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Babysitting Friends with Benefits

Friends With Babysitting Benefits

By Amalah


I am in a pickle.  Oh, please, please help me!

Back story:  My friend and her husband have two kids.  My husband and I have no children.  We have been friends with them for about three years.  I used to be a nanny and love being around kids, and I absolutely LOVE their kids.  I offered many times to watch their kids, and eventually they got comfortable asking me to.  I have babysat for them, for free, on many occaisons, sometimes at a moments’ notice, sometimes dropping what I needed to get done (am a busy student) so that I could be there for my friends.  A while back we agreed to watch their kids for a weekend so that they could go away together.  At the last minute, my grandfather passed away and I flew home on my own dime (not cheap, and not in the budget) to be there for the funeral and cut the trip home short (36 hours, instead of extending it over four days) so that I could be back in time to keep my promise to my friend to watch her kids.  I watched their kids as had promised, it was a fun weekend for everyone, but it kinda itched at me that they didn’t offer to find someone else (they have a few childcare options: local family, a nanny) to watch the kids so that I could spend more time with my family.

A couple of months ago, she asked me to watch their kids over five days this summer.  Long story short, her husband was going to be home with the kids while she went away, but then her husband got an awesome job that meant leaving the country for four months, and she had already booked these travel plans.  I said that I could do it barring any issues around my potential summer job plans, and I told her that even though we were planning a trip home around that same time, it shouldn’t be a problem because we could work around her dates and be back for the kids (her dates can’t be budged).

I know that I pretty enthusiastically said that I would be here for her, that I would work around her.  You see where this is going, right?  This is a classic case of over-committing, and I am feeling like such an idiot.  I felt like I had to say yes (because that’s what friends dooooo!  [Yep, I’m a pleaser]), and I did not foresee any issues with saying yes, and so I said yes waaaay too emphatically.  But at the same time, saying a conditional yes wouldn’t have helped me in this case because sometimes UNFORESEEN things happen!

Cut to this week, and my husband mentions to me for the first time that he is going to be called to the Bar the Wednesday of the same week that we were planning on travelling home.  (Yes, I have already yelled at him for failing to tell me this sooner… arrrggg!)  We have to be home on the Friday because of a big family reunion, he has to be at the Bar ceremony if he wants to be able to practice law, and I want to go as his wife (because of course I do).  My friend needed me the following week.  Which means, if we returned from our trip home in time to be here for my friend, that we would only have 7 days to be home, except that we haven’t been home together in two years, and my husband has never met his nephew, and we have no idea when we will next be able to travel home – probably not for at least a year, probably longer.  FML, I had never anticipated any of these complications, I did not know that the Bar ceremony was that same week.  I thought that we could go for the full amount of time we wanted to go for on either side of the family reunion date without any impact on my friend.

So, realizing this, I decided to talk to her.  I tried to meet with her in person, but she is very busy so I had to send a message to her because I wanted to give her at least a month.  I said that if there’s any way to arrange for someone else to watch the kids, I would really appreciate it for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned above.  I apologized over and over, told her that I really hadn’t foreseen an issue, and promised that if there is no other way, of course I wouldn’t leave her with no options and of course I would be here for her.

I was thinking that since she has childcare options (local family, nanny), it was at least to *ask* if something else could be arranged.

I have no idea what’s going on with her now, because all of the communication was done over email, and she seems super mad.  She sent two one line messages saying “I will work something” and “obviously I won’t force you to end a vacation early”.  Very unlike her.

I get that I’ve put her in an awkward position, and I’m not saying that she has no right to be mad.  It sucks, she’s stressed as it is.  But I already said I was sorry (like, ten times in the message that I sent about all of this, and I meant that very sincerely), and I feel like I was in an awkward position, too!

And it’s not like I’ve been a terrible friend, I have been such a good friend to her and have helped her out on many occasions, expecting (and receiving) nothing in return.  My husband thinks it’s outrageous that she asked me (see: local family, nanny) and also thinks that I never should have said yes (see: but I had to! my friend neeeeeeded me!).  I’m feeling taken advantage of and also like a jerk, because I realize this isn’t an awesome situation for her, but is it so wrong to ASK if there is another way when there ARE options?  She asked me first out of all the other options, it’s not like she came to me and said “so, I’ve checked with family and the nanny, and you’re my last hope.”  And it’s not like I said that I can’t or won’t be there for her, I said that if there is another way, great, and if not, I will watch her kids.  Also, a month in advance!  There is time!  Granted, not a lot of time, but time!  And local optionsssss!!!!!1

All of this leaves me feeling awful.  I don’t have a lot of friends (is that because I’m an awful person [see: THIS]???), she’s my closest friend, and the worst part is that she’s planning on moving away in three months.  I’m scared that this will wreck our friendship and leave us without enough time to get it back to what it was.

Heeeellllppppp!  Am I awful?  And if I am, how can I repair the situation?  And even if I’m not, what can I do to repair the situation?  Without being a total doormat (which I am inclined to be).

Oh Crap, What Have I Done?

