Deadbeat Son-in-Law

By Amy Dickinson | August 26th, 2022

His wife does all the work and the mother-in-law is pissed


lazy man watching TV - photo by Chernetskaya, Dreamstime. A woman is mad at her deadbeat son-in-law, who lets his wife do all the work, from childcare to a fulltime job. See what Ask Amy advises. Image

A woman is incensed at her deadbeat son-in-law, who lets his wife do all the work, from childcare to a fulltime job. Grandmom resents his laziness and lack of concern and has no desire to chip in financially. See what Amy Dickinson advises in this edition of Ask Amy.


Dear Amy:

I have come to the conclusion that my son-in-law is a bum.

My daughter gives birth, nurses her babies, works a full-time job, cooks, cleans, and shuttles the kids where they need to go.

He quit a job without finding a new job first, and has now been unemployed for months.

I thought it was bad when his only responsibility was his 9-to-5 job and he did nothing beyond that. Now he is unemployed, but now his only responsibility is his six softball leagues and the various corn hole tournaments he plays in during the evenings. He watches TV all day long.

He is mildly verbally abusive to me and my daughter. His favorite phase is that things are “not in his job description.”

Things like braces, cars and college were things I worked hard to provide my children with, but I guess he figures I will pay for his kids to have those things.

Or my deadbeat son-in-law doesn’t care at all.

It is ruining my relationship with my daughter and my grandchildren.

I still work and now am very resentful in regards to helping them with childcare and paying for extras like ballet classes, clothing and shoes, while he plays softball.

I guess I need therapy and a trust attorney to deal with these concerns.

Any advice?

– Miserable Grandma

Dear Miserable:

You could cope with this better if you understood and accepted that your daughter is making a series of choices. Her choice to martyr herself to a husband who sounds like a selfish deadbeat must seem puzzling to you, but your role here is not to fix her life.

In fact, unless your daughter comes to you with complaints, or for advice and financial gifts or bailouts, there is no need for you to weigh in at all. A complete lack of pressure or (expressed) judgment or shame from you might actually inspire her to take a long look at the reality of her life.

Your daughter has already established that she can run a household as a single parent. In fact, she sounds impressive.

She has options, and she can make changes if she wants her life to be different.

Don’t agree to anything if you are going to resent it and then make her “pay” in other ways.

You might offer to take the kids for an overnight on Fridays (a very helpful gesture), but otherwise let her know that unless it is a true emergency, she will have to make other arrangements for childcare.

Ballet lessons might make a nice special-occasion gift – but with unemployment at a low 3.6 percent, if the children need shoes, then perhaps their able-bodied dad can figure out a way to provide.

Establish respectful and loving boundaries and focus on maintaining a positive relationship with the children.

Yes, therapy (for you) will help.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a deadbeat son-in-law to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

More from Boomer