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Author Topic: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"? - Update p3  (Read 19092 times)

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Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"? - Update p3
« on: October 01, 2013, 09:59:33 AM »
BG: My husband's best friend is divorced and has three young children. Recently, he was unexpectedly given full custody of the children until further notice. It now looks like Friend will probably be awarded permanent full custody.

Friend works full time, and the oldest child is in school. The other two are younger, and Friend's mom has been watching them while friend works. The two kids are close in age to my son, and when we all have time we get the kids together to play. Even when there are three adults to match the three kids, it's so chaotic.

Last week Friend contacted me to ask if I would watch his younger two for a few hours, and offered to pay me. I told him I was busy. But I believe he'll probably ask again.

The thing is, I'm not a kid person, and I have a hard time relating to/dealing with other people's kids. I love these kids, and I wish I could help my friend, but there is no way in heck that I can be responsible for three children under the age of three and still keep my sanity.

First, I guess, I need a reality check. Is it unreasonable of me to not want to watch the kids? Should I suck it up and do it in the name of helping a friend?

Second, if I don't watch the kids, would it be better to be honest and say I just can't handle it, or continue telling Friend that I'm unavailable?
« Last Edit: October 02, 2013, 03:35:08 PM by CakeBeret »
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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2013, 10:05:07 AM »
Three kids under the age of three.....just be honest so there will be no confusion in the future. There are not many people that could handle that.

Back before I had kids my then DH and friend were doing some side work for extra money. Friend asked if I could watch his 2 year old as his wife worked nights. So after an hour commute, an 8.5 hour workday and another hour commute I watched his 2 year old for another 3+ hours each evening. I lasted a week.  And no I did not get paid.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2013, 10:06:47 AM »
If you don't babysit, just say that "I'm sorry, I don't babysit."

If you lie and say you're unavailable, they're going to keep asking thinking that you were only unavailable just then and not for any future opportunity. 


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2013, 10:07:44 AM »
I be honest and simply say that you aren't equipped to babysit but that you are fine with play dates since both of you are there..  That way the friend doesn't think you don't like the kids.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2013, 10:09:31 AM »
I would be completely honest with him because you're right, the requests will probably continue.

I've never been around children, really, and my lack of experience makes me uncomfortable with them, so when friends ask if I can watch their kids, that's what I say - I'm sorry, I wish I could help but I'm not comfortable being in charge of kids on my own. I often throw in that I've literally never watched kids on my own before and would be the worst choice they could make, with a little smile. It usually works.

With Friend now having full custody, he'll have to go through the process of finding qualified sitters for the times he wants to do things on his own. It's just a fact of his new life, and he won't always be able to ask a friend to do it. The sooner he finds a reliable, qualified sitter that clicks with his family, the better.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2013, 10:11:16 AM »
Or, at the most, say that you can't babysit unless it is a true emergency i.e. (hospitals are involved).  If your friend has any social sense, he will realize that means, "I can't do it and don't ask."

If your friend is clueless, then say, "I really can't handle 3 under 3 alone.  Sorry."
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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2013, 10:13:07 AM »
It's an unfortunate situation, but for the reality check, it's not your situation. It is totally okay that you don't want to be responsible for these kids, even for a few hours. Even if they were older and perfect angels, it would be totally okay. *I* don't want to be responsible for anyone's children, though I personally would make an exception for a true emergency, and it would really have to be an emergency for anyone to call *me*!

So, I think you have to decide what your boundaries are (with your DH, too). Can you tell friend you're okay watching the kids in an emergency? What about as a last minute backup? For literally just two hours once a week? I'm not saying you have to agree to any of these, I think you can have a zero policy if you want, you just have to decide what you're comfortable with. Then next time Friend asks, maybe you'll be able to tell him, "While I'm not comfortable watching the kids on a regular basis, I am happy to be a last minute backup if you need me," or whatever is applicable.

