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'My mum asked me to watch my siblings for a week. It’s been 9 weeks.' UPDATED 3X

'My mum asked me to watch my siblings for a week. It’s been 9 weeks.' UPDATED 3X

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When your family isn't supportive, sometimes you need to turn to the world at large for advice. Luckily, the internet is always down for that.

In a popular post on the Advice subreddit, a woman asked for advice on how to handle the responsibility of her siblings. She wrote:

"My mum asked me to watch my siblings for a week. It’s been 9 weeks."

My mum went out two days before Christmas and then text me 12 hours later saying she would be gone for a week and for me to have the kids. She hasn’t come back since. So almost 9 weeks. I have heard from her 3 times total and she is saying she isn’t coming back any time soon, she just keeps sending money.

My siblings are 16, 13, 12, 9, and 7. I’m 19.

I’m surviving looking after the kids by myself and tbh not much has changed because I did most of it when my mum was here anyway. We live with our nan but she doesn’t help with them really either, and my older siblings are long moved out.

I guess my question is, is my mum being gone a serious issue legally and with social services? I don’t want to risk the kids going into care (been there done that when I was younger) so I haven’t told anyone that she’s gone. I’m scared of what will happen if people find out so I don’t want to even ask the question IRL.

The internet was quick to respond.

Expert-Angle-8214

you need to report your mother for abandoning her kids, but at the same time tell them you will look after them, your mum need to learn she cant do this to her kids and needs to be brought up on child abandonment charges

OOP:

I would do that if it was guaranteed i could keep them but i dont know if thats even possible or at all likely with so many of them and we arent rich. Maybe 1 or 2 kids they would say ok but 5 just seems unlikely they would let me keep them

hmdmdm wrote:

Is there any other trusted adult in your family? Aunt, uncle, cousin, something? Maybe they could come help you keep your family together?

OP responded:

We have some aunts and uncles but none we are close to or who seem like they care. I could try that route I guess. My older siblings are most likely to give a sh*t and even they aren’t being very helpful.

campremembersh*t wrote:

Why do you think your life prospects aren’t good? You’re 19, you have your whole life ahead of you. This is really unfair of your mom to put on you. I totally get not wanting your siblings to go into the system but you need to think about setting yourself up to be in a position where you could take care of them if that’s your goal.

The youngest is 7, you’re looking a long road of caregiving if you go this route and you need to be able to support yourself and them if that’s your goal.

OP responded:

I didnt do great in school, we don’t have much money, live in a sh**ty area, I can tick most of the boxes for things that set you back in life. I work now and make a decent wage but I just can’t imagine being able to enjoy that if I abandoned my family. I have thought about it a lot and I used to wish I could just go and live my own life but reality is I would have no one and nothing to live for.

flowerodell wrote:

Where TF did she go? Is she in trouble? On dr*gs? Even if she comes back, this sounds super shady and maybe she shouldn’t be caring for them. You need to call someone.

OP responded:

She’s done it before. Usually she goes to the same city but I have no idea what she does when she’s there. She tells everyone she’s looking for our dad but that’s BS. Far as I know she doesnt do dr*gs but she has had issues with alcohol. She’s sh*t in the mum department but she doesnt care for them even when she is here, I do.

AnonymousWhiteGirl wrote:

File emergency guardianship. You're an adult so I don't see the law removing them if under your legal care. Not sure.

Where are your older siblings?? Do they know what's going on?

OP responded:

They moved out at 18 and we very rarely see them. I have told them she’s gone but they don’t think its a big deal as she has done it before.

OP jumped on with another comment laying out some facts.

I don't have poa or know how I can even get that. I assume it would come with legal guardianship.

I think she does but I dont really know the details or how much. She goes through phases of talking about that stuff but she also lies a lot. She claimed she gets nothing from the government, but she also claimed she got thousands from our dad which is impossible bc he is the definition of a “train wreck.”

I don’t know when he has even had a job. As in if they got hurt in my care? We don’t have access to that kind of thing as far as I know. We live in a small rural town with minimal access to a lot of services like that. I'm trying to find out but not having much luck.

I can make $4k-5k a month depending on what shifts I am able to do. Lately I can only work 30 hrs a week when the kids are in school so cant earn as much but my mum has sent money and my nan covers most bills so i dont have a huge amount of expenses. Food for 5 kids is a lot but I’m doing ok so far and can save a small amount.

Food/clothes should be fine, I mainly worry about birthdays and other big expenses like that but thats why I'm trying to save as much as possible for those times No idea where my dad is. We havent seen or heard from him for around 5 years. There were some serious abuse allegations from my older siblings and he hasn’t been seen since. Before that he would come and go.

