What are my options?
February 14, 2018 12:06 AM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, I’m at a loss as to what to do and looking for advice again. I have written this previous question.

So now, the situation is my brother’s partner has just started a full-time job. They asked me (via my mother, not directly) if I would begin minding my nephew a couple of days a week (8am - 6pm) for £50 per day. I have worked in a professional field for 18 years where I would be paid this amount for 2 hours work. I am a casual worker and due to government cutbacks, my work has been dramatically reduced. I’ve held out a long time to continue in this field, but am about to start on a new path any day now (full-time placement). My 80-year-old mother explained this to them but still they were insisting that I do it. They were putting a lot of pressure on my mother to persuade me. Reluctantly, my mother said she would help, but due to her age, there were limitations as to what she could do. A bit more background: The child could go to full-time nursery but they don’t want him to do that. They want him to be at home some days. They have arranged for my mother to do two days (8am-6pm). However, due to my nephew being ill and not being able to attend nursery on one of his nursery days, my mother has had to do those days too. I am so angry with them. If I tackle them about this, and say it is too much for her, they will just turn round and say, well you do it then. My sister will not say anything because as described in the previous question, we do an awful lot of childminding for her, so would be hypocritical of her? I was considering reporting the issue to social services or maybe the police. I was thinking of contacting one of my mother’s friends to step in and point it out to them. What are my options or should I just stay out of it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm just answering the question about reporting it to the police or social services. Absolutely understand your anger at being exploited, but unless there's something you haven't mentioned I'm not seeing any safeguarding issues for the child in this question or your earlier one, so I don't think agencies would take any action. Unless you think the child is at risk in your mother's care because of her age? I see from your other question that your brother's partner doesn't appear to want to spend time with her child, but, again, unless there's more to it I'm not getting a sense that she or your brother are emotionally abusive to him.
posted by paduasoy at 1:50 AM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don’t think the advice you get here is going to change much from your previous question. You tell your brother it won’t be possible and to stop forcing your elderly mother to watch a toddler. You must be in your 30s or 40s yourself, there is no excuse for him to be going through your mom on this in the first place. Since your mom can’t seem to say no, you should be standing up for her and telling him to find another solution.

You don’t say why they want the kid at home some days. If it’s cost, then I can understand trying to fill in the gaps with family help. But I don’t see the benefit in arbitrarily keeping the kid at home two days to be watched by relatives. The kid would probably have more fun at daycare those days anyway.
posted by cabingirl at 1:52 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

Your question is titled "What are my options?" The answer seems to be pretty simple - say no.

That at least solves them asking you to give up on your own life chances in order to provide grossly underpaid childcare so they can do what they want (if they want their child to be at home some days, they can pay a child minder or reduce their own working hours, not expect you to reduce yours). Also solves you being told that if your mum won't take on the childcare, you'll have to do it. Say no.

The only thing it doesn't solve directly is them imposing on your mum, because she's an adult herself and if she keeps saying yes even when she doesn't want to, there might be little you can do about that. It kind of depends on whether your mum will go through with it when you tell them she will not do what they ask. But if you set a good example by saying no and sticking with it, maybe that'll embolden her to stand up for herself.

If (as seems to be the case) you find it impossible to say no to these people, find a therapist, who can be on 'team you' and give you the strength to recognise you have the right to say no to unreasonable requests.
posted by penguin pie at 3:47 AM on February 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I understand your anger, this is a completely crappy situation and a bad family dynamic all around, and it absolutely sucks for you and your mom and for that child.

BUT ... please don't involve social services in this. They are already overburdened with children who are being legitimately abused. Like, beaten. Burned with cigarettes. Left unfed and unwashed. Molested. The people working in that field are angels hanging on by threads in some of the most brutal/underpaid jobs that exist, and they don't have the bandwidth to referee your family dispute.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:48 AM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

It's unfortunate but this has to be a "put on your own oxygen mask" situation - you have a professional opportunity that you can't pass up; it would be a blow to your financial future to mind their kid. It would be great if your mother would stand up for herself on this and refuse, but you can't make her.

Maybe try having another really direct conversation with her where you say, "Mom, I see that you are struggling to take care of another child. I think you're spending too much time on this and should let [horrible adult children] know that they need to make other arrangements. It makes me sad to see you exhaust yourself like this and to see them give you a guilt trip about it. I will help you have that conversation with [horrible adult children] if you would like me to."

The only person you control here is you. Concentrate on sitting tight and setting your own boundaries - if you're starting to work full time, the whole arrangement may collapse of its own weight anyway because you won't be able to prop it up with your labor.

