Help me do the right thing with my best mate. (Baby sitting question)
March 4, 2014 3:55 AM   Subscribe

I said I'd baby sit, then pulled out with four weeks notice. How do I make this up to her?

I live in the big smoke unmarried, unbabied with my partner. My best friend lives in the countryside with husband and 20 month old. We all live about 24 hours flight from our families (best friend moved out here last September).

A few weeks ago my best friend rang me up asking if I could travel 5 hours (each way) to come and baby sit. I thought it was a big ask, but told her I should be able to do it, but email me the dates to confirm and so I could black out my diary.

We're both struggling professional musicians. Blacking out a whole weekend is a HUGE deal for me, but she had a fun music project on and it's hard for her in the countryside to get gigs, so I thought if try to help out.

Of course, I got a request to work that weekend, I'm desperate for work and she didn't email me for weeks.

She eventually emailed me, and I was overloaded and didn't reply for a week before getting back in touch and saying that I couldn't really turn down my work, but offered to cover baby sitting fees.

Now my best mate is very angry! She's having a really hard time being so far away from family, friends and familiarity, and she's been hit by weird weather the countryside has been having. She took our phone conversation as me being an absolute yes, and now that my promise was shabby because I ditched her. She also is very angry because now she'll have to cancel playing her (unpaid) concert.

I emailed back saying that I didn't realise she'd have to cancel playing. I offered to cover baby sitting fees. I also offered to come down one of the two night. She's also angry at the late reply.

I don't really understand. Is it impossible to get a sitter with 4 weeks notice? She seems to think having a sitter too many nights running is too much for the kid?

My partner thinks the ask was too much on her part. I'm considering angering my work and pulling out so I can get down there to cover baby sitting. My partner thinks that's a ridiculous idea.

I love my best friend. How can I mitigate the dickish move I made? I don't want to point out that she failed to email me for weeks. It feels petty and point scoring. I want to fix this problem in a loving way!

So two main questions here: 1) Is she being reasonable refusing to hire a sitter for many nights running? 2) Am I a giant jerk that should never be loved again? How can I make this right?
posted by jujulalia to Human Relations (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could maybe have been more pro-active about saying you couldn't do it once you knew that, but it doesn't sound like you did anything wrong to me - you said you needed the dates to confirm, and you gave her a lot of notice that you couldn't do it after all. I can understand your friend is angry, but I don't think you should take that as a sign that you were a jerk.
posted by crocomancer at 4:08 AM on March 4, 2014 [18 favorites]

1) It's pretty tough to find a good babysitter that you trust. Maybe she doesn't have one yet? In which case it won't be easy for her to find one in four weeks. Asking a friend she knows and trusts is understandable. It's up to her is she doesn't want to leave her child with someone she doesn't know for two night

2) Sounds like you both could have been more communicative. I think your compromise offer of going for one night and her getting a babysitter for the other is reasonable, with the caveats above about finding someone she trusts.

3) What about her husband? Where is he in all this?
posted by FrereKhan at 4:12 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think you've done anything wrong. Of course there are things you could have done better, but c'est la vie. More than that, if you've offered to pay babysitting fees you've gone above and beyond in being conciliatory - not least because you are also struggling.

Your friend thinks that you have been selfish by choosing work over babysitting, thereby forcing her to cancel work. This is based on the false premise that you are the only person in the world that can babysit at four weeks' notice.

I think your friend is being unreasonable, notwithstanding that she is struggling and had invested emotionally in playing on the weekend in question.

Sometimes friendships do falter on issues like this. Sorry. People get so angry about their situation that they find it easier mentally to pin the world's ills on a person and be done with it. I think you're right to apologise, even to apologise beyond what is reasonable but you don't need to keep defending your actions and sacrificing your professional life so that your friend can have hers because your friend cannot find a babysitter at four weeks notice.

