Life Advice


Health & Spirit

My sis leans on me too much to help with her two kids

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

I'm 30 and live at home with my disabled mother and grandmother, and my younger sister and her two sons moved in with us last year. I love my nephews (1 and 3), but for the past year I've felt like a second parent, or at worst an unpaid nanny. Sister doesn't work, but she's taking online classes; I work full-time and do as much housework as I can.

From the minute I get home, I'm on Kid Duty: My sister will disappear upstairs, or be in the room physically but trust me to make sure the 1-year-old doesn't choke on a crayon or the 3-year-old eats his dinner. I put the 3-year-old to bed every night and clean up after bedtime. If I go to my room, I have maybe half an hour to myself before Sister is texting me for help.

She's going through a bad divorce, and I know she had postpartum depression. I feel like a jerk telling her I need time for myself, plus she points out that she has no time for herself, either. My go-to argument is that these aren't actually MY kids, but saying that makes me feel like even more of a jerk.

Am I being unreasonable in wanting less responsibility? The father is in another state and has always been verbally abusive, and I do love the kids, so I don't want to step away completely -- I just feel like I'm being taken advantage of. It causes a lot of strain in the house and I'm scared the kids will pick up on it.

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-- Aunt in Agony

First of all, you're a mensch.

Not a jerk, at all.

You're clearly an immense help to a mother under extreme duress, and you provide these boys -- and the world in general -- with some sorely needed compassion. Ultimately this will enrich your own life, especially through your bond with these kids.


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