Stuck babysitting and I want out.
April 16, 2012 4:40 PM   Subscribe

How do I tell a friend I can't babysit for her anymore?

I'm a stay a home mom with a 3yr old (girl) and a 5yr old (boy), who keep me on my feet all day with activities. A while back I got the insane "MUST HAVE A BABY" urge, but knew it wouldn't be a good decision for our family. Around the same time a friend of mine found out she was pregnant. In my lust to hold a baby, I offered to babysit for her when she went back to work. Fast forward to now, and I'm babysitting the most adorable 4 month old in the world. I've been babysitting him for the last month-month 1/2, and I completely forgot how much work they are (we are definitely not having any more children)! I am starting to exhaust and feel very frustrated with the current situation, realizing I need to stop babysitting him.

It's starting to bother my two that we can't really go out and do the things we would be doing the 3 days the babe is here. I also work very part-time, but am able to bring my children with me to work. On occasion if his dad can't take him by the time I need to be at work, I have to take the 4 month old with me. My job is a lot of in and out of the car for a few hours and it can be tiring with my little ones, but add the baby...ugh! My son attends preschool 3 days a week for half days, which let my daughter and I have mornings together. We would spend a lovely morning eating breakfast, cuddling on the couch, reading books, playing with toys, teaching her the preschool fundamentals and just having a good time. Ohh how I miss those days! *weep* My last complaint, is the child never sleeps. He won't nap and when he does he wakes in 15 minutes. He wants to be held constantly, which is the only way he will actually sleep longer than 15 minutes. But I can't hold/wear/carry around a baby for 2 hrs while he naps. He just needs so much attention (I know this is a common 4 month old problem)!

Also, this situation is seriously exhausting me. Between all my household duties, childcare, work, and just every day mommy/wife duties...I am TIRED to the max. This just can't go on any longer. I was tired before he started coming over, but this is a whole new level I'm not wanting to be in any more. I did tell her before this began that I can babysit until Fall (both kids will be in school!!).

Here's the problem. I'm not good at things like this. I can see myself babysitting him till fall, secretly complaining to my husband, and dreading it for the next 5 months. Just to avoid having this conversation. I mean, I did volunteer to babysit of my own free will. I should have known what I was getting into....It just feels so wrong to tell her I can't do it any more.


-Before I started babysitting, I did tell her I could only do it till Fall.

-She may or may not have her preschool class funded this summer. So there is a possibility that he won't be coming over after May.

- Would not just spring this on her without giving her adequate time to find other arrangements.

- I am a total people pleaser and will continue to babysit him to avoid conversation. If I can get my courage up, I have been known to show bravery and speak my mind ( I can probably count those times on one hand, but it happened!).

Should I suck it up and babysit him till at least the fall or should I, for my sanity and energy say I can't babysit? How do I tell her? Where can I buy a time machine to take me back to before I opened my big stupid mouth?
posted by Sweetmag to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Your offer wasn't an ironclad guarantee of babysitting. You need to explain to your friend that you're really wiped out caring for him the three days a week you do it and that it really takes away time from being with your children. Give her a reasonable time to find a replacement (a few weeks perhaps) and then you're out.

Apologize for underestimating the amount of stress three kids would put you through on top of your part time job, but make it plain that you really just can't handle it anymore. A reasonable person would thank you for the time you were able to do it and find other arrangements.
posted by inturnaround at 4:46 PM on April 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

It is completely reasonable to tell your friend "I'm sorry, I really underestimated the craziness of young babies. Watching your precious angel three days a week is starting to stress me out and ruin my kids' routines. I simply can't do it anymore."

That aside, it would also be a nice gesture to watch the little bundle of craziness until she found another sitter, or even one day a week instead of three.

As I'm sure you know, your family and your kids come first. As a mom, she is bound to understand and respect that.
posted by shesaysgo at 4:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just be straightforward: "I need to let you know that I won't be able to babysit for you anymore; I'll be able to do it until May 31, in order to give you time to make other arrangements." Or whatever date is reasonably comfortable for you and reasonably not-last-minute for her.
posted by Flunkie at 4:51 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Hey Friend. You know I totally love Baby, and I've really enjoyed getting to spend time with him. But I'm realizing that caring for your little one on top of my own is seriously exhausting me. I originally thought I could help you out until fall, but I realize now that won't be possible. I can't go on babysitting for you past the end of this month. I need you to find another babysitting resource. I hope you understand."
posted by ottereroticist at 4:51 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Remember, she knows how much work he is, too! Any reasonable person is not going to hold it against you. You have to do what is best for your own family. Just be straightforward.
posted by Ostara at 4:59 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not good for anyone if you're feeling frustrated and exhausted while taking care of kids. Tell her you overestimated your abilities and that you'll watch him for the next few weeks while she finds a replacement.

Also, are you doing this for free? (You mention "a job" not "another job"--and taking care of an infant is a job!) If so, you've already done her an enormous favor.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:19 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

What needs more cowbell said. Cover until she finds another option, make it clear you can't handle the summer (the heat is a great excuse).
posted by maryr at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2012

Suffering quietly will have an impact on your relationship. You have a choice: lost time, exhaustion, and resentment of your friend, OR admitting you screwed up. Hey, people make mistakes all the time. :)
posted by salvia at 5:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I too have difficulty telling someone that I'm no longer comfortable doing what I promised to do.

