The Reluctant Babysitter

by admin on April 8, 2014

One of my fiance’s close friends, “Mark”, recently moved in to a house on our block. He and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date because we never get the chance. Then when we actually need help, they never follow through. Most recently, a band we like was playing locally on a weeknight and we asked if they could sit at the house after the kids were in bed. Sue has a demanding job, with long hours and on top of that she is pregnant. She said she really wanted to help but it would be too late for her (though she goes into work late the following day). I completely understood and was sympathetic to her, obviously having been pregnant I understand how important/difficult sleep is.

The trouble is this, Mark, once he knew Sue wouldn’t be able to come, refused to do a “solo” gig. He said he wasn’t up to it. That was the only excuse he gave. Although our kids would be in bed and he would literally just have to sit there for 3 hours. This person is supposed to be my fiance’s best buddy, so he was incredibly upset and frustrated that he didn’t come through again.

Now the real question I have is that my fiance and I are getting married in a few weeks and Mark was going to have a bachelor party for him and now my fiance doesn’t want anything to do with it. He says what he wanted was to be able to have a night out with me and he couldn’t because Mark didn’t step up. Mark & Sue have also implied they would want us to babysit when their children are born, and now my fiance says that he will refuse since they have never helped us.

Is my fiance in the wrong for this retaliation or were we being selfish thinking they should babysit on a weeknight? 0403-14

First, I would be very reluctant to have a male solo babysitting children.  This is as much about protecting him as it is about protecting the kids. In this era, accusations of child molestation can arise from even the most innocent of situations and I personally would consul any males in my family to not put themselves in a situation where there is no accountability partner with them.   So, I can fully understand Mark’s reticence in babysitting solo for you.

Second, people make offers to help because it is a conversational device. It gives the appearance of kindness or hospitality but without the substance.   A common one is, “We really should have you over for dinner sometime,” and this never happens.   If you recognize it for what it is, i.e. idle babble, you won’t have expectations that are  unmet.

I do think your fiance is being petty.  It’s one thing to not prioritize favors for someone else as being of utmost importance and therefore have legitimate excuses why you are not available to help because you’ve planned on doing something else that takes greater priority and it’s an entirely different thing to plan on never being available to ever help in any way.   The latter sounds too much like, “If he won’t play my way, I’m taking my ball and bat and going home!”    Refusing the bachelor party is like cutting off your fiance’s nose to spite his face.    He would be the loser in more ways than one.   Is he prepared to lose that friendship or create neighborhood drama because he had an expectation that his friend is expected to be a babysitter?

{ 160 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn50 April 8, 2014 at 11:01 am

I would never be upset with a pregnant woman who didn’t feel up to late night babysitting, or her husband for not wanting to do so alone. This could just be a matter of bad timing, but if the couple consistently makes offers they don’t follow through on, I’d start to read that as things they’d like to do in an ideal world, but aren’t up to in reality. Like, “When I’m rich and famous, I’m buying you a car.” I’d smile, and say, “That’s nice of you to offer, but you guys really have your hands full with Sue’s pregnancy.” and not expect them to ever come through with it. They have no obligation to babysit for you, even if it is wrong-footed of them to make even a nebulous offer they aren’t planning on honouring.

Personally, when the time comes, I *would* babysit for them, even if only once. This would point out that you DO follow through on commitments, and set up a history of reciprocity. You’re under no obligation to do so, of course, and if you’re feeling hostile towards Mark and Sue, then do the child a favour and don’t, but it’s how I would handle it.

I do think your fiancé skipping the bachelor party over this is spiteful and petty. I think you need to decide if you’re willing to end this friendship because you didn’t get to go out on the specific night you wanted to, because, if I were your friends, I’d be really hurt if you bailed on a planned event to punish me for something.

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Cat April 8, 2014 at 11:11 am

I would hire a babysitter. Grandmothers looking for extra cash are usually experienced with small children and adult enough to handle an emergency. Lots of high school girls like to babysit too.
If your fiance is living with you, he’s not giving up the happy bachelor lifestyle. Bachelor parties came about when a single man was ending his bachelor-pad days spent watching sports and eating pizza with his buddies and taking on the responsiblity of a wife. He’s already made a commitment to you and has passed the bachelor stage of his life. I’d suggest going out to a nice dinner and avoiding the “I was so hung over at my wedding” memories.

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Library Diva April 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm

It doesn’t have to be that sort of thing, though. My husband’s bachelor party involved bowling, wings and beer at a bar, and drinks, action flicks and snacks cooked by his groomsmen’s wives at someone’s home. It was three weeks before our wedding and just a chance for everyone to have some fun together. The stereotypical one involves tons of liquor and strippers, but really, it can be whatever the people involved want it to be.

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Cat April 9, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I have only met the stereotypes. Why not include wives/girlfriends if it is bowling, wings, beer and then drinks and action flicks with snacks at someone’s home? Sounds like fun for mixed company to me.

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lakey April 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

If I were your fiancé I would accept the bachelor party with good grace. There are friends that you do a back and forth of favors with, knowing that you can depend on each other when needs arise. There are friends that you socialize with, but that is the extent of it.

It can be annoying to do favors for someone who never reciprocates, so understand that it is not that kind of relationship. If they are never available to babysit for you that is fine. Of course, you have no obligation to babysit for them.

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Dee April 8, 2014 at 11:26 am

Am I the only one who also thinks it’s weird that there is a plan for a bachelor party for a man who is clearly anything but a bachelor? It sounds as if the party is to be a big enough deal that planning and work is involved and Mark is willing to do that … but not sit and watch TV for three hours while OP’s kids are sleeping? I don’t have a problem with Mark choosing to not babysit but then putting all his energies into a bachelor party for this man who is already partnered and has children is bizarre, to me. I don’t understand the priorities of either the OP or Mark.

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Mae April 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm

No, you are not the only one who thinks this is weird.

If Mark & Sue don’t want to babysit, fine, don’t. They should also quit offering since they clearly are not going to ever actually come over and babysit. Of course, Mark may also be all talk about this bachelor party, too. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something else comes up or he can not because he needs to be with his pregnant wife or wife & new baby.

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Shhh its me April 8, 2014 at 11:39 am

I don’t agree with admin that men can’t babysit but I do agree with the idea it’s reasonable for a man to decline with that precaution in mind. I think some men have whether right or wrongly become very aware of the possibility of false accusations and people jumping to vile conclusion just because they spend time with children they are not related to.

