I have never gotten married nor had children of my own, but I take care of my nieces and nephews as if they were my children. That is because their parents are irresponsible and love to party. The father is an alcoholic, and the mother doesn’t have the least bit of affection for them. Neither of them takes care of the basic needs of the children, such as their education, housing, and food…. They are legally still the parents and, when they want to, they put on a good show of being good parents.

The kids have fun when they are with their parents… but they bring the kids to me unexpectedly and then disappear for days on end…. That frustrates me because I want to go out, travel, and see the world, but I can’t with those children in tow, and I can’t leave them either because everyone says I would be a bad aunt if I abandoned them.

Dear Friend,

There are many family members around the world who understand your situation. Many grandparents have to change the plans they had for their later years in order to be able to take care of their grandchildren. And countless siblings like you have courageously stepped in to provide and care for their nieces and nephews.

Meanwhile, the biological parents seem to find it easy to neglect the responsibility for caring for their own children. Sometimes they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and sometimes they are mentally unstable. But in your case, it sounds like the parents are able to live a party lifestyle because you are willing to take care of their children.

We are sure that you originally began helping because you love your nieces and nephews, and you didn’t want to see them neglected. You are a thoughtful and generous person who wanted to do what you could to help. But as time passed, it sounds like the parents started expecting you to do more and more, so that now they are fully taking advantage of you.

The Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his student and apprentice, contains several guidelines for how family members are responsible to take care of one another. (1) Paul makes it clear that God expects us to help those who are in need, beginning with those in our own families.

However, Paul also taught that a person who is unwilling to work should not eat. (2) This is another way of saying that adults are responsible to work and provide for themselves. They cannot just choose to watch television all day and expect other people to buy, prepare, and bring them food. In other words, family members are not expected to provide for those who can provide for themselves.

In the same way, aunts are not expected to provide for children when the children’s own parents are able to do it. The parents may prefer to party and to neglect their children, but that doesn’t make another family member responsible for those children.

You say that you want to travel, so make some plans. Get reservations and buy tickets. Then inform your family that you will be gone during that time. The parents will then have to make all the arrangements for their own children while you are away.

When you return, make plans with friends. Go on weekend trips, join a sports team or club, and simply inform the parents that you will not be available during those times.

Once you have made a plan, it is very important that you do not let anyone talk you out of it. Placing a higher priority on your own hopes and desires does not make you a bad aunt.

We wish you well,

1 1 Ti 5:3-8
2 2 Th 3:10