I would hope if your friendship was worth something that your friend would eventually see she was being unreasonable and would apologise to you for putting you in a position where she had made you feel you had to sacrifice time and money on her behalf.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:14 AM on March 4, 2014 [20 favorites]

4 weeks is plenty of notice. Actual jobs require half that.

"Am I a giant jerk that should never be loved again?"

Oh hush. They have a 20 month old which is stressful, that's all. It will all be fine.
posted by vapidave at 4:16 AM on March 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

Four weeks is a totally reasonable time to cancel. Your friend is not being a good friend to you here.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:17 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Based on the way this is written, it sounds like you're in the right, but of course that's how it looks from your angle, and you wrote the description! It sounds like there was misunderstanding (miscommunication?) and it’s hard to be sure of its source. I will say I have friends with kids that I love to bits, and I would not contemplate driving 5 hours each way to mind them, barring an emergency (somebody needs surgery or similar). I agree that it might be hard to find a babysitter you can trust in a new town, but if you live five hours drive away you are not going to be a permanent solution to this problem!
posted by Cheese Monster at 4:17 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am certain that there is someone somewhere within less than a 10 hour round trip of her competent to watch a child who can be found in a month's time.

Her request of you was a BIG one. You gave her plenty of notice and have apologized profusely. I think you're ok here. Give her some time to come around.
posted by phunniemee at 4:28 AM on March 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

I think you are both guilty of poor communication. She assumed you were a definite yes but didn't email to confirm dates as asked for a while. You then waited a week to tell her you couldn't do it.

The babysitting thing and travel time is a red herring. You both were a bit rubbish at jointly arranging something and now you are both feeling a bit crap over it. You are right to take the work that was offered and cancel the babysitting, she is right to be pissed off that she has to cancel an event she arranged because her babysitter pulled out. But it's not the end of the world, you can remain friends and learn from this (you: make sure not to sound like you are committing to something you can't 100% commit to yet, her: be prompt with details about the dates, make sure to double check on apparent "definite yeses").
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:37 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think your friend is understandably stressed and frustrated by her situation, i.e. that she lives in the countryside, with a 20 month-old, far from any supporting family or friends and also far from most potential gigs, trying to make a living in a field that's challenging in the best of circumstances. She can't do it all, and the problem here is that she allowed herself to hope, quite unreasonably, that you could make it all better for her. Unfortunately her situation would be just as challenging even if you did babysit on this particular weekend.

You did not make a dickish move. You did not, from what you've described, do anything wrong. I would not bend over backwards trying to mollify your friend or to "fix" anything, because this is her problem to fix. The best you can do is listen and be supportive as she (hopefully) works through her feelings, comes to terms with her long-term situation and decides what to do with it. To do more, as if this was actually your fault, can only muddy the waters between you and defer the choices she ultimately has to make for herself.
posted by jon1270 at 4:40 AM on March 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

Just for clarification, was this a 1 evening babysitting or was this staying with the child multiple days in a row while parents are out of town?
If it was an evening gig, asking you to drive 5 hours each way is too much.
If it was staying with BabyFriend for multiple days, I can see why she wanted a friend and why having a paid stranger would be unappealing. But for better or worse, only having 1 person around who could do this is going to be a challenge for her. Is it possible that she could bring BabyFriend to you and you get a paid sitter for the time you have a gig (if it is just a few hours for the gig)?
posted by k8t at 4:40 AM on March 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

It's rare to place social time over necessary professional time except for life events like weddings and funerals etc. In a sense your freelance career has you at a disadvantage in this interaction. If your boss at a regular structured gig had said a big work event had come up in a month, no one would expect you to say to your boss "no, I have to go babysit then" and risk getting fired or looked down upon. Freelance artists need to treat their gigs as professional necessities, not as choices to be taken or rejected based on friendship issues. I think your friend might be stressed out by having a toddler in an isolating situation, but you totally have to put your gig first (congrats on getting it, by the way) and your four week notice is plenty of time. One of you has to stay home with the baby -- her baby -- to play music that weekend, and there is no reason that her gig is more important than yours.
posted by third rail at 4:41 AM on March 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

Your friend has over-reacted in a big way. She asked for a VERY inconvenient favor and you agreed, if you had no conflict. You had a conflict. Oh well.