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOh Crap (can I call you Oh Crap? That’s one of the more excellent pseudonyms people have come up with), you need to calm down. Like, seriously. Like, you might have one of the worst cases of People Pleasing Syndrome I have ever seen, and I’m saying this with love and cuddles from a fellow lifelong People Pleaser.

Your friend might not be out to take advantage of you — I mean, you’re super-enthusiastic about caring for her kids, love her kids, have already moved heaven and earth to be with said kids. If I had a You in my life, I’d probably make you my top choice for caring for my kids too! She may simply be looking at her options (family, nanny) and picking you first, because you’re her favorite, her kids’ favorite, etc.

And even if this is the case, remember: You’re still allowed to say NO.

Or maybe she has come to take you and your availability and your free-babysitting-ness for granted. Maybe she’s a serial taker and a lousy giver.

And if this is the case, remember: You’re still allowed to say NO.

I can’t tell you if she’s really mad or not, or if you’re reading too much into the situation or misinterpreting tone. (I mean, hell: I’m currently convinced one of my friends doesn’t like me anymore and I don’t know why or what I did and I’m too scared to just up and ask her what’s up because OMG WHAT IF SHE DOESN’T LIKE ME ANYMORE OMG.) Given your general people-pleasing demeanor, I’d say it’s highly likely that you are overreacting and she’s not really that upset and does (deep down) understand that you aren’t deliberately messing with her and have the right to your own life.

Because. Seriously. You DO. Your reasons for backing out of the sitting commitment are fine and valid and you would probably DIE if you heard half of the excuses most parents get from family and hired sitters who cancel and/or flake on us — usually at the last minute, not a month ahead of time when there’s at least a chance a replacement can be found.

So stop apologizing. Ball’s in her court, shrug it off, try to make sure the next thing you guys do together is something two-way-street-like, like dinner or drinks or something you both enjoy. Stop obsessing, or at least try to. You made a big commitment that I totally do not doubt you had every intention of sticking with, but life happened and it didn’t work out and it kind of sucks but whatever. She might just be stressed out, like you said, particularly with a big move coming up and she might just…not have time for much else, including long verbose emails with friends about babysitting arrangements. The short messages might be an indication that this really isn’t a big deal to her (see: local family, nanny, back-up options) and she simply has no idea how much agony you’ve allowed it to cause you. Personally, I’d be horrified at the thought that one of my closest friends felt like I really expected her to rearrange her life and vacation and God-knows-what-else just in order to do me a huge freaking favor.

And if this really is a friendship dealbreaker for her, she’s an asshole, honestly, and you’re better off finding friends who don’t repeatedly exploit your eagerness to please.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Oh Crap

    June 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    THANK YOoooooOOU! I feel so much better hearing from a mom that I’m not a jerk. I feel so much better and I’m looking forward to comments.

    I was right that she is mad at me. She canceled all of our plans for this week in another curt, short message. She knows that I’m a pleaser.

    I messaged her again to say that it seems like she’s mad, and I’m really sorry, and I hope that we can talk about it, but that I’ll give her space. We’ll see what happens, I’m going to stop trying to make contact with her for a week or so, and then try again. Hopefully I won’t have to wait that long, hopefully she will have been in touch by then.

    Lesson learned: I will never, ever offer to watch another friend’s kids again. It’s just not worth this stress. And when I have kids, I will only ask family or paid caregivers to watch my kids. The world just lost The Best Free Babysitter Ever.

  • Oh Crap

    June 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Amalah, if I may be so bold as to offer you advice, because this isn’t all about me, hee hee:

    Get in touch with your friend who you are scared doesn’t like you anymore, and just be direct with her. Tell her that something seems off in your friendship and you really care about her and you hope that things will be okay. I’ve learned that sometimes being direct at least gives you peace of mind that you’ve done all you can, and even if the situation never improves or gets worse, at least you can’t have regrets over never trying to make it right!

    Losing friends sucks. Try to keep her.

  • Suzy Q

    June 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Can I make a suggetion? Stop freaking messaging each other and pick up the phone! The tone of messages and emails can easily be misconstrued, this entire situation being Exhibit A. Ok, she’s now said she’s mad at you, or conveyed that somehow. Personally, I don’t think you’re being a jerk and you have been there for her on many occasions. You didn’t mention anything about anything SHE has done for YOU, ever. (I had a friend like that; we broke up after 20 years because I am Slow.) But, just because technology is available that makes it easier to distance direct communication doesn’t mean it has to be used. Old Person…out!

  • Christen

    June 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I’d like to second Suzy Q’s comment to call her. Maybe not right this moment, but I wouldn’t wait weeks and let this eat at you. Even if she does decide to “break up” with you over this, better to let it go and move on. Sounds like the moment you couldn’t be there for HER she couldn’t be bothered to be an understanding friend to you. And may I offer more assvice? I get that you want to avoid future issues like this by never, ever watching anyone’s kids again, but there’s balance. You can be Auntie Oh Crap who babysits – when you can do it without scarificing your life, priorities, sanity, etc. Best of luck to you!

  • Beth

    June 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    She said she’s mad at you and canceled all of your plans for this weekend over you not watching her kids A MONTH from now? Are you F***ing kidding me?

