in , ,

Newly-Sober Mom Called Out For Keeping Daughter Away From SIL Who Acted As Second Mother

Mother and young daughter together
Tripod/Getty Images

Content Warning: Addiction, Recovery

Any parent who is trying their best to be a good parent will also admit that there is no such thing as being perfect. Parents will make mistakes that will hurt their children’s feelings.

But some mistakes have a far more lasting effect, cringed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor throwra1290s was doing her best to get her life back together and to repair her relationships with her husband and her young daughter on her road to sobriety.

But when she discovered how close her daughter had become to her sister-in-law while she was receiving medical attention, the Original Poster (OP) felt defensive of her role in her daughter’s life.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for keeping my daughter away from my sister-in-law?”

The OP’s relationship with her daughter didn’t get off to the best start.

“During the first four-ish years of my daughter’s life, my husband and I had many fights and struggles while I dealt with addiction.”

“At one point, he was living with my daughter and his brother for almost two years, and we nearly got divorced. My daughter bonded very strongly with his brother’s wife, my sister-in-law (SIL).”

The OP pursued her sobriety during the pandemic.

“The pandemic opened my eyes, and my husband and I have healed a lot, and I am repairing my relationship with him and my daughter.”

“I attend sobriety groups and parenting classes. I understand these things take time.”

“However, he continuously brings my daughter to visit his brother and her wife. If you ask my daughter, she’ll say her favorite person is her aunt.”

“My daughter can’t help this, but my sister-in-law certainly can. She is always calling my daughter ‘my baby,’ taking her on outings, etc. She will FaceTime my husband just to speak to my daughter.”

“She seems not to want to relinquish the place she took in my daughter’s life.”

The OP was trying to bond with her daughter instead of her sister-in-law.

“A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to get her ears pierced for her birthday. This was supposed to be a special moment for us. It was the same birthday my mom took me.”

“But instead, my daughter started panicking uncontrollably and wanting my sister-in-law. She didn’t want to do it without my sister-in-law there.”

“At this point, I decided to put my foot down. I have been trying to decrease the visits and the FaceTimes.”

The OP’s husband did not support her decision.

“But now my husband is catching on.”

“I try to explain my daughter needs to spend time with us as a family without outside influences, and she needs to bond with her mother without being confused.”

“He says I am being selfish. I don’t see how it’s selfish to want to repair my relationship with my child.”

“He says that it is unfair to my daughter, and I explained yes it is but he is making it a thousand times worse by not ripping off the band-aid.”

“I have worked so hard to get my family back; meanwhile, my husband will not even give me an inch. It’s frustrating that I am always made out to be the bad guy when all I want is to fix things.”

“AITA?”

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 thought the OP’s concerns about her daughter were incredibly selfish.

“YTA.”

“You’re not trying to repair anything. You’re trying to hold your daughter hostage so you can feel like a mommy without actually having to put in the work.”

“Your daughter refused to do something scary and painful without the adult she trusts NOT to abandon her. Let that sink in.”

“You don’t win your daughter’s trust by stripping away everything that makes her feel safe.”

“Just to be clear. YTA.” – Cara_Ceeth

“The OP was gone emotionally and physically for half of her daughter’s life. She was addicted and then, eventually, absent.”

“This child bonded with her aunt because she was the only female parental figure in her life. The OP was a mother in biology only.”

“Trust is earned, and it will take a long time for her daughter to trust that she won’t abandon her again. Taking away her aunt will only make that worse.”

“It’s going to take a lot of consistency. A lot of just being there. Not parties or ear piercings. It’s going to be school drop-offs, dance recitals, snack mom at soccer practice, and bedtime stories.”

“The best thing the OP can do is include her SIL. If her daughter sees that her aunt trusts her, she will, too.”

“OP, YTA.” – auntiecoagulent

“There’s no magic wand to fix your relationship, and if there was, you probably would have pawned it and gone to the bar just a few years ago. Think about that.”

“You kind of ‘forgot’ to post how old your daughter is, but you chose alcohol over her for years. That just doesn’t go away.”

“And instead of being jealous of your SIL, perhaps you should build a relationship with her too. You could probably use a new friend group.” – AHDetector

“So your solution to win your daughter’s love (who is estranged because of your behavior) is to hurt her? YTA.”

“People can love multiple people, you know… There’s no limit on how many people one can love. But forcing someone out of your daughter’s heart will brake your relationship forever.”

“You have so much time to heal your relationship with your daughter… You missed too much of her life, and she found a safe haven in her father, uncle, and aunt.”

“I would be forever grateful that someone loves my daughter so much that was there for her when I wasn’t (even if it wasn’t my fault from the beginning).”