She has a lot of options here. Her partner can stay with the baby. She can bring the baby to you. She can find someone to babysit in her neck of the woods.

Even if you had promised and you were offered the job AFTER, it seems that you have an option to back out with 4 weeks notice.

Your babysitting isn't her hope of heaven. She has other options.

Why is it that you can't see that she's asked a lot, and has reacted badly? Trust your instincts on this one. She may be upset for a bit, but I'll bet she'll get over it soon enough. As for you, learn to say no, right off the bat. Don't do things that you don't really want to do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:28 AM on March 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Now my best mate is very angry! She's having a really hard time being so far away from family, friends and familiarity, and she's been hit by weird weather the countryside has been having. She took our phone conversation as me being an absolute yes, and now that my promise was shabby because I ditched her. She also is very angry because now she'll have to cancel playing her (unpaid) concert.

I understand her predicament, but she chose to live so far away, chose to have a child and she chose her profession. It's turned out to be quite hard for her to manage all those things, but that's not on you, that's on her.

What she's asked you to do is travel 5 hours each way and to give up a professional opportunity (possibly harming the chances you'll get another one in the future) so she can take advantage of her own professional opportunity. That's not a small ask, that's a huge ask, and getting angry at a friend for not being able to fulfil it is in my opinion not being a good friend.
posted by rutabega at 5:33 AM on March 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

few weeks ago my best friend rang me up asking if I could travel 5 hours (each way) to come and baby sit. I thought it was a big ask, but told her I should be able to do it, but email me the dates to confirm and so I could black out my diary.

Of course, I got a request to work that weekend, I'm desperate for work and she didn't email me for weeks.

She eventually emailed me, and I was overloaded and didn't reply for a week before getting back in touch and saying that I couldn't really turn down my work, but offered to cover baby sitting fees.

So, from what you're saying: she asked you to babysit, you said yes but give me the necessary information to organise my diary.

She then went several weeks without giving you that information, and in the interim you had accepted a job not knowing that the timing of that job was going to clash with your friend's request to babysit.

You then took a week to get back to her, leaving her with four weeks' cancellation notice.

I don't understand anyone who is telling you you communicated poorly or let your friend down.

Yes, you waited a week to tell her you had a diary clash. You could have told her sooner. That is the one thing I think you could imaginably have done better here.

Despite this, you still left her plenty of notice. And your timescale was proportionate to hers, whereby she waited many weeks before telling you what dates she was actually going to need you.

What were you supposed to do? Black out your diary for an indefinite number of weeks or months and turn down all other offers during that time, because you'd "promised" to be on call as an open-ended priority to your friend until she chose to get back to you at her leisure?

That's totally unreasonable!!!! And it seems to be the ONLY way you could possibly have gotten it right.

And then, every solution you offered was unacceptable to her? And you are now thinking of turning down work so you can be on call to babysit for your friend on a 5-hour round trip? DON'T DO THIS!!!!!

Even workplaces that expect you to be on call, have predefined start and end times for the period of time you'll be on call. They don't just expect you to devote your life to them and only them, forsaking all other commitments in case the boss says jump.

Honestly, if I didn't know better I'd wonder if she was competing with you and was trying to emotionally blackmail you into throwing away your career.
posted by tel3path at 5:46 AM on March 4, 2014 [35 favorites]

10 hours of driving? What the heck?

She's pissed, she's tearing her hair out, I get that. Can you help her find a replacement?

Four weeks notice is more than sufficient. Also, if this is an unpaid concert, surely there is a place that is appropriate for her child or children to be during the concert. If it is not appropriate, than I can't imagine that there isn't a volunteer who would be willing to watch her kids.