    Listen, I hope that if YOU want to, that the two of you reconcile. But it sounds to me like she’s an being UBER-unreasonable, thoughtless, if not simply mean.

    If your relationship is really THIS one sided you should take a step back and think. Is she really being a good friend to you? Please list all the things she’s ever done. Big things. On Par with taking care of her kids–not just hanging out and having fun. BIG THINGS SHE HAS DONE FOR YOU FOR FREE OUT OF THE KINDNESS OF HER HEART.

    Really evaluate this relationship down to its very core. Please. I’ve had friends take advantage of me. I’m also a very giving caring person. I have a tendency to show love by spending money. And therefore shower gifts on friends who don’t necessarily appreciate it or reciprocate. I also was dumped by a friend. It hurt to lose her–she never told me why she decided she hated me. But when it was all over I lost a friend as well as probably somewhere around $2500 or more that I had spent on her over a 3 year period. Not to mention, loaning her money for the deposit on her apartment.

    You have to learn to take care of yourself, before other people. I learned the hard way.

  • E's Mommy

    June 2, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    It sounds like maybe she’s been taking advantage of you a little? That’s a lot of free babysitting you’ve been giving her. I had the same situation with a friend several years ago and it turned out that when I was done watching her kid for free all the time that she wasn’t that interested in being my friend anymore.

    If I were you I wouldn’t contact your friend again but let her contact you if she wants to resume/repair the friendship. If your friendship is important to her as the convenience of having a free babysitter she’ll respond to the overtures you’ve already made.

  • Rebecca

    June 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Am I correct that she has NEVER paid you for any of your services? That is not ok. Has she offered and you have refused, or does she just not offer anymore?

    Even if you are willing to babysit for free, I don’t think it is ok for her to accept this much babysiting from you, without giving you anything in return. And to expect you to drop everything to give her free babysitting, that is really not ok.

  • Oh Crap

    June 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    @SuzyQ – I agree that talking on the phone would have been preferable, if only in allowing me to hear more definitively what she’s actually thinking. Unfortunately, we are of the Phone Anxiety Generation. We hate talking on the phone, and actually *never* have, except maybe once or twice when we were trying to meet up and couldn’t find each other.

    @Christen – I worried that, too, that the second I couldn’t be there for her she lost interest in me. I hope that I’m wrong about that. We’ll see… Also, I agree that I can balance this and babysit for others still. I’ll probably still do it but only for family (because my family isn’t perfect but they *never* just ignore me and cuts of all ties, no matter what). If I do it for friends it’ll only be in emergencies.

    @Beth – Okay, the things that she has done for me:
    – watched my cat at her home for three full weeks, just after she added two new cats to her home, for a grand total of three cats of her own PLUS my cat = 4 cats! (I said that I could make alternate arrangements when she spontaneously got the cats the week before we needed her to watch our cat, but she really insisted that we let her because it had been her idea that we leave our cat with her in the first place. I took her out for lunch as a thank you).
    – dropped everything and came to my house on a moment’s notice one night when I was having a really hard time, and stayed until I was okay

    That’s… honestly… all. She forgot my birthday this year and only acknowledged it the next day with a facebook message. That really hurt.

    @E’s mommy – I guess I’ve been worrying for a long time that she doesn’t care about me the way that I care about her, and this is making me feel like I was right.

    @Rebecca – She’s never paid me, but the very first time she asked me to when we’d been friends a year, she said she’d pay me and I completely refused to let her. I haven’t nannied in years and I really felt like friends don’t accept payment for favours, and that’s what I felt I was doing for her: a favour, not a job.

    It wouldn’t have felt right to be paid, but at the risk of sounding like I’m greedy or something, I do feel like if I had a friend who did me favours like this, favours that save my ass AND save me money on childcare, then I’d be giving them something in return. Like, every once in a while taking them out for dinner, or something. She never did, never has.

    I don’t think she’s a big jerk or a big user, I mean, it’s true that I’ve set myself up and I think Amalah’s right that she might just be asking me because I love to do it and her kids love me, and she did tell me when she first asked me to do this that I could totally say no, but it’s just in my nature to feel like no isn’t an option.

    Gaaaah, friendship is so hard. I think perhaps I shall become a hermit. 🙂

  • Beth

    June 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    @Oh Crap: aaw sweetie. I’m sorry, I did not mean to make you list that stuff online. I just meant for yourself.

    But anyway, I wish you all the best. And btw, you seem like a really kind, generous person and I would really like to be your friend.

    My real name is Amy Elizabeth–I go by Beth on this site because Amalah’s name is Amy and I’d hate for that to confuse people. But feel free to email me. Really. [email protected].

  • christina

    June 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    “Lesson learned: I will never, ever offer to watch another friend’s kids again.” Ok…a bit dramatic! Also, you sound pretty young/immature, so I sincerely hope you develop better boundaries and cut the pleasing crap out. Really — not cool. For you. It will lead to endless second guessing and frustration and drama in your life. I mean, you said you love watching her kids then you’re surprised when she pushes you until you say no? Then you don’t stand up for yourself? You need to start saying what you mean and meaning what you say. No excuses. There’s no medal given to the “best friend” martyr in life.