The age gaps between the siblings are the times he disappeared. He would vanish for sometimes years, then reappear and they’d have a couple more kids I want to keep them here with us. So really just need advice on how to go about that. Letting them go into care would k*ll me so its not really the advice im looking for, but i do understand why everyone is saying that.

A week later, OP shared an update.

I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her I want her to give me custody of the kids since she is refusing to come back or say when she will be back and I’m done with her BS. We argued for like an hour but in the end she said she would do it after i told her I was going to call the police on her.

Before speaking to her I spoke to a lawyer and i should be able to get legal guardianship through a parenting order which will go through court. My 22-year-old brother said he will move home and help me under the condition that my mum doesnt move back as he refuses to be around her.

His income and input will help a lot and he seems serious about wanting to be involved with parenting and taking care of the kids especially our little brother as he needs a male role model badly. If we cant get custody then my nan should be able to. Either way my mum is very unlikely to keep custody unless she suddenly decides she gives a shit (I would bet my life she will never give a flying f*ck).

Getting legal custody is the outcome i want so I’m relieved it seems like a real possibility. Now I’m just trying doing a total overhaul of everything with the kids because I think they need a lot more structure, discipline, rules, routine than they have had until now.

I have realised I don't really know anything about good parenting so I have a lot to learn. Maybe I will get some books. Until now our house has been more like a house share with everyone doing what they want and running around feral rather than anyone really guiding the kids.

I grew up even more feral and I dont think it's a good way to be raised. So I’m starting a bath and bedtime routine for the youngest two, and a curfew for the teenagers. Because rn the 12 year old goes off on his skateboard and will just show up again at like 10pm on a school night.

I’ve also been giving them much better food than they usually have and its been rough to get them to eat healthy but we have made so much progress already. Any advice on instilling rules would be welcome as I dont think it will be easy and I have never had any kind of actual parent role model in my life.

People had a lot of comments and questions.

VeganMonkey wrote:

In another post you mention your dad, where is he? He should step up.

OP responded:

he disappeared 5 years ago after my older siblings started talking openly about how he abused them. We havent seen or heard from him since. He used to vanish for years at a time and come back when he was bored or whatever and my mum would try to keep him around with new babies. but I dont think he will be back again.

Tess27795 wrote:

I am so sorry you have the mother you have. There is no excuse. I give you full credit for what you are doing. I do not know where you live but I thought you might want to know if you are in the US there may be financial help.

Please look for any government assistance you can get.

Do not let that 12 year old run free. Make sure he is in at decent time. 8 pm on school nights is good. The later he is out the more likely he is going to run into older teens and trouble. Make sure he showers and wears clean clothes.

Get his older brother to talk to him. He should have some chores and he must get his homework done. Tell him he cannot go out after school or supper until his homework is done. If his older brother comes home, talk with him. If you present it a united front, it is better. Children always look for the weak link.

OP responded:

Thank you. We are in Australia but will see if theres anything we can get to help as with 5 kids it is kind of tight. We are good for the essentials but I can't get them much that they want or do fun things that cost money. But are lucky to have the beach. I'm trying to make him see that me telling him he needs to be home at an earlier time is not me being dramatic.

I took his skateboard today bc he was about to go off as usual after telling me to leave him alone. Hoping that will make him take me seriously or my older brother might have to step in The united front is what im most worried about. Doing it alone I know I can be consistent but I havent really seen my brother for like 4 years so idk what he will be like.

On the phone he seems pretty serious about everything and hopefully he will back me up. I really think they will need us to be kind of strict especially in the beginning since we will be changing a lot of things around here.

He will be here at the weekend so I’ll see if I think we can actually work together. The younger kids wont remember him tbh so idk if it will be good to take it slow or maybe better just go all in from day one.

TotalIndependence881 wrote:

You’re probably off to a great start already as a parent to your siblings! Rewards over punishments to start with! Bedtimes, wake up times, school attendance and good grades (at least better than yesterday grades), and after school time expectations (go home, ask permission to leave, curfew, always home at supper time, chores before fun, homework, etc Whatever works for your family).

Reward the crap out of positive behavior!

Then move to punishments. Think of “natural consequences”, which is punishments that teach a lesson about what was done.

Missing assignments at school? Cleaning the house isn’t natural. But losing privileges like playtime, going to friends, screen use is natural, because if you get behind at work you need to take your free time to catch up. So if they play too much that they get behind at school (their job), then they need to take play time to catch up.