I can understand the frustration if they offered frequently and recently and if they said no multiple times. I do consider making disingenuous offers to possibly be indicative of a lack of closeness , that or a sign of good intentions with bad follow through. One example though it no were near enough to call them disingenuous. Even multiple examples when depend a great deal on each circumstance. *I can offer to babysit and only be thinking on Saturdays , only within 2 weeks of the offer , only if I don’t already have plans, only with 10 days notice , not during my busy time at work etc. So even if you tired to take me up 10 times , you may have never met those perfectly reasonable conditions* Also lack of babysitting doesn’t make a person an overall bad friend even if they are making fluff offers. It may mean you don’t babysit or do favors for them , but its not what I would consider a normal friendship ender.

You’re asking our opinion , my is “Yes, you’re wrong and you both sound petty and entitled ” canceling a bachelor party and ending a friendship because someone wouldn’t babysit on a weeknight is terrible reason.

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Denise April 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

He refused to “step up to the plate”?

It isn’t his plate to step up to. You’re upset that he didn’t want to come over, at your convenience, to watch your kids while he leaves his pregnant wife at home .

Friends are not obligated to babysit your kids. And if friends offer to watch them Saturday and you decline, they are not obligated to babysit Tuesday instead.

They didn’t back out of an obligation, they declined to begin with. Get over it, realize you are the ones being poor friends right now and move on. I also highly suggest finding a good babysitter.

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Cat April 9, 2014 at 10:33 pm

When I was in college, a friend of one of my boyfriends called me to babysit. I explained that I did not do babysitting. My mother forced me to babysit when I was in high school. (All teenaged girls love children!) I never cared for small children, hated every minute of it, and decided my baby-sitting days were over once I got away from her.

“Oh!” she said, “But Mike said you would.” I had to explain that Mike did not have the right to decide what I would and would not do. I then explained to Mike that our relationship was over.

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Vermin8 April 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

If your fiance wants the bachelor party, I think he should let Mark go ahead with it. If he doesn’t really want it and was just doing it for Mark there is nothing wrong with saying “I appreciate it but I’m not up to it.” This is regardless of the circumstances with the bachelor party.

I get from the original post that there have been multiple occasions where Mark & Sue said “sorry we can’t” instead of making good on their offer. If you want to make one last ditch effort ask THEM when it would be convenient for them. Otherwise, accept the fact that the offer was not sincere.

I really don’t like offers as “conversational devices.” It puts the offerees on the spot – they can’t count on the offer and be let down or offer vague excuses as to why they can’t and look bad themselves. I knew a couple ladies (regulars at a restaurant/bar my husband and I frequent) who would always say how much they’d love to meet us on other occasions. Twice we went at a previously agreed time and twice we were stood up (without the benefit of notice). The third time I gave a vague “if we’re in the neighborhood we’ll be there” (this was after I said “why don’t you call us when get get there” and the reply was “we’ll be there about 8 or so”) and was berated the next time I saw them for not showing up.

Now on the last point – they’ve mentioned OP doing baby sitting for them someday – don’t offer. Since you are having a child first, you have a built in excuse.

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Skaramouche April 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

Perhaps the letter writer was too brief and didn’t offer enough supporting evidence but I get the impression from the letter that: 1) Mark is a close friend (like an uncle you would trust your children to even if he was alone), 2) Mark & Sue make a habit of offering to babysit a la “why don’t you leave the kids with us so you can have a date night…what are friends for, etc, etc, 3) when LW & fiance take them up on their offer, they are never available, 4) this has happened enough times that LW & fiance are already harbouring resentment and as a result, will swing into “petty mode” at the drop of a hat.

Without knowing the other side of the story, it is difficult to offer any advice/a solution but if my above hypothesis is correct, I’d be annoyed too. Mark/Sue have no obligation at all to make themselves available when LW needs babysitting but it is not nice to make repeated offers you have no intention of seeing through to close friends.

LW, if your fiance is indeed close to Mark, wouldn’t it be as simple as just saying something along the lines of – “Dude, you keep offering to babysit but you’re never available” when the topic comes up the next time? Better that than ending a good friendship over something like this.

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Abby April 9, 2014 at 6:53 am

I think you are correct in that this has happened multiple times and the OP just brought up the most recent time. (Although she weakened her own case when she said she “completely understood” that the pregnant wife was not up for babysitting late, while adding in the same paragraph that she went into work late the next day).

I think better than a confrontation about how Mark and Sue are never available is, the next time Mark and Sue say, hey, we’d love to babysit, OP should say, awesome! Let’s pick a day right now. What works best for you? At that point, Mark and Sue would have to come clean that there is never going to be a day that works for them (if they truly have no intention of following through).

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Flabbered April 8, 2014 at 11:56 am

“First, I would be very reluctant to have a male solo babysitting children. This is as much about protecting him as it is about protecting the kids. In this era, accusations of child molestation can arise from even the most innocent of situations and I personally would consul any males in my family to not put themselves in a situation where there is no accountability partner with them.”

Wow, Admin…those are some rather interesting assumptions you are making about not just one but both genders. One need only glance through all of the headlines about, as just one example, woman teachers having affairs with their young students, to know that a person’s sex (and/or orientation) does not determine whether or not a child is safe to be supervised by them.

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admin April 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Not assumptions at all but based on studies and data. Study by Cortoni and Hanson in 2005, 4-5% of all recorded sexual abuse victims were abused by female offenders. Data collected by the the United States Department of Justice found a rate of 8.3% for “Other sexual offenses” for females. That means that 90-95% of all documented sex abuses were committed by males. You offer nothing of scientific validity to defend your position but point to news headlines as if the media was a reliable source of information.

One only has to google “false accusations of sex abuse” to find law firms that specialize in defending against the accusations, Facebook groups and support blogs of men recounting their stories and most of them advising men to never, ever be alone with a child.

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Devil's Advocate April 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

I find the stats that you posted interesting. However, they lead me to more questions. 1. What, where, when, how was the data collected by the US DOJ? 2. Of the 90-95% of sex abuse cases–how many of these were from the fathers themselves? 3. What is or is there bias, meaning is it more likely for a case of abuse by a male to be reported versus abuse by a female?

And, of course, most crucial to the post at hand, how many of these incidents of sexual abuse occurred when another person or “accountability partner” was in the house?

I think just pointing out rather random stats really don’t prove a point. As an attorney who handles cases of child abuse, right now we are seeing about 50/50 between the sexes (now of course this is limited to my experience) and in over 90% of those cases a second adult was home.

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admin April 28, 2014 at 8:35 am

There are several people who comment here and on the blog and either do so from a recognizable law firm email address or are willing to give their full names and legal credentials. You have done neither which leads me to consider your legal opinion not particularly worthy of credibility. The proof is in the facts….go to any state’s Department of Justice site and look at the sex offender registry. Women sex offenders do exist but at a ratio of 1 per every 10-12 male offenders.