  • Erin

    June 2, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    I’m a pleaser, too, and sometimes you just have to set up rules for yourself to not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Because losing a friend feels bad, but it feels WORSE to have in the back of your mind, “If I don’t do X, then she won’t want to be my friend anymore.” That’s actually the formula for an abusive relationship, even if she DOES do nice things for you occasionally. If your friendship is contingent on anything beside mutual respect, common interests and FUN than you don’t need it.

    I can kind of understand the anger/consternation on her part, although I do believe it is unjustified and should totally go away when you are sincerely sorry for saying yes and then needed to back out. It’s SO NICE to have someone you trust to watch your kids, but the bottom line is…they are HER KIDS. Meaning, when someone’s life has to be rearranged to make sure they are OK, it’s hers. Not yours. You didn’t decide to make and subsequently pop those children out (or adopt them, if the case may be) and therefore you get to live the life of the FREE! (I hope that I’m not stepping on any feelings saying this, I realize a lot of people can’t have children, and it’s not their choice it’s just how it is.) But my POINT is live your life! Put your family first, and you’ll feel better about yourself than if you just try to make her family more important than your own.

    And PS When I say I understand her consternation, I’m not saying she’s RIGHT. I don’t think she’s RIGHT at all. I can just see how frustrating it would be to have the perfect solution right there all the time and then lose it. But again, those aren’t a good friend’s feelings. And I’ll bet, if she’s a good person at all, she’s been feeling a bit guilty about how much she relies on you for a LONG time.

  • Beth

    June 2, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I agree, I think it’s natural when someone breaks a plan to feel momentarily annoyed/irritated. But this is taking it a bit too far. To break weekend plans over it and basically throw a tantrum. Especially since Oh Crap gave her friend so much time to RE-plan.

    I also don’t find Oh Crap’s reaction immature. Emotional, yes. But some people are just more passionate than others. Be that passionately sad, angry, or upbeat. Sure, everyone involved here seems younger, but at the same time these are women old enough to be starting/having families.

  • Sharon

    June 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Please don’t let this stop you from ever offering for anyone again, Oh Crap! (Hee… best pseudonym ever…)  There are other people in the world — who might have great kids that you could hang out with very occasionally, and then get taken out to dinner or bought a book or something!  I have friends that watch my kids occasionally, and I’m VERY aware that even though they love my kids, they are doing me a huge favor — and I try to pay them back!  That kind of give/give relationship, and lots of them, is what makes a community and network of friends wonderful! 

  • Oh Crap

    June 2, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    @christina – perhaps it is a bit dramatic to rule out doing this kind of favour to a friend ever again, but if you understood what it feels like to fear that everything has been jeopardized by this situation, maybe you’d consider it wise. I certainly think it’s wise, and maybe even it’s a little like setting the boundaries you’re saying I should set? So maybe I learned the lesson that you are kind of harshly batting me over the head with in your comment when you call me immature?

    And I meant what I said when I told her yes. The problem was that now I am facing unforeseen circumstances that have complicated that yes – which I told her was still a yes if she had no other options. And I DID stand up for myself by letting her know that something came up and I would appreciate it if she could find someone else. So… I’m not a martyr. If I were a martyr, I would have just ignored my need to be at my husband’s bar ceremony etc, never would have told her about the complicating factors, and would have stewed with anger at how much I had given up.

    I don’t want a medal. All I want is a good friend. And I thought that being a good friend (who said yes when it felt reasonable, and put the breaks on when it felt reasonable, too) would help me make good friends. Right now I’m feeling wrong about that. I reached out to Amalah because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t only seeing this through my own selfish perspective.

    I’m with Beth, it’s normal to react emotionally to something that could become a huge loss. I may not have expressed myself in a way that sounds mature to you, or maybe you think that our messaging instead of using the phone is what sounds immature. I don’t know, but I think it’s a little rude to call a stranger immature. But that’s the beauty of the internet, right? You can say whatever you want without considering the impact.

    @Erin – Thanks! Don’t worry, no feelings were stepped on re/ having kids. We want them but we’re not ready to try for them – busy getting ourselves established. You’re right – it’s my time to enjoy freedom and I do my very best to maximize it! Thanks for your support. It really helps.

    @Erin and Beth – I actually really agree with you re/ her irritation. I think it’s totally justified for her to feel annoyed with me and at the situation. She’s got enough going on and I feel terrible that she now has to worry about this, too. But like you say – to make me feel like the friendship might be over by ignoring me except to cancel our plans, that’s going a little far.

  • Lisa M

    June 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

    @Oh Crap,
    I can get being annoyed, but letting it show is another animal entirely. It sucks, but a month is plenty of time to make other arrangements, or god forbid, cancel original plans and take care of her own kids.
    I’ve had sitters cancel before, had to make daycare arrangements on the fly, had a family member cancel because of illness…[email protected]$t happens. But while I might feel annoyed or disappointed, as a grown-up and a mom, I know the ultimate responsibility lies with me (or my husband). And that other people have the right to lives, too.
    That said, if someone were a repeated canceller, I’d stop asking (which you are NOT, btw).
    So break free and use this upcoming move to distance yourself. You can try to maintain the friendship, but hopefully the distance will change this from “best friends” to “friends”; and you will find someone who tries to return favors not for counting beans, but because you are important to her. You deserve it.

