There are going to be times when our loved ones will need us, and we will drop everything to be there for them.
But while we might be willing to “do anything” for someone we love, totally putting our lives on hold shouldn’t be one of them, stressed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Beautiful_Metal8555 felt that her niece was overly dependent on her after her niece’s mom died, and she hoped that taking her on a trip to her mom’s home country might help with that.
But when she realized that this trip with her niece might get in the way of her long-term boyfriend proposing to her, the Original Poster (OP) realized she had a tough decision to make.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for canceling my niece’s trip so I can go on one with my boyfriend?”
The OP previously agreed to go on a trip with her older brother and niece.
“I (26 Female) initially planned on going with my niece (11 Female) and brother (37 Female) on a trip to her mother’s home country during summer vacation.”
“My niece’s mother died when she was less than a year old, and the trip was going to be the first time my niece would be visiting her mother’s home country, as well as the second time she would get to see her maternal grandparents since her mother’s death.”
“However, my niece suffers from attachment issues, which cause her to have severe anxiety. As a result, she has panic attacks whenever she goes to unfamiliar places without her dad or I present.”
“Short trips to nearby places are fine with just her dad but because this trip will be for a month and somewhere far away that is very different from what she’s used to. I have to be present for the trip to happen.”
“I had agreed to the trip about a year ago under the pretense it would likely happen in July of this year.”
The OP was also working on plans to go on a trip to Italy with her boyfriend.
“Last month, my boyfriend (26 Male) asked me to spend two weeks with him and his family in Italy during August.”
“I agreed as it wouldn’t interfere with my niece’s trip.”
“However, last week my brother told me that he could only get time off for the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August during summer vacation, which interferes with the trip to Italy.”
“My boyfriend can’t reschedule as it is the only time that works for his family.”
“I asked my brother about moving my niece’s trip to sometime during the school year, but she has recitals and other events that she can’t miss.”
The OP had to make a tough decision and pick between the two trips.
“Originally, I was planning on missing the trip to Italy, but after speaking about it with my boyfriend’s sister, she hinted at my boyfriend proposing to me during the trip.”
“My boyfriend and I have been together since we were in high school, and a large reason why we aren’t engaged yet is because of my niece’s dependency on me. He’s been more than understanding towards the situation, which would make me feel awful if I delayed his proposal for my niece again.”
“To be honest, I’m also tired of having to put my life on hold for my niece, so I told my brother I couldn’t go on the trip with them, which essentially meant he had to cancel the trip.”
Reactions to the OP’s decision were mixed.
“He was very mad at me, probably the most mad I’ve seen him since my niece was born, and called me an a**hole as well as some other choice words for accepting to go on another trip when I had already agreed to this one.”
“I was taking my niece to therapy this week, and the therapist pulled me aside to tell me how much my decision was hurting my niece.”
“She didn’t sound like she was blaming me, but it made me start to rethink my decision.”
“I also brought it up with a few friends and the reactions were mixed.”
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 pointed out that the niece and brother had been codependent to the OP long enough.
“NTA. I had to go back and double-check how long it had been since your niece’s mom had passed. It might be different if it had been a recent loss, but you can’t place your life on hold indefinitely.”
“Reading the title I thought you’d canceled a scheduled trip for your boyfriend, but you committed to a different timeframe with your brother. It is unfortunate that the new timeframe doesn’t work, but that isn’t your fault. Your brother has a conflict with the original time, and you have a conflict with the new time. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
“Honestly, it sounds like she needs a new therapist. The therapist should be teaching her coping mechanisms not trying to shame you into making things easy for your niece. Again if it had been a recent loss, then some coddling would be understandable, but this is just too much.” – Sad_Appearance4733
“OP’s brother is essentially using OP as a replacement mum to his daughter, and the therapist seems to be encouraging it, which is extremely unfair to OP. She’s still young and has her whole life ahead of her.”
“OP’s niece and brother both need a therapist to teach them that they can’t use OP as a replacement mother for her niece, especially when they’re expecting OP to do it to the detriment of her own life.”
“They both need to learn to cope without OP because the niece’s codependency on OP is just going to get worse as she gets older.”
“The main issue is that they expect OP to constantly play the role of her niece’s replacement mother, which by the looks of it has been going on since OP was 16. Sorry, but OP IS NOT HER NIECE’S MOTHER, nor is she a replacement for her deceased SIL (Sister-in-Law).”
