We all like to help out when we can. Sometimes our friends or family need a night out, kids-free, and we are more than happy to step in. We know how tough parenting is and that everyone needs a break now and again. We’re already stuck watching our own kids, so why not add a few more kids into the mix for awhile.
You agree to watch a friend’s kids a few times while they go out, and it is all dandy. But then they start asking you more and more, and soon the kids are at your place almost every weekend. Time for you and your family becomes rare and you soon feel like you have taken on another job.
Even worse, when you ask her to reciprocate the favor. She’s always so sorry, but too busy to watch your kids for awhile.
Helping out is a nice way to be there for friends, but there’s a fine line between helping out a mutually respective friend and getting suckered in to being their personal babysitter. They might see you as an easy option and start asking you each and every time they want a sitter, knowing you will say “yes.”
While your intentions were good to start with, it can become quite overwhelming and you may land up in a position where you feel like you can’t actually say “no” anymore without ruining the friendship.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
It is time to break the habit and stand up for yourself. You are the only that can break the cycle, and the sooner you do it the better.
Setting boundaries can look different for each and every person, and it’s always best to set the boundaries before the line has been crossed because it’s always easier to draw a boundary originally than try to push back a boundary later. Before you even agree to watch your friend’s kids the first time, make the boundary known.
This could be something like, cool I’ll watch your kids tonight and then you can watch them next week when I have my thing. That establishes that you expect your relationship to have some give and take and be mutually beneficial.
Or, if you’re friend’s dropping your friend off on her way to work let her know, “I’m happy to watch them this time, but I can’t do this every time you need to work.”
Maybe you are available to watch her kids fairly regularly, and don’t need your own babysitter fairly often, but would like some compensation for your troubles. Talk to your friend. Odds our that if they value you as a friend and trust you as a babysitter, they’ll be happy to work something out.
If you didn’t set boundaries from the get go, then as soon as you start to see a pattern forming with your friend, put your foot down. By setting boundaries early, you will be laying the path going forward.
Your friend may push back a little. They may say that you’re their “only option,” or that they “really, really need help,” or “just one more time, I promise.” Try to be fair, while still maintaining your boundaries. If this is the last time, then make it the last time. If they try to say that you’re they’re only option, make it very clear that you won’t be an option next time and that they need to find another solution.
This should save you dealing with more last minute babysitting and constant requests from your friend. Putting an end to it early is the best way to ensure you keep your time to yourself, and your friendship stays healthy.
What If It’s Too Late for That?
If it is too far gone already and you’re in deep, there are other ways to remedy the situation. Don’t completely cut off your friend, she might really need the help, but only offer your time when you have it free and want to. You should decide when it suits you to babysit and not the other way around. You are doing her a favor, so don’t let her dictate the rules to you.
She may be upset at first, but if she truly values your friendship she’ll eventually understand and realize that what she’s been doing hasn’t been fair. Then hopefully you can both move forward with a better understanding of one another. If she doesn’t, if not being her babysitter means she doesn’t want you as a friend at all, then she probably wasn’t really your friend in the first place.
You should still be able to help out your friend, without feeling like a slave.
What If It’s My Family Member Asking Me to Babysit All the Time?
But what if it’s not a friend? What if it’s a family member who is taking advantage of you and you don’t feel like you can just cut them off or say no? Well, this is both a trickier situation and an easier situation. Yes, putting your foot down may start all kinds of drama, but they’re family. They going to keep seeing you around, whether they always want to or not, and eventually they’ll most likely come around again.
If many of your family members agree with you, it may even help them come around more quickly so that your relationship can get back on track sooner. However, if many of your family members seem to be taking her side, it can get really messy. Ultimately, you have to be fair to yourself and think about yours and your children’s needs first.
One of the hardest things to learn to do is to say no. Such a small, simple word, but it can be so difficult to say sometimes! We would rather inconvenience ourselves and agree to whatever we are asked to do, instead of just saying no. It is a skill that you need to practice, and it is a skill that will come in handy in many situations, not just this one. Don’t be rude about it, but being able to say no when you mean it will help you stop any unwanted situations from happening.
Stand Your Ground No Matter What
Once you’ve set your boundaries, you’ve got to stick to them. If you start falling into old habits, and letting you friend or family member get away with asking for a few extra, unplanned baby sitting session, you risk falling back into the same situation as before.
Stand your ground.
If no doesn’t work and they keep asking, just stick to your guns and decline. You don’t need to give excuses and you don’t not need to reason your way out of it. It is your time at hand and you get to decide whether or not you are free to help. It is 100% your decision to make.
Avoid any manipulation from your friend or family member as well. Manipulation isn’t always clear from the start, but you will know soon enough if you look at things from a different angle.
If they overplay emotions and try make you feel sorry for them in order to get you to babysit, don’t fall for it. They might even try a different angle that makes you feel guilty for saying no. Whatever it is, don’t fall prey to any manipulation. Once again stop it before it gets worse.
Being sucked into the role of personal babysitter for a friend or family member can happen quickly. You need to recognize it as it happens and put a stop to it then and there. Setting boundaries are important for maintaining healthy relationships.
There is no reason you can’t help out every now and again, but don’t let yourself become the default choice, especially when you don’t feel up to it. Learn to say no, and stand your ground.
Make sure that your friend is also open to babysit your kids when there is a need, or that you come to a mutually beneficial understanding. It is only fair for both of you to help each other out.
Have you had a friend or family member cross the line with babysitting before? How did you resolve your situation? Share with us in the comments below!