Choosing between your own life and taking care of others in your family for the rest of your life is a long-standing conflict.
So much so, that writers have been producing fiction about it on a grand scale for hundreds of years.
As common an occurrence it is, it is still extraordinarily painful and difficult to deal with when it does come up.
A user was so distressed by the situation facing them that they created a throwaway account in a popular Reddit forum, "Am I The A**hole?" or "AITA" for a second opinion on their choices:
"Hello everyone--Let's set the scene. I (32M(ale)) am married to my wife (31F(emale)). My parents are 56M and 56F. I have one sibling (29M), let's call him Drew."
"Drew was born with a severe genetic disorder. He has never spoken a word in his life, and can barely make grunts. He can only walk short distances, and even then, he has to be wearing his ankle braces."
"He will never have anything resembling a normal life. Doctors say that he has the cognitive abilities of a four- or five-year-old."
The Original Poster (or OP) gave an outline of Drew's life:
"I feel terrible for him. His life has been wasted away because of something that nobody had any control over. My parents have been taking care of him for his entire life."
"It has caused me to become very distant from my parents. I wasn't neglected per se, but they devoted almost all of their energy and free time to Drew."
"I try to reconnect with my parents now, but it's minimal at best. However, we have started doing occasional Zoom calls over the past few months."
And then highlighted a big problem.
OP and his wife were made designated caretakers of the man, without their consent:
"Unfortunately, there has always been a subtle expectation that my wife and I are supposed to take care of Drew when my parents are gone. Even when I was a kid, they asked me to stay alone with Drew for a while to 'practice' taking care of him."
"I am completely opposed to this. Caring for Drew would be a huge burden on my wife and I, and any future children we might have."
"It can cost thousands to take care of him, not to mention the hours of work we would have to put in just to keep him alive. My parents have kept trying to push it on me, but I try to change the topic."
And finally OP put his foot down:
"My parents are getting older now, so this topic is becoming paramount. We just had a Zoom call two nights ago, and we started talking about Drew."
"My parents talked about their plans for the future. My wife and I are considering moving to a new city (we have a specific one in mind) before we start a family. My parents said that we should not move there because it will be difficult for us to take care of Drew."
"I was fed up with their antics at this point, so I flat-out rejected it. I told them that my wife and I will make the decision that's best for us, not Drew. They tried to guilt me; 'What will happen to Drew once we can't take care of him anymore?'"
But it got ugly:
"I told them, 'The day after you die, I'm sending Drew to a nursing home and I'll never visit him again'."
"My parents were FURIOUS. They said that my comments were 'extremely insensitive' and 'cruel'. 'How could you do this to your brother?' They asked."
"I told them that it would not be fair to force him on me for his entire life. I don't want to constantly take care of a disabled person and have him live in my own house. I just want to live freely. I couldn't finish the explanation because they hung up on me in the middle."
He finished by asking Redditors for their opinions:
"My wife wasn't home when the call happened, but I told her afterwards. She said that the language was harsh, but she agrees with the message. I want to see what you guys think. AITA?"
Redditors were asked to assign or absolve guilt by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
And in the opinions came.
"You were NTA until this: 'The day after you die, I'm sending Drew to a nursing home and I'll never visit him again.' Do you actually need me to spell out why? If you do, write back and ask and I will, but I think it's incredibly self-evident why that was cruel and unnecessary."
"I suspect you know it already and are just looking for a stranger to hold up a mirror; i.e. 'Do you see what I see?' I do. Your parents should not be attempting to foist your brother on you via coercion or guilt. That is horribly wrong. ESH"~Dszquphsbnt
Most people agreed that the parents were wrong to put that on OP his entire life, but OP was wrong to say what he said:
"100% agree with this. I have a Drew and an older son who is typical. I have already told him he will never be responsible for my Drew, that his dad and I will be handling all of that."
"That if he could keep an eye out for him once we aren't around that would be wonderful, but our Drew will never be his responsibility."
"I don't agree with your parents trying to burden you with this responsibility. It is not fair, and they are wrong to do it."
"But why would you say something so cruel? You must not be a parent because the worst and scariest thought as one is to think of your child alone, scared, and being harmed."
"All you have to say is that you aren't going to be held responsible for your brother and leave it there." ~cariboo2
Why did OP have to be so harsh?
"This is an open conversation you all should have had a long time ago. Drew is going to need lifelong care after your parents go through no fault of his own. He deserves to be comfortable and happy."
"Your parents suck for assuming you will take him without having a proper discussion and not planning with the family what will happen when they are gone. You have had a front seat to the sacrifice needed to raise him and you have a right to say no. They should accept this and make real plans that prioritizes his happiness, not guilt you into becoming his caretaker."
"You kind of suck too though. You are an adult and should have made it clear long ago you had no plans on taking him so together you can all come up with a plan."
