helping others: when not to? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 07-01-2002, 06:38 PM - Thread Starter
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I hope this is the right venue for this type of question.

A little background: I am a single mother (3 years now) or three childrenL: 10g, 9b and 7g. They are homeschooled. My job allows me to stay home with them.
I have a friend. She has four children 9g, 6g, 5b and 2g. She is in the process of leaving her husband. Because of past emotional abuse it is a lengthy process that she is going through, mostly in her own mind. She has just recently gotten herself a job which gives her much financial independence. She works for her brother four days a week, all day. Three of those days her children come to my house from 7:30 in the morning until about 9:00 that night. She pays me what she can when she can. This was fine. Until I realized that the money that I make from my main job does not allow to feed seven children! I know she can't pay me more.
Also, the home situation for this family is stressful and these children come to me with big emotional problems. THe eldest one screams and yells most of the time and is moody. the second child tunes out whatever she doesn't want to hear and goes about her life. the third boy is always defensive and quiet, but swears and hits the baby when he thinks no one is looking. The baby is quite independent and really of no problem except for the usual baby-related stuff.
The reason I offered to watch her children is because her husband works and when he doesn't, she really does not feel comfortable leaving her children with him. He is not a father-type person and tends to ignore them unless absolutely necessary, prefering to leave the responsibility in the hands of the 9g, hence her emotional state.
I would really liek to help her get on her feet and leave him as he is NOT good for her.
The problems are: 1) financial: I can't do it pro bono.
2) I can no longer handle the emotional demands these children place on me.
3) I am losing touch with my own children, beign too tired after the others leave to do anythign but fall into bed.

I want to help her out, but it is nearing the impossible realm, or so it seems.

Any ideas?

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#2 of 5 Old 07-01-2002, 06:58 PM
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In my opinion, once the situation destabilizes your family, it is time to find an alternative arrangement. In most U.S. states there are programs designed to help with childcare expenses, contact a local agency, gather information and approach your friend. Perhaps you can help her while allowing yourself some breathing room. Good luck.
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#3 of 5 Old 07-08-2002, 04:38 PM
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I have been very fortunate to recieve help here & there when I needed it: IMHO you have gone WAY above and beyond what ANY friend- or even relative- could ask from you. It sounds like you are trying to pull water (energy/money) from an empty well (your resources). As much as you care for her, YOU and YOUR children come first.

Ask her to meet with you, tell her you are stretched beyond your limits, hand her a list of local agencies/women's centers/resources that you may have found in the phone book, or by calling a hotline- whatever, and give her a specific time; say one week. Two at the MAX. If you wish, tell her you would be willing to help her out OCCASIONALLY when it's an emergency, but that you need to respect your boundaries, or your family will suffer for it.

If she gets pissy, DON'T take it personally; she's going through a lot and might be in a very self-centered mode. But don't let her guilt trip you. Honestly, she should be thanking you profusely every day, and going out of her way to help. If she's upset and not understanding of your position, just know that you are doing the right thing and stand up for yourself.

Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? I hope so. I used to be an overly empathetic person, like you clearly are. I sacrificed to be a good person and help others- boy, I learned the hard way that unless YOU (or I) defend your healthy boundaries, no one else will, either. Needy people will say to themselves "she will give and keep giving, I need and I will benefit and I will continue asking until she puts up a limit". It's usually unconscious, but not always. Be careful with yourself, and others will be. Be careless with yourself, and others will be.

I recently relearned the lesson; I agreed to dogsit 2 stupid, untrained, hyper dogs that don't listen for 5- yes, FIVE weeks. Insane, right? They tore up my dog run, dug holes, created dust everywhere, barked constantly, shat everywhere. After 2 1/2 weeks of misery and stress, I called and told them that it was too much for me, that they were very destructive etc. and gave them a week to find alternate arrangements. They did, but no "we're so sorry they were such a pain, we really appreciate the 3 weeks you dogsat for FREE, and we'll make it up to you by helping repair/clean up your dog run when we get back". So, what does that say? What would you do?

We all have our own problems, challenges and situations- we don't need to take on other people's as well. Value yourself more- at least as much- as you do others. Period.

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#4 of 5 Old 07-12-2002, 08:50 PM
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Ugh...the fine line between helping others and being used and abused....
I second what alianmama said, she has gone past what any normal person would ask. Sounds like even if she could come up with money for you, the emotional needs of the kids overshadow that and you need to cut her off, IMO.
You can be a friend to her w/o being a surrogate parent to her kids...And I understand the desire to help for the sake of the kids, but you have to take care of yourself and your own family first. Maybe you could, on occasion, take her kids on special outings, etc.
I've been there before w/ a roommate who was also a single mom, and even though she was twice my age (she adopted a child at 40, even though she could hardly support herself), it grew to feel like she expected me to mother her too. I finally realized I was her crutch and she would never take responsibility for her own life w/ people like me helping her, so...I stopped helping her and then moved and she got very bitter and nasty. No thank yous there either : ....
Just don't take on the guilt of having to say no.........
hope this helps!
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#5 of 5 Old 07-24-2002, 03:24 PM
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I have a very needy friend who is always trying to take advange of me as well, but remember that your family comes first and foremost. I agree with what the others said, give her two weeks to find alternative care, and help her with that process, give her numbers agree to call some places, but at two weeks be done with watching her children. And take the next few weeks to nurture your own little family. Then you can do somethings like said above, like take the kids on a special outing, or watching the baby so mom and the older kids can go to an amusement park or whatever. Good luck!
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