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SV April 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Admin is right. In our house, I always drive the babysitter home while my husband stays back with the kids. It has nothing at all to do with protecting the babysitter from my husband – that would be completely unnecessary. It has everything to do with protecting my husband from the babysitters. Every babysitter we have had has been a kind, intelligent, lovely girl, whom I trust with my children and whom I think the world of. But there can be no false accusations or misunderstandings if the opportunity never presents itself.

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Abby April 10, 2014 at 8:16 am

I completely agree. My brother in law lived with us, and would occasionally babysit our daughter in a desperate situation (like when she was sent home from daycare with a temperature and neither husband nor I could off work). I totally trust him with our toddler daughter.

That said, when I do hire the occasional sitter, I make sure there is absolutely no chance that he will be home alone with the sitter. It’s not that I believe he will suddenly freak out and molest the babysitter, it’s just that in the world we live in, for my piece of mind, my brother in law’s piece of mind, and the babysitter’s parents’ piece of mind, I do not want a 13 year old girl babysitting when a man is in the house with her.

It doesn’t matter if he is in his room sleeping the entire time (he works nights and sleeps days), and never sees her. I just don’t want any kind of situation where any accusations could fly or create discomfort for anyone.

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wren April 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Sadly, I support admin on this one. It has come to the point that many of the young mothers I know will not allow their teenage sons to babysit or do any kind of childcare.

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Joanna April 22, 2014 at 9:11 am

Personally, I would have thought more that Mark himself was reluctant to be with the kids alone, rather than the friend was reluctant to have Mark there solo.

But, regardless, if someone on either end is reluctant, please don’t try to force them! Better avoid a situation where not everyone is 100% ok with things rather than risk problems in the future.

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Anonymous April 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Another thing–to those who say that Mark and Sue won’t be able to babysit while Sue is pregnant, who here has seen the movie “Juno?” As Paulie Bleeker puts it so eloquently, “doesn’t pregnancy usually result in an infant?” So, after Mark and Sue are done being pregnant, they’ll be parents of an infant, and they’ll be too busy to possibly babysit, and how dare you even ask, and then they’ll be parents of a toddler/preschooler/kindergartener/school-ager with multiple extra-curricular commitments (given the way kids are raised these days), and……yeah. It sounds as if Mark and Sue like to make everything all about them, and they’ll always find an excuse. Maybe you can maintain/repair the friendship after repeated empty offers, but I wouldn’t count on any kind of follow-through from Mark and Sue. I’d probably mentally re-designate them to being “large group friends.” So, they’re the friends you see at parties, or at Saturday morning yoga class, or at your church/synagogue if you go, or out and about in passing, and maybe you like them, but they’re not the kind of friends you’d want to specifically make plans with. If the plan could be ruined by their absence……they’re the wrong people. So, don’t ask, “Do you want to do Specific Activity,” or “Would you be willing to help us with Specific Favour at Specific Time”; but rather, “Are you coming to Pre-Existing Event With Other People?” That gives the impression that you still like and want to see them, but it doesn’t put any pressure or guilt on them, because they know that the party/yoga class/religious service will still happen without them, and you and your partner could still participate in it without them. They might grow out of this phase, and they might not, but either way, the “large-group friends” designation is a good method of self-preservation.

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edy April 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm

First, “able to” does not equal “obligated to”. They were asked for a favor and they said no. That is well within their rights. It will also be within OPs rights to say “no” if asked for babysitting favors in the future.

Second, I didn’t see any indication that Mark and Sue back out or are unreliable when plans are made. They did not agree to babysit then back out. There is no reason to stop inviting them to do things one -on-one if spending time together is enjoyable.

I personally enjoy doing favors for people. I will bend over backwards to do favors for people who I can count on doing the same for me. For people who don’t tend to return favors, I tend to say “yes” only when the favor isn’t too inconvenient for me so I don’t feel resentful toward them in the future.

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Tracy April 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

“Second, I didn’t see any indication that Mark and Sue back out or are unreliable when plans are made.”

You didn’t? Because I saw it right here: “He and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date because we never get the chance. Then when we actually need help, they never follow through. Most recently…”

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Kendra April 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

“Second, I didn’t see any indication that Mark and Sue back out or are unreliable when plans are made.”
“Because I saw it right here: “He and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date…”

Actually, it says they are always offering, there was nothing there that they said they would babysit on a particular date at a particular time and then backed out last minute or didn’t show up.

It sounds to me like Sue and Mark say they’ll be happy to watch the kids so OP & Fiance can go out sometime. The OP says they would like to go out until Midnight on a Wednesday, and Mark and Sue go gee, sorry, but that’s too late for us during the week, we have to work the next day. Then OP gets all petulant and complains about how Mark and Sue never follow through on their offer to babysit.

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Tracy April 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Perhaps you and I have different definitions of “backing out” or “unreliable.” To me, offering a service in general, and then refusing when someone tries to take you up on it, is “backing out” or “unreliable.” Perhaps you don’t feel the same way, and you think someone who says “I’d love to babysit for you sometime!” but then never agreeing to do it when you’re actually asked to put your money where you mouth is, is still perfectly reliable.

World April 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Holy cow, Anon. As if Mark and Sue are totally selfish for having a baby and looking after their own happiness! How interesting to assume that Sue first offered to babysit the children while she was pregnant, OP said Mark is a close friend and they have likely known each other for a long time. “I mean, if they have a baby, how are they supposed to look after OPs kids?!” That’s how you sound.
How extremely entitled.

Admin was spot on, in my opinion.

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Anonymous April 10, 2014 at 8:22 am

I don’t think they’re selfish, it’s just unrealistic for Mark and Sue to think that, if they can’t babysit while they’re pregnant, that it’ll somehow be easier after the baby is born. Maybe they didn’t offer while Sue was pregnant (the OP didn’t say), but if they offered to babysit several times, but always said no when the OP and her husband took them up on it, well, they’re not being great friends, at least not when it comes to that. As for re-designating them to “acquaintance” or “large-group friend” status, I didn’t mean to make a big production of that–it’s possible to just quietly shift from thinking that Mark and Sue are going to follow through on a favour they offered (repeatedly, at that), to knowing that it’s not going to happen, and plan accordingly, the same as you would if someone had been unreliable in other ways. That’s when I’d realize that Mark and Sue would be better as the kind of friends you see in groups, at someone else’s house, at the gym, etc., than people you can specifically make plans with. That’s not rude, and it’s not entitled; it’s just quietly adjusting one’s own expectations. If they ask why, but you don’t think they really want to know, the answer is that you’ve been “really busy.” It’s a true answer, too, because surely you’ve been busy spending time with your more reliable friends.

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NostalgicGal April 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Babysitting is one of the more sticky situations period.