  • cagey (kelli oliver george)

    June 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Sometimes, it is better to just let a friendship fade away. It is painful and you are left with teeny, tiny holes in your heart, but in the end, it can be for the best. If the friendship is causing this much unhappiness and sheer WORK on your part, then I do think you need to reconsider the entire thing.

    I have had to let two friends go in this manner and yes, it still hurts (one breakup is over 5 years now, the other is just over a month) However, being free of these friends has helped my mental health and self-esteem greatly. Sad, yet true.

  • Hannah

    June 3, 2010 at 10:57 am

    The only advice I have is this: I’ve been admitted to the Bar in two states. In one, I went to the mass swearing in ceremony, which it sounds like you’re talking about. It involved thousands of people in a giant auditorium and was completely impersonal. They actually said, for the repeat-after-me part, “I, State Your Name, Do Solemnly Swear…” (you were supposed to fill in your own name. I didn’t. Yes, I have watched Animal House too many times…). I was then officially allowed to practice.

    In the second state, one of the partners took me to be sworn in by a judge that was a friend of his. It was me, my husband, my sponsoring partner, and the judge. That was it. It was really really cool, and meant a lot more. So, that being said, if your husband has the option to be sworn in personally like that, it’s much cooler. And he may even be able to do it earlier, freeing up more time.

    Otherwise, your friend doesn’t sound like much of a friend. So I’m sorry that she’s being mean to you, because you don’t need the grief. Have a drink with your husband instead!

  • colleen

    June 3, 2010 at 11:13 am

    if she is mad, she is not a very good friend. i understand if she was dissapointed that the trip had to be cancelled, but the last person she should be mad at is you. you were only going to do her a “favor”. is she as mad at her husband for cancelling; i doubt it. i would never be mad at someone for that… i would just have to chalk it up to “stuff happens and it didn’t work out”. the last thing i would want is my friend to miss something that is very important to her. she just needs to get over it!

  • Cara

    June 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Girl, as a people pleaser myself, I understand, but as a RECOVERING people pleaser here are my two cents.

    1. Stop Apologizing Immediately. You’ve already apologized more than enough. The more you apologize, the more like crap you’ll feel and the more power in the situation you’ll give her.
    2. Don’t communicate with her when you feel guilty – she will feed on it (even if she’s intentionally taking advantage). Talk/email/text only when you are confident and don’t feel like a heel. You aren’t.

    Hang in there – you can do this. Hopefully your friendship will survive, but if it doesn’t – seriously, let it go. (easier said than done right?)

  • Jess

    June 3, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I do have a giant 100+ lb dog who is quite a handful….and I am incredibly lucky to have a close friend who loves my dog and will stay at our house and dog sit for me and my fiance when we go on vacation (she will be watching him on our honeymoon for 9 days!!). We have never offered to pay her, but we bring her back very nice gifts from everywhere we go (booze, purses, jewelry, etc) and are profuse in our thank yous. She knows we appreciate her….and if she had to back out we would suck it up and pay for someone to care for our kid. The fact that your friend is not acknowledging everything you’ve done for her is INSANE. And when i read your story I just wanted to reach into the computer and SHAKE YOU!!! Snap out of it!!! It’s possible she’s just stressed with a trip and a move coming up and that she’ll come around. But you have done nothing wrong and the ball is in her court. I think you need to tell her you feel taken advantage of and lay it out as objectively to her as you did to us. If that doesn’t work show her this whole post.

  • tasterspoon

    June 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I’ll go one better than Hannah: I was sworn in by my secretary. I mention this not because it has any bearing on your desire to accompany your husband to an important event or on your babysitting availability – but, as Hannah said, if an alternative swearing-in might give you more flexibility with your own family’s travel plans.

  • tasterspoon

    June 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Oh, and Cara’s right – if you keep groveling to her, you’re just reinforcing her delusion that she’s RIGHT to be mad. So quit that.

  • Becky

    June 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Ok, first off, if she’s truly mad enough to throw away your friendship over this, then she’s not that good of a friend to begin with. (Or at least not someone you need to devote this amount of time to) — so while it sucks, it’s better to know it now.
    That said, some of my closest friends are people-pleasers and it’s not uncommon for them to misread situations or read far too much into comments. I think this goes doubly so if you’re just communicating via message rather than face to face or over the phone. Maybe she cancelled her plans or was curt because she’s seething mad at you — or maybe she cancelled because she’s stressed, or busy, or something else is going on, or something that has nothing at all to do with you. And I don’t think this means you can’t ever do a favor for a friend in the future. The fact is, no one can “use” you unless you let them. Instead of telling people how much you love watching their kids and how you’ll be happy to re-arrange your schedule, all it takes is a simple, “I’ll be happy to help you if I’m free. Let me just check my schedule and get right back to you.” There’s nothing wrong with going out of your way for a friend, but if you do, it should be because YOU want to, not because you’re afraid they’ll be mad if you don’t or are expecting them to respond in a certain way. It sounds like you’re really trying to be a good friend, but part of being a friend is setting boundaries so that resentments don’t build up.

