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The Reluctant Babysitter

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?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • AnaLuisa April 8, 2014, 2:41 am

    I think you fiance is totally wrong. I’d label his attitude as entitled, and I would probably not want have a friend extorting favours from me in such a childish manner.

    Your neighbours have NO OBLIGATION TO BABYSIT FOR YOU WHATSOEVER, and are perfectly within their rights to refuse WITHOUT HAVING TO GIVE ANY EXCUSES. (Although they did give them and they were perfectly understandable – Susan was tired, Mark did not want to babysit alone.) They did not promise it first and cancel it later, so where’s the problem? They are not your servants, are they?

    Next time, if you want a babysitter, why don’t you hire and PAY one?

    The only slight fault on your neighbours’ side in my eyes would be if they offered help without any intention to help really, but we do not know this, it is possible that they just could not do it /did not feel like doing it this time .

    I am quite appalled at the idea that a FRIEND could be so entitled, petty and vindictive at the same time. If I were Mark or Susan and knew about how your fiance is taking it, it would probably be the end of our friendship.

    • Lenore April 8, 2014, 8:58 am

      I dunno. In the very second sentence, OP states: “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.”

      Why make repeated offers if you have no intention of following through? I know admin says it’s a “conversational device”, but surely talking about the weather and sports teams are more appropriate, and better than constantly offering something. It’s like someone saying to you “hey, I’d love to make you some tea sometime,” and when you take them up on that offer, they always have an excuse.

      That being said, the OP and her fiance are over-reacting somewhat. Neither parties come off clean in this situation, by the looks of things.

    • Sammy April 8, 2014, 9:15 am

      Well, I don’t call it obligation, but I do think that people should be taken for their word. If somebody says that they want and will babysit for you, you can assume, that sometime they will babysit for you. Idle promises should not be made. OP also said, that this is not a single case but repeated thing that they never actually come through. So yes, they were within their rights to say no. But I can see that if somebody time after time throws lame excuses for something they have themselves volunteered to do, it will strain the relationship.

      We are talking about friend who is close enough to be a groomsman, who has promised to babysit (even if it is “sometime”). And then does not want to help his friend for few hours at one night because “he does not want to babysit alone”. It is true that he did not have to, and that this was not emergency (but friend probably should know that it would mean a lot to OP and her fiance). So I have no trouble understanding why this would bother OP’s fiance.

      I do think that OP’s fiance is slightly overreacting and he should calm down. But he probably thinks that he asked quite minimal “pre-promised” favor from a good friend, who then refused without good reason.

  • Mya April 8, 2014, 3:02 am

    I think the admin makes a good point about conversational device but there is a line between ‘Conversational device’ and ‘Genuine offer’ that seems to be related to how often it’s said. If Mark and Sue are regularly offering to Babysit (as opposed to once or twice in an offhand way) then you are not unreasonable in expecting them to fulfil their commitment at least once.

    It is clear that this is a conditional offer and the next time it is made I would suggest responding along the lines of ‘It seems there is a schedule conflict whenever we need a sitter so it’s probably easier all round if we employ a service’.

    I don’t think your fiancé is unreasonable in feeling a little bit of resentment at Mark continually offering to babysit then letting you both down – I had a friend who used to do this and rather than create drama I just let the friendship die (I would arrange to do things with her and she wouldn’t turn up then phone me just after our meeting time to tell me she couldn’t make it due to some ‘family emergency’ which would turn out to be ‘something else I’d rather be doing’ (according to her posts on Facebook the next day)). If I were in your position I’d find a way to politely decline or ‘release’ Mark and Sue from their ‘offered’ obligation thus putting you in the position that reciprocity cannot be expected.

    As for the stag do, if your Fiancé doesn’t want a stag do that is all he has to say. Just tell Mark that he’s not comfortable with having a stag do. Then quietly hire a sitting service and book your night out. Don’t even discuss the plans or leave Mark room to ‘persuade’ your Fiancé.

    • Calli Arcale April 8, 2014, 12:19 pm

      If we had a “like” option here, I’d definitely like that one. That’s good advice on how to handle this.

  • Brit April 8, 2014, 3:31 am

    Wow. You asked a pregnant woman struggling with a demanding job/long hours to babysit so you could watch a band? Selfish much? And ya know, maybe Mark pulled out to look after her? It’s a BAND. His wife is pregnant and knackered and needs him. And he never offered to babysit alone.

    Love the bit where you put ‘(though she goes into work late the following day)’ as if her excuse is dodgy.

    This is the best example you have? Seriously? Wow.

    • Brit April 8, 2014, 6:53 am

      This also goes despite their offer. She’s pregnant and working too hard. Don’t take her up on it. Think of HER, ya know, not your band.

      But it’s really, really telling to me that the one example you gave of them letting you down was this.

      • Ergala April 8, 2014, 2:25 pm

        She’s pregnant and works, why does that somehow make her unable to sit on a couch for a few hours watching TV while kiddos sleep? I still babysat while pregnant with my second child and my oldest was 3 years old, so I had my hands full with not only my child but my friend’s as well. I didn’t pass out or go into preterm labor from stress….She’s pregnant, not terminally ill.

        • cashie April 9, 2014, 1:34 am

          Not all pregnancies are the same, and we don’t know the health of the soon-to-be mom. For all we know, she could be dealing with health issues. Or not. Just because she offered to watch the op’s kids sometime does not obligate her or her husband to watch them on a weeknight at the op’s whim. The op could find a babysitter as well.

          • Ergala April 9, 2014, 3:39 pm

            Yes but Brit is making it out like pregnancy makes a woman an invalid and incapable of doing more than 1 thing at once. For heaven’s sake I had hypermesis all 9 months with my oldest and I still had to work a full time job. It was absolutely miserable, not everyone can pull that off but I was able to and I am one of the lucky ones. Probably why I am so irritated by people who treat pregnant women like they are delicate flowers or pregnant women who act like they can’t do anything because they are expecting. I’ve known my fair share of those as well. They are 8 weeks along and can’t seem to get themselves a drink from the kitchen.

        • Brit April 10, 2014, 3:43 am

          ‘She’s pregnant, not terminally ill.’

          ‘Yes but Brit is making it out like pregnancy makes a woman an invalid and incapable of doing more than 1 thing at once.’

          As if I ever did, get real. Way to jump to a massive exaggeration to attack my point, Ergala. And way to miss the relevant bit. The OP herself says that Sue has a ‘demanding’ job with ‘long hours’. That doesn’t go well with pregnancy. You managed it? Great, good for you. I didn’t.

          You might ask a pregnant woman who works long hours in a demanding job to watch your kids while you whoop up the band on their night off. I call that selfish. How is that treating Sue like an invalid who can’t pour her own drink? It’s called being considerate of her situation.