If there have been many and frequent offers to sit then when it gets down to trying to get the offer actually done; and it gets ducked… chalk it up to ‘they mean well but make other plans’.

The Stag should be separate; just go and do, dropping it because of a failure to deliver on sitting once is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I would bean dip on any further offers from the couple to sit; just go and get your own sitter (there should be reliable teens around able to do so) and go have the night out. And be real, it’s going to cost for the sitter, so maybe the night out needs to be scaled back just a bit.

Nobody “OWES” you sitting, don’t guilt them. Not worth it. Just go get your own sitter; and when they start asking you to sit; be realistic about it; you are not obligated to. If they’re in a bind that’s one thing, but. Once you do the requests will probably open like a floodgate.

(late teen friend of mine, I was same age; got pregnant with her first one, and yes, there were offers of sitting… which quickly dried up after the baby was born because she assumed everyone would watch the kid at a drop of a hat for nothing; and within a week she had used up any favor; she thought someone else would take care of her kid most of the time so she could continue to live her carefree lifestyle as she did before she gave birth. I don’t know how many times she tried every trick in the book to get me to sit, I think I was the only one that knew her that never did sit for her. I did not ever offer to sit (before or after she gave birth), I did not OWE her sitting, and I would not start the guilt trip-she could not make that one happen). I don’t think Mark and Sue are in this category; but.

It might be best for the OP just to ignore future offers of sitting, and by the same courtesy, not sit for Mark and Sue. It will avoid a big big issue later, and many headaches and misunderstandings, I think.
Also, don’t boycott the stag.

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Lynne April 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

One of the first things you SHOULD learn when you have children is that you are in no way entitled to free babysitting from ANYONE. My brother and his wife have yet to learn this lesson, and they’ve alienated half the family by just assuming we’ll babysit for them. They “hired” my son to babysit once because they didn’t want to pay the full rates a teenager from the local high school would have charged. They gave him $10 for 12 hours of babysitting (and this was for an infant and a toddler). Now when they ask? I say he’s busy. Nope, sorry. I’m busy too.

You’re entitled to nothing here. They said they’d like to babysit for you at some point, and the first time they say no, you flip? That’s not how this works. Hire a teenager and do what everybody else does. Pay for the privilege.

I think your husband is being very immature here and you should both suck it up.

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Sammy April 9, 2014 at 12:49 am

If you noticed, op wrote “they never follow through” and “This person is supposed to be my fiance’s best buddy, so he was incredibly upset and frustrated that he didn’t come through again.” It seems quite clear, that this was not actually first time they say no. It is quite huge difference between offering to do something and then declining one time because of inconvenient situation and offering to do something and declining ten times with lame excuses. (I do think Mark’s not wanting to do a solo gig is lame excuse. He is expecting a baby. He must at this point be up to looking after kids solo. And yes, not own kids and all that. But still.)

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Kendra April 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm

True, Sammy, but I have to wonder, were any of the other times Mark and Sue “didn’t come through” due to the OP & Fiance’s unreasonable expectations? To ask someone to watch your children on a weeknight until the neighborhood of 11pm or Midnight when at least one person has to work the next day and then be annoyed when the person says “sorry, can’t” is, in my book, unreasonable. It’s possible that Mark and Sue were completely sincere in their offer of babysitting, but the OP keeps making unreasonable requests. I wouldn’t watch a friend’s (or even family’s ) child/ren late on a weeknight unless it was a true emergency. What strikes me about the OP is that she doesn’t seem to realize what a huge favor she was asking. As far a lame excuses, regardless of how many times an offer is made, No excuses (lame or otherwise) are required when declining to do someone else a favor.

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Daphne April 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I’d really like to know exactly how the offer to babysit conversation starts. Because your statement: “He and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date because we never get the chance.” suggests to me that you are the one bringing up not being able to go on dates. I just have to wonder– how do they know you never go on dates? It’s not a typical question one would out of the blue, repeatedly ask someone: “Do you and spouse ever go on dates? Oh really, why not?” It sounds like what actually happens is you regularly bring up not having date nights because of a lack of babysitters until Sue finally offers to babysit just to be nice or change the subject. Because I can’t imagine why Sue and Mark, or any working, busy, tired young couple would care so deeply about another couple’s dating nightlife that they would “always” be bringing it up and then offering to babysit.
It would probably be a good idea to go back and examine the conversational context in which the babysitting offer is being made, before you do anything rash like canceling the party.

That said, If I were you I wouldn’t ask them for, or accept the offer of another favor again for a long while. I don’t think it’s enough to end a friendship over, or cancel an already planned party for, but it is a definite reason not to count on them for stuff like babysitting. Just take babysitting off the table and most likely the friendship (and the party) will be fine.

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Leah April 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I don’t think this is totally fair. We know our good friends’ schedule, and know that they don’t live near family/friends, so we’ve outright asked them “Do you guys every get a chance to get out without the kids?” followed by “We’ll watch them- go see a movie”. They went to the movie the next night, and we sat the 3 kids. Good friends generally have an idea about these things. That said, good friends would also follow through.

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Daphne April 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I can’t see how fairness has anything to do with understanding the context in which a favor is offered. In my experience, whenever there is a misunderstanding between friends, the sensible thing to do is to honestly examine each individual role in the matter, especially if everyone wants to continue the friendship. It’s seems as though the goal here is to figure out why this babysitting problem happened, and if possible to fix it or prevent it from happening again, not to decide whether it was fair or not. Sort of like a mediation or negotiation–as opposed to a right or wrong verdict.

But in the long it’s probably just smarter all around to not expect favors from friends at all. (emphasis on EXPECT) :-)

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Daphne April 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm

oops: I meant “long run”

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Snarkastic April 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I’m confused about Admin’s implication: is it that people should never babysit alone for fear of false accusations or that MEN should never babysit alone because they’re more likely to draw accusations or be actual creeps? I found this issue very troublesome, as we should know that men are not the only ones who cause children harm.

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Ergala April 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm

If I had a dollar for every single time people have offered to baby sit for us I’d be rich. However we’ve had very very few friends or family actually follow through and that is including our own parents. My husband and I never have date nights or time alone, married for 10 years and we’ve been parents for almost 9 of those years. We’ve tried hiring sitters but it has never ended well….we don’t trust them with our kiddos. They feed them stuff that we specifically say we don’t allow in the house, allow them to stay up, let them watch movies we say are off limits. You name it. So nope we choose to just have no life outside of being parents. It’s a decision you make when you have children. We’ve had soooo many offers from people to babysit our two sons yet whenever we’ve taken them up on it they have either cancelled at the last minute, not shown up or simply couldn’t make it on that date. We babysit for people all the time though. We don’t mind, as long as someone has a life HA!