My husband is a professional musician. There are kids at lots of gigs. If there is an audience, they're sitting in the audience with friends of the performers. If there is restaurant, they're sitting in the restaurant with drinks. This is the childhood of kids of professional musicians, they get dragged to a lot of gigs. Also - the most organized people asking for free musical assistance will on a regular basis offer free childcare as well (I remember this happening around the holidays when someone was trying to gin up musicians to play in a benefit concert of some sort).
posted by arnicae at 5:46 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Arnicae has a great point. My friend is a successful professional violinist with two young kids. Even when the oldest was a baby she would cart her to gigs; in the invitation phase she would tend to get a teenage daughter of one of the organizers or organizers' friends to babysit for the couple of hours of the actual concert so she didn't have to leave her baby at home even when traveling.

But my friend is unusually plucky. I actually think your friend might be dealing with some larger issues adjusting to being an ambitious person while having a kid in an isolated framework. She might be one of the many, many mothers who wants a bigger life but struggles with how to be comfortable leaving her baby, with switching "hats" from mother to musician, and to just being overwhelmed. the whole scenario strikes a chord with me as I, and many of my friends, had similar struggles when our children were little.

I think you need to see this unreasonable behavior of your friend as less as about your friendship (even though she's framing it that way) and more about her being overwhelmed and feeling like she has no comfortable choices about how to move ahead. this is bigger than you, though as her best friend, you might be the one she feels safe railing against. I'd be kind while knowing you are of course making the rational choice not to go, "I'm so sorry I have a job that weekend, I know things have been hard."
posted by third rail at 6:06 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is a big favour to ask of you, and she should definitely have emailed you sooner to confirm the dates as you asked her to do.

That said... presumably she did give you the dates in the initial phone conversation? In which case, several weeks passed between you learning you wouldn't be able to babysit that weekend after all, and you telling her that? If that's the case and she's aware of it, I can see why she'd be annoyed.

Since you want to stay friends with her I would recommend against telling her that you didn't owe her a babysitting weekend or that four weeks is plenty of notice. You don't and it is, but that's not going to help, especially if the thing she's annoyed with you about (or has channeled all her annoyance into) is that you took weeks to tell her your 'provisionally yes' had turned into a 'definitely no'. At the same time, though, offering to cover her babysitting fees and to go down there one day out of two is way more than enough amend-making already - definitely don't suggest cancelling your own work to go down there just because she's cross with you.

Give her a while to calm down, and then the next time you have a conversation with her tell her that look, you're really sorry about the miscommunication, but: you didn't realise that was the same weekend before she emailed you the dates (or whatever happened), you did say 'provisionally yes' rather than 'definitely yes', and you can't afford to turn down professional engagements. Send her a bunch of flowers or something to be gracious, and then leave it at that.
posted by Catseye at 6:07 AM on March 4, 2014

I suspect your friend is feeling extremely guilty about the thought of being away from her child for two nights. She told herself it'd be okay because you'd be there, and now you've pulled out, she's torn between travelling to do the gig ("bad mother") or staying home with her child ("good mother"). As non-parents, it can be hard for us to understand the pressure some mothers put on themselves to be perfect, or the feelings they have that society's judging them for not putting their little one first every single minute of the day.

Still, it's not fair of her to lay that on you. Asking you to travel five hours each way to babysit her child was not a reasonable request, especially since she knows you also get gigs on the weekend.

You asked how to fix this with love. I would write your friend a heartfelt apology saying that you feel you let her down because you never should've said yes in the first place. It was a big ask, you wanted to help her out, but you didn't think it through properly and realise what a huge inconvenience it would be to you. (You did, but fudge a little here.) Promise to try harder to communicate clearly in future. Close with how much her friendship means to you.

If she doesn't accept your apology, well, you've done all you can.

Good luck, and I hope it works out for you.
posted by Georgina at 6:08 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

(When you say "professional musician" I think rock band, not chamber music, so that may have an impact on my answer.)

