Saturday, December 5, 2009

A RANT Post--Boundaries with Friends

I've mentioned before on my blog that if you are a mom who stays home with your children you will no doubt be innundated with endless requests for help, either from family members who think you have all the time in the world, working friends/acquaintances, church committees, etc. It can be an all-out battle some days just to actually remain an "at-home" mom when so many people want a piece of your time. I've mentioned before that sometimes people ask for something small, not realizing that fifty other people have also asked for something small too. Or, other times you have people asking for something really big, which can be equally frustrating


This post is not to discourage you from doing hard things for the Lord if He calls you to do so. Life is not supposed to be comfortable for us at every turn and God uses difficult times and situations to grow us. However, I do think it's biblical and wise to manage our households well and keep our priorities in order. One way we can do this is by having a "game plan" for dealing with requests.

Many times in the past I have struggled with bitterness over feeling taken advantage of, especially in the area of childcare, by several different people I know. Because I routinely tackle big projects and have lots of energy, many folks feel comfortable asking me for "the impossible." But resentment can easily build when communication or boundaries are lacking.
If a friend is making money, I'm making money too babysitting their kid. It's not right to expect your stay-at-home mom friends to babysit for you while you go to work if you aren't willing to pay well or barter. A lot of people think I'm "lucky" to be a SAHM but the truth is it has taken lots of sacrifice, frugality, and personal discipline to live on one small income in today's world. I didn't make those sacrifices so I could raise someone else's kids. I'm not saying I won't help working moms who truly have to work and are going through hard times or are desperate for childcare now and then but have no money. However, no more babysitting for people who can afford to pay me but don't. If they are in a pinch because the normal sitter is sick or something like that then they are welcome to call me and ask, provided they are willing to pay.
I will not "give them a break" on babysitting fees merely because they are my friend. At-home care, which often includes homeschooling lessons, healthy snacks, and more personal attention, should earn at least the amount the local daycare gets, if not more. I have one friend who pays me double the amount of local day-cares, and though I've told her she doesn't need to, she insists because she feels my work is worth it; I really appreciate her!
When a friend takes advantage of some help I've offered, it really tends to burn the bridge. I'm not trying to be harsh and say that the friendship is over, but if they're late picking up the kids after I've specifically told them the time I wanted them back, do you think I'm gonna say yes to a request to watch their kids again? Not likely! My family is my first ministry and if folks won't respect that I have a schedule too then their lack of consideration is probably going to hurt our friendship. It boggles my mind sometimes that people in my life even ask so much of a mother of 3 anyway! It's one thing to ask for help from a mom of 1 but it seems downright rude to force your kids on someone, especially someone with 3 kids 4 and under! Our former difficult neighbors are back in town and they recently dropped their 2 kids off for a couple of hours on Jeremiah's birthday unexpectedly.
I will not babysit regularly (as I've found that to be too stressful for our current stage of life) and I will not babysit for people who are going to go out drinking/partying. My time is valuable, and though I could be making more money by babysitting more often or while people go on weekend drinking binges, that's not how I want to spend my time, nor do I want to support that lifestyle. My cousin in another state who owns an in-home daycare really enjoys her home business and line of work but I would rather make money in a different way if I needed to supplement the income on a regular basis. Right now my own kids are a big enough job and taking on more of them seems a little insane. If my friend is going to the ER, needs to see the dentist, or wants to trade babysitting so we can have a rare date with our husbands, no problem! If my friend wants to drop her kids off so she can relax or get a pedicure, no! She can do something like that on her husband's or Grandma and Grandpa's time! Unless I've offered this as a way to bless her on her birthday or we do a regular babysitting co-op where we take turns giving each other "errand running time", I'm going to veto that. Finally, I'm selective about "WHO" I will babysit. If the child is not disciplined at home, babysitting is a nightmare and way more work than anyone could compensate you for. If the child tends to rile my own kids up or leads them astray, I'll only babysit that kid in a dire emergency.
I have needed to ask my friends for help from time to time, whether to go to the doctor, the chiropractor, or to put an offer on a house (the one that was rejected). I appreciate my stay-at-home mom friends who will trade favors in this way and am more than happy to help them out if a need arises. Also, if I offer to watch a friend's children, you can be sure I want to do it and want to bless my friends in this way. My personal code of etiquette:
*I will not ask them for a babysitting favor if I'm not willing to watch their kids for the same amount of time
*I will bring snacks for my kids if someone is watching them over snacktime.
*I will not take sick children to someone's home.
*Daddy or Grammy are my first choices; if something needs to be done when neither of them are available.....then...I will usually only ask someone who has offered their help (in a difficult time) or someone who "owes" me for taking advantage of me in situations mentioned above
*I will try to make the babysitting time as short as possible, not running extra errands while I'm out
*If I ever needed someone to watch the kids for a longer period of time I would split the kids up to go to 2 or 3 different homes
*I will always thank the babysitter profusely and offer to pay or trade them.
Obviously these are guidelines and not meant to be legalistic. If one of my kids chopped off their arm or something I would probably thrust my others kids on someone, even without a snack, and even if they had colds.
We can help our friendships with other moms by having boundaries and sticking with them. Being honest from the beginning and gently explaining your standards to your friends can save you a lot of frustration in the long run. Don't expect it to be easy, especially when it involves close friends, but you will be glad you have guidelines.
I guess it's obvious that I haven't been either clear enough or firm enough in dealing with my friends in the past. My recent feelings have been a wake-up call to re-vamp this area of my life. A lot of these situations happened rather unexpectedly for me due to lack of good communication. When more requests come for babysitting, and I know they surely will, I will have my new standards in place.