“You act like you don’t even try to bond with her. You came back into her life and expect that this would automatically give you full access to her heart. That’s not how it works. You must work to win her back.”

“Banning the people who love her is the first step in the wrong direction to losing your daughter forever. Instead, embrace that love that surrounds your daughter.”

“I think a good solution would be to spend time with both of them, play dates, where your daughter can see that there’s nothing wrong with her feelings because there’s not. Your daughter needs to feel comfortable in your presence. Right now, she’s not because you truly care only about what you want and what you feel instead of what she wants and what she feels.”

“There’s only so much bonding time in the 24 hours in a day, and it’s frustrating that you cannot see this.”

“Every small stuff you could do for your daughter (not for you): brush her hair, sing her songs, watch cartoons, play together with her toys, read her stories, look at the pictures from her birth till now, and talk about how much you loved her ever since she was growing inside of you…”

“There’s a long list of things that you can do… And you ignore everything… It’s so sad.”

“You should start therapy for yourself. You really need it. And please try to start rebuilding your relationship with your daughter. If not, you will lose her.”

“Between the two of you, you are the one who made mistakes. You are the adult. You are the one who must repent and rebuild.”

“That is if you really want to.” – Signal-Database1739

Others agreed with the harsh judgment but tried to take a more empathetic approach.

“I 100% agree with other comments about the OP being selfish. But I just wanted to say I understand the impulse.”

“My MIL moved to town last year. Before that, she lived quite far away. She’s a wonderful, energetic grandma, and my kids adore her. They spend a least one night a week with her. Every now and then, I find myself wanting to limit their time with her, and I’ll make excuses, like she gives them too much junk food, but honestly, I know it’s just jealousy that I have to be the vegetable and homework enforcer, and she gets all the fun.”

“And I know that’s not the same as your situation, OP, but the reminder I have to give myself is similar to what you should say to yourself. That reminder is simple: our children deserve ALL THE LOVE they can get. This world is tough enough without us letting our egos dictate our parenting.”

“Let her have access to ALL THE LOVE. Your love, her father’s love, her Aunt’s love. All of it. Just let her have this, and she will see that you’re trustworthy again. That you want what’s best for her, rather than what’s best for you. She’ll come back to you if you stop being an AH.” – Artistic-Lack-8282

“Having jealous thoughts is normal for everyone. It’s all about how you act on it. When my ex first remarried, I struggled at first. I was worried they’d like her ‘better’ because she was the ‘fun mom.'”

“And then one day it hit me, just how fortunate my sons are to have two moms and two dads instead of just one of each. And that my children would always love me because I’m their mother. And they’ll always love their father because he’s their father.”

“And it’s okay if they love someone else because we don’t have a limit on how many people we can love.” – Cara_Ceath

“OP, when you open your heart to your sister-in-law’s relationship with your daughter, you will model what parent-child love is for her. Your sister-in-law is not standing in the way of your relationship with your daughter; you have to build that on your own, regardless of how your child feels about her.”

“But make no mistake, tearing apart that relationship will severely and perhaps irreparably damage your relationship with your daughter, not help it grow. Your sister-in-law is not a weed in your family garden. She is a beautiful flower your daughter treasures.”

“YTA, even if your feelings are human and natural. But they cannot be acted on productively and without harming the daughter you want to be closer to.” – Curious-One4595

“I am the aunt that my niece is super close with, and even though I have always tried to respect her mom’s feelings, we’re extremely close. She refers to me as her ‘bestie mom sister,’ and there have definitely been times when she preferred me to her parents.”

“(They have some substance issues, and her brother is truly out of control and violent.) She has stayed in my cabin during vacations, and there are things she will only talk to me about.”

“I do my best to respect her parents and not act like I am her mom. The amazing thing? Every single time I have brought it up with my SIL (her mom), my SIL, is like, ‘Oh my gosh, nooo, I love that you love her so much!'”

“She thinks it’s amazing for her to have close relationships with other adults and is just grateful that her child has someone who loves her so big that she loves back! We’re family! I’m not trying to steal her, I just love her, and we are extremely similar and super close!”

“OP, YTA. Kids come around on their time. I know you are ready for a perfectly happy family, but it looks like you’re blinded by this desire. Your daughter isn’t there with you yet, and I’m sure that is super hard!”

“However, she does have love, support, and safe people in her life! That’s the most important thing. Give her the time, space, and patience to let her come to you. It will happen, but remember that you can’t force a kid to love you. Good luck!” – Deep_Middle9124

The subReddit was deeply divided between the angry and the empathetic on this one, as some could understand why the OP was experiencing her feelings, while others said it was her fault.

But everyone could agree that the OP’s concerns, and her using them to distance her daughter from her sister-in-law, was unfair to her daughter and would ultimately hurt her, as well as her relationship with the OP.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.