Neighbor Trying to Use Me as Babysitter During Playdates

Updated on July 10, 2018
M.P. asks from Raleigh, NC
23 answers

It seems my new neighbor is trying to off load her kid on me in the form of a "playdate". I work from home. I don't know this lady well. I've tried to make small talk with her for the sake of the kids, she doesn't seem interested. I assume she's incredibly busy or just has poor manners.

Our kids play outside every so often (they're 8 yrs old). Lately, now that school is out, she's been asking via text if her daughter can come over for a "playdate". I'll say sure. Then mom conveniently has errands to run. The errands get longer and longer. I told her about it. She backed off for a while. Today, the doorbell rang I looked out the window and the mom is in her car with it cranked watching Mary ring my doorbell. Mary is standing at my door with a stuffed animal in her hand and it was obvious to me that this lady wanted a babysitter and when I didn't answer the door, the mom texted me from the car asking if Mary can come over and play for a while. I did not answer the text. I was too angry.

I really just want to be blunt with this lady and just get on with life, but some part of me is looking for a tactful way to say "lady, get lost". The girls aren't that great of friends so it won't be a huge loss.

Edit: I have no problem saying no thanks, not today. I've had to do that on several occasions. The challenge started when, I said yes because the circumstances worked for us and I started to notice that this was not a "playdate" situation. I certainly do not hide from anyone as someone mentioned, I choose to ignore what I perceived as outright foolishness. I am clearly dealing with someone who is a persistent manipulator and I am seeking out advice on how to handle this.

What can I do next?

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D..

answers from Miami on

It's okay to be tactfully blunt. Write to her "I work from home. It's the same as if I worked in an office. I'm not available for babysitting. Children shouldn't be left to their own devices because they are children. I am working and cannot babysit." If it doesn't work the first time, text it to her over and over until she stops doing it.

You did the right thing not opening the door.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I only say ok to kids playing at our house if I'm ok with it. I only 'babysit' (if parents have to do errands) if they specifically ask me if that's ok (so I know beforehand) and they reciprocate with us.

We arrange an end time to playdates when kids come over. This ensures someone is home when it's time to drop them off/they walk home.

We had a neighbor whose kid would come over daily asking to play. He couldn't handle it if my kids said no, politely. The mom came storming over one day and asked if there was a problem. I don't think everyone know how invitations and manners go these days. You're free to ask people if they want to do something. People are free to decline politely.

There's no need for a confrontation.

The next time she asks for a playdate and you don't feel like it, just say 'Sorry, not today - another time'. Then if you want one, you can say 'We're free this afternoon from 1-4 if she'd like to come over'. You set the time, where it's your house.

Ultimately, the girls can try to handle this as much as they can at 8 - by asking each other if they'd like to play - and then you can just say yes, or no, and tell her what time to come over (between what times she's welcome at your house).

* As for what moms do when kids are on playdates, I've never really given this a lot of thought. I have friends who run errands (great opportunity for them to, and friends who get work done .. ). I would not assume moms just sit home and wait for the kids to get home every time. I think a lot would make the most of the opportunity. Not saying that's what happened here, and this definitely seems rude (to just assume you would take her where she's already in the car). However, doing errands while kid is on a playdate ... not that unusual.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

It's important to communicate in a language that the listener understands.

"Polite and subtle" is fine for people who speak that language.

Apparently she doesn't - you mention you tried it with her once.

So, "blunt and to the point" sounds like the winning tactic here. Have at it. And recover your quiet workspace.

8 moms found this helpful

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Saying 'No' when you don't want to deal with it is fine.
I think you are probably going to have to repeat yourself fairly often for awhile until neighbor believes you are not a sucker.
Since you work from home - you know you need someone to watch the kids while you are working.
What would help especially over the summer is to get your kids involved in some summer camps so they aren't home, you get your work done - and if your kids aren't home the neighbor will be less likely to dump her kid on you.

Additional:
What neighbor does while the kids are playing isn't important - right up until she's not there to take her kid back when she says she was going to.
I wouldn't trust her on her time management skills.
It's just better not to let her think she can dump her kid on you when ever she wants to.