          • ddwwylm April 10, 2014, 4:45 pm

            Whether she could do it physically or not is beside the point. She didn’t want to babysit on a weeknight. Just because the couple has offered to babysit in the past does not mean that they are obligated to do so on demand. It does not make them flakes if the cannot do so on demand.
            If OP really wishes to see if they are flakes or sincere, the next time they offer say – that’s great do you think we can get a date on the calendar. Then see if they offer up any time that they are free.
            I’m willing to baby sit my friend’s kids as needed, but I’m not going to change other plans or disrupt my life to do so unless it’s an emergency. I have a friend who we trade babysitting duties with, but we sit down together and figure out what days and times work for us. If I have something come up, I’ll call her to see if it works, but I’m not going to get all butt hurt if she has other plans & can’t do it.

          • Crabtree Gear Kid April 10, 2014, 5:50 pm

            I didn’t even have a demanding job with long hours when I was pregnant with my first and I was still exhausted when I got home at the end of the day. No way would I have wanted to baby sit for someone else, even if it was just sitting on their couch watching TV – I still would have had to get to and from the house, and it wouldn’t be *my* couch and *my* TV. I would have done it for a friend in an emergency situation, but if they just wanted to see a band I would have politely declined.

            Every single pregnancy is different (e.g. I’m pregnant again now and I’ve got more energy than ever) and I really hate it when women pipe up that because their pregnancy wasn’t exhausting, anyone who suggests that it can be is infantalising pregnant women. Some pregnancies are, some aren’t. Maybe this woman’s is.

  • Brit April 8, 2014, 3:32 am

    PS “They SHOULD babysit”????!!!!!!

  • Rebecca April 8, 2014, 4:28 am

    “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”

    Nonsense. I’m not sure why Mark would be obligated to step up anyway, especially with an exhausted pregnant wife at home. Hire a babysitter like anyone else would. Is Mark really the only option? Or maybe you can’t afford a babysitter AND a night out, which would be understandable as times are tight for many people, but it still doesn’t obligate your friends to provide free babysitting services. Yes they offered, but it sounds like in a casual way and not committing to any specific night. Accept that their occasional casual offer is just idle chat with no real substance, and plan accordingly.

  • Margaret April 8, 2014, 4:39 am

    Going to a concert is not an emergency. It would have been nice of them to babysit for you, especially after offering to do so, but I don’t think it is something to end the friendship over. Cool it off a bit, maybe, but not end it. Not helping you out if it was an emergency (i.e. a sudden death in the family that you have to attend to or one of you needing to go to an emergency room) probably would be, for me.

    I notice that you wrote, “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.” I’m curious about that “again.” If there is a pattern of this friend being only a taker and never a giver, then I could see how this could be a last straw kind of situation.

  • Susan's April 8, 2014, 4:46 am

    I personally would not want any male babysitting even if the kids are in bed.. No you are not obligated to be their babysitter ever . from the beginning I would let her know now by saying nicely i understand now how hard it is to babysit and that won’t work for us. Either. I would go enjoy the bachelor party they are two separate events

    • Crabtree Gear Kid April 10, 2014, 5:51 pm

      ‘I personally would not want any male babysitting even if the kids are in bed.’


  • just4kicks April 8, 2014, 5:18 am

    I agree with the admin. Now, if it had been an emergency, and you had no one to watch the kids that’s different than being peeved they wouldn’t babysit so you could go to see a band play. And what difference does it make if your pregnant friend “doesn’t work until later in the day”? Maybe it takes her an hour or two to get comfortable enough to sleep. I think it’s rude of you to expect them to bend to your plans for an evening out.
    On a separate note, that is precisely why we don’t allow our ten year old daughter to have her little friends sleep over. My husband in a million years would never harm a child, but we don’t want any misunderstandings that could snowball into trouble. My hubby walking half asleep to the bathroom in the middle of the night could be “Guess what?!? I saw Mr. K. in his underwear!!!” Why invite trouble?

  • tessa April 8, 2014, 5:35 am

    By Mark refusing to come babysit, he might just be showing how much help he is with his own kids….as in, not much. I think its time to ask around and see what neighborhood teens do babysitting. The evening out may end up costing more, but it might be worth it. And find one for your friends also.

    • Library Dragon April 8, 2014, 3:18 pm

      That’s a stretch in projecting Mark’s parenting abilities from this example. Three hours, during the week, by himself, is much different than a couple volunteering to watch the kids for an hour so the OP can go to the mid-scale restaurant for an hour or two on a Saturday.

  • Marybeth April 8, 2014, 5:47 am

    Actually, you’re both being petty. You can ask a friend for a favor, but you can’t make them accept, and they don’t owe you any explanation for refusing.

  • lkdrymom April 8, 2014, 5:51 am

    My ex was like this. He would offer to do something but really have no intention of following through and was often surprised when someone expected him to. They say these things to make themselves look good. I don’t think the finance should cancel the bachelor party but I wouldn’t be available to babysit for this couple once they have kids.

    And I just don’t get why a single man can’t babysit. It is a shame we have gotten to the point that we have to worry about false accusations.

    • Double You April 9, 2014, 4:03 am

      I don’t get the “men can’t look after children” attitude either… I’m a man, and when I was a student I often worked as a babysitter. You really don’t have to be a woman to be able to heat a bottle, change a diaper, read a story or even sing a lullaby. I actually find this attitude quite sexist and demeaning.

      • admin April 9, 2014, 9:03 am

        It has nothing to do whatsoever with whether a man is capable of babysitting children.

        What is relevant is the fact that the American Bar Association reports a “sharp increase” in sexual misconduct claims and litigation since the 1980’s. This increase is so significant it has changed how insurance companies offer policies to cover sexual misconduct claims since the 1980’s, as in where those policies were not previous available,they are now.

        It is relevant that in the UK alone there are at least 18 support and lobbying groups defending the rights of those falsely accused of sexual misconduct because with the increase in claims and litigation has come a sharp increase in false accusations as well.

        You and other commenters can thrash, gnash your teeth and wail to the high heavens about the injustice of it, but the facts don’t lie and this is the modern culture we live in.

        Given that the OP has described her fiance as being somewhat entitled in his belief that his best friend owes him some babysitting duties, that he petulantly wants to refuse the hospitality of a bachelor party (which has nothing whatsoever to do with babysitting) and is quite willing to plan on petty retaliation, do you really think it is wise for Mark to solo babysit when his supposed best friend is willing to destroy the friendship based on Mark’s refusal to babysit by himself? What do you think would happen if one of the kids reports something odd happened? The OP’s fiance is already primed to be offended and is willing to take a nuclear response to a simple, “No, can’t do that”. If I were Mark, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the OP’s kids by myself.