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Devil's Advocate April 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

I find your post confusing…how can a sitter feed your kid stuff that you “never allow in the house”?

Also, I am in adament disagreement with your statement which says “[s]o nope we choose to just have no life outside of being parents. It’s a decision you make when you have children”. I have children and this certainly does not mean that you get to have no life outside being parents. You really come off as being extremley overprotective of your kids. And it sounds like you harbor resentment towards them in the future because of what you “had to give up”.

We have three sitters we trust. Each one comes to our house. We use inexpensive wireless cameras in are house: main living room, kitchen, both kids bedrooms. Our sitters know that they are there. We spot check (and sometimes don’t check at all). There isn’t any food in the house that are kids can’t have (and even if there was, one night of a chocolate bar is a small price to pay for a date night with my husband). We do not allow the TV on at all. We have an ipad with Netflix (Netflix is locked down for a maturity rating of below 13) and kid-friendly apps. We have never once had a problem. Oh and as for going to bed late, this happens occasionally–it’s a non-routine situation.

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NostalgicGal April 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

@ Devil’s Advocate…
Simple, the sitter brought stuff with them and shared with the kids. Back in the dim ages of being on my own; that friend who thought everyone should and would sit for her at the drop of the hat for nothing; a mutual acquaintance finally did become an ‘afternoon’ sitter for her, and would feed the kid Mountain Dew and potato chips; and the kid would go ultrahyper; she brought the snackfood with her and shared with the kid. That is one that the mom finally clued in on that no matter how much she raised a stink about NO soda, the sitter would give it to him.

@Ergala, there are sitters out there. Finding a good one or two is sometimes a parental holy grail.

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Rap April 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Heh. Not to get all horror story about babysitting but here’s an example of how the “evil babysitter” gets in trouble for feeding the kids something *that mom and dad never allow*.

I was 13, babysitting a new customer, who had used my brother previously and loved him as a babysitter. They had me with two kids, five and seven, and I was to keep them entertained and feed them lunch. Lunch? Was whatever I wanted to make in the pantry/fridge.

Mom and dad come back as we’re finishing lunch and are aghast that their children are eating Spaghettios, bread and butter, potato chips and milk with Nestle Quik Strawberry mix in it. Aghast because “whatever I wanted to make” was clearly meant to be sandwiches, carrot sticks, apple slices and Nestle quik was something they DID NOT allow the children to have except on VERY SPECIAL occasions.

The next time I babysit, they leave a very specific list for dinner, which I follow to the letter, and the kids whine and cry the entire night, including after I had put them into bed, because they wanted X and since I got into trouble the last time I let them have X – because they had both been all “yeah we like Nestle Quik we have it for lunch all the time”, I wasn’t having it, only to get a reprimand that the kids were still awake, but in their beds bawling and I “should have known” that X was perfectly ok (X was a sugary juicebox and the parents had specifically mentioned not letting the younger have liquids due to wetting). I refused to babysit for these people after that – the money wasn’t worth the aggravation.

So while I get Ergala’s point, there’s two sides to it.

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GEna April 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Well, my thinking is this. I no longer have young children, so I’m willing to babysit my grandkids, or maybe the neighbor kids on occasion. And of course I’d be available in an emergency.

However, my idea of baby sitting is NOT coming over after the kids are in bed and sitting on your couch for 3 hours. The reason I WANT to babysit is so I can do the fun stuff that I don’t get to do anymore – go to kids’ movies, the park, get ice cream, etc.

Did you ever think that maybe Mark and Sue were sincere when they made the offer, but Sue didnt’ realize how hard pregnancy was going to be? And is this the only time you’ve asked, or have you asked multiple times and they turn you down?

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RC April 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Your fiance sounds petty, and OP sounds entitled. “Were we being selfish thinking they should babysit on a weeknight?” Yes. Yes you were.

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Mae April 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I can understand OP & her fiance being upset at a friend repeatedly offering to babysit but it never seems to work out. At this point, I would just strike them from the “possible babysitter” list and look for alternatives. I would not necessarily end the friendship over it, but I would find someone else so when they offer again, I could say “thanks, but we have it covered”.

As for men sitting for children alone, that’s tough. I think there are many men who are, can and would definitely be great caregivers/babysitters but in the world of today, something totally innocent could ruin a man’s life. Yes, it is sad and totally unfair but most men are not going to risk it.

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Cecilia April 8, 2014 at 8:52 pm

If this double posts, forgive me but I’ve tried to comment a couple of times and it’s not going through or maybe it’s not getting approved-not sure.

I haven’t read all the responses yet, so this may have already been said but I can see both sides here. On one side you have friends that have offered to babysit more than once, but when you actually ask them to do so, they can’t. That can be disappointing and frustrating. Then you have a pregnant woman who is probably tired from her long, demanding job and needs to rest so she *can* go into work late the next day. Many men are reluctant to take on babysitting duties because of things like misunderstanding and possible false accusations. Single man babysitting alone while pregnant wife rests? Can you imagine how he would be crucified if there was a simple misunderstanding?

Like a previous poster, I’m interested in the part where OP wrote “he didn’t come through again”. Is that a pattern for Mark? Offering to do something or give assistance and then doesn’t? He may not follow through with the bachelor party!

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Ness April 8, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I agree with the others here. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say. Not everyone is made to be a babysitter – I for one would go crazy having to watch someone else’s kids (If it’s my own, sure, but not someone else’s unless they’re family). It may be that their “offering” to babysit for you is just hints that they want *you* to babysit for them later. It may also be that “Sue” is too tired (work + pregnant = wants to come home to relax and put her feet up, not having to deal with kids) and “Mark” is not comfortable doing things without her. Whatever the reason, this couple seems to have refused you several times, so they’re probably not interested in baby-sitting.

There’s only one thing to do in this situation: Get over it. Don’t lash out in spite and spoil a bachelor’s party that’s being organized by your friend. He may not be interested in babysitting but he is trying to do something nice for your fiancé. You can always go on a date night together some other time. Hire a babysitter or ask another friend or a family member to look after the kids.

I think you’re perfectly within your rights to refuse if they ask you for babysitting their own kid, especially if they continue to be unreliable in the months and years to come. But for now, just understand that sometimes people don’t always do what they want, and sometimes they make promises they have no intention of keeping. No point getting all worked up over it.

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Allie April 8, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Why does everyone assume pregnant women are exhausted all the time. I was rarely exhausted when pregnant and I worked full time until one week before I was due and also ran two trials, one in my second trimester and one in my third trimester, which ended on my last day at work. I’m in the middle of the commentary here. I don’t think you’re being colossally selfish, nor do I think your friends are. They’re not going to babysit, nor are they obligated to. However, reciprocity is an important part of friendship, and it’s only natural your fiancé doesn’t feel too keen on the friendship anymore. Perhaps he and Mark have just drifted apart and it’s time to let this friendship go. If so, I suggest he tell Mark right away that he doesn’t want a bachelor party. He can’t back out once Mark has already planned it. That would be very rude.

