NewsMy Brother Won’t Tell His Kids No, and It’s Sending Me to...

My Brother Won’t Tell His Kids No, and It’s Sending Me to the Poor House

Care and Feeding

When they moved in, I thought it would save us both money—not so!

A man works on a laptop on the couch surrounded by kids.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My brother moved in with me because of his pending divorce, and his habits are driving us to the poor house. His ex-wife lives off her family’s money and her rich new boyfriend, but still expects my brother to pay half of whatever she decides. My brother just rolls over and pays, leaving me hanging when our bills are due.

He is the same way with his three kids. “No” is not a word in their vocabulary. The girls don’t want to share a room (they are 10 and 7), so my brother sleeps on the couch. Then he complains about his bad back. The kids want to eat out for every meal they have here. I will literally make tacos, and they whine that they want to go to the expensive TexMex restaurant by the mall. My brother just gives in. My hours have been cut at work, and I have been pinching pennies. One of the reasons I let my brother move in with me was that I thought we both would save money. It isn’t working out that way. He feels like he needs to compete to keep his kids’ affections, and I tell him he is doing more harm than good. Be there for the kids, but that means being a parent and not their best buddy.

He has twice run out of gas on the highway because he didn’t fill up his tank enough and instead spent the money on ridiculous overpriced snacks for the kids. I have bought generic snacks and switched them into more expensive bags, and the kids do not notice. I love my nieces and nephew, but they should not be ruling the roost when I am fighting to keep the lights on. I am this close to kicking my brother out and getting a paying roommate. I do have a lease with him.

—Struggling in South

Dear Struggling,

You need to have a very serious conversation with your brother in which you describe how his largesse with his ex and his children is impacting your household. Let him know that you will no longer pick up the slack while he spoils his kids and sends money to a woman who doesn’t need it. Explain to him that you know he loves his children dearly, but that spending money that he doesn’t have on them does not make him a good father. He is setting unrealistic expectations for them. Remind him about his back pain and that he could be sleeping comfortably if he would only have enough backbone to make two girls who are close in age share a room.

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