A stay-at-home mom is stuck in a bind that many other stay-at-home parents know all too well. As the only one in her friend group who stays home with her child, a 5-month-old boy, the anonymous mom was asked by another mom several times to look after an additional kid—hers.
At first, the requests seemed reasonable. The friend's child care had fallen through for two days, so she asked the SAHM if she could pick up her daughter from school (across town) and watch her until they got home. The SAHM happily obliged. After all, mom friends totally get that emergencies happen and they're usually down to help if they can.
But then, a week later, the mom friend again asked the SAHM to watch her kid for a whole day because she had to work and "her husband made other plans."
The SAHM got so laden with guilt that she turned to "Ask Amy," the popular general advice column published in the Chicago Tribune.
"I really don't want to do it, but I feel bad knowing that I have no excuse. I just don't want to," the SAHM wrote. That alone should've been a good enough reason, but because the stay-at-home mom guilt is so real, she felt she had to justify her decision. "Their child is much older than my own and requires a lot of attention. It's way different than my infant and takes away from my bonding with him."
"My husband and I worked hard to budget, pay off debt and cut expenses prior to our baby being born," she wrote. "If there was some financial compensation, I would be more inclined to do it, but I feel like free babysitting should be kept for times when they are REALLY in a bind. How can I politely decline without feeling guilty?"
For parents in similar situations, Amy had some dang good advice.
"Your job is to take care of your child, and to live your own life the way you want to," she reminded the SAHM.
As to the non-emergency requests themselves, Amy suggested leveraging your own needs in response.
"I can take 'Sara' for the day, but could you reciprocate by taking care of 'James' this Saturday afternoon?" she used as an example.
Or, if you want financial compensation, ask for it. Stay-at-home parents might not work outside the home, but it doesn't mean you're not working. Actually, calculations show that what stay-at-home parents do is equivalent to a $65,522.65 salary. Others should value your time by paying you.
And if you really don't want to babysit or be someone's backup plan, don't be. There's no need to explain your decision. Just say no.
Or, "You're so lucky to get to stay at home all day." Free time? Are you kidding me? Sure, my schedule isn't dependent on office hours or a boss's needs. But my hours are dependent on that little human being who wants to show me the block tower she made while I'm trying to clean the bathroom. Or she insists on me reading book after book over and over again instead of preparing for dinner.
There are also errands to be run, diapers to be changed, laundry to be washed, beds to be made, babies to entertain and outdoor time to be had (and I do not mean much-needed yard work). Sure, I can see where people might assume that the days are open for flexibility. But as a SAHM, you're a slave to nap time, lunch time, snack time, diaper time, playtime and give-me-more-attention time ... while also trying to focus on that role of homemaker (cooking and cleaning and other need-to-be-done tasks) that seems to go part and parcel with the role of SAHM.