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Devil's Advocate April 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

I am in total agreement to your posts. I also was never tried when I was pregnant. FOr the first one, I was in law school taking classes with a very strict attendance policy and studying for finals. For the second one I was in the midst of a jury trial. I would agree that people should not just assume.

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Leah April 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Who’s assuming? She begged off because she had to work the next day and wants rest. That’s definitely not unreasonable. And just because you weren’t tired, doesn’t mean that’s the norm. It’s very common for women to be tired during pregnancy (due to lack of sound sleep or hormones).

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Jenn50 April 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I don’t think anybody is assuming that all pregnant women are exhausted all the time. They are saying that after a long day at work at a demanding job, a heavily pregnant woman who claims fatigue is justified. Every pregnancy is different. I had three children and each pregnancy was miles from the other two. The first, I was completely spent, all the time. Everything ached, and I just wanted to sleep. The second, I felt fabulous the entire time and was healthier and more energetic than I’d ever been in my life, and my third, I felt really good most of the time, but when I hit my third trimester, I found that around noon each day, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and needed a 20 minute nap. I’m not sure what I would have done if that hadn’t been an option. I know women who have multiple, fabulous pregnancies, and others who spend all three trimesters of each pregnancy staggering with fatigue. I think it’s sad that people have so little empathy that they assume everyone feels exactly as they did under the circumstances.

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nayberry April 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

Posting again as i seem to have gotten lost in moderation…

i agree that mark and sue are under no obligation to babysit, i disagree with admins response about solo males babysitting.
why is that a bad thing? i know several of my college (uk so 16-18) male buddies babysat a lot for extra cash and noone ever had any issues arise.

its a sad day when every male is judged on the actions of a few. especially when just as many females actions are as bad.osting again as i seem to have gotten lost in moderation…

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admin April 28, 2014 at 8:37 am

You and others appear to miss the point. In this day and age I would counsel a lone male to NOT care for small children as there is more of a danger he could be falsely accused than there is a probability of actual abuse occurring.

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JO April 9, 2014 at 8:09 am

I am having a hard time getting a ‘feel’ for this whole situation. The op actually says in the first paragraph that she completely understands. But the second paragraph does have an air of being quite dissapointed. And she says things like ‘again,’ which makes me suspect this isn’t the first time they said no after an offer. It doesn’t quite sound like they just backed out after agreeing, but rather that they were asked and said it wasn’t a convienent time. The op’s question isn’t really about this anyway, but rather whether her fiance is overreacting by refusing a stag party because of the situation. And to that, I personally feel, yes. Tell him to get over it and enjoy his party (it sounds like it was already planned) or express his thanks but say he’d rather have a date night. Oh, and about admin’s response about a man babysitting. I can see both sides of that. Yes you want to protect from the allegations (true or not) that seem rampant; at the same time you would hope, if these are good friends, that no one would jump to conclusions. It’s a tricky situation

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Elizabeth April 9, 2014 at 8:57 am

I think there is some information missing that would tell us more about this relationship.

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SV April 9, 2014 at 8:19 am

Boy, did this one resonate with me!!
My husband and I have three children. His sister and brother in law have none, but love ours. Over the years there have been endless, endless unsolicited offers to babysit – that they would love to, that they have set up the spare bedroom in their house for the children to have sleepovers, that they love watching the children, please call anytime, etc etc. It just doesn’t materialize.
I am of the belief that paying for a babysitter sets up a clear set of expectations, and relying on family and friends does not, so I have always reserved asking family as either a last resort, desperation, or a very special occasion. ( I believe it is not my family’s responsibility to watch my children while I get my general life stuff done). However, DSIL and DBIL would offer repeatedly to watch them – every time we saw them the offers would abound. They had watched them several times over the years, of course, always when I was really stuck. Although they always offered, they were reluctant to actually do it and it was always a big deal to arrange.
The last time was just unreal – my husband and I had been going through a very hard time. We were having financial problems, due to a change in our circumstances, and it required me to work until 2 am each night, as well as weekends. He worked during the day, and we quite literally saw each other for a few moments when one person came home and the other left. I was severely sleep deprived and overwhelmed with caring for the children during the day and working at night.
My work planned a casual work party, and it happened to be on my night off. Suddenly I could think of nothing better than attending a barbecue with my husband and relaxing for a few hours. To escape the endless stress of our lives, just for a few hours…!! I was unable to book a sitter, although I tried several. As a last resort, I called DSIL. This was more than a week in advance. She agreed, although wanted to know exactly how long we would be, as she had plans the next day ( she was not working at the time). For some reason, DBIL could not come and she was reluctant to come without him because, as she said, “she was only able to see him in the evenings.” Again, this is a week in advance, and at this point in my life, I literally had gone weeks without having a face – to- face conversation with my husband. She knew this. However, I was very grateful for whatever she was willing to give me. She agreed to come for 6 pm as long as we were home by 9. Again, she mentioned she had plans in the morning. The party was 45 minutes away – subtracting the commute, this now left us with 90 minutes to enjoy ourselves. Again, just happy she could help. So hubby and I go off to our barbecue, have a hamburger, socialize for a bit, and then leave. We are home by 9 as promised. We thank DSIL profusely, and hubby asks casually what DSIL’s plans were for the morning – since she was currently unemployed, we thought she might have an interview or something along those lines. No, that wasn’t it; she cheerfully told us that she had to do laundry and clean her apartment. I just looked at her, because I was certain she had to be joking. Nope – it was real. Her plans, that she told us about a full week in advance, entailed cleaning a two bedroom apartment that two generally neat adults and no children or pets lived in.
That was the last time we asked them to babysit for us, and that was four years ago. Now, when the offers come, as they still do, I smile, nod, say thank you and change the subject. They are great people , and I love them- but I finally learned that people say things in the moment that they simply have no desire to follow through on.

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Brit April 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

So she babysat when you left it too late to get a sitter – as she has done in the past – and you’re angry because she kept to her scheduled life? how are her plans less important than yours? She did you a massive favour but you’re upset because hey, she has no job and wants to clean her house rather than stay late babysitting. Like she should be at your beck and call? Like your situation is her problem? you say their offers to help ‘just doesn’t materialise’ when they’ve done it several times?

So entitled. Just SO entitled.

