Okay, this is really a rant, but I need some practical advice as well.
I have three children, aged 8, 6 and 4 and I have been in the very fortunate position of not having to work since being pregnant with our oldest. And unless something unexpected happens I won’t go back to work at least until all the kids are in high school (and quite probably not even then). I like being a SAHM – it is what we always planned to do when we had kids and while it means a few financial sacrifices, that is completely fine with me.
What is NOT fine with me is being treated like a servant by my working friends and neighbours. There seems to be this mentality that if you’re not being paid to work then you’re not really doing anything important and that you may as well help them out in their pursuit of more money.
So I find myself bringing extra kids home after school when friends just can’t get away from work on time (which means they are usually at our place until dinner time). Not that I mind having kids over for a play, but it would be nice to invite them rather than be asked simply because it’s convenient for the Mum.
One of our neighbours, who works from home, is always sending her kids over to our place to play after school so she can get some work done. Which is okay – but I’d rather it was once a week, not several times. And the favour is never returned!
My sister in law seems to be on the phone every second week asking me to look after her daughter because she’s sick and can’t go to daycare and she’s just sooo busy at work. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that maybe I don’t want to look after a sick child, because I really don’t want my kids getting sick either.
Aaaagh. Doing those things isn’t so much the problem though as the: “Oh well, it’s not like you have anything better to do” assumption of the Mums. They are all nice ladies – they are friends - but I think they are just so focussed on their own work/life juggle that it doesn’t occur to them to look up once in a while and realise how many other people are helping them to keep their life running smoothly. Just a simple: “Thank you – I realise how much of your time you are sacrificing for me” would be nice once in a while!
Advice to prevent me from losing my sanity would be great.
You are absolutely right that across a range of friends, neighbours, grandparents and professional carers there is a huge army of caring and dedicated people who make the work/life juggle easier for many people. And we do indeed owe them a big and heartfelt THANKYOU!!
Now, I’m not entirely sure from your post whether your main issue is in being overwhelmed by having to do so many helping-out tasks or whether it’s the lack of gratitude and acknowledgement that niggles the most. Either way, we can’t easily change others, only ourselves. I think that learning how to say a polite “no” now and then and taking a step back for some personal time would be a great idea!
For some further advice I have asked Jo Bassett, Life Coach and founder of Living Savvy for some help. This is her take on it:
“In her book Sheer Madness, author Jan Murray wrote (and I paraphrase) “behind every successful woman there is a woman who is taken advantage of”.
So Belinda, here are some tips for moving out of the shadows:
- Write up rules (boundaries) that clearly state what works & doesn’t work for you e.g kids over on a Wednesday afternoon until 4.30 is fine. These rules can be for your eyes only. For things to change you need to “stick” to your rules consistently: at 4.30 send the children home (despite their and their mother’s protestations).
- Banish from your thinking that turning down a request for help or putting you and your family first is being “a b**ch”, “not nice” etc.
- Stop offering assistance. Here is a challenge for the next four weeks: don’t offer to help anyone out.
For many women 'sorry' isn’t the hardest word - the word 'no' is. Telling someone no, assertively – as in with firmness and confidence - can rate a 10 for degree of difficulty, however successfully pulling this off is worth the effort.
And Belinda, once you have done your week of not-offering challenge, here’s another one for you: every time you say “yes” to something you need to say no to something (or someone else) to balance it up. Give it a try – it could be liberating!”
EB Members: Have you ever felt taken advantage of? How do you tactfully resolve the issue?
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