Responsibility is one of those difficult concepts that means different things to different people.
Whether it’s the responsibility of showering every day or driving on the correct side of the road, we all take on a multitude of responsibilities every day.
The trouble, of course, is the question of where our personal duty begins and ends when it comes to others.
Particularly when those others are family.
That was the problem facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) aitasilbil when he came to the “Am I the A^^hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.
In a now-deleted post, he asked:
“AITA for calling my wife heartless for not wanting to adopt our niece and nephew?”
He began with the inciting incident.
“My (43-male) wife (41-female) recently had her brother and his wife pass away following an accident.”
“My wife and her brother were not on good terms at the time of his passing due to an argument they had in august.”
“My BIL/SIL left behind 2 children, our niece(9) and nephew (11).”
“In their will they ask for family to look after them, the best candidates for this are My wife and I as her parents are 73 and 82 and simply cannot manage 2 children anymore.”
“The kids are currently staying with their grandparents but my mil was recently admitted to hospital and she was told she is dehydrated and needs to lower her stress levels.”
Then he explained the problem.
“Following this I brought up the kids moving in with us to my wife.”
“She said no point blank and accused me of changing my mind about wanting children(we agreed 19 years ago that we didn’t want kids).”
“I said that was completely different and these kids are already in the world and we could provide for them significantly better than her elderly parents. She got mad and reminded me that she disliked her brother and therefore didn’t want his kids around.”
“I snapped at her and said she was heartless for potentially ruining their lives over her spat with her deceased sibling.”
“We now aren’t speaking and I’m temporarily staying with her grandparents so I can look after my niece and nephew and take the load off my mil.”
“She left me a voice-mail today saying that I was supposed to have her back and that I was deliberately undermining her and that she needed more time to process and said that maybe in a couple of years she could look at letting the kids move in with us.”
“I feel really guilty, this is the first real fight we’ve had in years and I don’t know if I’m in the right here.”
OP explained why this was important.
“I should clarify as a few people have messaged asking why I would care about kids who are strangers to us. They aren’t.”
“We have been a huge part of their lives, my wife was their when each of them was born, they’ve been on numerous sleepovers and camping trips with us and we’ve taken them to Disneyland on a number of occasions.”
“Back in August my wife and her brother had a huge fight about something(I don’t know what, she refused to tell me and stopped us from talking to them) they passed away in Nov so it was left unresolved.”
“I personally went through the foster system briefly(my mum passed away when I was 15, awol father since I was a baby) and I don’t want my niece and nephew to go through that especially since up till August I’m sure taking my niece and nephew would never have been a problem.”
Having explained the issue, OP turned to Reddit for some outside thoughts.
There were, of course, logistics questions.
“INFO – I absolutely don’t mean this as a money grab, but did your BIL and his wife leave enough money to look after the kids?”
“Could a nanny be hired while they live with their grandparents?”
“It would still be a very tough adjustment anyway.”
“If you both agreed to go ahead with it – but kids are expensive!”
“And these two may need additional help from therapy, or extra tuition.”
“There’s also the question of whether your current home is big enough, whether you have a car / van that is suitable for kids, what you might do about college for them.”
“Because if they come to live with you, they’re your kids.”
“If it is already a situation that doesn’t sit easy with both of you, then adding money worries on top of that is going to push things completely over the edge.”
“Had the SIL got any family?” ~ BeneficialDark1662
Others were more interested in the family dynamics.
“Question: what happened to the children’s mother’s side of the family?” ~ LadyDes91
Commenters encouraged OP to make drastic changes.
“The grandparents could potentially support OP adopting them and the kids could also support going with OP.”
“I hope that OP divorces her and adopts those kids.”
“Those kids are innocent in the fight between her and her late brother.”
“Even tho she isn’t obligated to take them in, OP isn’t obligates to stay with someone who made a choice that he finds is extremely hurtful/petty.”
“OP also is allowed to ‘change’ his mind and since he ‘changed’ his mind they are now incompatible and the relationship won’t work/will be tense moving forward.”
“Also she doesn’t even want to take them in or help despite the stress of caring for them, on top of losing her brother, made her mom end up in the hospital.”
“A frickin doctor said she needs reduced stress and OP is the only one helping.”
“I hope maybe OP can also help get those kids into therapy.”
“They lost both parents”
“Their grandma ended up in the hospital because of stress (they may blame themselves)”
“Their bio aunt doesn’t want them”
“Their uncle is helping but its affect his marriage to their aunt (they may also blame themselves)”
“If OP and her get divorced and he adopts them the oldest at the very least will know something is up/think or realize adopting them was the reason.”
“Imo family therapy and individual therapy is most definitely going to be needed because I do believe they will blame themselves or feel like a burden.”
“Tho that isn’t to say OP should stay with his wife to try and keep up appearances for the kids.”
“Staying with her when she openly resents them will be toxic for them.”
“OP should look into adopting them by himself during divorce proceedings or even prior just in case (since his wife seems extremely petty) she tries to adopt them to spite him.” ~ TheoryAddict
There were personal stories, too.
“I did leave a relationship because a family member’s child needed care and my partner at the time thought I should didn’t need to get involved.”
“The choices were getting involved or leaving a child in a neglectful and unsafe environment and waiting until the situation deteriorated enough for child services to remove him.”
“I was in contact with social workers and that is what I was told.”
“Since I was there and helping out, they would not remove him unless I left and let the situation deteriorate again and then they could but at that point he would have already suffered harm.”
“So I let that relationship end and spent a year parenting a wonderful little child who really blossomed.”
“Having him go back to his parents was probably the hardest experience of my life and one I don’t know was the best for him but I know I did my best in the time I had with him, that he was safe for that year.”
“That he gained so many skills at a time that was critical for his brain development, and avoided some traumatic events because he was with me and not at his parents’.”
“Knowing I did my best by him was worth ending that relationship even though the whole situation was bookended with the pain of the relationship loss and losing my kiddo when it had looked like they might be staying with me much longer.”
“My current partner came on to the scene when I still had kiddo and was great about the whole thing and never, ever suggested I shouldn’t do my best to provide love and care.”
“We are much more compatible.”
“Sometimes these situations show people they aren’t actually compatible and you have to do what will cause the least regret long term.” ~ Forsaken-Piece3434
Though, not everyone was on OP’s side in this.
“I think it’s all about how an OP writes the post.”
“If they ask ‘AITA for consider to divorce my spouse because he doesn’t want to take in the kids’ than yes, they are NTA.”
“They realize that they aren’t compatible anymore.”
“If they ask ‘AITA for calling my wife heartless for not wanting to adopt the kids’ like OP, then that’s a TA thing to do IMO.”
“It seems like he tries to guild his wife into adopting the kids which isn’t fair to her and the children.”
“If he wants to adopt these kids than that’s okay and a very nice thing to do. But trying to persuade someone who doesn’t feel ready for such a live changing task isn’t the right way to do this.” ~ sabreyna
Our obligations are as varied and nuanced as the people we feel we owe our duty to.
This is an incredibly personal choice and we wish OP and his family the absolute best, whatever decisions get made.