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 some 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 Muslim women. I’m ready to abandon this trope and pursue the life of my own choosing instead! Who’s with me?