        • Enna April 12, 2014, 5:01 am

          If Mark is worried about being a solo man babysitter then he should voice such concerns about something being misunderstood as Admin said she would want to protect the man offering the baby sitting services. However just because a child minder or baby sitter is a woman does not automaticallu make her safe. There was a case in the UK a few years ago of a peadohphile ring that involved a female nursery worker. Personally I would be a bit caustious about basing such concerns on gender alone.

  • Kimberly April 8, 2014, 6:13 am

    I would not back out of the bachelor party at this time.

    Yes, I would be upset. But, I would learn from it in the future. I would not count on this couple for babysitting services and when their children are born, I might babysit, if I wanted to. If not, I would not do so.

    Next time this couple brought up the notion of babysitting again, I might say in a neutral tone, “Bob and Sally, please don’t offer something you will do not intend to follow thru on. You offer, we ask and then you rescind(?). We have learned not to count on you for babysitting, but the thought is appreciated”. Then bean dip.

  • AnaLuisa April 8, 2014, 6:56 am


    I think there is a HUGE difference between letting you down after having set a specific date as you say your friend did, and between being generally available and willing to babysit but not to be able to come on a specific night.

    The first is rude and I would consider the person unreliable, the second happens to me quite often and I think it’s perfectly OK. I would consider it strange to put aside all my plans to babysit for a friend (except for serious emergencies, of course), nor would I require my friends to do it for me. Especially if I can see that could cause them problems as in this case (Sue was pregnant and probably not feeling well, Mark quite understandably did not feel like babysitting alone).

    I would not bend over backwards to babysit for them, either, but I would not do this in any case.

  • Carol April 8, 2014, 7:00 am

    I can understand being frustrated that they say ‘oh, we would love to babysit for you any time’ and then every time you ask they say ‘oh, no, sorry, we can’t.’ That’s on them, though, and it might be best if you just accept the fact that they like offering more than actually following through, and don’t depend on them for free babysitting.

    I think, if your fiancé really would rather go out with you on a date night rather than go on a stag do with his friends, then he should tell his friend ‘look, what I would really like more than anything is a couples night. Instead of spending money on going out, all I would really like is for someone to watch our children so she and I can go somewhere romantic that doesn’t have crayons on the table.’ If he offers then to watch your kids, take him up on it. If not, maybe spring for a sitter (if you can) and go out that night anyway.

    I really don’t get the ‘don’t let men be with other people’s children’ thing, though, unless you have reason to suspect your fiancé’s best friend has issues. In which case he probably shouldn’t be around his own child.

  • Lexi April 8, 2014, 7:11 am

    I agree that your friends don’t HAVE to babysit. If you need a sitter, hire one.

    That being said, I think it’s ridiculous that anything was said about men babysitting alone.
    Um, women can and DO molest or treat children badly. People should leave their children with adults they trust. I would NEVER feel my children were safer with someone just because that person was a woman. Ugh.

  • Saucygirl April 8, 2014, 7:15 am

    Is this the first time you asked them to babysit? If it is, I have a feeling you guys have different ideas on what the babysitting would entail. They might have thought it would be a fun thing to do together, with kids who are awake, to start preparing for kids of their own. They most likely did not think it would be a sit alone in my house for three hours, late at night. I have watched my friends kids ALOT and I would be seriously hesitant to do that.

    If this isn’t the first time you have asked, and the other asks involved weekends during day, and they still say no, then I think you do just have to accept that the offer isn’t real. I would also be inclined to not babysit when they have theirs (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they became better at watching yours once they have a need), but I would not end a friendship over it.

    As for guys alone with kids, I think it depends on age of kids. My husband is not helping a kid in the bathroom that isn’t his. But one who’s potty trained and is the kid of good friends or family? Bring em on

  • Abby April 8, 2014, 7:16 am

    I think OP’s level of annoyance might be justified if *every* time they actually ask for help (after it has been offered) Sue and Mark find an excuse to not do it. If this was an isolated incident, then I definitely think OP is overreacting and OP’s fiance is being extremely petty.

    No, Mark and Sue don’t have to babysit. But if they’re offering multiple times with no intention of following through, that’s pretty irritating. I cannot tell from this submission if that is the case.

    One thing OP- when it comes to favors (especially babysitting) you should probably lose your expectations of quid pro quo. When my husband and I first started dating, his sister had just had a baby. We would watch him about once a month, at first just for the evenings, then for entire weekends, while his sister and her husband would take a much needed break. When our daughter was born several years later, my sister in law was pregnant with her second and had a toddler in the midst of the terrible twos. Believe me, we did not get much babysitting out of her. It happens though, and I don’t hold it against her. Sometimes people are not always in the position of to return the exact favor, and that doesn’t mean you should refuse to help them.

    • ketchup April 8, 2014, 10:59 am

      Such things are better done with love in mind, than returned favours, especially with people as close as sisters or close friends.

  • Lo April 8, 2014, 7:23 am

    I disagree 100% on men babysitting even being an issue. It bothers me a great deal that people wouldn’t leave a grown man they trust alone with a child he is already acquainted with. I’m offended on behalf of all the men I’m close to. It’s sad that a woman is expected to be good with children whereas a man who enjoys being with children gets the side-eye.

    I was roped into a few babysitting jobs when I was young and they would successfully get passed off to my brother who actually liked children and knew how to deal with them. (I’m not a fan) If anyone needed babysitting now I would cheerfully volunteer my spouse. He is wonderful with kids, always has been, and loves spending time with them.

    On the issue of the friendship. Just assume that they have no interest in babysitting your kids and if it comes off brush it off and hire a babysitter. Then help them out or don’t if you don’t feel like it. People are flakes sometimes. They mean well but they never come through, that’s life. I’d give much more of a pass to your gal friend who is pregnant. Don’t end the friendship over it, just don’t rely on them to follow through.

    • badkitty April 8, 2014, 10:06 am

      I’m with you on the kids issue, lol… I send my hubby out to deal with any situation involving someone under 5′ tall, and get the most judgmental looks from people when they find out I don’t care for children. Some people don’t like cats, so you wouldn’t expect them to want to hear about yours or hang out with yours, right?

    • Ashley April 8, 2014, 11:55 am


      I don’t think for many it is an issue of not trusting the guy. I think it is often an issue of the guy not being comfortable in a situation where someone could wrongly accuse him of something or suspect something. There is a big difference (in my mind) in a guy watching older kids when they are awake or out in public a bit and in watching them while they sleep alone in a house. I would not want my husband (who I trust) to be the only person in a house with sleeping kids for hours. Not because I wouldn’t trust him, but because I love him too much for him to be put in a situation where, if someone for some reason said something false, he wouldn’t be able to have clear proof that he didn’t do anything (i.e. the kids were awake and said everything was fine, they were out at the park with other people around, etc.) I agree that it’s sad that some people assume men aren’t good with kids, but I don’t think that’s the issue here.