8 moms found this helpful

T.F.

answers from Dallas on

No is a complete sentence. You owe no explanation.

I'm glad you noticed what was happening, took a stand by ignoring the door and text. That itself should send a message, however, if she's as bad as it appears to be, you'll likely just have to be blunt.

Stand your ground!

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I can see two options.
1 - continue to clearly say no every time. If may take a while, but if you say no every time (don't say "sorry, maybe later" or "sorry, this isn't a good time"; just a straight up no), she'll eventually get the picture. It's better to clearly just say "No" and perhaps even follow it with "Please stop texting asking if Mary can come over. I prefer to invite people to my house, not have them invite themselves. I will text you if/when it's ok for Mary to come over."

2 - see this as a potential babysitting coop. Next time she texts, if you are free and it's convenient, respond with "I can take Mary for an hour this afternoon. Are you available to have Kimmy to your house on Thursday at 2PM for an hour in return?" If she responds yes and it works out, you could have a good babysitting coop in the development. If she refuses to return the favor, then go back to option 1.

Informal neighborhood babysitting coops can be great. There are a group of us who do this in our neighborhood and everyone contributes. Those who ask for favors far more than they contribute are quickly marginalized.

Separately, a question - why do you care how the mom spends her time when her child is at your house for a playdate, as long as the mom picks up on time? I've never felt obligated to account for my time to other parents when my kids are playing at their house. I can understand if you don't like self-invitations for playdates, but once you say yes, I don't see why it matters what the mom does during that time.

7 moms found this helpful

D.D.

answers from Boston on

Hi neighbor. No sorry we don't do play dates during the summer all that much because while it appears I'm home I'm actually working from home. You'll have to make other arrangements for running your errands.

And seriously if she isn't taking the kid with her then chances are she's doing something she doesn't want her daughter to blab to her husband.

7 moms found this helpful

D.B.

answers from Boston on

Try this: "I'm sorry, Jane. I work from home and that means I cannot supervise children at the same time. If I find myself free at some point, I will try to give you advance notice of a possible date with the girls and see if it works for you. I need you not to send your daughter to the door expecting that I'm not working, and I will show you the same consideration by never sending my Petunia to your door on short notice." It's one thing for kids to ring the bell and ask if your kid can come out and play (which to me requires no notice and is part of living in a neighborhood, and helps teach kids manners re asking/accepting/refusing), but that presumes both families have one parent at home and the kids can stop playing any time. Anything else requires pre-arrangement.

You did the right thing by not responding. A text is not a signal for you to stop work and drop everything to answer. You can consider responding 6 hours (or 3 days) later and saying, "Just saw this because I was working." Or you can do nothing because the issue is moot.

I think it's fine to run errands during a play date, but that should be included in the request: "I'd like to run some errands for an hour, 90 minutes tops, and wonder if you can watch my kid. Happy to reciprocate for you next week."

I don't know whether she is overwhelmed, rude or has a therapy appointment she doesn't want to tell you about. Doesn't matter. She still has to ask.

BTW if her daughter's name is really the one you used, I think you should change it. We don't want to put kids' real names on an anonymous forum.

7 moms found this helpful

S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

you know, 'blunt' and 'tactful' aren't mutually exclusive.

your neighbor has poor social skills for sure, but you're not a helpless victim.

why not just say 'no, doesn't work for me right now' when you don't want the girls to play and 'yes, and i'll need you to pick her up in an hour' when you do?

there's a wide middle ground between being stuck with someone else's unwanted kid for hours at a time, and peering out of your window angrily and ignoring the texts.

even if the girls aren't besties, is it really necessary that they both 'get lost' altogether? i don't see this as a hill to die on.
khairete
S.