A zero policy is a little trickier, I grant you. If you suspect Friend is looking at you for help in this regularly, you might be proactive and say, "So, what are you going to do about getting people to watch the kids?" just as a matter of friendly interest. You could recommend babysitters or daycare providers to him, for example. And if he says, "I was hoping you would watch them," you could say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't do that." I think I really would stick with "that won't be possible," even though it sometimes seems more natural with friends to explain things. I think your reasons are perfectly valid, but it's not the sort of thing a newly-single parent is going to find helpful, you know? So I would try to avoid explaining why, even as you stick to your boundaries.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2013, 10:22:03 AM »
POD others who have said that this is an unfortunate situation, but it isn't your situation. Just be honest. "Friend, I would have a hard time with 3 children under the age of three. It won't be possible, except for an extreme emergency. But I heard that Ms. Loveskids on the next block might have a couple of openings, why don't you check with her?"

Also, alot of times the public elementary schools will have a list of available caregivers, he would just have to ask the secretary.

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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2013, 10:25:39 AM »
  I would be unavailable/that wont be possible.  IMHO sometimes we are overly truthful.( I mean we in general on this not you OP)Asking once even asking twice a year does not require a turn down with more information then that.

 I think if you get asked more then 3 times(in quick succession) you can say "I'm not much of the babysitting type" I'm assuming you don't babysit at all. 

I think you only you can decide if you're declining to babysit is crossing into " I'm not being a supportive friend" territory.   


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2013, 10:26:05 AM »
Please just be honest about your situation.  Telling him that you're busy is going to lead to frustration and bad feelings all the way around. Just tell him that you're not a kid person and three little ones are more than you can handle.  That way he will stop asking and you can stop making up excuses to do something you don't want to do.
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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2013, 10:31:03 AM »
Actually, this thread reminded me of another thread I read recently where there was some discussion about the number of children being watched to professional care givers. You might look into that and even divide by 2  (your house is not as physically designed for child safety as a purpose-built day care, and you aren't trained, either). 3 under 3 sounds like it would put you over that, and you would have a logical way to help back you up besides just "I don't want to". I know that's a perfectly valid etiquette response, but sometimes it's helpful for me to have thought it out more rationally, which helps me to stick by my decision. Maybe that exercise would help you too.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2013, 10:38:30 AM »
Wow! I am really surprised and pleased at these responses.

I'll make this 100% for 'Just be honest' so far.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2013, 10:59:07 AM »
I agree on just being honest.  "Friend, I'm sorry, but I'm not comfortable with caring for 3 kids this young. I'm really sorry."

If you'd be wlling to help out when your DH was home and could help maybe add "If an emergency comes up in the evenings when DH is home, we'd be happy to help out during those times."

As a parent, if you have any suggestions for reliable ways to find part time sitters, maybe offer that information too.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2013, 11:07:00 AM »
I agree with being honest. However, the "three under three" reason is a bit tricky. Will you be ok with watching them in a few years when they're a bit older? Because he may take the "under three" age to heart and come back to ask again in a few years. So at that point if you're still saying "no", it's going to seen a bit ingenuine.

I'd keep the reason as something more like "I'm not comfortable babysitting" or "I'm not comfortable watching other people's kids". So honest, but a bit less specific.


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Re: Babysitting: be honest, or be "unavailable"?
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2013, 11:32:12 AM »
Totally agree with PPs who said to be honest.

One thing to think about, definitely not etiquette required, but may make things better all around -- perhaps you could offer some other kind of assistance?  Do you like to cook or, I don't know... because I don't know the situation.  It just occurs to me that, since you mentioned wanting to help your friend, it might be possible to lessen his new "burden"** without it being an action you don't want to do.  Just a thought - offering something else might soften message of not wanting to babysit - but it is so definitely not required by etiquette.

**just a note - I say burden because of the time commitment, care and money that goes into raising kids - I couldn't think of a better word so I wanted to clarify that I'm not just randomly calling children a burden.