I have learned that as much as I would like to step in and set everything to rights when people are making bad/wrong decisions, that only works if they are young children or the issue is a comparatively small one. For big things, you can support people in setting their own boundaries and fixing their own problems but they end up needing to do the core part themselves. Your mother is the one who is going to have to really say no on this, even though that is dismaying - it's no joke that your relatives are asking an 80-year-old woman to look after two young, active children. That would be tiring for a strong young woman.
posted by Frowner at 3:48 AM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't understand, you're about to start a new job, yes? Clearly you won't be home to babysit, where is the ambiguity in this? If brother's partner wants someone to give up full time paid work to mind her child, then it should be her. You and everyone in this scenario seem to think that if these people argue hard enough, someone will capitulate and give them what they want. If someone told me I had to give up my job to look after their kid, I would literally laugh in their face and shut the door on them. You and your mother need to grow a backbone and don't even let these conversations start. No is a complete sentence. This situation is ridiculous.
posted by Jubey at 6:51 AM on February 14, 2018 [23 favorites]

I should also mention, it's pretty easy to remedy, when the mother comes to drop the child off so she can start her new job, (according to you she is insisting someone will have to look after him) you won't be there, because surprise, surprise, you're at work yourself. Now your mother just has to arrange to be out that day at well. This parent will figure out pretty quickly, her child, her responsibility. Don't argue, don't explain, just don't be there.
posted by Jubey at 7:09 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

My sister will not say anything because as described in the previous question, we do an awful lot of childminding for her, so would be hypocritical of her?

Profoundly, yes. Your mother is allowing advantage to be taken of her by two children, possibly three. however, if she is of sound mind in spite of her age, she is doing it voluntarily.

Just say no. but say no directly to your brother, whose child it is, and stop treating it like the partner invented both the child and the need to care for it all alone. there is obviously nothing to call social services about, they don't care about some random guy not wanting to quit his job to look after his child, leaving his partner to beg his mother and siblings to do it for him. why would they?
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:16 AM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

Calling social services or the police is ridiculous.

I don't understand why all your communication is via your mother.

You should talk to all the parents of young children - sister, her partner, brother, his partner, maybe take them out for tea/coffee - and say "Hey everyone, mum's getting on in age and I am concerned for her health and for the safety of your children. I think it would be a good idea if everyone looked for other care arrangements by the end of March."

They don't have to listen to you, and at that point it's between your mum and them. But the idea that you would call social services before (it sounds like) you have a discussion yourself is very passive and weird. It seems like all of you are using mum instead of interacting like grownups, and you are continuing this trend by expecting social services or the police to referee.

Also, if I remember right, part of why you're involved is that you're living with your mother. If you're there to support her, that's great, but if you're there because you've been underemployed, as soon as you can change that you should. Then you're out of the whole mess and it's really between those adults.

As for yourself, you can just keep saying no. I can see why they asked given that you've been under/unemployed but it sounds like that's coming to an end.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:40 AM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Say "No" and don't open the door if she tries to bring him over anyway.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:07 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The child could go to full-time nursery but they don’t want him to do that.

Is this partly because they think you will provide better care than a nursery? How much would it cost them for that? If you're willing to do it, you should charge at least that much if not more. You are not even particularly close with your brother or his partner, via your last post, so... this is a business transaction. They can pay for your services or find someone else. They have not contributed the kind of reciprocity and good will that results in family members doing this for free.

You're angry because you're being used. They know if they see your mother suffering you will help out for her sake, and that's exactly why they do it. You can't make your mother's choices, but you are contributing to the triangle of manipulation. They will keep leaning on her, and harder, if they know that it gets you to cave.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:05 AM on February 14, 2018

All you need to say is, "Hey everyone involved. My new position is going to start quite soon. So I can't provide childcare because I don't want to have Little Nephew get used to an arrangement that will end soon. Sorry." And that's it.

I also think that you need to consider why you're so angry about this. They asked. You say no. Done. Why shouldn't they at least ask? This is especially the case if they believed that you were unemployed currently.

Why do you dislike this woman so much?

Other points:
- The rate of pay for childcare isn't about how much YOU are/were worth in a previous profession, it is what the going rate for childcare is in your area. I have no idea, but you should find this out and ask for that or slightly less.
- Your nephew's mother also needs to figure out what her plan is when the child is ill and if that will involve your mother or you or whatever.
- Even if they don't want him at nursery fulltime, it looks like that won't be an option for them. Ah well.
posted by k8t at 10:53 AM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you’re making this more complicated than it needs to be, because you’re looking through the lens of what seems to be problematic family dynamics. You can’t do it. You say no. Your mother is an adult. You say to her, once, “Mom, I’m worried it’ll be too much for you,” and then drop it. If she’s not a fit caregiver or you believe she is mentally incapacitated, then you call in child or adult services as needed. Otherwise, you need to work on mentally and emotionally detaching yourself from the harmless actions of grown adults.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:04 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

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