You know her — the one who says offers, Sure, she can drop by some (insert grocery item here) when you just happen to mention being out and in a bind. And of course it would be no problem to come over and watch your child while you cook or clean for the in-laws that are visiting this weekend. Her thank you notes always come on time, as do her holiday cards. Whenever you show up at her place, it’s always neat and tidy, her bathroom floor never stained with pee or littered with stray fallen hairs.
Maybe she is a myth, but I know pieces of this woman in several friends. And I don’t really have many of those pieces.
I kind of want to be the person who agrees to co-op for the other parent who’s having one health issue or family drama after another. No, I had no meeting or specific commitment other than to my writing and the prep I had to do for tutoring later and eating a healthy meal and not being stressed out. And if I’d still had a co-oping date left to switch for, I would have done it. But I don’t, and I’m not going to take this woman’s $40 substitute fee. My free time is worth so much more to me than that it seems ridiculous to accept from a friend. I know she’d sit for me in return another time, but I don’t want another time. I want the time I expected, especially since so much of my other free time — naps, evenings when my husband may or may not want hang out when I get back from tutoring — is not really mine to determine.
And guess what? I don’t really like watching other people’s kids. Friends and neighbors are great to have for babysit swaps, and my son has more fun with other kids than with just one teenage girl. It’s close and a great option to have for short stints. But if I can avoid it, I don’t want to accrue hours of time I have to spend with other kids and my kid at the same time. I get tired easily. When he was younger, my kid was extra clingy in these situations. Now he’s better with some combos and tough with others, depending on the personality mix.
But regardless of EJ’s behavior, childcare is not something I want to lock myself into having to do very often. I love playdates because I get the social interaction, too. Take away the other mom, and it’s work! One time it seemed easier to have the other child around because he wasn’t the time to compete with mine. They just entertained each other, and I addressed holiday cards (it was March).
I feel bad when my help could take off someone else’s burden, but I’m not okay with taking on one that, well, that I’m not okay taking on. I offer to help when I feel like it’s not a hardship on me or my family, when it’s on terms I feel good about. It’s not like I’ve never done anything to be thanked for; it just that my generous offers only come when I know the kick from helping is going to be greater than any challenge the favor might pose. Is that self-aware and just authoritative (as opposed to passive-agressive)? Or is it a mature self-interest or just selfishness?
Hey, offer to have me sit alone in your quiet house after you put your kid to bed, and I’m there!