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Sibling Rivalry: Why My Husband Is Jan Brady

Updated on May 26, 2011
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Okay, so my husband (Hubby, to those of you familiar with my hubs) is not the middle daughter of a blended family. He does not wear miniskirts. Heck, he's not even blonde. But recent events have caused me to see some disturbing parallels with that misunderstood, undervalued, and chronicallly frustrated member of the Brady Bunch: Jan.

If Jan Brady is too much of a stretch for you, go with Linus, the bossed around but worldly wise younger brother of Lucy in the Peanuts cartoons.

Or, for you Bible enthusiasts, please reference Luke 15:13-32 (see sidebar, below).

Basically, the phenomenon I'm describing here is sibling rivalry. It's the tale of a son who's dutiful and a daughter who's beautiful. Well, not so much beautiful as narcissistic.

Add a beard and this could actually be Hubby!
Add a beard and this could actually be Hubby!

Why does SHE get all the credit???

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Now we all know Jan Brady's no saint. She's just an ordinary girl living in the shadow of her self-absorbed older sister, Marcia. Jan does come up with some good ideas from time to time. Usually she is not given credit for them. On a daily basis, she gets beaten down by comparisons (most real, some imagined) to Marcia. All poor Jan wants is some attention. To be acknowledged for who she is and her contribution to the Brady family.

Here's where Jan's story differs from Hubby's. Jan is one of 6 Brady kids. Hubby is "competing" with only one sibling, his older sister. For the sake of argument, we will call her Marcia.

[Side Note: The middle sister, whose name really was Jan, died in 2000. I hear time and time again that "If Jan were here she wouldn't tolerate this crap for one minute."]

Parable of the Prodigal Son

You don't have to be Christian to be familiar with this classic story of seeming parental favoritism.

Luke 15:11-32 (New International Version)


There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son" But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found"

So they began to celebrate.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

"'My son," the father said, "you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

Do the right thing vs. do your own thing

Now, we're talking about siblings who are grown adults. Siblings who have been through marriage, divorce, the death of their sister, dating, job loss, heartbreak, and in Hubby's case, remarriage. We're talking about two siblings who a year ago set themselves up, together, as legally in charge of their parents' decision-making and finances.

And here's where it gets [fill in appropriate adjective here]. Here's where the older sister and her "baby brother" (as she is still wont to call him, much to his chagrin) do not see eye to eye.

If I were writing this as a series of Brady Bunch episodes I might use descriptions like these:

Episode # 10: An elderly Mike Brady has surgery. He is confused and agitated. Frantic to gain control of the situation, Marcia manages to alienate the entire medical staff with her barked orders and general hysteria. Jan goes to the hospital later and smooth things out with the doctor and nurses. She heads home to report the latest news to Marcia and Mom Carol. Marcia first refuses to let Jan in, then physically attacks Jan with her hairbrush and Lee Press-on Nails, then claims Jan started the fight. Carol, naturally, takes Marcia's side.

Episode #34: Mike Brady is now seriously ill but wants to die in the beautiful Brady Bunch house he designed. (Who wouldn't?) Marcia goes on a class trip but promises to come home within 24 hours if she is needed. Jan and Carol try repeatedly to convince Marcia, "This is it, honey. Dad needs you here NOW." Alas, Marcia is having such a great time she forgets about her promise. She arrives home several hours after Mike's body is removed from the house. Carol is too distraught to think, so has entrusted all the details of Mike's hospice care, cremation and funeral to Jan. Without Marcia telling her what to do or how to do it, Jan does a beautiful job.

Episode #48: Carol, now a widow, wants nothing more than to sit in her house and watch the SF Giants, a little PGA golf and Wheel of Fortune. She is adament she does NOT want to go into a retirement home of any sort. But Marcia knows best. Marcia tells Jan her plan to convince Carol she's better off in a local place called Marvin Gardens. Jan, meanwhile, wants to uphold Carol's wishes. Marcia enlists the support of Little Cindy -- who of course sides with her. But Carol and Jan stand strong.

