Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Favour or imposition?

You decide. Today I was put on the spot. Caught off guard.  Stitched up like a kipper.  Not sure where that phrase comes from probably something to do with stripping the guts of the fish and sewing it up again.  If that is correct then this phrase is most apt. 

Firstly I was asked what I was doing next Wednesday (half term week) - I momentarily racked my brains.  This wasn't good.  This wasn't going to have a happy ending. Think woman - think! Yes, yes I do actually  have something we have a family dental check up at 10.30 am. Tah dah.  With no time to breath a sigh of relief came the words "Oh that's good can I ask a huge favour"?  This is front of a small gathering - a circle gathering no less of other parents. I am in that circle. I had one eye on the person asking me the favour and the other watching little buddy darting across snow, up the wooden climbing frame and generally looking for an escape route out of the school grounds.

"Can you look after my two for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours" - I'll be at work and hubby will also - he will collect them when he's finished.  "Ok so they'll need their tea" "yes".  She didn't want to pay for childcare for only 2 hours of the day so I was the ideal candidate. I don't work after all. I did mutter something along the lines of "oh yes I'd love to have 5 children to take care of".  Somehow I agreed to it and I instantly felt annoyed about that.

Now don't get me wrong my son is very good friends with the child in question and his sibling is in my daughter's class. That's the not the issue.  As another mum pointed out half terms are precious.  Its only a week and whilst I have booked the dentist and a craft session at our local Surestart centre - the rest of the week is unplanned and just how I like it.  The little fella is also 21 months going on 2 - the terrible two's. Its called that for a reason.  He is into everything and the thought of having 5 children running riot in my house for 2 1/2 hours plus getting my husbands tea ready and the children's tea filled me with dread.  I haven't had teatime play dates for that very reason - at the moment its just too much agro.  I don't think many mums would want to have my 2 plus my 21 month old over for tea in addition to their own children do you?

This person has never once asked me in for coffee and whilst we have occasionally met up for a play date in the summer hols and xmas hols its rare. I've picked up their child to take to a party and vice versa.  I have also had the children over for a night as they were stuck.  So I have helped out even though the relationship isn't that close.  In fact I'm pretty sure the person doesn't even like me!  This is just someone I know because our children go to the same school not someone I know because they want to forge a friendship with me.

Then there's the tumbleweed moments when she comes out with a comment that is supposed to be funny and everyone goes quiet. Its normally followed by "only joking".  For example on a windy day in the playground I was pregnant and minding my own business she said "hold on a minute (stood behind me) I can use you as a windbreak!" I mean who would say that! She would.  Another time she pipes up "oh bad mother" when one who clearly was stressed with her young ones hadn't got any snacks to pacify them. That's the thing when you have children you get to hang around with people you wouldn't ordinarily chose to spend time with. 

I am aware they now (they did previously) have no childcare and I don't want to be taking on that role just because I don't work. I feel I have to nip this in the bud. Don't get me wrong I have no qualms whatsoever looking after my close friends and family's children over night or whatever they need to help them out.  I know they would do the same for me but that's not why I do it. I do it because I want to. I don't do favours and bank them for future favour cash ins.

So I sent a text to say sorry actually I couldn't have them.  Explained the little fella was a nightmare at the mo hence no tea time play dates and incidentally my best friend has breast cancer and her op is that day.  I got no reply for 5 hours and have just received one saying that's fine, hope my friend is okay and see you tomorrow. 

What do you think?


  1. I am with you, think you did the right thing. I am happy to help out friends at short notice, and have some lovely friends that do the same for me. When I have done I ask by text, so not to put them on the spot, and I also let them know that they are the first person I have asked, so it's no problem at all if not possible (ie I like to give them an easy out if it is not convenient)

    A mum told me that a mother that she never speaks to her, suddenly asked her to have her daughter for the day (working), which she did, but the mother has never spoken to her since!

    When my second child was under 1 and my first 2.5. a 'friend' asked me to pick up a delivery for her, as it was nearer my house (20 mins drive for her, 5 mins for me) and would save her postage (!), she had already ask a few favours like this, which made me unwillingly to help, when I would unthinkingly do the same for anyone else. It did make me feel mean in a way, but I didn't want to be taken advantage of.

    I think people like this are in the minority, but it is good to very politely stand your ground to avoid opening the gauntlet!

    I do sometimes feel that being a school mum, is a bit like starting school again yourself!

    Mrs W x

  2. Hello Mrs W - thank you for your comment - which I think hits the nail on the head. I agree you should do it by text not in front of everyone! I think there is such a thing as 'favour grooming' whereby someone starts doing you favours as they are gearing up for a big ask. My friend thinks there's lots of those about. I'm glad there are also people out there who say No sorry can't do!

    The postage one is a massive piss take!! Glad you didn't do it - yep it certainly can be like being at school the only difference is we are now older and wiser and don't fret too much about stuff like this.

    Natasha x