"Yeah you don't owe anyone anything etc. However you know he has been dealt one of the worst hands in life. It was not his fault your parents neglected you. Saying you'll throw him in a care home and never see him again is cruel and he won't understand why. I don't know if you mean it or you just said it to be nasty to your parents but even if it was a moment of anger they will now have that possible fate for him hanging over their heads for the rest of their lives."
"Have a real talk about it." ~Cassscade
Some even wondered how OP would handle his own children if any were disabled:
"Your comment was cruel and insensitive, but they did kind of push you into it. Your brother is not your obligation; your parents need to make a plan for his care after they're gone that does not include you taking him into your home."
"It would be a kindness if you agreed to keep an eye on him at whatever facility he does end up in, because mentally disabled people without families who care about their welfare often end up being horribly abused or neglected."
"But I don't blame you one bit for not wanting to take on the burden of full-time care. So I'm gonna go with ESH; your parents are being unfair to put this all on you, but you didn't have to be quite that harsh."
"One other thing: if you are planning on having children of your own, you should realize that you could end up with one who's just like your brother, or is severely disabled in some other way, and still end up with someone you have to take care of for life."
"That's the thing about having kids—it's a crap shoot and you never know what you're gonna get. Best to at least be aware of that possibility before you decide to reproduce, so you don't end up doing the same thing to your disabled child's 'normal' sibling."~stitchinthyme9
And one summed it up perfectly:
You're totally in the right to not wanting to care for you brother. However, the specific way you said it made you TA."~irisshadow
tyra banks mic drop GIF by AllureGiphy
Although some sympathized more with OP's outburst, after a life of being pressured and having his future decided for him:
"Nta. It sounds like an outburst as a result of a lifetime of pushing you to be your brothers caretaker. That is not your responsibility unless you freely choose to take it on as so."~Financelady32
"NTA, it's not your responsibility to care for him, even if you are related. It's not fair of them to expect you to."~alexisleefoster
In fact, some are saying OP had no blame in this circumstance at all:
"OP stated after he moved out he has had minimal contact with his parents. Why did the parents expect their child and his wife to take care of their adult disabled sibling? Because 'family,' ignoring the burden and toll it would take on OP's own family."
"And it appears from childhood they didn't have plan B or C and planned on having OP take care of him in the future. That isn't fair to either of them. I'm sure his parents likely made jokes and passive comments on making OP the caretaker."
"Sometimes people don't get it until you're harsh. Some parents may even continue to push for it when you've calmly said no. Like 'no, you don't mean that. He's family. I know you'll come around.'"
"OP made it clear and it's too bad his parents got butthurt."~lelouchgirl07
And some brought up that neglect was almost certainly on the table:
"~'I wasn't neglected per se, but they devoted almost all of their energy and free time to Drew'."
"That's basically the definition of neglected. Your parents may have made sure you were fed and clothed but they had little interest in your life due to your brother. You're allowed to feel slighted by that."
"Even when I was a kid, they asked me to stay alone with Drew for a while to "practice" taking care of him."
"That's toxic. Grooming you to be a full time caregiver and taking away your choice in the matter is not ok. Their child is their responsibility and they should have been planning what long-term care looks like for him for a long time now."
"Foisting one child on to the other isn't fair. They're basically expecting you to neglect your own kids in favor of him which is multiple levels of bonkers."
"I can see an argument that you might be TA for never visiting again, after all your brother didn't intentionally do anything wrong and someone should probably check up on his care every now and again."
"That said, given the way your parents have treated you and how devastating this situation must be I don't think I would've reacted much better. Your greatest commitment is to your spouse and your own kids and they need to accept that."~ReaffirmReality
And all agree that OP's original stance made him NTA:
"ESH. You for your wording, your message was fine."
"You parents for forcing this on you and not having a plan in place for when they die."~lexisplays
"NTA for not wanting to take care of your brother. I get it, it is an imposition on your, your wife and any kids you may have. For your patents to just expect you to devote your life to this is extremely inconsiderate."
"However. YTA for saying that you'd never visit him."~reallynah75
"I was leaning e.s.h. but I'm going to go NTA. Your parents aren't listening to you. They're pushing even after you refuse and ,while I can't imagine the fear in their hearts about what will happen to Drew after they die, they are very blatantly favouring one child over another which they seem to have done for years."
"What you said was harsh but they really need to get the message through their heads that while a parent can be expected to uproot their lives for their child they can't expect a sibling to uproot their lives to parent their sibling."
"The only thing that might change my opinion is if you clarify whether you said you wouldn't visit him because it was a heat of the moment or you honestly intend to never check in on him. You don't need to have a relationship with him but you'd be an ass if you didn't at least ensure that he is actually receiving the care you're ordering for him." ~JayK289
All in all, it was a difficult situation. A lifelong expectation is traumatic, but is there ever a reason to be mean?
We hope this experience will open a conversation within that family.
The book The Complete Guide to Creating a Special Needs Life Plan: A Comprehensive Approach Integrating Life, Resource, Financial and Legal Planning to Ensure a Brighter Future for a Person with a Disability is available here.