Episode #49: In a freak turn of events, it turns out the Brady house is actually owned by a church. And the church needs it back to house their new minister! Marcia tries once again to sell Carol on Marvin Gardens. Carol refuses. Jan (actually, Jan's wife, MM) goes to work finding Carol a new house. Miraculously, a beautiful California ranch with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and fruit trees in the yard comes open right around the corner. True, it lacks the steep pitched roof, cool open staircase or groovy '70s orange and brown kitchen. It's still a find. Carol beats out the other candidates and gets the house! Goooo Carol!!!

Episode #50: Jan and MM handle all the details, from signing the lease to getting the house cleaned to Carol's standards before move-in. They transfer all the utilities. They arrange for the movers and even negotiate with the church to buy Carol's refrigerator. Now one might expect Marcia to pout or sulk because she didn't get her way. But that is not Marcia's MO. Marcia is insidious. She wages a campaign of doubt and fear. She plants seeds of worry in Carol's head about the new house. Right before the big move, Carol has a meltdown and wails, "Maybe I should just go into a home after all."Then she says, "I'm afraid to be there alone." Needless to say, Marcia has flip-flopped from wanting to put Carol in a retirement home to worming her way in to live with Carol in the new house. Hmmm. How convenient.

Episode #51: Carol's big move is set. It's two days prior. Marcia, who has been living with Carol for several months (rent free, of course), is supposed to be in charge of packing. Jan and MM go over and find the house is maybe 1/4 packed. Since Jan supplied dozens of boxes 2 weeks ago, she is obviously concerned at the lack of progress. She calls Marcia and asks to know her plan to get the rest of the house finished packing. Jan suggests it would be easier to hire the movers to put things in boxes. But Marcia flat out refuses. "That is NOT how I want it done!" She hangs up on Jan for the first of three times that day.

Episode #52: In the midst of the moving madness, Jan discovers an envelope on the dining room table. It is payment for the cleaning lady, Natasha. Why is Marcia having the cleaning lady come in the middle of the packing/moving instead of after the move is complete? Apparently today is Natasha's regular cleaning day, and if they don't let her come, they will "lose her." So Carol is spending $100 to have a maid come and "do what she can" around the packing boxes and dust. Yet Marcia has made no plan to have a post-move-out cleaning done. Why? Because Natasha is not available any day next week! Oh well. It's only money. Carol's money. Certainly an old lady like Carol can afford an extra $100 to semi-clean a residence she is vacating!

Backstory to Episodes 51 and 52: Since Marcia moved in with Carol, Jan gets the same call every day. "She's bossing me around." "She's moving my things." "She says she's going to be here at 3 but doesn't come till 5." Since Marcia moved in Carol's mood has gone from gray to black. Jan has a hard time understanding why her mother puts up with it. Why doesn't she tell Marcia she doesn't want her living there? It's not like Marcia doesn't have other options.

What about MEEEE???

Any of these situations in and of themselves would be no big deal. It's not even the cumulative effect that makes them so egregious. It's the accompanying attitudes -- both Marcia's and Carol's.

You see, Miss Marcia is a delegator. The consummate delegator. She is used to ordering a staff around. But this is a family, not a department. Jan might even be willing to execute Marcia's plans -- if only they made sense or were rationale or positive. Instead, Jan sees a series of poor judgments being made. She sees a daughter acting like a martyr, demanding full credit for doing only the smallest amount of work. She sees a daughter who conveniently disappears on vacation when any hard work needs to be done. And she tries, in vain, to point this out to Carol.

