I'm a SAHM of a 20-mo. old DD and have a sister with a 17mo. old DD. Here is my conundrum. My sis and her husband have been having marital trouble (they've always had "issues", but this one was serious), and DH and I convinced them to go to counseling with our pastor. The counseling is going well, but I'm running into issues with babysitting. You see, when they decided to start going to counseling, I agreed that I'd watch their baby for them while they were at their appts. since they're only about 10 min away from my house. I suppose it's partly my fault for not laying out ground rules beforehand about the conditions of this babysitting especially knowing their tendency to take advantage of people (his parents are their unpaid daycare), but now I'm starting to go batty and I'm not sure how I'm going to end this. For one thing, the counseling has turned into never-ending counseling. I was thinking this would be once a week for a couple of months, but we're drifting far past that. They also have a tendency to drop her off WAY early and pick her up hours after they are done. I know they are off getting lunch and running errands and whatnot while they've got free babysitting. They also drop her off in the morning in her pajamas, NO breakfast, and crab at me if I haven't fed her lunch when they get back to pick her up, even if DD and myself haven't eaten yet either. Last week, they didn't even call me ahead to let me know what day they were coming, they just showed up unannounced. I had a friend over and we ended up playing tag-team babysitters instead of having a few hours to knit together, which is what we get together for. On top of this, her DD is extremely hyper and does not listen, so I spend the next day working this monkey-see-monkey-do out of my DD. All of this I could almost let slide in the name of supporting their going to counseling, but the thing that has been setting me off lately is that they bring their baby over when she's SICK all the time. Every time they do it, DD gets sick and I casually mention it to my sis and she says something like "Oh yeah, I noticed my kid had a runny nose the night before, but I figured they share everything, right? *Chuckle, chuckle.*". Excuse me, are you ^$&#*^$*&# kidding me?????!!! My daughter gets a cold and then I get no sleep for 2 or 3 nights while she wakes up snot-puking and I'm supposed to just act like it's no big deal?!! The worst part is that she's a nurse and should totally know better!
All of this ranting to say that I think I'm finally done being walked on. However, I feel like I'm partly to blame for not saying anything before, and I'm stressing about how I'm going to break it to my sister that I don't want to babysit anymore. She is SUPER sensitive and I'm not sure how I can tell her why I don't want to babysit anymore without causing a big thing. We're having Christmas at our house this year, and I don't want it to be weird, but I can't keep going with this craziness every week. My DH has to listen to me rant every time and I guess it's just not really fair to anyone. I guess what I'm asking is, can anyone give me a virtual hug and help me with wording?
Why not just tell her that you are happy to watch her DD while they go to see the councellor but that you are starting to find it difficult and from now on they will need to drop her off just before their appointment and pick her up again straight after or you won't be able to babysit for her any more. And that they need to let you know in advance what day it will be because if they turn up unexpectedly you may have plans and won't be able to help them.
Just giving some words to chew on:
They come unannounced when you and a friend have a knit date. "Ohhhh, that's too bad! I already have plans. Oh, no, I couldn't possibly give her the proper attention while we're engaged in our project. Please do let me know when your next appointment is, though! Bye!"
When they don't show up after their appointment, call them on their cell. "Wow, I was REALLY getting worried, I know your appointment was over an hour ago! Are you guys ok? Oh, you're just shopping? That's a relief, because I need to run out in 30 minutes, so you'll be here in 20? No, I can't possibly stay longer, not today, sorry. Next time please do let me know if you plan to be late, so I can tell you if I can manage it or not."
When they show up early. "Oh! I wasn't expecting you guys yet. I am not quite ready yet. I remember we agreed on 2pm. I'll definitely be ready at 2pm. I'll see you soon!"
If they ask what you're so busy with and you don't have a ready answer (that is, something you are very obviously engaged with, such as company - but they are still pushing your boundaries) you can just say "Quite a bit, actually. I know you guys are busy too, so I'll just let you go now, but I'll see you at 2?"
I mean, taking the bull by the horns and laying down the rules upfront, very clearly, might be the very best way, but these are some ideas in case you aren't ready to do that yet.
Don't forget, let THEM own the responsibility. If they show up unannounced and your refusal to babysit makes them miss an appointment, too bad. They'll probably remember to call and check with you next time. DON'T feel guilty about it. Seriously, would you just show up at someone's house and get mad at them if they weren't home or magically ready to take on babysitting duties? Of course not.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
Hi! Congrats on finding your breaking point. I'm sure it took a lot. You strike me as the kind of person that picks up on non-verbal cues and subtle indirect statements and would almost prefer to communicate this way but, unfortunately, not everyone picks up on this frequency.
Most of the time people don't need firm ground rules to operate. Usually people are considerate but when it comes to family those boundaries can get blurred rather quickly.
Here is what I would do if we somehow switched places and I inherited this situation. Accept that the past is the past. Yah it sucks they took advantage of your kindness and it also sucks that you didn't have the presence of mind to express your irritation before it became so upsetting. In my book they cancel each other out. Going forward state what you are capable of doing and state it in the positive, like so:
Hey sis. I really like being able to help you out with counseling by babysitting. Please let me know your regular appointment times and if it changes I need as much notice as possible, but preferably a week. I need your help to get her fed and dressed before she comes and to drop her off and pick her up within (a reasonable amount of time based on distance and appt time). I also think it is best for all if she is showing signs of a cold to keep her home and limit her exposure.
Everything said above is TOTALLY REASONABLE because you are stating a need without accusing her of anything. These are all valid needs that sound like they need to be met before you can feel good about doing her a favor. I realize you said that you don't want to babysit but I think if you state your needs and she meets them you might feel differently.
I really think you should backtrack and give your sister the opportunity to meet your needs. It sounds like she means a lot to you and using these techniques might lead you to a more meaningful relationship. If she doesn't adhere to your requests then simply say that your needs in the arrangement aren't being met and that it needs to end ... but AFTER you explain your needs.
Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
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