Dear Amy: I’m a young SAHM (stay-at-home mom) of a 5-month-old baby. My husband and I worked hard to budget, pay off debt and cut expenses prior to our baby being born.
I’m the only mom in my friend group who stays home, and recently I’ve been getting asked to babysit (for free) quite frequently.
One friend asked me well in advance to drive across town to pick their daughter up from school two days in a row and watch her until they got home.
I agreed, knowing that the child care they had lined up had fallen through.
Under those circumstances, I was happy to help.
A week later, that same friend is asking me to watch their child for an entire day because she works and her husband has made other plans.
I really don’t want to do it, but feel bad knowing that I have no excuse. I just don’t want to.
Their child is much older than my own and requires a lot of attention. It’s way different than my infant and takes away from my bonding with him.
If there was some financial compensation I would be more inclined to do it, but I feel like free babysitting should be kept for times when they are REALLY in a bind. How can I politely decline without feeling guilty, or making up an excuse?
Dear SAHM: If you are the only SAHM in your friend group, you might be fielding requests from several different sets of parents.
Your job is to take care of your child, and to live your own life the way you want to.
Because you are a good person and a good friend you will occasionally want to help out other parents who are facing an emergency. However, “I’m working and my husband has other plans” does not qualify as an emergency. And this friend should always offer to reciprocate when you step in.
One way to handle this might be to leverage your own needs when replying to a request: “I can take ‘Sara’ for the day, but could you reciprocate by taking care of ‘James’ this Saturday afternoon?”
Or if you want compensation, ask for it: “What would you normally be paying your sitter for these days? I’ll do it for the same fee.” Many parents would be thrilled to pay for a steady and reliable backup.
Here are other words to say: “I’m sorry you are in such a jam but I can’t help you out. You really need to find backup child care, other than me.” Don’t succumb to the temptation to pile on explanations, rationales, etc. Keep it simple.
Dear Amy: This year has been one of the hardest of my life. My grandmother passed away, my uncle died from a stroke, my sister was killed in a car accident, I went through my first romantic heartbreak and I suffered a miscarriage.
I’ve always been a positive person, and I am fighting to maintain that in my life right now. In an effort to do that, I am avoiding news reports on current events. I do this just so I won’t break.
Recently a co-worker asked me about a mass shooting and I expressed why I didn’t keep up with such things. She scolded me, telling me I needed to be aware of these tragedies.
Amy, I don’t want to! I don’t want to know that people kill each other for no reason. I am doing everything I can just to get out of bed some days! This co-worker complained that I was being rude. Was I? Am I wrong because I don’t want to know about these things?
Surviving in Texas
Dear Surviving: I hear you. And I completely understand your instincts to avoid bad news. Unless you work in the news business, you have no obligation to keep up-to-date on the almost daily string of tragedies befalling us right now.
I don’t know if you were rude to your co-worker. But protecting and then defending yourself isn’t rude – it’s your duty.
Dear Amy: “Not Easy” described pressuring a guy in a fairly new relationship (four dates!) about being exclusive. I agreed with you that it is wise not to have sex until you are exclusive, but this means that all parties need to be patient. Sounds like a mismatch to me.
Dear Been There: It seemed to me like “Not Easy” was trapped between her values and the fact that she really wanted to have sex.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.