up so much and, admittedly, so much faster.

They ended up more knowledgeable than you and you have no idea how

This ‘growing up’ bit still amazes me. (I say ‘amazes’, sometimes it's frustrating, annoying and completely baffling too.) Dean is the youngest yet completely knowledgeable about mortgages and pensions and ISAs and home insurance policies. Heck, he’s one of those people who’ll read the terms and conditions of every form that’s put in front of him, while I still dread having to change my phone contract because I hate having to decipher tariffs and commit for 24 months.

Where did he even learn this stuff? Where was I when our parents were handing out practical life advice? I most definitely was not there.

People pity you. A lot

I was probably away getting ‘life experience’, as many people so patronisingly tell me, with a hint of pity.

Except, I don’t need pitying. I’ve been around the world, across the country and have still fallen on my not-so-itchy-any-more feet. I don’t need pity! Pity is not what we need.

We need less of the judging, less of the need to justify our every move (whether it’s out of the country or off the career ladder) and less of the ‘Haven’t they done well?’ statement which implies such surprise that we’ve been overtaken and out-succeeded.

So yeah, we might have ‘had more time to get on in life’ but there are several ways to ‘get on’ and I’m pretty sure that I found the best one. I mean, his life looks perfect on paper, but mine’s way better on Facebook and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

**Like this? You might also be interested in... **

Things You Only Know If You’re An Older Sister

Inevitable Arguments You Have With Your Sisters

Why Moving Back Home With Your Brother After 10 Years Is Pretty Crap

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniebolton

Picture: Lukasz-Wierzbowski

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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