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M.C.

answers from Chicago on

Since she doesn't seem to take a hint, you will have to be more blunt and succinct. You can say no with no explanation required and leave it at that. If you feel you need to explain further, just tell her you work from home and cannot accommodate other children at this time. If you want to be a little nicer, you could tell her something like every Wednesday Mary can come from noon until four or whatever works for you. Don't feel bad for saying no, because you said she is not real friendly and the girls aren't great friends anyway. If you don't be firm, she will take advantage or just start dropping Mary off and driving away, lol!

6 moms found this helpful

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

I would just tell her, sorry, I cannot watch Susie right now. Sorry, but this is a bad time. You can't come over to play now. No, now is not a good time. If the mom keeps asking you say your daughter and you are busy. You can say, you do not do playdates when you are working at home. Don't hide behind the curtains or not answer your door/phone. Instead definitely answer and tell her no, nope, no no no. After she hears no for about 30 times she will finally get it. But I WOULD tell her when it is a good time. Keep in mind you can work to keep a friendship with your neighbor. If you live there a long time your girls will grow up together and go to school together so it's good to be friendly. Personally, I would let her know one day a week her daughter can come over for about 2 hours (I'd give her a direct pick up time) if she can have my daughter over for 2 hours the next week when I go run errands or something. That way we could help each other out. I would explain to her that playdates at other times do not work for me and why.

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Her: "want to have a playdate?"
You: "no thanks."

Rinse. Repeat.

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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

People can (and will) try all sorts of things. They'll try to get free babysitting, free carpool rides, free help. They'll try to be dishonest or rude or any one of a number of things.

You can't always change that or have influence over it or control it.

What you CAN change, and what you can control, is your response to rudeness or manipulation.

Why do you say "sure" when you pretty much know that it's not a playdate, it's free babysitting? Why do you hide behind your door or not respond to texts?

If Mary is ringing your doorbell, with her mom in the car, you open your door, you take Mary by the hand, and you lead her to the car, open the door and help her get in. Politely. Calmly.

If Mary's mom texts you, you simply text back "I'm working now and am not available. Sorry".

If it's a nice day and your daughter is outside, and Mary comes over, fine. When it's time to call your daughter in, you do so, and you politely tell Mary to go home.

Getting angry is not doing anyone any good. Be in control of your own situation and your own home, and be clear to the mom about what you will and will not allow.

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S.P.

answers from Sacramento on

Wow, I’m just going to call it what it is.... This woman is rude, and she knows exactly what she is doing. She is trying to take advantage of you plain and simple. You don’t make it to adulthood with out accumulating basic social skills, she has chosen to ignore your polite que, because she wants what she wants and doesn’t care. So meet her with the same disregard.

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

I would just tell her that you're too busy to be watching her daughter at your place, and that's it. You have work to do and you're unable to do it if you have to supervise 2 kids and you cannot let your work product suffer. Since the girls aren't close, if the mom calls you out on it somehow and says that she is upset you won't welcome Mary over anymore, it's not going to be a big loss. Sometimes, that is the only way to get rid of a freeloader.

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

I could never leave a child at the door, even if I wanted to ignore her mother. But I certainly would take her , while talking nicely to her, to her mother's car and say "No." firmly, politely, and without explanation to the mom. How we model behaviors for children is as important as how we deal with our own frustrations. By the way, I agree that mom has a lot of nerve!

4 moms found this helpful

W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

M.

Tell her your husband is on the sexual registry!!! LOL

Tell her NO. Tell her YOU ARE WORKING and cannot watch the kids. Yes, they are 8 years old and don't need much supervision - but they still need supervision.

You can tell her that if she wants a babysitter - she can pay you. Otherwise, playdates happen for no more than 1 hour and that's it.

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A.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

Yet another reason I dislike the "playdate" trend. This mom is simply using the term "playdate" to persuade you to take on child care for her. It isn't about her daughter wanting to play with yours. You are neighbors, so her daughter could easily just knock on your door to ask if your daughter would like to play if it was the time with her friend that was really what this is about. Call it what it is. The next time you see this mom, tell her again that by the way, as a friendly reminder, you've decided that although you have in the past, that now and going forward, you are no longer available or interested in babysitting. Tell her that your daughter is getting too old for parent arranged "playdates" and you're letting her manage her own time including when and who she chooses to play with. Honestly, it's so rude. Your daughter also gets imposed upon when she may not be feeling up to spending time with the neighbor girl. You can say, there are times when your daughter is otherwise busy and sometimes may just not feel up to playing at the exact times she needs help. Encourage her to look for an actual babysitter as your family can't be of help to her for child care.

