Content Warning: Mentions of Postpartum Depression, Drug Use
Though there will always be some naysayers who argue that parenting is easy and state that parents shouldn’t have “signed up” for parenting if they couldn’t handle it, most people understand that parenting can be very hard in different seasons of life.
But when a parent is struggling, it is their responsibility to seek out help, not to make their child suffer for that difficult period, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor childabandonment was thoroughly fed up with her sister-in-law’s habit of dropping her four-year-old daughter off unannounced for either her or her housekeeper to babysit.
But when her sister-in-law started pleading with her to help, stating that she couldn’t do it all, the Original Poster (OP) worried there was something more going on behind-the-scenes.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for saying I will call social services if my SIL (Sister-in-Law) keeps leaving her child at my place unannounced?”
The OP’s half-brother and sister-in-law (SIL) recently moved closer to her.
“I (30 Female) have a half-brother, Enzo (40 Male). We’re not very close since we were both raised with our respective mothers, but he has always gone out of his way to help me with anything I’ve needed.”
“Enzo married his wife Steph (33 Female) two years ago. Steph has a daughter, Alice (4) with her ex but has sole custody, and Enzo and Steph have a seven-month-old son, Teddy.”
“I also have a three-year-old daughter.”
“Enzo and Steph moved to the city I live in when Steph got pregnant, and since then, Steph developed a habit of showing up at my apartment building unannounced.”
“It became a problem and I talked to both her and Enzo about it and she stopped until she gave birth.”
Steph’s expectation of free, unplanned childcare was becoming a huge problem for the OP.
“Now, she regularly drops by unannounced to leave Alice at my building for ‘babysitting’ while she has to run errands or something.”
“She’s even had her carpool drop Alice off at my apartment before.”
“My poor housekeeper is a wonderful woman who has had to deal with Alice arriving unexpectedly while I’m out, and I feel terrible about it.”
“I’ve told the concierge not to let her up and to say no one is in, but then I’ll arrive to Alice waiting in the lobby, which is not safe, and the concierge has told me I can’t make them responsible for a child.”
“Steph keeps saying she only does it when she’s desperate, but I don’t see how she can be that desperate to run errands at least twice a week, and frankly, I’m not a nanny. If she’s desperate, she needs to hire some help.”
“I’ve spoken to Enzo, and he is always extremely apologetic and says he will talk to her, and I believe he does, but he also works during the day and can’t police where she is at all hours.”
The OP finally had to set a new boundary with Steph.
“I reached my breaking point a couple of days ago when I returned from lunch to find Alice at my home, having been dropped off since she had a half day at school.”
“I apologized profusely to my housekeeper who had spent time playing babysitter.”
“Then I called Steph but received no answer.”
“I called her several times, and then Enzo, who was on a business trip and distraught over the situation.”
“Steph eventually turned up a couple of hours later and I went ballistic.”
“I said if she ever leaves Alice at my building again, I will call social services, and I will call them every single time she drops Alice off with me until they do something, because this is not my job and she is an irresponsible and neglectful parent.”
“She burst into tears and begged me to help out with Alice, but I said no and reminded her I’d never said yes in the first place, she just kept dumping her kid here.”
“Steph kept trying to guilt trip me, but I was too exhausted and upset about the situation to be receptive, and eventually my husband had to tell her to leave.”
The OP later felt conflicted.
“I feel bad because as I said, Enzo has never been anything but the most accommodating person where I’m concerned, and maybe treating his wife like that was harsh.”
“But at the same time, I chose to have one kid because I don’t want another one, and Steph can’t use my house as a free daycare.”
“Was I too harsh?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some reassured the OP that her housekeeper was not hired to provide childcare.
“NTA. She may also flat-out need to be told that you did not hire your housekeeper to watch her child. How unfair for her to be infringed on like that. Have you told her directly she is free to tell SIL that she is not babysitting/it’s not what she’s hired to do?” – Kris82868
“NTA, let the concierge know to call CPS if it happens again.”
“Same with your housekeeper if it happens when you are out again as well.” – igwbuffalo
“NTA. If SIL is that desperate, she can find the money to pay you or your housekeeper (whoever encounters the child first) for your services.”
“Your housekeeper doesn’t work for your SIL! If she expects emergency childcare and your kind housekeeper looks after the child for whatever period of time, SIL can pay up!”
“A daycare wouldn’t watch a random kid for free! Why should you/your housekeeper?” – becausesometimes
“NTA. This woman is completely irresponsible, she did not hesitate to leave her child in the hall, it’s horrible.”
“Besides, based on your description, am I wrong to think that she is not working?”
“If she doesn’t change her way of doing things, ask for payment, you are not (even less your housekeeper) her free worker.” – Far_Dependent_8975
“Send Steph a bill for all babysitting services rendered to date, at the current market rate for ’emergency sitting’ (last minute, no notice, drop everything and mind this kid). The housekeeper gets a fair cut for all the babysitting Steph forced her to do, of course.”
“And then once Steph has paid this in full, make it clear that she is not to use your housekeeper’s services EVER again, paid or not. There’s something really wrong happening here, and you don’t need to encourage her behavior by providing her a (paid) place to leave her daughter.” – Odd-Phrase5808
Others thought that Steph was facing someone much more serious than motherhood.
