*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
When families grow, it often happens that the older kids help out when their mom gets tired, or she just needs an extra nap. But is it ok to expect your other kids to help all the time, maybe even take over for part of the day?
How much does it matter who the parents are?
Older siblings can have mixed feelings about a new baby, and that's precisely what my friend Beth is going through. She and her husband, Neil, got married after going together on a cruise, and both their families got along great.
They soon decided to start a family and welcomed their first baby one year after they tied the knot.
Annie, their daughter, was always very lively, and as she grew up, she had plenty of friends coming over and was always learning a new game or helping someone in need.
Beth and Neil had always wanted two kids, but it didn't happen for several years. After five years went by, they gave up on it and just put it down to faith.
"If God wants us to have another kid, it will happen. If not, we love each other and Annie, so our life is wonderful the way it is," Beth said.
And so, Annie started kindergarten, then went to school. In her second year of high school, Beth found out she was pregnant again.
At first, she couldn't believe it and double-checked just to be sure.
"I took two tests, and the result was the same. Being a mom again was the most amazing gift I have received in the last decade," she happily told me.
She had to rest more, and her husband did most of the house chores, with Annie helping out when she didn't have too much homework or school activities.
The baby was a girl, and they called her Olga.
As Beth had taken plenty of time off while pregnant, six months after the new baby arrived, she was keen to get back on track with work assignments.
"We sure need the money, and I can't expect my husband to pay for everything. Neil wouldn't ever reproach me, but it just doesn't feel right to me," Beth added.
Getting back to work wasn't an easy feat, though.
"I had to lean on my family for a while. My mom and friends don't live so close, so I thought Annie should be the one to look after her baby sister. After all, she'll need these skills when she starts her own family," she said.
Unfortunately, Annie wasn't nearly as excited as Beth, and as she piled up more baby duties, she began avoiding them.
"She absolutely adores Olga; I see it when they're together. But, for some reason, she doesn't want to look after her for too long," the mother said, astounded by what was going on.
Neil had an idea about what was taking place, so he suggested hiring a part-time babysitter to help Beth work without stressing Annie out.
"I see them close to a conflict, and I really don't want our family to be that way. If we need a babysitter, it's fine with me," he said.
Beth still has a hard time understanding why extra help had to be hired but is going along with her husband's idea for now.
"I don't get why we need to pay someone else to do it. Why doesn't my teenage girl want to look after my toddler? Isn't family supposed to raise each other at times?" she questioned.
What do you think? Should teenage kids look after the babies in the family when the parents are busy, or is it strictly the couple's responsibility?