How to Overcome Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt

Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt is a condition that affects many of us. Yet, we do not openly talk about it. It’s a destructive condition that is gendered and weaponized against young girls. Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt can result in lost childhoods, anxiety/depression and compulsive caretaking in adulthood. As the eldest immigrant daughter, I can attest to these experiences firsthand. This condition exclusively affects women and girls who are often burdened with caregiving as early as 8 years old. I’ve turned down opportunities, ensured my career choices were undisruptive and even reconsidered living the life of my own choosing because of this guilt.

Whenever we talk about sacrifices, we only revere the sacrifices of our immigrant parents, but what about the eldest daughter? We never include her experiences, struggles or suffering which makes a comfortable life possible for others even to her own detriment. The eldest immigrant daughter not only experiences a parentified childhood, but she also inherits the onus of stepping in wherever her parents cannot. She is expected to stay and endure. We cannot discuss the traumatic experience of being the eldest immigrant daughter without deconstructing why only young girls are burdened and exposed to this level of duress.

Emigrating to the U.S. can become a hardship depending on one’s visa, level of resources, and language acquisition. Growing up, my mother worked two, sometimes three, jobs to support us because of her limited English and education. Because of the lack of affordable childcare, paid family leave, and poverty wages, my family couldn’t afford my childhood. Childhood was a luxury. Eldest immigrant daughters are confronted with womanhood that prioritizes servitude and eternal sacrifice at the expense of one’s own well-being and self-determination.

Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt has manifested itself into constant self-doubt, high tolerance for poor treatment, depriving myself of new and exciting experiences, and anxiety about living the life of my own choosing. Who am I beyond what I can do for others? The eldest immigrant daughter is treated like an endless reservoir without any consideration of how she is impeded by it. This is a disservice. Parent-teacher conferences, childcare, emotional caretaking, and managing households just to name a few. Rarely are eldest immigrant sons expected to uproot their lives to care for their families.

What kind of life would I be living if I didn’t have to carry this weight? Swallowing my pain hasn’t improved my condition in the slightest. I’m having a very hard time believing that I will be redeemed for martyring myself. Will there be student loan forgiveness at the end? Is this just another one of patriarchy’s scams? We need a support group for survivors of eldest immigrant daughter guilt. We need to be able to talk openly and honestly about how this condition exacerbates structural and systemic barriers we have to overcome as Black immigrant women. I’m ready to abandon this trope and pursue the life of my own choosing instead! Who’s with me? 

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I'm a feminist blogger who writes about solo female travel, politics, fashion and the Black experience abroad.

15 thoughts on “How to Overcome Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt

  1. Well I can attest to that as I saw that eldest girls are not allowed to pass through normal childhood still in Somalia and are expected to care for the house and sometimes aren’t allowed to pursue even education.
    Being burdened and forced to forsake childhood is tragedy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I get so excited when you post something new! This one in particular left a lump in my throat because of how true it is. I’m not the eldest daughter but I took on that role then and even now, it is a burden I’m still learning to let go. I was only praised when I skipped school to take care of younger siblings, saying no to sleep overs and cleaning the house. I feel that this is a topic we need to discuss more, and thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences, Hameeda! I have plans to continue exploring Eldest Immigrant Daughter Guilt because this issue does not receive its due diligence. I am so grateful my work is ensuring we are seen and validated in every way! ❤


  3. You know what breaks my soul on this topic, how we are expected to constantly financially contribute to the family, but never keep anything for our own self.
    Starting from as early as highschool. This martyrdom of contributions but without much appreciation. Where eventually leadingnone to dislike all family connections, because when you are not just the Eldest immigrant daughter, but also single, it means you are worker bee for the family, up until you marry. Even then, you still have to send something back home. *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really loved this article. You articulated my experiences in a way that has not been captured before. Please write more. I shared this article with friends who will also relate.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m crying reading this because this has been my entire teens-now. I’m 21 and I am consistently running between filling in the role of my dad who left my mom for another wife. Everyday is a battle and I’m sad I lost those critical development years necessary for my growth. I’m trying so and to forgive myself and allow myself to have space to figure out who I am outside of being an immigrant daughter.


  6. Hello! This is the first time ever that someone has so eloquently described what I went though. I am not a black woman but a brown one, I really appreciate this article. Thank you! When I get a therapist I’ll reference your article because you are amazing at describing this experience better than I ever will. I’m pretty emotionally stunted.


  7. Thanks for existing dear…! As an ancient victim of eldest daughter guilt syndrome for more than 20 years, I felt so empowered and understood by reading this article. Never settle for anyone in your radical free spirit journey.


  8. This article really put my thoughts into words. I couldn’t have described my own situation any better. Im not a black woman but a brown one, Im just 16. I just wanted to add my thoughts of for me asking for my freedom in this whole situation my parents see this as outraging i feel alone in that side of the scale because i started to rebel ever since i was 13 and i wanted to know your thoughts on that too. to me it worsened my trauma by ten fold.


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