Also think of punishments of “away from things” but also punishments that are “together with me”. For example, kids act out because they are missing connection sometimes. So if you think the kid would benefit from a connection punishment, do that instead of a “away from me” punishment.

An “away from me” punishment could be a time out, alone in room, chores alone, taking away a toy/screen. A “together with me” could be “come do the dishes with me”, cleaning up together, homework together, running errands together, things that are not “fun/play” but are doing helpful things together giving the opportunity to connect in the process.

OP responded:

Thank you so much, this advice is exactly the kind of thing I need. For me discipline has just been shouting hitting and being sent to your room until whoever wasnt pissed at you anymore. I want it to be healthier and just better for the kids. So thanks ❤️

OP posted a comment in response to generalized suggestions she get the kids therapy.

We can't afford therapy and dont have any access to it where we live. Even if we had the money I’m pretty sure it would be a 3hr round trip to the nearest one. X5 would be impossible. I will defo try to make sure to give them choices and listen to them as much as possible.

I already approach things differently with them as their personalities are so different. Some need me to be a lot more authoritative to even have a chance of them taking me serious. One cries if she even suspects i’m mad at her. Its a lot to learn but i’m willing to give it everything ive got and hope that will be enough.

After receiving lots of support, OP posted another update in the comments.

Thank you so much for all the helpful comments here and messages offering help/advice (i will reply to them all when I can). Rn I’m putting all my energy into the new routine and trying to sort out legal guardianship so we can get money for the kids etc.

Everything else is a problem for later on when we are more settled. My older brother came up last weekend and tbh it was nice but weird bc the younger kids dont even remember him and they pretty much clung to me for the entire time bc having a man in the house is strange for them.

But after he left they said they miss him and liked having him here. He’s been sorting his s**t out this week and is coming back tomorrow with all his stuff and will be working remote from our house. Me and him have spoken a lot and i think we will be able to get on the same page with the kids and make it work. I’m worried about some things with parenting differences but we will figure it out.

I’m trying not to seem controlling but its hard to adjust to someone else being very involved when I have been looking after them by myself. I know I need him though. My nan was actively trying to undermine me and we had an argument, then my brother got here and he had an argument with her in the first half hour. So she has gone to my aunts for a while.

She is still paying the bills here but if she stops we will be ok with my brothers money and mine. My brother wants to take the kids and move house but I am not even thinking about that until everything else is sorted out. Now that things are actually changing our older sisters are more interested and have been messaging me so they might help as well.

The kids are not taking the new routine too well but we are making progress so I’m trying to stick with it. I made a meal plan and have stuck to that all week. My 9-year-old sister told me she likes rules which makes it feel worth it. The teenagers are kind of a nightmare but Im trying to persevere with them.

13-year-old was being horrific and I lost my s**t which made her have an emotional breakdown and now she’s been a lot better. 12 year old has taken it ok ish he just tells me I’m a loser all the time and asks for his skateboard back a million times a day but I know he knows where it is so he is being pretty good considering he could just take it back if he really wanted. 16-year-old is hell.

7-year-old has like three tantrums a day and wont eat or sleep so she stresses me out probably the most. My mum hasnt called anymore but is complying with giving us custody and told her friend it's the best thing thats ever happened to her. I cba with her and if she tries to come back I will do everything i can to keep her away from the kids.

Two weeks later, OP jumped on with another update.

Hi! Not sure if doing multiple updates is ok but I have had a lot of messages since the BORU post and think it will be easier to update people who are interested like this as replying to all is hard.

Thanks to advice here we have realised that getting kinship is a better choice for us financially than getting legal guardianship. This wasnt mentioned to us by the lawyer or social services so i’m so grateful for everyone here as we will have so much less financial stress on kinship and we will get access to a lot more services for the kids

Things are already seeming so much less scary. My brother has come home to help me and is working remotely for his same job which is ideal. He has been amazing at making it all happen so fast and packing up his life to move back. He is still back and forth at the moment but should be here full time besides a few days a month where he has to be there in person.

Our oldest sister has said she will send some money every month to help us but doesnt want to be involved other than that. I understand why and am very grateful she is helping. Honestly it hurts a bit that she refuses to talk about the kids or anything but she is doing what she can handle rn I guess.

Our other sister is working fifo right now and has suggested coming back on her weeks off to help out but I’m not sure if that will actually happen or work well in reality. My brother doesnt get along with her very well and says he doesn't think living with her again will work The kids are still struggling with the new rules and we have had some issues.