As for Carol, all she wants is peace in the family. She is like that father in the Bible story. She loves both her children. No doubt she sees that Jan is going above and beyond for her. No doubt she appreciates it. But the reality is that Jan/Hubby is that son who stayed behind and did all the right things. He does not demand sympathy for every minor ache and pain. He does not live in a fantasyland. He does not operate with a "Look at me, I'm such a long-suffering martyr" attitude. Nope. He methodically gets the job done -- while Marcia basks in the glory.

This looks about right

Marcia admires herself while Jan wonders what she's doing wrong!
Marcia admires herself while Jan wonders what she's doing wrong!

Moral of the Story

Writing this has taken a lot of the anger out of it. I know intellectually and emotionally that "it is what it is." I can't change how people are or how they react to things. I can only change how I react to them.

Hubby often says his sister has no "honor." I get that. But because he does, he can't simply throw his hands up and walk away. He is honor-bound to his dad to take care of his mom. He is honor-bound to his mom to fight for what she tells us she wants. Which, unfortunately, means he ends up fighting with his sister.

Now Mom has her own reasons for not being able to stand up to Marcia. She has her own reasons for defending Marcia's indefensible behavior. Maybe it's denial or self-protection on her part. It must feel awful to have a child who is that selfish.

I've come to realize that the father in the Bible story is right. Parents are hard-wired to love their children. No matter what a child does -- or doesn't do -- a parent's love is unconditional. This much I know from my own experience.

Still, I can't help but wonder if things really would be different if the real "Jan" of the family was here with us. I do know this: Wherever her spirit is, Big Jan is extremely proud of her not-so-baby brother and namesake, Jan Brady.

As am I.

Which Brady Are YOU?

Can you relate to Hubby's plight? Are you a Jan ..... or are you....?

See results


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    • lkeipp profile image


      9 years ago from Colorado

      Wow. My sympathies to you and your spouse - I can only imagine the drama that will ensue when your mother dies. You make me glad to have my family (who is more likely to fistfight over making the other one take something each wants). Best of luck to you in your future dealings with ms. "Marsha".

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Puppascott, thanks for visiting! We all have an inner Brady to some extent!

    • puppascott profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      Mighty, Mighty, Mighty! No congrats necessary. I know people in my family that I could easily parallel with the Brady's; just not to the same extents of the Brady characters.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      My hubby doesn't need to walk the plank. He's a good dude and you'd actually like him very much. And he you!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Iðunn -- Cindy? I would not have guessed that! But maybe being the baby enabled you to develop in your own way without the pressure of leading the way (oldest) or feeling underappreciated (middle). Thanks for visiting.

      Puppascott -- See Janetta's comment below. This syndrome of a self-centered narcissist in the family is pretty universal. I don't know whether to say I'm sorry the Bradys didn't resonate with you or offer my congrats!

      Janetta -- Good Lord! Sounds like you've got a Marcia epidemic in your world! And you raise an excellent point. The Marcia of the family does not have to be the oldest. Sorry to hear about your baby brother. I hope life brings him some maturity and empathy!

      Thanks, all, for visiting and commenting! MM

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      oh, how I can relate. I'm sure you've heard this a few times, but- there's one in every family. I kept thinking of examples in my own life and the lives of friends that are similar-myself and my brother, my mom and her brothers, my best friend and her sister, my good friend and her sis in law, another friend's hubby and bro in law--they are everywhere!! We all have little Brady episodes. I'd always thought my brother was just the baby of the family but now I see he's Marcia!

    • puppascott profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      Good article, but I have to admit I never related to this show. Maybe it's because I grew up in a small mid-western town, but the Brady's never resonated with me.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      it's an interesting study on family relationships and I think being personal made it more illustriative. the comparison with the Brady's and the Bible were certainly inspired. I voted in as Cindy, by the way. Great hub.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, tom. Thanks bgpappa. So far I don't think any members of my family know about my secret little outlet (HP). Members do post photos on Facebook (I had to delete some of me from my niece's baby shower that I didn't even know posted to MY page!). Anyway, I guess we all have a bit of the Bradys in us. Maybe its our inner Brady that connects us. Oh, never mind. Just glad to know my experiences are not completely off the chart weird.