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schnickelfritz April 12, 2014 at 9:44 am

Seriously. 90 minutes is a decent visit, and the 45 minute drive either way, is nice couple time, listening tomusic, and relaxing. Otherwise, you would be keeping the sitter out later than she was willing to babysit. Maybe she had morning plans, that were private, and just told you she had to clean house. I can think of many things I would not necessarily share (counseling session, banking issues, doctor appointment, an affair) the reason is not important. Also, with the late notice, the sitter was still on her weekly schedule, not yours. So what if she has to clean – maybe they were having guests that night.

Also, so many of these comments, seem that people think everyone is clammering to spend time with their special snowflakes (or watching them sleep!), or with your couch and remote. Unless they are the doting grandparents or Aunties, this just isn’t reality. It is delusional. Now, a teenager or college student you are PAYING, or a mature (older) woman needing extra cash, may be very happy to sit for the cash.

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NostalgicGal April 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

yep, nobody OWES you sitting, you are NOT *ENTITLED* to sitting; and it comes down to if you want time off from your kids it often involves finding a sitter and paying them; and that may not always be feasible or possible. Once you get used to all that; there are still ways.

My mother loved scouting, I could go off on supervised things, and be minded so she could get some time to do something. I went on lots of Saturday day excursions to do things; just because….

If you need time look around; there may be programs to put your kids into or events; that will be safe and organized so you can get some time….

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SV April 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I’m sorry if this posts again – for some reason my other two didn’t upload. That’s okay – my reply has changed somewhat :)
I think my post may have been misread – my SIL had a week’s notice, so it was not the last minute. I have never felt entitled to free babysitting from my SIL, my parents or anyone else. My problem was that the sitters I usually used were pre-booked. I rarely asked my SIL to help in this manner and never would have asked at all if I had not received repeated and endless assurances that she would love to babysit for us , ” Anytime. It’s our pleasure! ” I believe strongly that family members are not babysitter-extensions and do not expect anyone in my family to watch my children for me, for any reason. My problem ( and the problem the OP has) lies in the repeated and UNSOLICITED offers to babysit whenever I need it, which does not ever materialize. This is an etiquette website – that, in itself, is an etiquette faux pas. However, after reading the replies I did a little soul searching and have come to the conclusion that she has babysat more than I originally thought, over the years. I have come up with four times that I remember well, and if we assume there was one or two more times in there I have forgotten we can comfortably put the number around six. At least once was for recreational purposes (the above party). I have not asked her in about 4 years, and as my oldest is 14 now we can say that the 6 times was over a 10 year timespan. My SIL is close to us, both in distance and emotionally. So I don’t actually think that’s a lot, but at the same time it is more than I originally gave her credit for and I realize now that I should not have been so harsh on her. What it comes down to, in the end, is that we love her and my BIL a lot and long ago accepted that although they are wonderful people and the offers to babysit are genuinely meant, that’s all it really is – an offer.

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PrincessButtercup April 9, 2014 at 9:32 am

My question is how many times have they been unavailable when you asked? If it’s just a few times, well even if they really want to babysit it doesn’t guarantee they well be available at the time you choose. If it has happened many times then quit believing they speak the truth. Next time they say they want to babysit say “that would be nice, now if only we could make it actually happen.”.
And don’t be a child and not attend the party. That’s just saying “I can’t have what I want (a night out on my schedule) so I’m not giving you what you want (a fun evening with me). And then I question if your next statement is going to be “I’m taking my ball and going home!”.

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Linda April 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

1. OP doesn’t feel entitled to babysitting. It was offered multiple times by the couple.
2. After OP was turned down 2-3 times (especially with several days notice) they should take the hint that the couple is not really interested and stop asking. Some people are just all talk.

3. OP should decide if the couple are worth being friends if they never babysit.

4. If the couple makes another ambiguous babysitting offer to OP again they should politely decline.

5. OP should decide if they are willing to babysit their friends’ baby when they will get nothing in return. If not, it would be wise to start thinking of phrases such as: Sorry that won’t work for us. I hope you can find someone.

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June First April 10, 2014 at 2:36 am

Based on this list, it seems that babysitting is a requirement of friendship. They can’t be friends without it?

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Anonymous April 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

No, they can still be friends; just not favour-exchanging friends. They could still be “large-group” friends, or “meet for coffee as a couples thing” kind of friends, etc. It’s possible to still socialize with someone, without allowing their unreliability to hijack your plans for the day/evening/whatever. So, you (general you) could arrange to meet for coffee as a couples thing, or meet to see the evening showing of Awesome Movie, with everyone buying their own tickets, or for a play date with the kids at the park, once Mark and Sue’s kid is old enough to enjoy the park, but the key factor here is, none of these plans are dependent on the other people following through. I’ve had friends like that, and I learned early on to plan on them both being there, and not being there, and accept that it’d most likely be the latter. These friendships didn’t last (either because of this specific issue, or because of naturally moving on in life, or both), but it saved me a lot of wasted time–I’d just do whatever it is we were supposed to do together, alone. I’d also never request or accept any favours from them; nor would I offer any favours to them. Unfortunately, it took a few times to figure out that these people weren’t reliable, but once I figured it out, I acted accordingly; not in a rude way, just living my life.

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shhh its me April 11, 2014 at 6:44 am

I wouldn’t call saying “no” unreliable. There is a huge difference between agreeing to go to a specific movie at a specific time and “I’ll babysit sometime”. We don’t know how many times Sue and Mark said “No” or what the circumstances were.

The last thing OP said “….or were we being selfish thinking they should babysit on a weeknight?” makes it possible that Sue replied with “I’d love to help but it will have to be on a weekend.”

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Library Diva April 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Neither side covers themselves in glory here. People shouldn’t offer help with no intentions of following through, especially not good friends. Mark’s excuse of “not being up for it” strikes me as a little flimsy, given that all he was really asked to do was to be physically present in the home in case something drastic were to happen (fire, illness, robber, etc.) This isn’t the kind of babysitting where you’re cooking dinner, having tea parties, doing crafts, juggling demands of one kid who wants to watch a video and the other who wants to play outside, changing diapers and then trying to wrangle everyone into bed. It’s more like “watching TV in someone else’s home.” Maybe Mark just didn’t phrase his objections very well, but I’ve got to believe that if he needed to be home for Sue, if he was sick or tired, or if he was uncomfortable doing this, he would have told his good friend this.

However, there’s a world of difference between “Mark and I can watch the kids some night when you want to go out” and actually making a firm commitment to do it. It doesn’t mean being available on command, and to want to torch the friendship over this seems a bit drastic if this is the only issue. Maybe Fiance should talk with Mark, or simply stop relying on him to babysit.

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June First April 10, 2014 at 2:42 am

I can imagine being the other couple and starting to feel like OP is mostly interested in free babysitting. Not saying that’s the case, but be careful of that, OP.

