family advice (post new situation)
"My family is consuming my life..."
Let me start at the beginning, and bear with me here because it gets a little messy, but please read this because I really, really need some good advice...

I am a 25 year old girl, the eldest child of a middle-class family. My younger brother and sister are 16 and 17 years younger than me, respectively, so until my senior year in high school I was the "only" child. When they were born, I decided to go to college nearby so that I could live at home a while longer and help out.

Three years later, while my mother, younger siblings, and I were all at home, we were victims of an early-morning home invasion that left us with emotional scars. All four of us were eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. I was nearly done school by then (junior year) but took time off due to my own issues arising from this as well as the problems it raised for my family.

Around that time, my mother started withdrawing more and more from family life and placing ever greater responsibilities on me and my dad. Because of this, I have not gone back to college full time -- I've only been able to handle one or two courses a semester. All the rest of my time has been spent taking care of my two siblings and my mom.

By a couple of years ago, my mom was at the point where she wouldn't even come downstairs to get a soda. Instead, she had my dad install intercoms and would buzz my dad or me to bring it up to her while she laid in bed watching TV and sleeping all day. (She wasn't housebound, though, because she would go out every couple of days to go shopping or do something else enjoyable to her.) My mom was diagnosed with major depression and put on medication, which seemed to help a little, but she would always retreat back to her bedroom whenever life got the least bit stressful.

This was difficult to live with, but I have stayed around because I felt my little brother and sister needed me -- my dad has a full-time job and couldn't be expected to handle everything alone. I should mention here, too, that part of the reason I stayed was also because I have three dogs, eight cats, and four parrots of my own. Where would I ever find an apartment with that crew? Of course, my mom has pets, too, which she has not taken care of in years -- my dad and I have been taking care of them for her.

Then, three months ago, my little sister (now 7) told me that my father was bringing her downstairs at night when everyone was asleep and having her... um... masturbate him. Of course, I told my mother right away, we went to the police, and my dad was arrested. He's out on bail now but isn't allowed near the house. At the moment he's renting a room in a stranger's house, but he's probably going to go to jail in the next few months.

So... notwithstanding all the other issues raised by my dad's actions (which, obviously, there are -many-)... I am now left doing everything in our house. At first, my mom tried to help out, but within six weeks she was right back to her old ways.

Now I do absolutely everything myself: I cook, I clean the house, I take care of my little brother and sister, drive them to school, help with homework, etc., take care of her animals and my own, do all the laundry, dishes, everything. Every fifteen minutes or so my mom will buzz me on those #*$%#*% intercoms and ask for a soda, a snack, come figure out what's wrong with the TV reception, her cat had a hairball and I have to clean it up because it's grossing her out, whatever... she does absolutely nothing for herself. I only get maybe five hours a night sleep, and I'm worn out and miserable all the time.

Oh, and now that my dad's gone, I've become the scapegoat for everything. My mom contributes nothing, but if any little thing goes wrong, or she happens to come downstairs to go out somewhere and sees something out of place, she flips out at me, says I'm a slob, etc. I have asked and asked and asked for her help, and every time there's an excuse: either she "doesn't feel well" that day and/or she promises she'll start helping me tomorrow. We get into arguments over this, and she tells me she wants me "out of her house," but then by the next morning she says she wants me to stay.

So, in case the problems aren't obvious by now... what in the hell do I do to fix this mess that my life has become? We have no family nearby and no real friends I can rely on for help. I would love to get out and start living my own life, but I can't imagine leaving my little brother and sister with my mom, I can't leave my own pets at home (my mom says she'll have them put to sleep if I do) and probably couldn't find a place that I could rent with all those animals anyway, and I don't have a job (obviously, if I moved out I'd have to get one, but whatever I would make couldn't support me plus my little brother and sister).

Right now my mom gets two-thirds of my dad's money -- not by court order, it's just an arrangement they have -- and I don't know whether I could maybe somehow go to court and get some of that if I took them with me, but if I did that my mom would probably never forgive me... assuming that she'd even willingly let me take them with me if I go. (I should mention, too, that until the strain this has been putting on us, my mom and I have always been very close, like best friends.)

I just have no idea what to do to solve this problem. It's all I can do to keep the house running; my life is basically nonexistent except as a household servant in my own house. (Oh, and I have no medical insurance, so please don't suggest a psychiatrist/therapist/etc. as I can't afford one.) Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated.
posted by voxfire on 1/15/2008 @10:04:04 PM •
Your situation is horrible; but you've handled it more responsibly, and with more maturity and love, than just about any other person in the world, if they were placed in your exact situation. You know... it's a good thing that you happen to be the oldest sister of this family.

I can't think of one tiny piece of advice right this second, but you're really someone for all of us to look up to.
posted by James on 1/16/2008
it sounds like you need family counciling. Your mom could also have fibromyalgia. Get her to see a regular physician & get a physical & go from there. You are a good person. I commend you, but you need a life. Your still so young. if you have friends that have kids take turns watching each others for free so you can enjoy life to. Even if it's your family you can still get sitter. Don't feel guilty about getting away.
posted by Dena on 1/19/2008
I would find someone who can help you, perhaps (I know this is hard) but find someone who can take care of your pets either temporarily or permanently.

Make time for yourself. Tell your mum that what she is doing is not fair and tell her that you won't look after everything all the time. Give her something to do and if she doesn't do it, leave it there. She'll probably complain about it a lot but it's the only thing I can think of doing? I agree with getting her to see someone, and what you're doing is amazing.

If you could, I would suggest seeing a lawyer to try and work out where you stand with the floor of money from your father to your mother. It sounds like the siblings are going through a lot also, so try to make them understand that what happened could have happened to everyone, keep them in good spirits if they aren't already, try to still give them a childhood, I know it's a lot to ask, but I've seen so often the children of slack parents blame their parents for everything rather than doing something about their life.

Just try to find someone who can help your situation, where I live they have a service in which people come and look after elderly family members to ease the strain on the family, perhaps you could ask the hospitals if they know of any service that could help you?

Hope it helps and that you all get through this.
posted by Cassie-annabel on 1/31/2008

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