“It sounds like the mom is REALLY desperate to leave the child, which is quite odd, it kinda goes against a mother’s nature. Few things would override those instincts, like a secret drug addiction. She doesn’t want her child to see her buying and consuming drugs or doing something to buy drugs.” – Sonnyjoon91
“That child being abandoned by her mother repeatedly for hours constantly is bad for her development and mental health.”
“Of course you not being consulted before drop off and not being paid are big important issues, but the fact of the matter is that your SIL doesn’t understand that she is abusing her own daughter through parental neglect. Period”
“That needs to be addressed with her husband seriously, and if he refuses to force a proper solution, then the authorities need to be involved.”
“This is no different from a drug addict mother dropping her kid off at random places so she can go get high. Both are wrong and harm the child.” – TheSirensMaiden
“I’m not sure it’s even that she doesn’t want her to talk. Kids are very inconvenient when doing nefarious stuff. She can just yeet the older kid anywhere because she can say, ‘Hey, I’m here for x person to watch me.’ I’m sure she has already learned you can’t do that with an infant.”
“But as soon as that baby is big enough for her daughter to be enough, that CPS won’t heavily be involved, she will be dumping both on anyone she can.”
“Between dealing with CPS removing my kid from the egg donors’ house to having several of our local CPS agents as clients at the salon… it’s a depressingly common thing to happen.”
“Almost a guaranteed sign of drug addiction, which let’s face it, probably means cheating as well if it’s mostly done when the brother is away.” – FBIaltacct
“I hate to jump to affairs… but maybe the other guy is not available during school hours? I’ve been reading through posts and comments, and this is beyond bizarre. Literally, the only thing that makes sense is that she is doing something Alice could tell on her for.”
“The other scary possibility is drug use. If she is going somewhere to get high and bringing the baby, she could be passing out, and the baby is not being cared for.”
“Something is extremely off, and your instincts are spot on that it isn’t normal.”
“You might ask her face to face if it is an affair or if it is drugs. See what her reaction is. Tell her this is her one chance to come clean with the truth and ask for help.”
“I have a four-year-old. I’ve had overworked stressed friends with multiple kids who suddenly became single mothers, even friends who had addiction issues while being moms. And never once has a single one just dropped their child off anywhere without planned care! Something is very wrong.” – Charlea1776
“NTA. At this point, it’s clear Steph and Enzo need to hire a full-time nanny. She clearly can’t seem to handle the logistics of raising two young children.”
“And if finances are the issue, then Steph needs to cut back on these twice weekly, middle-of-the-day ‘errands’ she’s going on.”
“I’m honestly wondering if she has a drug problem she’s trying to hide because allowing her young daughter to be put in such potentially dangerous situations sounds like someone who’s catering to a different priority. And what priority is higher than your child? An addiction.” – All_That_Hot_Mess
“NTA. But now that things have calmed down, I would politely but assertively and in writing (text, email) follow up with her, and remind her of the consequences (I will be forced to call child services, though I really hope it doesn’t come to that…), and make sure your brother is copied. Then follow through if it happens again.”
“IF you’re feeling generous, maybe acknowledge that she’s told you she’s having a tough time and is overwhelmed and share a few suggestions/links to local resources that might be able to help. Could be an affair, could be pure selfishness, COULD BE PPD (Postpartum Depression).”
“I would try to give her the benefit of the doubt and support her until proven otherwise, if not for anything else but the sake of your brother and their kids. Emphasis on support; you’re under no obligation to solve her problems by becoming a free nanny.”
“Reddit is a weird place. Maybe she is having an affair but I can’t believe I’m the first person to suggest PPD. (Apologies if I missed another comment. I hope I’m wrong.) I’m assuming there aren’t a lot of moms in the comments.” – Ok_Discount_7889
“Is there something else going on here, perhaps? Have you considered the possibility that all is not well with your SIL? This is very disturbing behavior, from a mother of such young children. And where is her seven-month-old when she disappears on these regular, mysterious, lengthy ‘errands’?”
“Perhaps she is just being selfish, using you as a free babysitting service. Has she always been that selfish and entitled, has she always just dumped her responsibilities on others with a care for their own schedule, or has there been a recent, worsening, change?”
“Because it sounds to me like something is off. Possibly very off. I would consider things like, undiagnosed PPD (Postpartum Depression), or some other form of mental health issue that nobody is recognizing. Or, is she having an affair? or is she taking drugs and going somewhere to get high?”
“You’ve mentioned your brother is at work all day and takes business trips; it’s possible that if something is going wrong with her, he is perhaps too absorbed in work and then tired and just wanting to focus on his children when he’s home, to notice.”
“I suggest you have a think about this. About whether there are any other changes to her behavior of late. It may be a cry for help.”
“If not, definitely NTA, it’s appalling and incredibly irresponsible to dump a child at someone else’s home without prior arrangement. The fact that your niece has been dumped when you weren’t even there and nobody was at your apartment is flat-out dangerous.”
“Either she is a VERY irresponsible mother, or there is more to this story that you and your brother are not seeing yet, but you need to find out, because those two very young children seem to be in a worrisomely precarious situation.” – exfamilia
The subReddit could totally sympathize with the sister-in-law struggling to balance the care of two children while her son was still really small and dependent, but they were concerned by the ways in which she was asking for help.
Not only was her method for dropping off her daughter potentially putting her daughter in harm’s way, but it made everyone think that something more was going on, from postpartum depression to something much, much darker.