      Thanks for visting, friends! MM

    • bgpappa profile image


      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Interesting article. Feels oddly familiar to my own family. Well done.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      This hub is so great, it's like an allegory! I'm kind of afraid to apply the principals of the Brady Bunch to my own family. I applaud your courage!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Oh Pam and RGraf, bless you both for affirming for me that my life, as spun as it feels at times, is not in any way, shape or form unique. Others struggle with the same issues of petulant in-laws and power struggles between adult children and their parents.

      Pam, telling your sis-in-law that your father died on Fathers Day (which is very sad and must make that day bittersweet for you every year -- my Mom died on our first wedding anniversary, so I can relate) probably would not even register. She sounds as self-absorbed as Marcia. I'm chuckling at the perceived slight and the refusal to participate in the family event. LOL. Sounds like "old behavior" to me. How about you? I think, having crossed over to the other side, it's easy for me to recognize (now) when someone is acting immaturely (aka expressing their inner "ism").

      RGraf -- Your story of your mom and your sister gives me hope. It's so true that in every situation we have a part. No one does anything to us unless we allow it. Good for your mom for standing up to your sister. Sounds like the sister has some ulterior and not so honorable intentions when it comes to your Mom and her money! Good luck. And be glad you live 1000 miles away! We live less than 1 mile. God bless us!!!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad you could vent.  It is frustrating to have all that drama. 

      My mother recently called me 1000 miles away to complain about how my sister was ordering her around and trying to take over her doctor appointments and such.  After a few weeks of this, I asked her if she was the parent or my sister was.  If she didn't want to be treated this way, tell your child to back off.  She didn't mind doing this as we were growing up.  If she didn't tell her, she was to quit complaining to me because she obviously enjoyed it.  She decided to stand up to her.  They didn't speak for three weeks.  My widowed mother is now planning her own appointments and making her own decisions and loving every minute of it.  Sister is spewing that the hasn't gotten control of the checking account yet (though she was just shown that only if my brother is dead will she never touch it.)  Watch out, brother!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I feel ya, MM.

      Yesterday had father's day dinner at the inlaws and it was nice. I like them, they've all been wonderful to me--way nicer than my own original family--except the oldest in that crowd is also a Marcia who pouts about imagined slights and holds onto resentments for eons and in general seems to need to stir the pot all the time. So yesterday I got my first-ever email from her letting me know that since she is harboring yet another minor grudge she is 'not celebrating father's day this year.'

      I'm definitely the omega family member--not married, not normal, thrice divorced--so while everyone is kind and loving to me, I am mercifully left out of these dramas. At least for five years I was. So I got this email and my first thought was, "Ah. My father died on father's day. You might wanna grow up before yours dies too." But I didn't say that or anything else that would cause to get sucked in.

      It's hard living with that kind of crap in your face all the time. I'm sorry for you because I think it's harder to watch your partner suffer than it is to handle it yourself. Lucky for me Bill has no trouble telling his older sister to go screw herself when necessary. Mostly we stay out of it. Glad you could unload here! It was a good read too!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, Trooper. I do tend to share some pretty personal issues ("cleverly disguised") in my hubs. Hope I'm not going to get slapped with any libel suits. LOL. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. You rock, 2! Make that you rock 22!!

    • trooper22 profile image


      9 years ago from Chicago

      Wow MM, what an amazing hub, you rock! Thank you for sharing this touching personal issue, your writing style and the elegance of your prose is inspirational.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Good to see you, DynamicS. Love the billboard message! I've heard another one that really applies: You can pick your friends but you're stuck with your family.

      The big move is now DONE so for at least a few hours, life is harmonious...

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      MM, indeed all families have their Brady Bunch siuation.. You have written this so well and held my interest to the end.  I can relate to Jan, since I'm the first child, but the sister who follows me is more the Jan of the family as she is way more involved than I am.