  • Missie

    June 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    First, last, and most importantly–the kids are HER kids. HER responsibility. HER deal. Stuff happens in life. If she’s been a mom longer than five minutes, she should know that. I get that she might have been irritated at having to change a plan, but this is not deliberate on your part, so she needs to chill. How DARE she cop an attitude with a person who was willing to rearrange her life and watch her kids for FREE so she could go on a trip? Why CAN’T she call a family member to watch the kids for about two days, then have the nanny, then you? (or something like that?) All moms reading this can attest to plans made and crap happening–fevers, upset tummies, someone conking their head and needing a trip to the ER, etc. What the heck is her prob? I wish that I had known a month in advance sometimes that people were going to back out on me. And you’re not even backing out! You just need to adjust the schedule a bit! Again, What the Heck? She is not a good friend to you, honey. I am sorry to tell you. Put your energies elsewhere, like finding some fantab shoes to wear to your man’s swearing in. 😉

  • AELW

    June 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I will start by saying that you did nothing wrong in backing out. It happens. That said I have been in your friend’s situation and have babysitters back out on me numerous times. Even wth notice it is annoying and a hassle and there have been times where I have had to cancel my plans – including important medical procedures. But I’ve never let on to the babysitter how inconvenienced and frustrated I am because the kids are MY responsibility, not theirs. I figure if I am paying someone then I have a right to complain but if they’re doing me a favor then I don’t. I have never lost a friend over it.
    You sound like you’re twisting yourself inside out trying to accommodate this person and apologize over and over. Stop, please! You sound like a classic overthinker and overanalyzer (I have some experience in this myself) and you’re torturing yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong, you are still a good friend, you’ve apologized, now let it lie. If your friend chooses to drop you for that then shame on her.

  • Lisa M

    June 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I just went back and re-read the post, and one thing popped out that I glazed over originally…”I won’t force you to end a vacation early”. What is she implying, that she could force you if she wanted to? That she would NEVER dump on a friend like that (hello, cancelled plans)? It doesn’t change my first response, but it does change the ending…lose this friend.
    I’m not saying she’s not a nice person (though I have my doubts); but she clearly has never considered your needs as a friend. Family reunion, swearing in ceremony, she considers those unimportant because it interferes with her life. Guess what, it could be a dog-washing ceremony and all that matters is it’s clearly important to you, and a real friend would accept that and move on.
    Sorry for the long run-on sentences. It’s just that I’m a work out of the home mom, and I rarely get a get a chance to spend a lot of time with my friends or meet new friends…so I can’t imagine being this disrespectful to a kind, long-standing, helpful friend like you.

  • Bethany

    June 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Ok from one Pleaser to another….decide what is best for you and your family and own it and don’t worry that it will change other’s opinion of you. If it does then they aren’t true friends. She should respect the needs that you have too. I learned this the hard way. The reality is that sometimes you have to cancel. Sometimes it puts others out. I am SURE other people have done it to you a ton, I know it happened to me a ton. She needs to learn this lesson. Also as a parent, if a friend does me a favor I thank her for it in someway, a small gift or a lunch out or something, ESPECIALLY if it is for an overnight babysitting gig. That is just crazy that she would expect you to plan your life around her. The reality of having kids and having a husband out of town is that you don’t have a life anymore. Any plans that she made before she and her husband decided for him to go away, no matter how amazing an opportunity it is for him, is that her life will have to change. She is NOT entitled to this trip and you ARE entitled to yours. That is the reality and she needs to grow up. I can sympathize with her, I have 3 kids and a husband who if not traveling works 60+ hours a week. Yes mothers need a break but she is acting bitchy.

  • Oh Crap

    June 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks so much for all of your encouragement and support and advice. I’m really appreciating all of it. I’ll keep reading every comment (until they’re closed) and I’ll probably come back from time to time to read all this and remind myself that I’m not a jerk.

    By the way – are there really no dissenting opinions out there? No one thinks I’m a jerk or sympathizes more with her than me? I just want to say that I welcome those who have different opinions, I asked for the advice so that I could see the entire situation more clearly.

    I won’t be able to respond to comments individually anymore, but thanks all, so so much. I really appreciate it.

    PS: She cancelled our afternoon plans because she’s so busy, but just posted to FB about how she just went out for the afternoon and got a tattoo. I think it’s safe to say that I have not misinterpreted her actions, I’m pretty sure that she’s pissed at me. Oh, well. I guess I’m going to have to move on from the friendship.

    Anyone want to move to my city and be my new best friend? At this point I have no one but my husband and my cat and a few acquaintances. WOE IS ME!

    • Caroline

      October 23, 2014 at 8:03 am

      I’m reading this way after the fact and it was with mounting horror… is this friend of yours for real? She won’t ”force” you to do something, wtf?