      • admin April 8, 2014, 1:45 pm

        You are correct.

      • badkitty April 8, 2014, 8:57 pm

        I guess I just don’t understand how the kids are more likely to make up horrible lies if they’re asleep… I must have a totally different brand of kid?

        • admin April 28, 2014, 8:42 am

          I have a story submitted a few months ago pertaining to a child waking up in the middle of the night during a sleep over and witnessing the host father doing something rather odd. Nothing overtly sexual but definitely odd none the less. I’m wagering that a significant number of readers will conclude something more nefarious was about to happen and will want the host father crucified for it. And that’s how kids sleeping in the night can still be a situation of concern.

    • Thistlebird April 8, 2014, 12:05 pm

      I agree with you on the men thing, but I’m torn. Just on a practical level, I think that men have to be more careful because accusations do happen, and men are generally who they happen to (as if there were no women in the world who would ever harm children, right.) But I hate that it’s like that and in a situation where people truly know and trust each other I would hate to have to stick to a “men never babysit” rule.

      My husband’s first job as a teenager, in the early 80’s, was babysitting. When I met him, at 35, he was still babysitting–we used to babysit the same kids! We live in a community where there’s enough trust so that that can happen.

    • Kate April 8, 2014, 9:32 pm

      Lo – I see what you mean, but I agree with admin that it’s often more for the man’s protection than anything. Like the example above – a kid waking up while the babysitter is going to the toilet becomes “I saw Mr K in his undies!”.
      My dad is a high school teacher and used to teach at a girls’ school. Obviously he’s not a molester, nor does he assume that girls are going to hit on him, but his policy was that he would not have a one-on-one conversation with a student without being in a public area such as the school library. It was more for his protection than anything else.

      • just4kicks April 9, 2014, 7:24 am

        Thank you….that was the point I was trying to get across, unsuccessfully, my apologies. Innocent things can get misconstrued. If my ten year old girl spent the night at a friend’s and mentioned she saw so and so dad/older brother in his undies, I would absolutely investigate a little further. And yes, it’s sad we have to think that way.

  • PM April 8, 2014, 7:30 am

    Entitlement aside, I do disagree that the OP and her fiancé should babysit their friends’ kids when they’re born. Why should they enter into a one-sided arrangement, doing favors for people who have proven themselves to be unreliable?

  • catherine April 8, 2014, 7:36 am

    My dad was the worst one for casual invites, we had a cottage on the lake, about 3 hours from where we lived. My dad would brag about it and say “why don’t you come up and visit sometime?” It used to drive my mom nuts.. One night after 11pm, we got a knock on the door, and 7 members of this family my parents barely knew showed up. They had luggage and everything! LOL. They weren’t specifically invited and didn’t have the address, but it’s not a huge bay, and the way things were then, people would put a sign up with their last names on a post pointing out where their cottage was, so they just followed the signs. My mom was really upset, because it was a small cottage, and we didn’t have room for them. Thankfully, the campground across the road had a vacant cottage to rent, which my dad had to pay for, because these people didn’t have money either. My dad was in the doghouse for a long time, and he never gave any casual invites out to the cottage anymore…

    • Jewel April 8, 2014, 10:16 am

      Love this! The “casual inviter” met his match with the “oblivious accepter”! I bet they learned their lesson, too.

    • JO April 9, 2014, 11:21 am

      Lol! Perfect example of a lesson learned

  • JKC April 8, 2014, 7:54 am

    It’s possible that the offer to babysit was completely genuine, especially since it sounds like an offer made more than once. However, it also sounds like this particular evening was not a convenient time for Mark and Sue. When I was growing up, my parents had one of my older cousins as their main babysitter who they would call upon to watch us on Date Night, and a young woman from our church who they would call as “Plan B” if our cousin couldn’t be available. One of my aunts even pitched in as “Plan C” on occasion. She wasn’t really a kid person, but she and I both loved cats, so we had something we could bond over while my brother watched TV.

    Just because Mark and Sue have offered to babysit doesn’t mean they have to drop everything to rush over when their friends decide it’s time. Sue probably really didn’t have it in her that night, and Mark may have declined either due to (not at all unreasonable) concerns about being alone with the kids, or maybe Sue really feels run down these days and he’s got his hands full taking care of her. This is why you need a back-up babysitter.

  • Tanya April 8, 2014, 7:57 am

    While I agree that your fiance is being a little petty to refuse to attend his own bachelor party, I don’t condemn you two for being a bit annoyed. After all, if your friends are “always offering” to babysit (I interpret this as meaning that they bring it up often) and “never follow through” (meaning that you’ve tried to take them up on it more than once and they’ve always refused), I can see how it would get irritating. And sure, the wife is pregnant and tired, but that’s not a sudden condition– if she’s still frequently offering to babysit, it’s not unreasonable for the OP to believe that “being pregnant and tired” is something the wife had taken into account when she made the offer.

    Anyway, bottom line is: I don’t blame you for being upset, and for now believing that your friends aren’t necessarily as “giving” as they hold themselves out to be. But that doesn’t have to completely sever the friendship. If your husband wants a bachelor party, he should attend. And there’s no reason you two should ever have to babysit their children– as people have repeatedly said above, you have no obligation to do so, and you don’t have to offer an excuse.

  • Angie April 8, 2014, 8:25 am

    It sounds like Sue is pregnant with their first child. This may be why he “isn’t up to it”. Maybe he’s uncomfortable being in charge of kids (even if they are asleep) because he lacks experience caring for children. And thats ok! I wonder how mad fiance would be if you got to go to the show, and Mark called every 10 minutes because one kid wants ice cream, the other had a bad dream, the first one got sick all over their bed, the second went outside looking for you, etc. I’m not saying it would happen, but if someone is unfamiliar with the way things can escalate, it could be overwhelming.

    Fiance should go to the bachelor party, that decision should be easy because of a friendship, not hinge on a last minute favor.

  • Jewel April 8, 2014, 8:28 am

    I’m rapidly getting to the point where I need to have a few prepared comments ready to say to people I meet who make offers/promises that turn out to be nothing more than “conversational devices” so I can indicate to them that I know that nothing will come of what they’re saying. Like most people, I am familiar already with the 0% chance of follow-up connected with someone’s statement that “we should have you over for dinner sometime” and long ago learned not to place any stock in it. The problem comes from people who take the “devise” about 10 steps further by describing when and where, the menu, who else will be invited, what we’ll do afterwards, etc. When THOSE long and involved descriptions come to nothing, I feel that the person used me to make themselves feel/look good and I want them to be aware that I don’t appreciate it.