16-year-old hates me so my brother is trying to take over with her bc I am bored of fighting with her The others are doing better but still so difficult. 7-year-old wont sleep which is the hardest thing right now bc then I can't sleep and I’m tired af. She has meltdowns when shes tired and shes always tired now so shes always having meltdowns. Idk what to do with her.

Everything U try to make her sleep doesnt work that well. She says she doesn't know why she “cant” (wont) sleep so idk where to even start. My brother tried to get her to bed and she just cried and screamed for me. 12-year-old is listening to our brother which is the best thing to ever happen because I was really worried about handling him since he listens to me NEVER.

13 and 9 year old are easier and not stressing me out too much. So we are kind of divide and conquer now. My brother handles 2 and I handle the other 3. I have found out I am very protective of the younger ones and find it very difficult to let my brother discipline them so it causes less problems between us if i deal with them.

Still early days and hoping consistency will fix a lot of the smaller issues. Long term we want to rent somewhere bigger as our nans house is very cramped and making things harder This is long and messy, sorry!! Just wanted to update everyone who has asked and thank everyone again for the advice.

The internet was super supportive in the comments.

LesbianSansa wrote:

Glad to hear your brother is helping out! Especially with the teenage siblings, it's hard for them to see you as an authority figure unfortunately as you're not that much older and it SHOULDN'T be on you to deal with this. Having two people be a united front for them will be hugely helpful in establishing boundaries.

Sounds like the 7 year old might be dealing with anxiety. Kids are not great at identifying their own emotions. She's running from sleep because she doesn't feel safe to lie down and drop her guard. Strongly recommend getting them checked out by the GP if you can, mention the trauma background. I know it's hard to find bulk-billing GPs at the moment though.

Divide and conquer is the right strategy! As is consistency as you mentioned. I would STRONGLY recommend communicating the current home situation to the kids' schools, they may be able to hook you guys up with more social services and if nothing else it will be helpful for teachers to be aware of the situation in dealing with behavioural issues. (But I am a teacher so that's my bias lol.)

OP responded:

Yeah I think him being that bit older and the fact they havent seen him for years has made him automatically more of an authority figure to the teenagers. The younger ones are a bit unsure of him still and I think they will adjust to him better if he isn't being the strict one straight off.

It's hard to find the balance with the different approaches for each kid. But 16 year old went to a party last night and was texting me arguing about the pre set pick up time we gave her, so my brother went to get her and she actually got in the car. If I had gone she would have 100% told me to f#$k off.

Yeah she refuses to lay down and just hates her bed. Only way I can get her to sleep is by laying in her bed with her until I’m sure she’s in a deep sleep. And thats after hours of her physically fighting me, crying, etc Trying to get them to the GP is a huge struggle time wise and money wise. Will get them in asap but probably wont be that soon.

Also dont have a car big enough for everyone so would have to go in separate trips as well. The teachers are aware of the situation. They know my mum is a pos and i have been doing parents night etc for the kids for literal years. I told them she is “away” and I am going for custody

Lamenardo wrote:

7 might be having bad dreams, or maybe she feels being awake is the only time she has any control over her life - did your egg doner leave during the night maybe? Either way insomnia is a b#$ch, and I sympathize with you both. Will she quietly draw or watch videos during the night while you sleep? Does she have a nightlife and white noise?

OP responded:

Yeah, 7 year old woke up on Christmas eve to our mum being gone. Tbh she seemed kind of unphased about it bc she is not even remotely close to my mum. She slept in my room from like 4 months old. But it obviously has affected her. I think she is probably worried I will leave so she’s trying to stay awake to make sure I’m still there.

I tell her all the time I’m not going anywhere etc but she just freaks out about bedtime every single evening. Even if I keep her in the living room with me and hope she will fall asleep without any pressure she stays awake way too late considering she has school in the morning.

And she still cries and says she just wants it to be morning already The 4 kids are all in the same room and there is a nightlight in there but 13 year old turns it off because she says she cant sleep with any light. 7 year old has never said she needs a light tbf. She slept fine in the dark before all this.

Fatigue-Error wrote:

OP is an angel just for trying. And the brother is a hero for coming back to help out. I hope the kids realize what these two are doing for them, and are grateful some day.

That mom and the dad, they can rot in hell.

41flavorsandthensome wrote:

I also have sympathy for the older sister who doesn’t want to come back. When OP mentioned her oldest siblings were out, I thought, “Ah. They escaped, and were probably once stuck the way OP is.”

It’s a messed up situation all around, and yes: the parents suck.

OP is a true hero for stepping up, hopefully her and her brother are able to get into a healthy swing of things with the kids.

Sources: Reddit
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