Justine Davies

Justine Davies

I’m aware that this is going to make me sound like the b**ch from Hell, because unless you know this person it’s hard to appreciate how much pressure she can put on people. But here goes:

I have met a woman through daycare who has one child the same age as my middle son. She works fulltime and often wants to get together on weekends so the children can play. Initially I didn’t mind that now and then, but then all the other requests started.

"Speaking up probably better than keeping quiet." 

Could she just drop her son over for a couple of hours "for a play" while she pops into the shops? Could he have a sleepover because she was going out? Could I pick her son up on the way to swimming lessons and drop him home again? And on and on and on.

I know it sounds petty, but I don’t have time for that level of commitment to one person. Her son is nice – but so are plenty of the other kids and I don’t want to be treated like some sort of unpaid nanny. I have three children of my own and don't really have the time or energy to care for others on a regular basis. Plus weekends are more our family time too and she tends to encroach on this. Her contact is becoming more and more persistent, hounding me with emails and text messages. I don't want to be unhelpful but I find her favours a little imposing and feel saying “no” is confrontational. I also get agitated that she never offers to reciprocate by having my son over for a play. My husband says I should just cease contact altogether but I don't have the heart to do it.

How do I get her to back off without being nasty and without ruining the friendship that our sons have?
Sam

Tricky one, Sam. Your two sons really like each other, but the friendship leaves you feeling like an unpaid nanny. It sounds as though you definitely need to do something about it – the longer you leave it the worse it will get.

What to do, though, is the question, so I have asked Sydney-based clinical psychologist Amanda Gordon for some suggestions, and the thrust of it is, Sam, that perhaps what you need is a good dose of assertiveness!

“For her own peace of mind she needs to speak up,” says Amanda. “She needs to assert herself and not be an unpaid nanny and to do this sooner rather than later. It would be quite easy to do it in a nice way: she could simply say to the mother that she is happy to do what she can, but that she isn’t able to do as much as is currently being asked of her.”

Sam, according to Amanda one of two things is likely to happen when you do this:

1. The other Mum could take it on board in a matter of fact way and ease off on the requests. "Sam may be putting expectations on herself that are not shared by other mother,” says Amanda. “The other mother may be quite happy if she says no and may in fact be quite surprised that she’s always saying yes."

Or

2. It may be a catalyst for re-evaluating the whole friendship. “If there is truly obligation expected on the part of the other mother, then it may not ultimately be a friendship that can be sustained,” suggests Amanda. “Ultimately if it can’t tolerate her saying this then it’s probably not a real friendship anyway.

Either way though, speaking up probably better than keeping quiet. At best you’ll maintain your friendship, but with a lot less demands on your babysitting time. At worst – well, as Dr Gordon said it probably wasn’t a real friendship anyway. Either way I don’t think it would affect your kids – they’ll be very happy playing together at daycare anyway.

Have you ever dumped a friend? Discuss on the Essential Baby Forums.