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I am 13 years old and my dad tells me to take care of my siblings all the time.

He makes me watch them, make their food, play with them every time, dress them up and even makes me go check on them when they are crying or fighting while he sleeps or goes on his phone.

He is a single dad who wakes up at 6:30 am and comes home around 5:00 pm

His kids, other than me, have their time with each parent split. Recently my dad has had them more often but the thing is he doesn't take care of them much. I admit he does take care of them when he is in a good mood and will parent them at times except for when he tells me to solve my own problems. It's just I feel like I'm doing everything.

To add to that my dad will see my dog's business on the floor and will wait for me to come out to clean it. This isn't even a set chore he literally steps on the poop sometimes and doesn't even clean it. So I feel like I'm burdened with a lot of things.

Please help so I can show him and try to negotiate with him about the splitting of responsibilities.

One last thing so its not one sided he does the cleaning sometimes and does have things on his plate I just feel like I am maybe doing too much for my age and my position in the family.

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  • How many siblings, and how old are they?
    – A.bakker
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 8:02
  • I've proposed some edits and tags to improve the clarity of your question. Please review and revise if I've misrepresented your intent. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 16:42

2 Answers 2

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I'm going to present to you a few different schools of thought for this situation. I'm not sure which one is going to be most appropriate to you, perhaps a blending of them will be necessary.

You've indicated that you are 13, but have not indicated the ages of your siblings. Based on the chores you've listed, I'm guessing around the 5-7 range. Furthermore, I'm guessing it's probably summer break.

Absolutely not

There's no way that you should be responsible for the care of your siblings. They are your father's children and his responsibility, not yours.

You're not your siblings' mother, nor should anyone be asking you to be.

You are more than capable of this

The reality of the situation is that your father needs to work for most of the day and you are of an age where you can take on some responsibility of your own. To that end, you can also help out with taking care of your siblings.

It is likely that your father is trying to teach you these skills by more or less pushing the experiences onto you and is trying to encourage you to rise to the challenge.

Blended approach

I strongly suspect your father is likely feeling overwhelmed at the amount of work he's trying to juggle as a single father, primary household income earner, household administrator (i.e. signing kids up for school, maintaining the insurance, paying the bills, identifying and making repairs), and general housework (vacuuming, laundry, dishes, trash, etc.).

As a coping method, he's pushing the parenting work onto you in part because you are able to do it. And I think some of it you should at least engage in, but preferably following a conversation with your father regarding where your responsibilities begin and end.

With my own daughter (6 years at the time of writing), I have made her responsible for a few chores around the house, in part because she is capable of doing the work; in part because her doing the work genuinely helps the family; and in part because I want her to understand that the entire household needs everyone to contribute in order to work. To exemplify, those chores currently are feeding and refilling the water for our cats; it is irrelevant that one of the cats is older and definitely mine, just as it's irrelevant that one of them is younger and definitely hers. What is relevant is that feeding the cats is her job, her doing the job helps the house, and that she is capable of doing that job on her own.

I think the issue of the dog business that you'd mentioned is a good example of this. As I'm teaching my daughter this lesson regarding responsibility, I find it is important to be consistent in my expectations. Thus, when I realize the cat food is low, I do not fill it myself. I want my daughter to fill it on her own and not learn to expect me to do that job for her and I will remind her of her job the next time I see her. I strongly suspect that is what's occurring regarding the dog's business. Your dad stepped in it because you hadn't taken let the dog out, so now he's making your clean up the mess, which while perhaps harsh is likely a fair consequence.

Now let's focus on the issue of your siblings. First of all, I will be clear that technically none of the jobs you listed are your responsibility by default. However, the life situation whereby your dad is a single parent working most of the daylight hours and is probably regularly exhausted does create a practical issue whereby he is likely seeking help from wherever he can. The chores you listed sound like a lot to ask if it's all the time, but also some of the time they are likely within your ability to manage well enough.

I think given the nature of the situation you describe, it behooves you to talk with your dad directly about how this is making you feel. The timing of this conversation, if possible, should strive to be for a day when he's in a good mood if you can; specifically, it's important that he has sufficient energy to give it proper thought and attention.

I wouldn't expect things to necessarily get better right away, but simply expressing your feelings to your father is going to make him aware that you're feeling overwhelmed by what he's asking of you and hopefully he's able to find alternative means to divert some of the load. Perhaps the other parents can take the kids more often, perhaps your dad takes on more of the parenting work but needs your help with more of the household work (i.e. vacuuming, laundry, dusting, dishes, etc.), perhaps your dad starts sending the siblings to daycare.

Ultimately, nothing can happen until you speak with him about it.

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  • I'm aware that I'm cherry-picking a particular cherry from the question, but as much as I think this answer is a great approximation in general, the dad stepping on dog excrement and still choosing to leave it there is indicative of more than just them trying to teach their child how to help out in a household.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 4:46
  • @Flater I'm kinda giving the parent the benefit of the doubt right now given what I know about being raised by a single parent. There's some clarifications that the querent could make that would alter my answer substantially. Regarding the dog poop thing, I'm not clear if it's the sort of thing where he steps in it, shouts across the house, and then informs the querent about the mess and then leaves to clean his shoe while they querent cleans up the floor, or if this is something like he steps in it and 2 hours later informs the querent about it and expects them to clean it. Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 13:56
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What you're describing has a name, parentification, and it's not ok.

Your empathy for your father is a wonderful expression of who you are, a kind and loving person.

Of course you care about your siblings, but you are not their parent.

Helping out your father once in a while is ok, but only one in a while.

You are starting your transition from child to adult, and it's your father's job to support you through this, so at 13 years old, that's another 5 years of active parenting that you need and your father should provide.

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