    Recently, I met a new neighbor. After a few minutes of conversation, we found some common ground. She then offered some information I would find helpful. If she had left it at that, I would have pegged her as using the “device” and would have thought nothing more of it. However, she went ON and ON for a good 10 minutes on how she could help, why she would help, and that she’d put the info in my mailbox “tomorrow”. She excitedly vocalized all this in front of others. Since I’m still waiting to find that information in my mailbox, I’m left with the impression that she used me to make herself look good.

    If anyone has a few good catch phrases or statements that shut down people who do these things (or that challenge them to actually follow through), please post.

    • Kimstu April 8, 2014, 12:34 pm

      @Jewel, if people are wasting your time with elaborate descriptions of favors they’re planning to do for you but then don’t follow through on, you can just head them off by saying briskly, “Wow, that sounds great, and if you do find the time to do that I’ll really appreciate it. But I understand if you’re just too busy to manage it.” Then change the subject.

      That lets them know that while you would be grateful for the favor itself, you’re not really interested in hearing all about the favor in advance. The ball’s in their court: either go ahead and actually do that favor for you, or let it go and shut up about it.

      However, I don’t think you should search for ways to explicitly “indicate to them that you know that nothing will come of what they’re saying”. You’re essentially looking for a polite way to call someone a liar, and that doesn’t exist. It’s fine to turn the conversation away from their pie-in-the-sky offers/promises, but it would be rude to make it clear that you just don’t believe them.

    • Thistlebird April 8, 2014, 2:07 pm

      Is it possible that she simply forgot? That does happen.

      Even if it’s not the case, I think that could be used as a device for your “catch phrase.” It’s polite, because you’re assuming that they were telling you the truth, but it also challenges them to follow through. It probably only works for specific offers, but the long-winded descriptions you’re talking about sound specific. I’d probably go with something extra-polite, like worrying about them because they forgot. The higher the number of past offenses, the less of an effort you have to make to sound sincere. (Because the first time, who knows? It might be the truth.)

      Maybe something like this?

      You: Oh, how have you been lately?
      Them: Oh fine, doing great.
      You: I’m so glad to hear that! I was concerned about you when I realized you’d forgotten to put that information in my mailbox/let me know when to pick up the tool you were loaning me/let me know the date of that party you wanted me to come to. I thought maybe you were sick, or dealing with some kind of crisis. I’m so glad to hear everything’s all right!

  • Melissa April 8, 2014, 8:28 am

    Offering to babysit sometime does not mean that they are going to be available whenever you need them. Should they just keep all of their evenings free in case you decide to call on them?

    If you want a night out, say, “hey, we were thinking of having a date night sometime next week. Are there any evenings that you would be willing to babysit?” That gives them their pick of nights. Although, I wouldn’t ask while she is still pregnant. Obviously.

    • Sara k-shin April 8, 2014, 8:56 am

      I wholeheartedly agree with Melissa. When the offer to babysit is being made, they may have completely different ideas of that that entails. You may see it as a fun late night out, they might have assumed that would watch the kids on a weekend afternoon or an early evening while you had a lunch or dinner out. I am not a late night person and this was exceptionally true when I was pregnant. Give them the option of picking a day or a time. You may find they wanted to help but your requests were not during times convenient for them. They are not obligated to be available when you need them every time. If they are only available at times you are not interested in having a sitter, then they are not your best options.

      • Kendra April 9, 2014, 12:14 pm

        I was thinking along the same lines that the offers might be completely genuine, but that schedules just weren’t meshing. I’ve had similar experiences, not with babysitting, but with trying to get together with friends. We really do want to get together, but I can’t do next week because I’m going to be out of town for business, she can’t do this weekend because she already made plans to help another friend move and it goes on, and on, and on. The OP’s friends might not be flakes just because they don’t seem to have followed through on their offer to babysit. It could simply be that the stars haven’t yet aligned so that they can follow through on their offer.

  • AMC April 8, 2014, 8:31 am

    I’m not sure I agree with Admin about the no male babysitters policy; I’ve known and worked with plenty of competant and nurturing male caregivers who I would (and have) trusted to care for my own child without any problems at all.
    But I do think Admin is right that Mark & Sue’s offer to babysit was just a platitude and not a real offer. It sucks that people don’t always mean what they say (or say what they mean), but now you & your husband know and can readjust your expectations. If Mark has been an otherwise good friend to your husband, I think your husband should forgive him for the empty promise and move on.

    • AthenaC April 8, 2014, 9:10 am

      “I’m not sure I agree with Admin about the no male babysitters policy.”

      This may be a regional / generational thing. My husband is a stay-at-home dad, so naturally he is always alone with the children. I also have a few male relatives whom I trust to babysit from time to time.

    • Abby April 8, 2014, 10:19 am

      I don’t think it’s so much that all men are incompetent around kids. My own father is great with kids, but hell if he’ll ever agree to watch little girls by himself. In fact, when his brother called and told him he was sending his two daughters (my dad’s nieces) to visit their elderly grandmother and asked if my dad could do the airport run, my dad agreed but insisted my mother come along. It was for his own protection, not a fear that he would somehow endanger the girls. Given the number of times something innocent has escalated into a man being given the side eye, I don’t blame him. It is a sad and unfair, but a lot of men are extremely uncomfortable being in that situation. Mark may be one of them, or he may just not be interested in doing a favor for a friend. Or maybe he didn’t feel well that night. Really hard to say based on the info we have.

    • Jewel April 8, 2014, 10:44 am

      Thank you for your first paragraph. It’s great to know that there are some parents out there that realize how unfair it is to paint all males with the same “pedophile” brush. As the mother of sons, I wish more parents were like you!

      • admin April 8, 2014, 1:49 pm

        We are actually painting loony people who have a penchant for drama and false accusations with the same brush. I would not advise my son to ever be in a position where someone could accuse him of sexual assault and it was his word against theirs. Because he will lose and lose BIG even if utterly innocent. That is the sad state of affairs of the world where the word of one accuser can completely ruin a man’s life.

  • Shoegal April 8, 2014, 8:36 am

    It is actually a tough lesson to learn that people don’t mean what they say and you shouldn’t have hard feelings when that becomes apparent. A group of friends were all planning on going to a huge garage sale at this housing plan that they have every year. The organizer of this event told everyone to get to her house early and she was going to make an egg bake or some sort of breakfast dish. So everyone shows up and had come hungry with the expectation of breakfast and there wasn’t any. No one said a word, we all went to the sale and went out to lunch later but I had whispered to a another friend there, “where was the egg bake?” The friend said she thought the exact same thing but no one was about to call her on it. From that point on, I realized that whatever “promises” are put out there aren’t set in stone. This goes right with the babysitting promise or the promise we’ll get together for dinner one day. Most of the time those things don’t come to pass.

  • acr April 8, 2014, 8:41 am

    I do find a lot of fault with Mark and Sue here. If they frequently offer to babysit yet never “come through”, that’s rude. But, OP, after the second or third time they didn’t come through, you and your fiance’ should have realized that they weren’t actually interested in babysitting.

