Parent-adult child dynamics are complicated enough without the added layer of estrangement. With that in the mix, even the most baseline expectations of compassion from family members — for instance, caring for a sick parent — can become incredibly fraught. Take it from this Redditor, who chose to stand firm in her boundaries with her parents even after her step-dad fell ill.
Writing in the infamous /AmITheAsshole Subreddit, user @Imogeemoore provided backstory in the hopes of receiving some unbiased feedback. She (25F) has a longstanding “contentious relationship” with her mother. Her biological father died when she was 4 years old, which set a heavy tone, but @Imogeemoore really began to beef with her mom when she married John, her step-dad.
“I was told more than once, by John and my mom, that John was now my father, and I was told to call him dad, refer to him as dad with others, and not to correct anyone who used the term dad/father,” she recalled. Instead, she was told to correct people who (rightfully so!) referred to John as her step-dad.
@Imogeemoore, who was in her early teens at the time, “didn’t want to do this.” And really, who could blame her? It didn’t matter how she referred to John. No label would change the fact that her actual father was no longer with her.
But when she tried to push back, John yelled at her: “I was berated and told he was stepping up to take me on as his daughter, and the least I could do is to respect him as my father.” Um, YIKES. Invalidating much?
Unfortunately, this painful dynamic soured even further once her mom had children with John. “It became very clear he never saw me as his [child],” the Redditor recounted. “I was treated differently. … Mom always took his side, always backed him up, always agreed that he deserved some kind of respect for this stuff. I still have some bitterness over this.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that @Imogeemoore left home the day she turned 18 and went no-contact with John and her mom. Enforcing this boundary over the past seven years has greatly improved her life, she noted: “[My mom] would reach out, sometimes I would read or listen to her speak. But I felt good not having them around.”
Which brings us to the present day. According to @Imogeemoore, John was recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder. Her mom is now caring for him full-time and asked her to come back home and help her out.
“I refused,” she explained. “She told me she needed me, they needed me, and I’m their daughter. I told her I didn’t care, I wouldn’t help and after everything they had done, they deserved nothing from me. … She tried to tell me to think of the good times. I told her she failed me. She forced me to say stuff I didn’t want to say as a kid in order to appease her husband, who didn’t treat me like his kid anyway.”
After this initial confrontation, @Imogeemoore was told by a family friend that she should be “ashamed” of her behavior. But AITA Redditors took a totally different stance. By and large, they supported her decision and commended her for not folding in the face of guilt-tripping.
“You are most decidedly NTA,” one user opined. “This is another example of people justifying complete boundary-destroying behavior in the name of faaaaaaaaaamily. Nope, sorry, eff that.”
“Your mom has no right to ask you to take care of her husband,” another commenter pointed out. “You haven’t mattered to her for almost a decade. If her husband hadn’t gotten sick, she would still be out of your life. She wants to use you, not treat you like family.”
“They tried to erase your father as your father and punished you when you didn’t,” someone else astutely noted. “Block her number and anyone else who tries to tell you different.”
Before you go, read these thoughtful quotes about grief and loss.
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