Is it impossible to get a sitter with 4 weeks notice? - yes, sometimes it is. If parents are out late, it can be very difficult to find a babysitter. Teenagers can't always be out till the middle of the night. If she lives far away from her support system, I can totally understand why she would need to import a babysitter.

Also, I clearly expect more from my friends than some of these answers would indicate. If I ask my friend for a big favor, it is because I see no other option. And if they say yes, I count on them. Not to say that she should/will hate you forever, but the suggestion that because she asked too much she should just get over it is not okay. You have every right to change your mind, but she also has the right to be upset when you do.

Finally, sometimes adjusting to parenthood sucks. You feel left out of your old life. I suspect she was looking forward to this in a way you may not understand, which explains her extreme reaction.

All that said, I think a sincere apology and then dropping it is the way to go. And a 20-month-old will not be adversely affected by having a babysitter a few nights in a row. Are there any websites like sittercity in your area? Sometimes those have a fee to join - perhaps you can sign her up for a year as a friendly gesture.
posted by lyssabee at 6:25 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't think you were in the wrong. I think you did the best you could, and that this is a small miscommunication that's looming large for her because she's without a local support network.

If you want to patch things up with her, call her and talk it out. Email is impersonal, easily misinterpreted, and mostly used for low priority communications. Calls are for higher priority communications. They convey more emotion more quickly, and you have to give the other person your complete attention. She's isolated and struggling. Make some time for her.

If you made any mistake in communicating it was in not telling her about your upcoming gig sooner. Because she's your best friend, you could have called her as soon as you knew that that particular weekend had been booked, even before knowing what her schedule was. Babysitting her child for the weekend was a big (huge!) ask; telling her which weekends are booked already is a small ask for someone you're close to.

I sympathize with you, but also with her. It sounds like you care about her a lot. Best of luck to you both; I hope your friendship does better from here.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2014

She is out of line though you made it worse by taking a week to get back to her. It was an incredibly big favour that she asked in the first place (when I worked exclusively in music, I skipped many friends weddings because taking a weekend off was roughly the same as most people taking a week off from a conventional job.

I'll agree with rutabega and go one step further to say that living in the countryside and having a small child is incompatible with wanting to be a professional performing musician unless one has a partner who will provide all the child care (and even then it's highly likely to strain that relationship). She and her husband should talk about what's important to them going forward. If asking you to travel a ridiculous distance to provide child care is their best plan for arranging coverage for an event, they're going to be in a lot of trouble in the future.
posted by Candleman at 7:48 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am someone who has had to ask for these kinds of big favors before (though I did the five hours of driving, and so should your friend). So a little perspective from that angle:

She is lonely and isolated and wants, at least sometimes, not to be a Mom with a capital M. She has probably been thinking of this weekend as a brief break of freedom, a chance to get back to who she sees herself to be, a musician, a person with more to her than motherhood. It's a whole weekend - a time when she can play all night and drink until the wee hours if she wanted to. It is a vacation, even if she's "working" it. It's also a chance to convince herself that she's still valued.

It probably took a lot of intestinal fortitude for her to be able to ask you in the first place. When you said "Most likely yes", that, to her, was you saying yes, and she was so happy about it that she likely forgot about the whole "email me the dates so I can confirm" portion. She has probably been counting on that weekend for the last several weeks, thinking about it. She is probably using the notion of that weekend to get through her days. "Sure, things are hard, but I'm going to have one perfect weekend." In her head, the weekend is probably inflated above and beyond what it actually is.

Then you email to cancel, and it reminds her that she was supposed to email you. That if she had emailed you, you might have already said a hard yes and might have turned the gig down. That she is the one who screwed up her perfect weekend. She may feel, "Like I screw everything else up." I'm sure she's already aware of her inconvenient location and situation.

It's easier to be mad at you, to claim that if you had been a better friend, you would have known everything and done everything perfectly. She may not be able to bear being mad at herself right now.