The key is to be neutral, not too apologetic and calm. Let her know that you underestimated how much work newborns are and your relationship with your kids is taking a back seat. Also let her know that you can keep watching him for a __ number of weeks so that she can find an alternative. Let her know, though, that the time is finite.

On preview, what ottereroticist said.
posted by Leezie at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2012

Is she paying you?

Either way, this depends on what the childcare sitch is like in your city.

When I was a 1st time mom, I agonized over childcare. If I had gotten okay with friend caring for him and then it fell through, I'd be upset.

Here's what I would say: 'Lorraine, I love Theodore, but I'm worried that a house with 2 preschoolers is not a good environment for an infant that needs more attention than I can give with Roberto and Calliope hanging on me all day long.
I think Theodore would be better off at a daycare center with multiple workers or with a nanny and another infant.
I know that Preschool may end in May, but either way, I think that it'd be best for you to find other arrangements for Theodore after May 1st.'
posted by k8t at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2012

One way to screw your courage to the sticking point to say the things folks above recommended is to remind yourself of this:

My son attends preschool 3 days a week for half days, which let my daughter and I have mornings together. We would spend a lovely morning eating breakfast, cuddling on the couch, reading books, playing with toys, teaching her the preschool fundamentals and just having a good time. Ohh how I miss those days! *weep*

And combine it with this:

[...] I can babysit until Fall (both kids will be in school!!).

Clock is ticking!
posted by likeso at 5:42 PM on April 16, 2012

The baby will be better off if he's with someone who's not silently resenting his presence, although I'm sure you're taking good care of him. When is she going to know about her preschool class? It would kind of suck if it didn't get funded and she had to find alternate childcare for one month before staying home with him for the summer.

I would tell her, ASAP so that she's not scrambling to find something, that you're finding that as much as you love the little fella, it's interfering with your kids' schedules in a way you hadn't anticipated and that you won't be able to do it after X date. Personally, I wouldn't say that it's exhausting you since it has the potential to be seen as a criticism of her child. Plus, if this is her only baby, she has NO conception of what it's like to be home with 3 of varying ages.

Listen, childcare arrangements fall through all the time. My son's daycare, which I love, just announced that it's closing. I'm not thrilled, but childcare is a high turnover field and most people will have to deal with losing their child care provider at some point. You're giving her plenty of notice. It's not like she moved to be near you or sponsored your visa. If you want to be extra nice, you could offer to be available to babysit on an occasional emergency basis.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 5:52 PM on April 16, 2012

I would simply say caring for the baby isn't working on top of caring for your own children after all and that she should start looking for other arrangements for the baby's care.
posted by smirkette at 5:54 PM on April 16, 2012

Remind yourself that this arrangement is not as good for the baby either - being around a stressed caregiver who doesn't want to take care of you means the baby wil be getting less playful unstressed interaction than he would with a caregiver in a more suitable situation. Not that you would ever hurt the baby! But you probably aren't enjoying him like earlier, and so when you tell your friend that you have to change this arrangement, you are acting in the best interests of the baby too.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:39 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Would you feel better telling her that you were wrong about being able to do this three days a week, and you need scale it back to just once a week? Then you're still doing what you said you'd do (help with babysitting until this fall) but you'll get two days back.
posted by aimedwander at 8:06 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of the comments have suggested explaining to the baby's mother that you are overwhelmed and that it's harming your relationship with your kids. All true, but it's also true, as viggorlijah said, that this is not good for the baby.

I suggest that you explain that it's just too much and as a result, you cannot give either your children OR her baby the care and attention they deserve, and therefore it's a bad situtation for everyone: you, your children, the baby, and therefore the baby's mother.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:10 AM on April 17, 2012

Thanks every one for the advice and help! I think I mostly needed to hear that it was ok to tell her I can't do it any more. The guilt of taking back my offer was eating me alive. I plan on finishing this week and telling her Monday that I won't be able to babysit any longer (with plenty an plenty of time to find other arrangements).

Just to clarify, I would never act stressed around the baby. I have been a SAHM mom for almost 6 years now and I'm pretty good at hiding the stress from the children! I dote on him and do whatever it is he is needing or wanting from me. I treat him exactly as if he was mine and never show any frustration towards him ever. That's part of why I'm exhausted when he leaves, a 4 month old, 3yr old, and 5 yr old can be quite tiring!

I think what makes me feel bad, is I know he won't receive the care he gets here with me at a daycare. I've done daycare work as a job when I was younger, and he definitely won't receive as much attention or playtime that he gets here with me. The thought of sending any child to daycare makes me sad and that's the reason I became a SAHM to begin with.

So thanks again all!
posted by Sweetmag at 7:12 PM on April 17, 2012

« Older Who else writes like Proust and Faulkner?   |   I found a smooshed iPod touch that works! Kinda. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.