      Sure, it’s annoying to have babysitters cancel, I do get it, even a passing sense of annoyance *very passing, very fleeting, certainly not ever shared*, you have provided her with free childcare for days and days and weeks and now, when you tell her in PLENTY of time that your circumstances have changed, there’s no ”congratulations to your husband, that is SO awesome, you must be incredibly proud”, oh no, it’s all about her. I am shocked. You apologised very politely, you explained carefully and now she is giving you the silent treatment. Ditch her immediately. IMMEDIATELY. This is a vampire, not a friend. Be certain that this will be a pattern forever if you let it continue. You are there to service her needs. She will occasionally throw a crumb or two as and when it suits. You have had a lucky escape!

  • Liz

    June 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    It sounds like boundaries are a really big issue. I really recommend a book called “Changes That Heal” by Dr. Henry Cloud. It is reallllllllllly good and talks about a lot of the issues going on in this situation.

  • charlotte

    June 3, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    oh my goodness, some people!

    You poor girl, please stop stressing over this! I’m a trainee psychologist, and waaay over here in England…but issues is issues, and your “friend” has issues.

    I’m gonna be super unprofessional and come right out and said it, she’s not a nice person. She SO knows you feel bad, and she’s taking advantage, like it sounds she has been doing for a while. As hurtful as I know this is (I’ve been let down more times than I can count) this relationship is one sided. She gets all the benefits, you get all the stress, hurt, worry, anxiety!!!!!! Gahhh I’m getting mad for you. What she SHOULD have said is “oh my goodness don’t be silly, you have nothing to worry about sweetie! we’ll figure something out. congrats on your hubbie! when am i seeing you next?” etc etc.

    Stay strong, you’ll find someone worthy of your obviously good and generous heart!

  • Beeeee

    June 4, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so I could be repeating something, but if you all aren’t friends because you can’t babysit her kids, then you never were friends, you were her free babysitter.

    I was a little outraged that she didn’t insist that you stay with your family after the death of your grandfather, but perhaps you insisted it was okay?

    Regardless, it’s okay to say no (and I used to be referred to as ‘the doormat’ by my sisters). It is totally okay to say no, and if anyone should know that, it’s a parent. So she needs to let you off the hook, and you need to let yourself off the hood.

    Also – I totally agree with the statement that you should stop apologizing. You apologized once, it’s over. She has time to move stuff around and find a nanny. End of story. Focus on making some new friends who aren’t going to get pissy when you say no.

  • Diane

    June 4, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Wow! I am going to be even more brutal than some. I would like to smack this so-called friend for you!
    You have done nothing wrong whatsoever. Asking anyone but paid help or immediate family to take care of your kids for 5 DAYS and 5 NIGHTS is being incredibly presumptuous and is taking advantage of your pleasing nature. She is the parent, and they are HER responsibility. Its wonderful that you have helped her out before-very generous on your part- but it is also just fine that you can’t do so this time. The reasons are reasonable (frankly, you don’t need a reason to say no to this huge responsibility), and she is being an ass, plain and simple. If I lived near you, I would love to be your friend, but I am in Canada, so probably not very close! Good luck- you will find friends who are true friends.

  • B

    June 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Stupid question (unrelated, sorry), but where are the categories for the Smackdown? I was looking for an old column (about summer heat and not so skinny thighs and some sort of powder, if that helps) and was stumped when I realized I couldn’t click through the way I used to. The new style does look pretty though…

  • Denise

    June 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Sorry to hear about your situation. While reading the info I felt that you were giving your friend too much information–in essence creating drama. Perhaps consider that she isn’t mad about the plans or the situation but at the way the information was delivered. If you told her with all the drama indicated here, it could have been the drama that was annoying and not your change in availability. Personally, all I want is the bottom line. For example, “not available, plans changed” is a preferable response rather than giving all the reasons why.
    (The time to have the conversation about “all the reasons why” is when she can focus on you in a conversation and ask questions about what is happening in your life –maybe at lunch or etc. If you are trying to talk to her while she’s focused on work or kids her frustration could be that although she wants to focus on you, she cannot at that time.)

  • Oh Crap

    June 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    @Diane – Where in Canada? We may be closer than you think!

    @Denise – I definitely didn’t tell her in the same dramatic tone, but at the end, like the pleaser that I am, I wrote “please don’t hate me!”

    I know, very silly of me. I just wanted to mitigate any anger as best I could.

  • linda

    June 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Oh, Oh Crap. I think you need a hug and a margarita.

    First off, @Denise does have a point. I’m the same way. If you can’t do something, just say as much. If this woman is your friend, she’ll know you’re not jerking her chain and figure everything out for herself. That being said, you shouldn’t feel bad if you feel you owe her an explanation. Just be short and sweet.

    However! (There’s always one of those, am I right?) It seems to me—unless I read your letter incorrectly—that your friend sort of did the same to you. She had vacation, then the husband got a terrific job opportunity, and now there’s no one to watch the kids OH YOU CAN DO IT, RIGHT, OH CRAP?! That? Is not fair to you.

    I had and do have relationships like that, and I’m here to sympathize. You want to do right by your friends so badly, but it’s to the expense of yourself. I am one of those “generous to a fault” kind of people, but I am learning to deal with it by doing the following things. I hope they help you in some small way as well.

