My son-in-law can’t hold a job, lives idly every day

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my mid-60s, and I’m worried about my son-in-law, who frequently changes jobs, doesn’t keep at them for long and ends up being idle at home.

He married my daughter, who works as a nurse, 11 years ago. They have three children. When they got married, he worked as the manager of a video shop. The shop’s performance was good at the time, but he was fired two years ago as the economy worsened.

Since then, even when he gets a new job, he soon gets tired of it and quits. So I have him work at the shop for my family business until he finds a job that he thinks suits him.

I’ve asked him what he thinks about all this, and he’s said he dreams of having his own shop. I understand having a dream is important, but he doesn’t seem to have any serious money plans to make it happen.

I believe that if he steadily works with my daughter, they can afford to raise three children without worrying about money.

If he gets a job and quits again in the future, should I make my daughter divorce him? Or should I take care of him since he married our daughter?

N, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Mr. N:

People in their 60s normally live separately from their children and care for their grandchildren only once in a while. At your age, you’re supposed to have a leisurely life with your wife, but you have this worry to deal with. I’m sorry for you.

But I think you can leave your son-in-law alone for a little while longer.

It seems to me that your son-in-law is not a person who soon gets tired of doing something, but rather a person who has difficulty working under other people or in organizations. He wants to be allowed to do what he wants.

He can live idly now on the grounds that he can’t find a job he likes, solely because his father-in-law has a decent family business and his wife works as a professional. Without your support and his wife’s income, he wouldn’t be able to live as idly as he does now.

So why not have him run your family business as your successor? If you don’t dare do that, leave him alone without supporting or being concerned about him. Just tell him in a casual way: “From now on, we’ll all manage our own lives independently, won’t we? My wife and I will need nursing care some day when we get older, but I don’t expect you to do that for us.”

But you also have to be prepared for the consequences if you do that.

Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher

(from April 8, 2015, issue)Speech

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