      I read a billboard the other day that summed up family very is like chocolate; mostly sweet, with a few nuts...(paraphrasing)

      Keep on hubbing...

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey there, Dianacharles. It's reassuring to see that my experience is not as unique as I think it is. These conficts may not be "universal" but certainly other families do have them. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • dianacharles profile image


      9 years ago from India

      I always did say venting is good for the soul. And for those reading this, it might help them feel a little better that theirs is not the only family which has all these ups and downs. Parents are hard-wired to love their children- how very true that statement of yours is. I have seen it over and over again in so many conflicted families.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, eovery. You've given me an idea. I may just write a soap opera hub!

      And FP, how did you get so darned wise? Must be because you are a Feline Prophet. LOL. Thanks! MM

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      Oh, the dynamics of families! This probably happens in a lot of them, MM. It can be extremely frustrating to be at the receiving end, especially if you can't or won't do anything about it. Hope this hub made you feel better. :)

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Well like I said, sorry you had to go through this, but i hope things are looking up.  It hard to lose you parents, then all the family struggles you have to go through related to this. 

      I have two friends at work that had bad family relationships that they had to work through when their parents died.  It was like soap operas.

      Well, keep on Hubbing!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hmm. Should I admit that this is reality-based writing, not a fictional hub? Yes, eovey. The events are real. The names have been changed to protect, well, I guess to protect ME from any potential libel suits filed by my sister-in-law. LOL.

      Advisor4qb -- No, you wouldn't. And thank you for that!

      Maggs224. You are right, of course. Call it the Golden Rule or Karma or whatever you want. I guess I am too impatient to wait till Heaven to get our reward. But thank you for the reminder.

      Tom, thanks. I know that caring for elderly parents can bring out the best in us, or the worst. My siblings and I pulled together when Mom and then Dad died. I'm actually more than a bit shocked at this behavior. But hey -- it does give me good fodder for hubs;-).

      LM -- Thanks. I got the mail. Responded.

      Pachuca -- Gracias, mi amiga!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      marsha marsha marsha!!! (I had to say it!)

      I liked this one!

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Did I or did the others miss something here. Are these are somewhat real life occurances for your family and you are comparing them to the Brady Crunch? If, so sorry you guys have had a rough time. I hope this is just fun you are throughing at the Brady Crunch.

      Be careful, they will want to make a TV series out of your lifes. Take care!

      Keep on Hubbing. And prayers be with you.

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Nothing showed up on mail?

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      9 years ago

      Oooh, did I love the episodes you wrote!

      Oh, and you have mail!

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      I love the way you wrote this..... I feel for you, Jan and Carol but as you described...Marcia relly loves Marcia! This is so familiar to what went on with my grandmother and my aunts. It does help to write it out.

    • maggs224 profile image


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I thought this article was very well observed and written, a very insightful analogy and to use another piece from the Bible 'You reap what you sow' the amplified version says 'that and that only' If I had to choose between being the Jan or Marcia in this story I'd pick Jan anytime. Sow love and concern, duty and hard work and what is your harvest? That's right and your own family is reaping that harvest this Jan has a wonderful wife and a warm and caring family. Marcia even if it is rent free is living with her mother alone and real messed up, getting by only by using manipulation and other dubious methods. Give me a Jan for a husband anytime he gets the Mighty Mom types of this world. And so you see we do get what we sow and deserve.

    • advisor4qb profile image


      9 years ago from On New Footing

      Very cool article. Marcia is, undoubtedly, a narcissist. I wouldn't like her, either.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi msorensson, thanks! Nothing like spewing out a bunch of toxic venom into a hub to make a person feel better! Thanks for visiting my hub and the nice comment. MM

    • msorensson profile image


      9 years ago

      Cool article. I love that you included the pictures and that as you expressed how you felt, you are able to smile more.


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