Updated

Yet another reason I dislike the "playdate" trend. This mom is simply using the term "playdate" to persuade you to take on child care for her. It isn't about her daughter wanting to play with yours. You are neighbors, so her daughter could easily just knock on your door to ask if your daughter would like to play if it was the time with her friend that was really what this is about. Call it what it is. The next time you see this mom, tell her again that by the way, as a friendly reminder, you've decided that although you have in the past, that now and going forward, you are no longer available or interested in babysitting. Tell her that your daughter is getting too old for parent arranged "playdates" and you're letting her manage her own time including when and who she chooses to play with. Honestly, it's so rude. Your daughter also gets imposed upon when she may not be feeling up to spending time with the neighbor girl. You can say, there are times when your daughter is otherwise busy and sometimes may just not feel up to playing at the exact times she needs help. Encourage her to look for an actual babysitter as your family can't be of help to her for child care.

3 moms found this helpful
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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

It's perfectly okay to say I'm sorry not now I am working.
But now I am going to flip the coin: she is new to the neighborhood you don't know her well and she doesn't know you but she does trust you. Invite her over on a weekend so you can talk to her. She doesn't have a lot of friends and probably needs some kind of help. You can direct her to resources in your area.

Updated

It's perfectly okay to say I'm sorry not now I am working.
But now I am going to flip the coin: she is new to the neighborhood you don't know her well and she doesn't know you but she does trust you. Invite her over on a weekend so you can talk to her. She doesn't have a lot of friends and probably needs some kind of help. You can direct her to resources in your area.

3 moms found this helpful
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S.L.

answers from Denver on

If she wants a playdate, why don't you say: "it will have to be at your house because I'm working" (assuming you trust her with your kid)
I had a neighbor who used me this way after school - her kids came over until she got home from work. I never agreed to be a sitter...it was really hard because she had 3 kids and they were a handful (I only have one) - they would raid the fridge and pantry and they weren't very respectful. I finally scheduled some activities after school and I told my neighbor that we weren't going to be home so she might need to make other arrangements. That solved the problem.

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T.J.

answers from Nashville on

Don't let her come over again. Don't even answer the door or her texts. I would tesxt once "I am working and do not have time for playdates." Then don't get pulled into her whining and acting hurt. I put up with several people like this until I realized they are raising entitled moochers. I don't want to deal with them.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

Man, when the mom sends the kid to the door, that's rough! I'd be really angry, too!

I don't know that there is anything that you really can do to get this lady to stop if she is an aggressive manipulator. She is never going to take "no" for an answer - rather, she will just continue to find ways to manipulate a yes.

I'd not ignore texts, rather I think I'd lead in that area. If Mary is ringing the doorbell, I'd be texting the mom letting her know that you are not available.

One other thing you could try is just to text her right out and say:

"Hi Susie, it seems as though you think that because I am a remote employee, that I am able to schedule playdates for my daughter. Unfortunately, that is not the case and having Mary continually stop by is interfering with my work day. For your convenience, I have attached a list of local daycares if you need assistance in that area. Otherwise, it would be best if you stop sending Mary over. If we happen to be available at anytime over the summer, I will reach out to you with my daughter's availability."

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C.D.

answers from Chicago on

Life's too short to waste energy beating around the bush. I'd tell her that we adore her child, but you're not feeling up to taking care of extra kids on short notice- or just tell her you feel like she's using you as an unpaid sitter. She is welcome to come over once a week (or whatever) at prearranged times, not spontaneously, and she will be expected to reciprocate. If she needs a babysitter, she can ask for help and depending on your availability, you will let her know.

I am blunt and it might come off as rude, but she's beat you to being rude, so feel free to just be honest.