    1. Although I am generous, it does not mean I am a people pleaser. I truly love to give and make people happy, but it is not my everything. It is only a part of what makes me, “me.”

    2. If people don’t like what I’m doing, they can tell me so. If they don’t tell me, I consider nothing’s wrong. This isn’t easy (you will feel sad or upset sometimes regardless), but until people are willing to be forward about their feelings, I wash my hands of it. I am not a mind reader, and I have better things to do.

  • Oh Crap

    June 5, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks, Linda. I like your reframing of it as generosity. I think that’s how I should think of myself, but I also need to be more careful.

    She still hasn’t been in touch and I’m just completely stunned. I never, ever would have anticipated this level of upset over the situation. I cannot believe it. It hurts so much that she’s treating our friendship like it’s nothing over this one thing.

  • Linda

    June 8, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Aw, I hope you feel better! She doesn’t deserve a good friend like you, then.

  • Tracy

    June 8, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I’ll jump on the bandwagon and say she is completely out of line to be angry at you. Disappointed, frustrated AT HER SITUATION? Sure. Angry at you? No. She lost that right a long, long time ago. She is not treating you like a friend who can’t do her a favor. She is treating you like an employee who let her down.

  • ER

    June 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Hi, Oh Crap! Hope you are feeling better this week. I wanted to chime in here because I recognize so much of myself in your agony over trying not to let down your friends. It’s hard to be a people pleaser. I am focusing more on trying to make MYSELF happy too, and think you should try to do the same. I am finding that I am such a better friend, coworker, sibling, etc. now that I have put my own interest at the same priority as being a generous person. It’s doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, you can put yourself AND your friends first, just maybe not always at the exact same time.

    Most importantly, I just wanted to say that you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if things go south with your friend. You did what you could. And on the bright side, spending less time agonizing over that friendship might give you more free time to develop better friendships with the acquaintances you mentioned. Just remember, you are a great person and people should feel lucky to be your friend! Believe that about yourself first and others will soon agree.

  • Oh Crap

    June 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    @Tracy – that employee letting her down comparison is exactly how I’m feeling.

    @ER – thanks, I think you’re right that I need to stop agonizing over this and just focus on cultivating new friendships. I guess if she refuses to talk to me it’s not like I’m losing much, after all, she’s moving away soon anyways. I’m just going to focus on having a good time with my family and making new, better friends. I’ve let her know that if she wants to see me again she can get in touch with me. I’m done chasing her, she’s blown me off several times now. I can take a hint!

  • The gold digger

    June 17, 2010 at 11:04 am

    You owe her nothing. In college, I lived in a garage apartment in exchange for occasional babysitting. A few times, the family asked me to sit and I had something else going on. They always insisted I do whatever instead of babysit. Always. Basically, I had a free apartment.

    When I lived in Memphis, I watched my friend’s little girl. It was fun and it was nice to do her the favor, but she was my friend and treated me as such. I was happy to be able to do her this favor. She would water my plants and check on my house when I was out of town. Had me over for Thanksgiving, etc. It was not a one-sided relationship.

    She is being really mean to you. I can’t believe she didn’t insist you stay after your grandfather’s funeral.

  • Kerry

    June 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Grrr, this SO reminds me of all the guilt I have felt in the past when I haven’t been able to babysit for someone. For the past ten years I have been a babysitter for several different families. It is really important to me to be a dependable person- I hate it when people flake out. I hate canceling on people! That being said, once I was sick and had to cancel on a family about 3 hours before I was supposed to come over. I honestly thought I would be ok, but then I puked and decided it would be unprofessional to puke while babysitting. They NEVER called me again, and I felt like total shit (and still do 8 years later). I know we weren’t friends, but it still hurt to be fired because I called in sick one time. Basically, you did nothing wrong. You gave her plenty of notice! I’m just going to say it bluntly: once you are a parent, you need to realize that nothing is set in stone any more. If life happens/ plans change, you are the one who has to cancel YOUR vacation, miss work, etc. And holding a grudge against your babysitter/ friend/ family because you have to change your plans to care for your OWN kids is very immature.

  • Daniela

    June 2, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Reading this way way way after the fact but I have to say -ditch anyone in your life who is this selfish. I’m all about helping people, but this is a situation where you are being taken advantage of. I know it hurts to lose friends but this one isn’t worth it.

  • AJ

    June 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    I’m in the same boat. Had the same best friend since 9 and we’re 25 now. She was in and on/off thing with this guy for 3 yrs and still is. He verbally and emotionally abuses her and hit her once while pregnant. She constantly bitches about him to no end but goes back. She knew he was a shitty dad to his kid he already had, so she knew she would be a single mom. I babysat 2-3 days a week, between 8-16hrs a day to help. Now whenever she needs a sitter and I have plans, I get an attitude. She constantly posts about how awful her son is acting on Facebook and then begs people to take himso she can have a break. My husband and I don’t have kids right now for a reason. I’m just sick of her acting like I’m a shitty person bc I have a life of my own and she’s the one who chose to get pregnant with this guy when she knew he would most likely be a shitty dad.