    Some people seem think that offering a favor is the same as actually doing the favor. If it’s the “thought that counts” and they thought about doing it, that counts, right? Maybe Mark and Sue are reliable in other areas, just not child care. But maybe this is a broader pattern with them.

    I do think it’s a bit petty of your fiance to cancel his bachelor party over this one incident. But if the plans aren’t set in stone, then your fiance can just say, “I won’t be able to get a sitter.”

    And next time Mark or Sue offer to babysit, or imply that you’ll babysit for them, I think it would be totally okay to say, “You know, you keep saying that, but yet when we actually need a sitter you never come through.” Then change the subject.

  • JeanLouiseFinch April 8, 2014, 8:48 am

    I agree with the other posters. These people owe you nothing. They probably have good intentions, but will never be able to follow up. You can only feel sorry for their future kids if this is how they handle things. You need to find a local babysitter you can count on, and don’t make firm plans until you know they can babysit. After all, I probably would not have been allowed to babysit on a “school night” even for pay, when I was younger. Your husband is way over reacting, although I agree that you might want to bow out of “opportunities” to babysit for them.

  • DGS April 8, 2014, 8:57 am

    Completely agree with admin on this one, as well as with several PP’s.

    Firstly, these are YOUR children. It is NOT the obligation of anyone else – friends, neighbors, grandparents – to provide babysitting services for you so you could have a datenight. If you want a date night, you hire a sitter – an assistant teacher at your children’s daycare, a neighbor’s teenager looking to make an extra buck who has previous babysitting experience, someone recommended by friends or church members, etc. If you cannot afford a sitter AND a daynight (understandable, as times are tough for many), you have a datenight in and order a pizza and watch a movie while snuggling on the couch after the kids are asleep. And being frustrated with a pregnant woman who works long hours and is exhausted because she could not babysit your children while you went off to a concert, is the height of entitlement and selfishness. It would be a different story if you had to rush to an emergency, and your friends would not help you out whilst you were on your way to the hospital to visit a sick relative – and then, you would still be showing good manners if you offered to compensate your friends for their time (or at the very least, if you offered to pick up dinner for them).

    Secondly, to act salty and refuse a bachelor party because of Mark and Sue’s refusal to babysit is also pretty petty (and I might get flamed for this, and so be it, but if you are old enough to have children, you are old enough to skip the bachelor party and all that pre-wedding nonsense, anyway, although it is nice for Mark to offer to hose one for your fiance). It would be a different story if Mark and Sue had a perpetual pattern of backing out of plans or not following through in a variety of instances, and if that is the case, the mature thing to do would be to address it with them directly, particularly since your fiance and Mark are supposedly close.

    Further, I completely agree with what Admin said about the possibility of sexual mollestation accusations if a male friend does a solo gig. It also sounds like Mark, whose wife is pregnant, is not yet a father, so he may be quite overwhelmed (and Sue might be as well) by what might happen if a young child awakens in the middle of the night. Does he put them back in to the crib/bed or rock them to sleep first? Does anyone get a bottle or a sip of water? Who is in pj’s, who is swaddled, who sleeps with what favorite blankie? Does someone need a diaper change or a trip to the potty? Is little Joey afraid of monsters, so someone might need to do a monster search in the bedroom, or is there a special blanket that little Mary sleeps with? Even if Mark and Sue are around your children on a regular basis, they might not know these little details, and they might be overwhelmed by them, not to mention the possibility of what might happen if a child wakes up feverish, vomiting or otherwise, ill.

    Finally, Mark and Sue may have offered to babysit out of social convention, as so many PP’s and Admin have mentioned. They may not actually be interested in babysitting, and once they do become parents, they may not be keen on having you babysit their child for whatever personal reason – it is one thing to ask for babysitting for a baby that has yet to be born, or a hypothetical baby, rather than an actual, flesh and blood child.

    In summary, if you are interested in being friends with Mark and Sue, pursue a friendship with them that is characterized by maturity – direct and honest communication, being one of the staples of adult friendship. Another characteristic of adult friendship is a balance between giving without exceptation of reciprocation, and getting without imposing. It’s a tough one, but if it is to be a quality friendship, it is worth it to consider. And, you are responsible for attaining your own babysitters without imposing on other adults in your lives. That is part of the responsibility of parenthood.

  • Cecilia April 8, 2014, 8:59 am

    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!

  • Shalamar April 8, 2014, 9:01 am

    I used to know someone whom I considered to be a good friend. Over the years, we grew apart. When I ran into her at the store after not having seen her for a while, she made all the expected “We have to get together sometime!” comments. I decided to try to pin her down and make arrangements there and then, and oh boy, you never saw someone backtrack so fast. None of the dates I offered worked (and I offered several). That, plus the panicked “deer-in-the-headlights” expression on her face, told me that the friendship was over. Sad, but it happens.

    • Brit April 10, 2014, 3:50 am

      I got so fed up with that once that I told her ‘No, let’s not bother, we both know we don’t mean it’.

  • PWH April 8, 2014, 9:06 am

    I understand that your hubby may be upset that plans didn’t go exactly as he’d hoped, but it isn’t like Mark and Sue agreed to babysit that day and then reneged or cancelled. They had offered as a sort of nicety, likely more in passing. Something similar to saying “We should have you over for dinner some time” or “Come by for a visit any time.” I would tell your husband to push through and let it go. Something like this isn’t worth ending a friendship over.

  • AthenaC April 8, 2014, 9:07 am

    “[Mark] 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.”

    And –

    “Mark & Sue have also implied they would want us to babysit when their children are born …”

    This. Right here.

    Yes, yes, no one is entitled to have anyone else babysit for them, but “good friends” don’t make idle offers. If they do, they’re not good friends. You and your fiance are perfectly justified in being frustrated with them.

    That said, I’m going to assume that Mark and Sue, since they don’t have children yet, don’t really appreciate how helpful it is to be able to get out of the house once in a while. So I would table this discussion until their own child is born and then THEY want to get out for an evening. I see a couple possible outcomes –

    1) You all develop a rhythm where you fairly and equitably trade babysitting services; or
    2) You babysit for them (once, maybe twice) without reciprocation. After that, I would be “busy” anytime they ask until they reciprocate.

    As far as the bachelor party specifically …. as long as not too much planning has been done, I’m actually on your fiance’s side here. If I’m reading your submission correctly, and your fiance says he would rather have a night out with you than a bachelor party, he should stick to his guns. There’s no law that says he HAS to have a bachelor party, and if Mark is willing to go to the effort to do something for your fiance like plan a bachelor party, he should be willing to go to the effort to babysit, especially since he had offered to babysit, multiple times, LONG before he even thought about planning the bachelor party.