But you did almost everything right. The only thing you didn't do well was emailing her right away - but I understand even that, because emailing to let someone down always sucks, and you may have wanted to make sure you had it right.
posted by corb at 8:19 AM on March 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

I really don't think you did anything wrong here. She asked a huge favor of you, you gave her a tentative yes, but she took weeks to tell you the actual dates she needed you to babysit. I think it's completely unreasonable for someone to expect you to commit to something so large without knowing the actual dates or details--especially when she didn't give them to you for weeks.

I don't think you should feel guilty if she has to cancel playing--it's her responsibility to find childcare for her kid, not yours, and especially not when you gave her a month's notice and never really committed to helping her out in the first place because she didn't give you any details.

You asked how to fix this with love, and it sounds like your friend is really overwhelmed, stressed and lonely. It sounds like she needs a support system in her new town. I'm not sure what you could do to help her establish one.
posted by inertia at 8:21 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are there other solutions? Can her partner and baby come to you, where there are more babysitting options? Can you meet halfway to pick up the baby and hire a babysitter where you are or ask your partner to bring the baby to your gig? I understand these are things that would take a lot of effort and money from you, but it seems like you are willing to give both.

I don't think you did anything terribly wrong, and I think corb's reading is correct. (I'm not sure if you knew what weekend it was before she emailed you.)
posted by jeather at 8:31 AM on March 4, 2014

This seems like one of those fights that's about something other than what it appears to be.

What is she feeling? Why is this so important to her? You're probably right; she probably could find another babysitter in 4 weeks. So why is she so upset? To throw out a few examples: she's sad/guilty about leaving the baby; she wants to know she really has your support and hasn't felt supported; ... it could be anything. You guys need to get past the content of this fight to the part where she says "I'm afraid I ruined my life and my career by having a kid, and I don't know what to do" or "I've felt so alone for these 20 months" or something.

On your end, you feel she's asking too much of you. You seem to have suspected there was this conflict when you took the gig but didn't reach out, instead holding to the "I told HER to email ME" thing. You talk a bunch about the need for money. So what's really going in with you? Over all those weeks why didn't you email her to say "hey, I'm getting job requests that I need to reply to, so remember to send me the dates?" It sounds like you never wanted to do it and used her slow emailing as a way to not do it and blame it on her?
posted by salvia at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

If I was relying on you to A) watch my child and B) cover me so I could participate in an infrequent event and you canceled on me with a month to go, I'd be furious.

You knew you were supposed to help your friend out on a certain weekend, and you took a gig anyway.
Who emailed who, when, and how long it took for a reply is all a distraction.
She called you, you agreed, she took you at your word, and then you changed your mind.
That's not cool.

Clearly your friend is uncomfortable with the babysitting available in the town she lives in, otherwise she wouldn't have called you.
Maybe the only babysitting she knows is a 14 year old who can't do overnights, maybe the adult babysitter she knows of is kind of sketchy.
Doesn't matter, she called you, and you dropped the ball.

Personally, I think your partner is right, it was a big thing to ask, but she did ask, and the time to beg off was during that phone call.

Does anyone really want to mess up a friendship over a technicality?
Do the right thing, rescue your friend from her mess, and next time, get things clear before it comes to this.
posted by madajb at 9:16 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please don't anger your work by pulling out to rescue your friend. That might prevent you from getting more work in the future. Don't torpedo your career over this!

Four weeks ought to be adequate notice for any job. It's not as if you pulled out with only four days to go.

