Does it make sense to remain a child's spiritual adviser when you barely speak to his parents?
As for your son, I suspect his tears have as much to do with the memory of temporarily losing his mommy as contemplating Gretchen's move away. That said, maybe you can organize a yearly visit for the two of them—or three, if you're feeling differently next year.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
A few years ago, a friend, " Bill," who is an executive in his family's successful company, married an acquaintance, "Jill," who considers me a good friend, even though we disagree about everything. This would be fine if our differences revolved around movies or cuisine or other matters of taste, but they go far deeper. Jill prides herself on working 60 hours a week for a nonprofit and frequently criticizes her coworkers for leaving at the end of their contracted hours. At the same time, she believes herself entitled to an army of indentured servants.
When she goes back to work in a few months—she's currently on maternity leave—Jill's plan is to import a nanny from Asia or Latin America to whom she'll pay a measly $15,000 a year, plus room and board. To me, it's a gross violation of the labor laws to pay someone that little for the number of hours she'll be expected to work. I also think it's immoral to bring someone from abroad to undercut the already low wages in the child care sector. Jill is also homophobic and supports tax cuts, despite our relatively generous social-safety-net here in Canada.
Is there any way to remain friends? In case you couldn't guess, I'm a socialist (not a dirty word up north), and she's a conservative. We're also friends with a lot of the same people, so it will be impossible to avoid her completely.
Egalitarian and Expect Others To Be That Way, Too!
I'm with you: The way a friend treats her "help" says a lot about her as a person (not just her politics). If Jill can't be bothered to pay minimum wage to the woman (it's almost always a woman) who is going to essentially raise her child, it's hard to imagine her being generous with her heart. It sounds as if she and Bill make a ton of money. So you have to boil it down to plain old greediness, cheapness, the desire to game the system—call it what you, but it's unsavory.
It was a little surprising, of course, to hear Jill works at a nonprofit. But then, one possible right doesn't count for another, far more egregious wrong. If Jill wants to work 60 hours a week, that's her business. Exploiting young women from the developing world is everyone's problem. Or, at least, it should be. By the way, where is Bill in all this? Does he just sit back passively while Jill posts her "Great Opportunity" ads? You say he's the original friend here. Maybe you need to examine his worthiness, too. It's high time that daddies realized that organizing child care is their problem, too.
Friend or Foe
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Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.
Illustration by Jason Raish.