  • DGS April 8, 2014, 9:11 am

    P.S. Here is your babysitting system…Plan A is “Carolyn”, an assistant teacher at my son’s school. If she is not available, Plan B is “Rebecca”, another assistant teacher at my son’s school. If she is not available, Plan C is “Josie”, the college-aged daughter of family friends who has extensive babysitting experience. If Carolyn, Rebecca and Josie are not availalble, I guess we are not going out.

    Our parents live across the country, and my in-laws are uncomfortable babysitting any of their 5 children’s children. They are simply, as my FIL says, “not the diaper changing, cradle-rocking type”. They are perfectly happy playing with them and enjoy spending time with them, but are not the take-care-of-basic-needs type. My Father and Stepmother both have significant health problems, which would preclude them from being able to babysit other than in case of an extreme emergency (one time when they were visiting, I had a massive allergic reaction and had to be rushed to the hospital, so obviously, they stepped in and watched my son, whilst my DH followed the ambulance to the hospital and brought me home after). My Mother and Stepfather always offer to babysit and do a fantastic job. They’ve even given us a weekend away when I was Matron of Honor in a friend’s wedding. We always thank them profusely, and we do not expect that they’ll automatically give us a datenight when they come visit.

    In the event of a massive emergency, several friends who are in the area and have children the same age as our son, have offered to the babysit and have “pinch-hit” for us a number of us, and we have for them. Most recently, a friend was in a car accident, and I picked up her sons from school along with mine, fed them and entertained all the boys until their Dad came to pick them up to take them home (their Mom, thankfully, was okay, but had to be evaluated at the hospital). However, we have never offered to watch each other’s kids during nighttime or overnight – it’s mostly daytime stuff.

  • Tara April 8, 2014, 9:28 am

    I completely agree that men (other than fathers) shouldn’t watch children alone. Not because they’re going to molest the children (99% won’t), but because it’s too risky for the man if an accusation is made. If an arrest is made, EVEN IF charges aren’t pressed due to lack of evidence, the news in the area will pick that up immediately and put his face and name all over the place, and say what he was arrested for. Then he’d be labeled a predator for his entire life by the community, and it’s just not worth the risk to babysit your friends’ kids.

  • alex April 8, 2014, 9:29 am

    I definitely think your fiance is being petty. He doesn’t want to babysit by himself, and as the admin said it is better to be safe than sorry. I highly doubt he would do anything, but it is better to be safe.

    I think your fiance getting mad because they won’t do it isn’t right. They are truly under no obligation to babysit your children. I even think you are mad at her because she doesn’t want to babysit (she goes in late the next day…), it really doesn’t matter. They may be exhausted and just not want to babysit your children at the end of the day. Would it be nice for them to do so you can go out? Of course it would. But do they have to? Not at all.

    Now, if they are always offering to babysit and don’t do it then it probably is just something they are saying and while not right, I would never assume they will actually follow through and do it.

  • Meegs April 8, 2014, 9:30 am

    I could not agree more. appalling and absurd to me I don’t even know where to start. Its that kind of fear-mongering that got us in this place. I am literally shocked that people actually think that way.
    I would be really ticked off if I were the OP and her DH too. This is not just a random neighbor, but the DH’s BEST BUDDY. With a close friend you shouldn’t even have to consider if they are just trying to make conversation when they offer to help, you should be able to take that offer as genuine. This couple repeatedly offer to babysit and then say no every time they are actually asked? Come on, who wouldn’t be annoyed by this?

  • Kovitlac April 8, 2014, 9:30 am

    Are you (or your fiance) really that angry that someone is uncomfortable babysitting a child on their own? It doesn’t matter if you plan on the kid sleeping the whole time – children very often have plans of their own, and it sounds to me like your fiance’s friend is simply uncomfortable being the only one in that house with a young kid.

    Honestly, I might be a little unnerved, myself. I’m not a big fan of kids, and while I can get along with them fine, taking care of them by myself is very different. I understand you’re frustrated that plans fell through, but getting bitter about something that can’t really be helped doesn’t do anybody any good.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith April 8, 2014, 9:43 am

    You are parenting children with someone who acts like a child when he doesn’t get his way. Namely- he pouts, lashes out, and threatens to figuratively “hold his breath until his face turns blue”. He doesn’t want the bachelor party. He waaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnttttttted the night out with you…if ooooooooonnnly his friend had agreed to watch your kids. Stomp….fold arms….extend lower lip. So, now he doesn’t want ANYTHING from his buddy. And you, OP, by remarking that Sue was late to work the next day, show just a touch of that same entitlement mentality. Parents don’t always get to go out when they would like to- even if they could really use the break and the outing they have in mind promises to be amazing. If you can’t accept that with grace, you’re going to be disappointed…a lot. If you compound the error by lashing out at friends and family who don’t meet your expectations of babysitting on your terms and schedule, you’re going to lose a lot of relationships in the years ahead. For what? So that you could get out of the house for a night?

    I also don’t know that the offer to babysit was a “platitude”. Maybe it was. But have you tried asking them to let you know what night they are free? Because you’d like to take them up on their kind offer. Apparently, it will need to be on a weekend and Sue will also need to be free. If that’s a deal breaker, maybe a paid sitter would be a better option. Although some of them also have schedule limitations…

  • Anonymous April 8, 2014, 9:51 am

    Men can be babysitters, alone or not, and I think society should take a long, hard look at the “men as predators” assumption–it’s a very Interesting Assumption, indeed, and there are a lot of boys and men who are perfectly lovely people. I often feel sorry for boys, having to grow up in a culture that tells them, “You have a Y chromosome, therefore, you’re guilty until proven innocent.” However, I still wouldn’t trust Mark to babysit, because he’s proven time and again that he can’t follow through on things. Then again, I wouldn’t trust Sue either, for the same reason, so gender has nothing to do with it.

  • Angela April 8, 2014, 9:54 am

    I’ve found that there are areas where there is a “micro-culture” of making offers as a conversational device, and other micro-cultures such that such offers are seen as genuine. When those cultures come together, both sides are confused about the beliefs of the other…”I mentioned it off hand and she seized on it!” vs. “he said he’d do it but then he wouldn’t!” . That might be at play here.

    BTW I think the argument about solo male babysitters isn’t that all men are child molesters, but that men have to be careful about appearances. Suppose a small girl told a teacher or grandparent something that could be misconstrued as inappropriate? I know my kids have said things when they were little that could have been taken the wrong way.

  • EllenS April 8, 2014, 9:58 am

    For me, this would depend on how often they offer, and how many times they have backed out. If they offer over and over again, and repeatedly flake out, then they are insincere.
    I can see how, realizing that a supposed friend is insincere and prone to overpromise and underdeliver, would put a damper on the relationship. However, the OP sounds more like a reflexive tit-for-tat than a thoughtful reconsidering of the friendship.

