Parents Expecting Teen Daughter to Raise Youngest Child Slammed: 'Sexist'

Parents pressuring their teenage daughter into raising her younger sister are being blasted online.

In a post to Reddit's Am I the A*******? (AITA) forum, user u/Imogee82 wrote that she is 19 years old and the oldest of three children.

The poster has an 18-year-old brother and a 12-year-old sister. She is close to her brother, whom she describes as her "ally," but has a "complicated relationship" with her youngest sibling.

Her sister was a "surprise baby" and, as a result, her parents spoiled her. When the sister was around 4 years old and Imogee82 was 12, they began to rely on the poster for childcare, making her resentful.

Upset teen with arms wrapped around knees
A stock photo of an upset teen with her arms wrapped around her knees with her disapproving mother behind her. The poster has been caring for her sister since she was around 12 years old. Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Several states have laws that set out the minimum age a child can be left home alone or left to tend younger siblings; Illinois has the oldest set age at 14, according to the state's Legislative Reference Bureau in 2016.

In this case, the 4-year-old sister "had a lot of energy and was often very hyper," the poster wrote.

"I was expected to help feed her and calm her down before bed. I was told I needed to walk her to school once she started," she added.

"If I was going to see friends she was always forced along. The more time she was pushed on me, the more she wanted me and the more my parents made me include her."

Her brother was never expected to help raise their sister, while the day-to-day care of the child was foisted on the poster.

"[They] even told us to our faces that of course sisters will be closer and will take care of little sisters. That it's not a brother's job," she wrote.

"They made everything surrounding my sister for me a chore. I had to take her along with me as if I was a single mom without childcare.

"The sad thing is she considers me her second mom as well as her sister. She used to call me mommy-sis and even as she grew older she would describe me as her sister-mom to people," the poster added.

Although she loves her sister, she finds it difficult to be around her, while simultaneously feeling too guilt-ridden to ask for the space she needs.

Older teenager arguing with her pre-teen sister.
A stock photo of an older teenager arguing with her pre-teen sister. Imogee82 is expected to take her younger sister everywhere, despite the 7-year age difference, making her resentful. Dima Berlin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

After years of struggling and resentment, the situation recently came to a head. The poster and her brother went on a weekend trip with some friends, but her parents shamed her for not taking her sister along.

"[They said] how awful it was that I was pulling away from my sister and spent far less time with her than I should be," Imogee82 wrote.

"They said they can clearly see I love my brother more and that's wrong."

The poster snapped, calling her parents "sexist a******" for expecting her to take on a parenting role for her sibling.

"[I said] if they want to blame anyone for the way things are with my sister and I, then they should blame themselves for forcing me to take care of her when I was just her sister, not her parent," she wrote.

"They told me I was not the only kid ever asked to care about young siblings and am the a****** for blaming them."

Angry Reddit users slammed the teen's mom and dad for "parentifying" her, with the post receiving 5,500 upvotes and almost 500 comments.

What Is Parentification?

John Sovec is a psychotherapist and the author of Out: A Parent's Guide to Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Kid Through Coming Out and Beyond. He told Newsweek that parentification is when a child is forced to take on the role of a parent.

"In most families, there is a clear hierarchy of parents being the leaders of the family unit and the children being supported, nurtured, and loved through that parental leadership," Sovec said.

Pre-teen trying to put infant in highchair
A stock photo of a young teenager trying to put an infant in a highchair. Parentification—when a child is forced to take on the role of a parent—can have long-term emotional effects, according to psychotherapist John Sovec. Cicy/iStock/Getty Images Plus

"Sometimes, though, the family dynamics get turned on their head and the parents will turn to their children for practical and emotional support and forcing their kids to take on many adult responsibilities," Sovec added.

Although a form of abuse, parentification often occurs after a family trauma, or if a parent develops a substance abuse or a mental or physical health issue. The child is forced to pick up the slack to stop the family falling into disarray, even if they're not emotionally ready for such a responsibility.

"In the long term, this type of emotional and physical strain can cause adverse effects on both the emotional growth of a child as well as their physical health," Sovec said.

"As these parentified children move into adulting, they may develop a self-reliance that is so all-encompassing that it is virtually impossible for them to trust others and develop healthy relationships.

"This can show up as anxiety, depression, aggression, and the lack of ability to build trusting relationships," Sovec added.

'You Are Not Your Sister's Keeper'

Apart_Foundation1702 called the poster's parents "awful."

"Your parents abused you," wrote Iataddicted25.

EcLokadottr agreed, posting: "They forced a lot of parentification on you instead of letting you grow up as a kid. It was also incredibly sexist of them, and gross."

Efficient-Jacket-386 commented: "They failed to do THEIR responsibilities and projected them on you... You are not your sister's keeper and never should have been."

Two young sisters ignoring each other post-argument
A stock photo of two young sisters ignoring each other after an argument. The pressure has driven a wedge between the poster and her younger sister. Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus

ElvishGuardian wrote: "This gives me the impression she was an accident and so were passing her off which is god awful for your sister too..."

Others were troubled by the lack of concern for the 12-year-old's safety. The parents were fine with the sister going on a trip with almost-adults.

"It is so strange they would want a 12 year old exposed to what 19 year olds are [doing]," wrote InternalLifeguard29. "That is a very large age gap with a huge mental and physical developmental divide."

"That's also very dangerous actually..." agreed Facetunethis. "Your sister could become the target of a friend's friend who happens to be at some event you're at and get taken advantage of emotionally or otherwise."

Littlebitfunny21 wrote: "A 12yo hanging out with 19yos is basically gift wrapped to be groomed and abused."

Newsweek reached out to u/Imogee82 for comment. We could not verify the details of the case.

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