I think candleman has a point: your friend may have chosen a lifestyle (country living, possibly a partner who doesn't help with childcare) that is incompatible with her life goals (being both a mom and a musician). If this is so, it's better that she realize this sooner rather than later, and sit down with her partner to make plans as to how she might be able to realize her goals of being a musician as well as a mom. She can't expect her friends - or, worse, ONE of her friends - to drive five hours to be her safety net. What is more important to her - the rural lifestyle or her career? You can't be expected to enable her to "have it all."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:41 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

You've done nothing wrong. Why can't her husband watch her child, and stay home, and she can go play her gig? Don't cancel your job. As a small business you can't afford to lose clients like that. Most small businesses fail, you need to seize every possible opportunity to break escape velocity and succeed. Sometimes that requires letting friends down just a little. But if you can't handle that, you should go work for someone that gives you vacation days. Life ain't fair or easy.
posted by jjmoney at 10:14 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Four weeks' notice is plenty of time. She is taking her frustration out on you inappropriately. At the same time, the exact moment you realized you wouldn't be available you should have reached out and cancelled, or barring that the exact moment you got her email. She still would have been mad, mind you, but at least then you'd know you did everything exactly the right way, and you wouldn't be feeling these doubts.

Don't cancel your job. You've already apologized for your (tiny) part in this -- the delay in responding -- and went above and beyond in offering to pay babysitting fees. Now it's on her to get over her frustration, and she will sooner or later. If she keeps bothering you about it, gently point out -- once -- that given her location five hours away from you and her need to have a babysitter lined up more than a month in advance, she really needs to start making friends with her neighbors or locating a professional babysitting service, because ten hours of driving to babysit is really unreasonable and the only reason you considered it in the first place this one time was because you care about her so much.

Ultimately, what kind of best friend is she, if she cares more about having to find a new babysitter (with a month's notice, honestly, my babysitters look at me funny if I book two weeks in advance) than about you landing a gig that you really need? You're a friend, not a service. She should behave accordingly.
posted by davejay at 11:25 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think your friend is completely unreasonable, and this is coming from a mother in a similar situation, across the country from family, had to ask my friend for babysitting and friend pulled out last minute because they got a paying job. And you know what my response was? "That's great, I hope the gig turns into something permanent, go kick ass at it, I will find another sitter."

I would never a) DREAM of asking someone to travel ten hours for the privilege of looking after my kid for free b) ask a friend to look after my kid around the clock for a whole weekend c) expect them to jeopardise their own job to look after my responsibilities while I took a job of my own.

Furthermore, everyone whose saying you had an extra week there where you could have told her, quite frankly, if she can't find a babysitter with four weeks notice, she can't find a babysitter with five weeks either. That extra week would have made no difference. She's just looking to be mad. If she has four weeks now, that's plenty of time to introduce the baby to someone new, acclimatise her and get comfortable with the idea. If you live that far away, I suspect you're not in contact enough with the baby that they know you that well either (although it may be because mum trusts you that you were asked.)

Living that far away with your own life, your cannot possibly be your friend's only solution and she needs to get used to the idea of getting closer help in. The way she's treated you is pretty bad. I understand she's disappointed but her reaction is pretty deplorable. I would in no way offer to cover babysitting or assume anymore responsibility for this situation. Her only words to you should have been, "I understand, thanks for trying, sorry for not giving you the dates sooner, my bad." I would leave this one, I think you actually deserve the apology.
posted by Jubey at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yikes. I've given shorter notice when quitting a full-time paid job, without getting any grief from my employer.

Your friend strikes me as super unreasonable.
posted by merejane at 1:23 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

If she asks you to babysit again, tell her that your work schedule is too unpredictable to arrange for such things, so you simply can't babysit for her. At all.

You sound like you've really gone above and beyond in offering to drive for 10 hours to babysit, and in offering to pay for a sitter. Your friend is unreasonable to ask for someone to drive such a long way to babysit when it's not an emergency.
posted by yohko at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm going to agree with those who say that there's something more than just babysitting going on here. I can't imagine asking my friends to travel five hours to watch my kids, but if I did, I'd be gracious if they said no. It's an ask that is honestly into family territory, unless "you're like a sister to me" describes your relationship.

I would call her up, tell her you're sorry things didn't work out, and schedule another visit and see how she's going. Sounds like something is going on here.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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