    If the friends only offered to babysit once or twice, and this was the first time OP tried to take them up on it, then OP has unreasonable expectations. If you want to try again, maybe scheduling the date night around the friends’ avaialability would work better.

    • Shhh its me April 9, 2014, 6:33 am

      “However, the OP sounds more like a reflexive tit-for-tat than a thoughtful reconsidering of the friendship.” This so much.

      Even if Sue and Mark offer frequently and have turned OP down a few times* , before this night they were still good enough friends that Mark was hosting the bachelor party. Sue has a good reason and they didn’t cancel at the last minute , they said “no”

      * I get the impression OP was turned down more then once but I’m not sure of that. “Never followed through” could mean Sue and Mark never followed up with a specific offer. It could mean they said no 3 times in a year all for good reasons(we have plans already , I’m working that evening , I have the flu) or it could mean they said “no” 30 times for “meh” reasons.

      If it important you know that a friend offer is sincere try to get more details/accept when the offer is made. “I’d love to take you up on that. What day is good for you?”

  • badkitty April 8, 2014, 10:03 am

    Do not babysit for these people – it will lead to resentment. Look for them, when their child comes, to suddenly start PUSHING you to go out on certain nights so they can babysit for you. You will then be expected to “return the favor” at a time/duration of THEIR choosing, and if you decline it will get unpleasant. Instead, take this time before their child arrives, to find a babysitter you really love and can afford at least occasionally. Cultivate that relationship, and don’t share his/her number! This way, when they come offering, you can honestly say that you’re just more comfortable leaving the kids with “their usual sitter.”

    Also, I’m really uncomfortable with our admin’s stance on male caregivers working ‘without an accountability buddy’… I’m equally uncomfortable with the awkward rationalization from her and a few other commenters here. If the adult is trustworthy, their genitalia doesn’t signify. My husband and I have friends who have asked us to babysit in a pinch – he goes alone, because kids are *not* my thing.

  • Anonymous April 8, 2014, 10:10 am

    Also, about “conversational devices,” I don’t offer things that I wouldn’t want to/likely be able to follow through on. I don’t give “non-invitations” to people I dislike, I wouldn’t offer to babysit someone’s child if they were poorly behaved (or had special needs that I couldn’t accommodate), so…..yeah. Saying “you should have known that they didn’t mean it” is just victim-blaming. What happened to, “they shouldn’t have offered if they didn’t mean it?” There are other conversational devices that are just as polite, that don’t result in these kinds of scenarios. For example, “We just had a baby; here’s a picture on my phone.” “Wow, what a beautiful child.” Then, you stop there. Interest taken, conversational device used, but no offers to babysit, if you can’t/don’t want to. Later, drop off a casserole or a pack of onesies if you want, or not. In the case of older children, which it sounds like the OP and her husband have, again, it would have been better if Mark and Sue had simply NOT offered to babysit, because they clearly never intend to do so, since this refusal wasn’t an isolated incident. Again, there are other conversational devices that work just as well, like asking about the kids’ school lives, friends, extra-curricular activities, maybe coming to see the odd soccer game or music recital if you’re up for it, or maybe getting them gifts for their birthdays–even something as simple as a Webkinz, or a large box of crayons, would do fine. My point is, there are ways to feign interest in other people’s lives, and there are ways to show genuine interest in other people’s lives, that don’t involve making empty offers to do things you don’t have the desire or the resources to do. Also, identical reciprocation is rarely possible. For example, my steel band teacher usually drives me home after rehearsal. I can’t reciprocate identically, because I don’t have a car, but I reciprocate by helping to arrange the music, which helps him, because he can’t read music as well as I can. Also, I play the tenor drum, which is just one small drum that I can easily move and set up by myself. Other people have set-ups that include two, three, four, and even six, much larger drums. I often help them set up, because it’s not exactly “fair” to make the bass player struggle with six drums the size of garbage cans, while I can lift my drum with one hand. So, getting back to the OP’s example, maybe an evening of babysitting could equal a dinner invitation for the whole family…….or whatever. It’s just something that the OP and her husband would have to work out with Mark and Sue. It might mean having a difficult conversation, but the other alternative would be either ending the friendship, or scaling it back to “acquaintance” status, because you can’t really be friends with people you can’t trust to follow through on things.

    • Library Diva April 9, 2014, 3:49 pm

      Agreed. I’m not all that great with kids, and I don’t go around offering to babysit others’ kids with no intentions of following through. I think both parties are at fault here. The OP and her fiance come off as awfully petty for wanting to end the friendship because they were told no one night. But Mark and Sue sound like pretty insincere friends if they keep making these offers they have no intention of fulfilling.

      The whole “no males alone with children” thing…I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s pretty depressing if that’s indeed what society has come to. How one can fight this sort of mentality on an individual level, I’m not sure.

  • Elizabeth April 8, 2014, 10:16 am

    Perhaps the offer didn’t extend to weeknights. Weeknights are a bit tougher with work schedules and other commitments. (and perhaps you should judge what time she goes to work and decide for her that this is an ok request)

    And yes, maybe they are just making conversation and you are being too literal. Better to hire your own babysitter and not seek favors.

  • startruck April 8, 2014, 10:28 am

    speaking as someone with a full time job, i wouldnt be excited about the prospect of baby sitting on a week night, pregnant or not. i actually think your friends were serious when they made the offer to sit sometimes but it doesnt mean they will be available every time you need them to. and i would blame any guy for not wanting to sit with kids that arent family. i just cant see any guy being into that. lol men just arent like us. the kids alseep or not. he is probably thinking about them waking up and him having to do something like take them to the bath room lol

  • Wild Irish Rose April 8, 2014, 10:28 am

    Lots of people make offers–as Admin pointed out, it’s usually a conversational device. But you don’t have a right to EXPECT them to babysit, no matter how many times they offer! If you want to plan a night out, and I do mean PLAN, surely there is no shortage of high school kids who would be happy to watch your kids for an evening. It is harder to find sitters for weeknights, but it’s not impossible. Either way, your fiance should let it go and not throw away what is perhaps an otherwise good friendship over this. Of course, Mark and Sue shouldn’t offer if they have no intention of making good on it, but then I’ve never been one to want my friends to watch my kids–I really prefer to hire someone like the high school girl who lived down the street from me. I realize that’s just me, though.

  • Lisa April 8, 2014, 10:46 am

    (though she goes into work late the following day).
    now my fiance doesn’t want anything to do with it.
    because Mark didn’t step up.
    says that he will refuse since they have never helped us.

    OP; how old are you and your fiancé? Please, for the sake of your kids, grow up. You don’t always get what you want from other people, so what? Jut deal with it.

  • ChicaLola April 8, 2014, 10:51 am

    An offer isn’t a promise. You are both being petty and childish.