Lesley said...

Wow! What a fantastic post, Lindsey! I think I'll have to read it a couple more times and learn as much as I can from it. I totally agree with you. While I don't have friends asking me to baby-sit all the time, I do get the, "You're just at home" attitude from people who think I have all the time in the world because I'm home with my kids. (Except for that 10 hours a week when I do work at the church and Daddy is home with the kids)

Anyway, I would baby-sit your kids in a heartbeat and if we lived close to each other, I would love to do a regular trade so we could go out on a monthly date with our hubbies. What a great idea.

Thanks for your friendship, even from afar! You have blessed me often :) Have a wonderful weekend.

Lea said...

I'm a working mom with no family in the immediate area to watch my kids and I have very few friends currently who have children and are willing to 'swap'. We did at one stage but not right now.

I would never DREAM of calling an at home friend to watch my kids unless it was an emergency! I have my regular day-care and two other day-cares I can call during the day and 3 teenagers and a set of adopted "grandparents" (all of whom we pay generously) in the evening/night/weekends. We have a sitter in the evenings about once a month and sometimes for pick up if both of us have to work late (also about once a month) and I feel like I ask too often.

Since I am at work all day, my time with my children is precious and I try not to 'waste' it. Peducures, etc. are none in the cards right now. Hair cuts, groceries and other errands are done with the kids and often hubby too.

I realize that many people are in tight straights with money right now, but you're right. Don't ask anyone to watch your kids without wanting to pay in kind (time) or in cash or other barter.

Sheesh. Sometimes I wonder about people these days...


Anonymous said...

One other idea...I am a SAHM to four children, and I am very rarely asked to babysit. I also seldom require babysitting outside of times that grandma/dad can provide, so I suppose I rarely ASK for sitters, as well.

However, a girlfriend of mine receives continual requests for babysitting, and as with you, many folks abuse the privilege! Here is my take on the difference between the two of us, as I think we are both very Christian, service-oriented mothers with nice kiddos ourselves!--

She is often asked to babysit because people frequently SEE her babysitting. She will be playing outside with the kids, is watching someone when a friend phones, takes walks with all the littles, etc. People often say, "I notice that you do some babysitting!" Ha! And the the ridiculous request follows...

In addition, I think she fails to honor the notion that her own children need her most of all, and makes others feel that watching a few extra kids is "no real work" when of course, it is! I honestly don't feel that children in her home are supervised as they need to be, or that her own children are always happy being fourth-fifth-or sixth place.

As women, we need to honor our own families by SAYING, "My children really need ALL of me right now, so I am only doing emergency babysitting (or babysitting in trade) right now." We are called to "do hard things," but one of the hardest things to do can be to set gentle boundaries and passionately/completely/fully commit ourselves to our own little brood.

I think you are wise to begin guarding your time, so that bitterness does not set in!

the momma said...

A few more kids, and people will quit asking :-)

maybe you need to have Josiah say, "no babysitting. period." for a little while? (except for swapping) Then, when you get asked, you can just sweetly say, "my husband doesn't want me doing any babysitting right now." end of discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'm a working mom and I've never asked a SAHM friend to babysit. In fact, the only babysitter I've had were my teen-aged nieces (only a handful of times). I rarely have other family help. I volunteer with various children/girl's groups at the church, and the volunteers are exclusively working moms or retirees. The SAHM moms refuse to help because they say it is their break time. I will add that they seem different from you. They are mostly doctor's wives who equate their social clubs/gala charity events with church. They're the ones getting their nails done, not me.

Jade said...

I was wondering what you think about compensating family memebers when they babysit? Thanks

Jade said...

I was wondering what you think about compensating family memebers who babysit? Thanks!

LS said...

Thanks for the great thoughts Ladies! It sounds like those of you who work are very dedicated and responsible and kind and don't mooch off your SAHM friends. I've never met SAHMs who are wealthy. In my situation I've seen working moms who can afford a lot of the extras due to the double income but most of my SAHM friends are very financially strapped. And they are very rare, most of the ladies I know work.

I agree that if people see you babysitting they are more prone to ask. This is probably why lots of people ask me. One other reason lots of people ask me is because I am one of VERY few SAHMs. In our region it is very unusual to be a one-income fam.

Jade--I would just have a good talk with your family members. If you are out making money, then it's not very fair to expect your parents or in-laws or someone to watch your kids 24/7 with no compensation unless they specifically have volunteered to do so in a difficult time (such as if you were a widow). But asking your sis or bro to babysit for a while is fine and I don't think you have to pay. If I had a teen sis, I'd be asking her often! And she would feel free to say no if she didn't want to. And sometimes I would pay her. I think it's okay to help family out and if my nephew lived closer I'd have him over often. When my folks occasionally watch the kids for us to go on a rare date I never offer to pay them; but I do often pay them back with cookies or some hot supper or take care of their dog when they are out of town. I don't need to pay them back but that's just part of the give and take, caring and sharing of being in a family. If I asked them to babysit often I would probably offer money.

LS said...

Thanks themomma for your tip! I have tried a variation of this when it was tough to say no to a particularly close friend. I had a good long chat with him and then explained that my hubby didn't think it was wise for me to be doing sitting anymore (pin the blame on him, right?)

I still get asked by many others though. I guess I need to have 5 more kiddoes to catch up to you!

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