“At 16, OP should not have been filling the role of mum to a child that isn’t even hers, and her brother shouldn’t have done that to a literal child. If he wants a replacement mum for his daughter so bad, then he needs to find a partner who’s willing to fill that role, or at least a role of parental figure, not pressure his sister who’s given up 10 years of her life for them.”
“Enough is enough. OP needs to live her own life.” – danigirl3694
“She is the emotional support human for her niece, according to the brother and therapist. A substitute mother might have more to say in decision-making, but doesn’t sound like she has any say, or even the right to an opinion, regarding this, she should just… be the emotional support human always.” – Bambi_MD
“It’s almost like the brother changed the dates of the vacation to overlap with OP’s vacation with her boyfriend, thinking that OP would choose brother and niece over boyfriend.”
“I think the brother doesn’t want OP to have a husband and family because then he wouldn’t have OP as a surrogate mother to her niece. The brother’s reaction is why I think this. He’s furious his little plan didn’t work and she might slip out of his grasp.” – MelodramaticMouse
“You either prepare the road for your child or prepare your child for the road. The niece is not being prepared for the road, and the situation is not sustainable.”
“The brother cannot expect OP to be at her niece’s beck and call for the rest of her life. The time to find a Plan B… was honestly several years ago. But better late than never. NTA.” – __The_Kraken__
Others agreed and recommended the brother seek out a new therapist for his daughter.
“NTA. I get depression can be incredibly difficult but he basically forced you into a parental role at a young age. Now he’s taking advantage.”
“It sounds like a new therapist that will challenge her more is in order. I was agoraphobic and mine gave goals until I could function mostly normally. If your brother isn’t in therapy he should be as well.” – suitandpi
“Her therapist isn’t working to lessen that sense of dependency, it seems, she’s encouraging it. Seems like even if they were good at first, her progress has stagnated with this therapist. Either the family needs to sit down and discuss new therapeutic goals or she may just need a new therapist. Either way, this situation isn’t healthy.” – _K_P_
“I’m so sorry for your family’s loss and your niece’s struggles.”
“I am somewhat concerned about this therapist, and the fact that your brother and niece are still so dependent on you, what, seven years after you were her primary caregiver? It’s also very unfair on you that you were forced into a parental role as a child yourself.”
“I’m sure you were willing to do it for your brother and niece, but it’s still unfair, and your brother now seems to just expect you to give up everything when he asks, and refuses to be flexible about his own plans or niece’s (the trip could be shortened to accommodate Italy since he had to move the dates and now there’s a conflict (which is his issue, not yours), or he could try to shift his plans, or he could talk to niece about whether she’d prefer to not go on the trip or to miss a couple of recitals and plan it during the school year if she’d prefer the trip, etc).”
“Also, I’m a little suspicious of why the trip was planned a year ago and he said July and he’s only now asking for time off and apparently can’t possibly do it any other time now that you’ve planned the Italy trip…” – lawfox32
“How did you do your own schooling when you were 16 years old, if you were also babysitting your niece from babyhood until age four?”
“I mean honestly from where I sit this looks like a situation where the nearest female, no matter how vulnerable (you, aged 16, not yet done with school) was co-opted into being a caregiver to whatever family member needed it.”
“Just because it was done, with no one standing up for your right to live your own life, doesn’t mean that it was right, or that you have to keep doing it forever.” – Reasonable-Sale8611
“You’re on the road to getting married. Perhaps you’ll want kids of your own. Perhaps you’ll have to move, for your or your partner’s work.”
“The therapist has to hardcore start giving the kid coping strategies and working with her father on some kind of progressive process to detangle you from your niece. Since you seem to be involved in her care as a pseudo-parent, to the point where the therapist discusses her issues with you, nothing wrong with you raising that with the therapist and asking her what strategies she intends to use.”
“If she gives you deer in the headlights, that kid needs a new therapist. Not all of them are actually competent.” – anoeba
The subReddit was deeply concerned not only by how attached the niece was to the OP, but also by how the OP’s brother and family therapist were supporting that attachment, not to mention how the attachment was stunting the growth of the OP’s own life.
As endearing and thoughtful as it might be for the OP to play this major role in her niece’s life, it was important for her to go on and experience her own life, too, especially if there was evidence that important milestones in her life, like a proposal from her long-term boyfriend, had already been delayed because of her commitment to her niece.