Dear Amy: My sister “Helen” moved to my state several years ago when her life was in freefall. She is an alcoholic.
Helen has been in and out of rehab four times since then, and her children and others have revealed that her drinking has been an issue for about 17 years — the last 10 of which Helen has been working as a nanny — and drinking on the job.
The past two years she has gone twice directly from rehab into nanny positions without informing the parents of the child/children.
I, and other family members, have been very clear that we think this is unethical and dangerous, but she refuses to consider other options because she can make $25 to $30 an hour instead of $15 to $17 in another job.
What is my moral and ethical obligation?
I’ve thought about contacting families or the Facebook page she has advertised her services with.
The only saving grace is that most parents work from home, and she doesn’t have a car. She does have a license, however.
She will be in a sober-living house with drug testing for a few months, but is that enough? My husband and friends feel I shouldn’t get involved.
Dear Worried: To clarify, parents who work from home hire childcare help in part to drive their children places, and to run errands using the car.
You state that you know your sister is drinking on the job, and if so you are ethically bound to try to warn the family she is working for of the risk she poses.
You don’t state exactly why “Helen” has been bouncing from job to job (is she quitting or getting fired?) — and it is a mystery that the parents who hire her don’t discover her job (or rehab) history. She is either supplying false information about this, or they (wrongly) assume that hiring someone off of a Facebook page is the same as going through a bonded and professional nanny service.
You should tell Helen that if you learn that she is taking in-home childcare positions, you will do your best to contact the family, urge them to do their due diligence, and warn them of the risk she might pose.
This might not seem fair to someone who is currently out of rehab and sober, but given her addiction history and the way she cycles in and out, her ability to maintain her sobriety should not be assumed.
Nanny positions might pay well, but this sort of work is very demanding, and also frequently repetitive and boring. In addition to the risk she poses to the children in her care, this sort of work might not be good for maintaining her sobriety.
Lengthy stays in rehab also cut into her income. If she finds another more compatible line of work, she might gain stability and income over time.
Dear Amy: I am trying to figure out a graceful way to stop what I call “text bombing.”
I have a friend who occasionally bombs my phone with 20 to 40 texts.
Sometimes these are text chains about her job (which she hates) or her mother (whom she dislikes) or just a series of funny(?) videos she’s seen on Instagram or TikTok.
My friend is very sensitive to criticism. I really want to figure out a way to not be her stream of consciousness outlet when she’s upset or bored.
I have muted these conversations, but sometimes the lack of response redoubles her texting.
Can you suggest how to respond after the 10th or so text — to nip it in the bud?
— Texted Out
Dear Texted: You’ve asked about how to interrupt the text-stream. You could respond: “Sorry, but I’m taking a digital break. Let’s set up a time to talk?”
Otherwise, I suggest that you use the “do not disturb” function on your phone and simply not reply at all.
At some point, your friend might mention your lack of attention or response to her texts. And you can tell her that, “We all have different communication styles, and I prefer talking to texting.”
Dear Amy: “Upset in-law” described her husband’s no-win position as the executor of his parents’ will, where they insisted on cutting his sister completely out of their inheritance.
Your response was OK, but you left something out: He could choose to simply share his own inheritance with her.
I did that, and I’ve never regretted it.
— A Will and a Way
Dear A Will: Absolutely! Thank you.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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