Admin is spot on. I work for an agency that serves abused kids. One of the red flags for parents is if a solo male takes an unusual interest in babysitting your kids. Most abusers are people the parents know–mom’s boyfriend, little league coach. It’s rarely a stranger-on-stranger crime.

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Anonymous April 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Another thing–It’s possible that the OP’s husband might legitimately not want a bachelor party, for reasons that have nothing to do with Mark and Sue babysitting or not babysitting. Maybe he’s an introvert, like me, and he’d therefore prefer a simple evening out with his partner, to a noisy, rowdy, “good old boys” kind of evening. The OP did say that her husband said that, “what he really wanted was a night out with [OP].” So, it’s possible that Mark is the kind of friend who doesn’t follow through on offers, and also doesn’t really listen to what his friends say they want. So, within that context, the OP’s husband declining a bachelor party wouldn’t really be “taking his ball and going home,” but rather, simply declining something he didn’t want in the first place. It doesn’t even necessarily have to mean ending the friendship–I mean, if one or more of my friends wanted to throw a party for me, for whatever reason, I’d say no, because I don’t like parties. It wouldn’t be a rejection of the friendship; just of the party.

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Enna April 12, 2014 at 5:16 am

Expecting Mark to babysit whilst his wife is pregnant and she might be overtired, stressed or ill I think is a little harsh. However at the same time, they should not make offers that they cannot or will not follow though on. For example if Sue and Mark says one day after a long day at work whilst Sue is pregnanat and tired “we’d love to babysit”, but then constanlty back out then that’s unfair. They need to think about what they are saying.

If OP’s partner wants to do something particular for his stag do then he should tell Mark so. I think it is rather rude for Mark to ask for babysitting duties when they have never babysat for the OP and her partner. It is one thing if they are truthfully busy but then both couples should talk and plan properly.

I had a firend who I no longer talk to who was more than happy to take advantage of other people to look after her children so her and her partner (now husband) could go out. She complained once that someone had asked her, her response was people should not expect favours in return. As a result she found it hard to find people to sit for her children – her parents would come to her house to babysit but it meant she couldn’t go out all night and leave the children for most of a day. Her and her husband would complain that ended up hosting more as they couldn’t find sitters.

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schnickelfritz April 12, 2014 at 9:26 am

One of my fiance’s close friends, “Mark”, recently moved in to a house on our block. He and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children…

Recently moved near, and ALWAYS offering…. really?

Most people would have in mind, to watch the children as a couple – during playtime hours or before putting them to bed, spending a couple of hours playing with kids. Only a teenager, being paid, or a mature woman looking for extra cash, would want to babysit for hours on your couch, texting or reading, on a week night. Working adults would not want to do this – it was a lot to ask. Seriously.

Find a reliable sitter – that you pay for.

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Sabrina April 12, 2014 at 11:48 am

I feel bad for the OP and her fiancée. It truly sounds like they would like a night out, and offers to babysit from Mark and Sue sound like giant teasers. If Mark and Sue begged off on more than one occasion, the polite thing to do would be to stop asking for the favor. It is true, Mark and Sue should stop offering their help. Empty promises are really grating, and they need to stop.

If going out is so important for the OP and her fiancée, why don’t they find an actual babysitter, and factor that cost into a night out? Relying on free help is just that. It’s available when it’s available, and you can’t control when you can get it. It seems petty and dramatic that the stress of the babysitting offers should affect the fiancée and Mark’s friendship. There should be no requirements for friends to babysit to stay friends. The OP should stop relying on friends, and hire a babysitter to keep the peace. Also, lose the quid pro quo attitude for friendship. The OP and fiancée will have no friends if they expect favors and help, and are unwilling to give help freely. It would be a terrible example to set for their child that helping friends came with strings attached.

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OP April 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Well, regrettably I didn’t see that the admin had responded to my inquiry until now. I appreciate the feedback from everyone, on both sides, and will briefly respond.

First, I wasn’t all that bothered honestly. I thought they were both pretty justified in not doing it (I qualified it mainly because I guess I would have done it if asked, but again I’m setting standards that may be unreasonable). It was my fiance that was P.O.-ed.

Second, we tried finding a pay sitter. The only two girls we usually use were unavailable. We even tried contacting a friend’s sitter they trust and she had to work her part-time job. This was our Hail Mary, but it didn’t work out.

Third, yes Mark and Sue are the ones to bring up the offer of sitting. They know we don’t get out much. And I believe I had made it clear that they have been asked more than once (never before on a weeknight) and even pre-pregnancy, and never followed through. Clearly I will now file these offers in the “grain of salt” category

Next, I can somewhat understand the concern of false accusations against Mark. He is a teacher who knows the risks involved in being alone with a child. That said in a million years he would not hurt my children.

Those people who have been in this situation know how defeating and frustrating it is. We are just going to readjust our expectations of our friends and move on.

As an aside, you may wish to know that the plans Mark was making for the bachelor party never came to fruition. Big surprise.

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Annie April 18, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Thanks Op for the feedback.

I think that everyone is judging you too harshly. If someone is offering something on a regular basis and not following thought, they are the one in breach of etiquette. My Father-in-law always do those kind of promises. One time, he told my husband and I that we could live in his cottage for a month, specifying the dates and conditions on more that 5 occasions. One week before, he acted as if he never said anything like that. We had witnesses that vouched for us but he did not care. We were homeless for the month until our appartement was available (which we rented from him and was supposed to be available one month before).

There is a big difference between a good friend, or close family member that offers something on multiples occasions and never back it up and an empty promises. Either way, the OP is not in etiquette breach. She never said that they should babysit for her because they were close friends, she said they offered multiple times.

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Rosie April 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Personally, I think that since Mark and Sue are doing you a favor by babysitting they should be the ones to decide when it happens. It’s not the same as paying someone to come watch your kids; they’re getting nothing out of it (especially if they won’t even really get to see the kids). Instead of saying, “We’re going out on Wednesday night, take it or leave it,” it might have been better to say something like, “We’re free on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays; would any of those be a good time for you to come over?” Or perhaps you could ask if it would be better for them if you dropped the kids off at their house instead of them having to come to you (a bit more difficult for you, of course, but you’re the ones getting a date night out of it). It also wouldn’t hurt to offer to take them out to dinner or something in return–not as a bribe, but just so they feel like their kindness is being reciprocated.

I understand how disappointing it is when people don’t follow through on plans, but from what you wrote it sounds like the plans were never really made to begin with–you just proposed a date and time and they said no. It’s rude if they specifically said they’d babysit on a certain day and then cancel without a good reason, but if they never committed to a specific arrangement they’re not “bailing” if they can’t do it.

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