DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother has a mediocre job where he makes minimal money, but he goes to work every day and tries to provide for his family. His girlfriend, who is also the mother of his 7-year-old, stays home.
She was a stay-at-home mom caring for the child, but the child has been in school for two years, and she still sits at home while he struggles to cover the basic bills.
I noticed through social media that she goes out; I noticed she has the newest phone; I noticed she posts about shopping. It is hard to watch him struggle while she does nothing. He mentions it, but she always brushes that off at family gatherings.
My husband and I support our niece by giving her gifts that will help them and offering to pay for activities, but it is very frustrating to help an able-bodied person who could easily work.
She always has an excuse. She says she wants to spend time as a family when they are all together in the evening, and on weekends she does not want to miss her daughter’s activities. There are many jobs she could work from home. She says she has trouble finding a job, and when suggestions are offered, she denies them.
It is so hard to watch my brother struggle. Any thoughts besides what we are already doing?
GENTLE READER: Undoubtedly, your brother is aware of the problem and has shared your same thoughts -- or decided that he is resigned to, or even happy with, the situation. He and his child’s mother do not need helpful admonishments or recommendations, no matter how well-intended.
Miss Manners is afraid that doing more than what you have will result in additional unneeded tension for him at home. When and if he decides that the situation is intolerable, he may well ask for your support -- and perhaps even help with caring for his daughter. Your priority now is to make sure that if it comes to that, you are someone he will still want to ask.