The Kindness of Other Moms

Two days ago, a minor childcare crisis arose. I had a meeting I couldn't miss from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. My older two children could stay in the after-school program; no problem. I'd arranged a playdate for my youngest child -- her school doesn't have an aftercare program -- but the playdate fell through.

I called every babysitter I could think of. No luck there. So I started calling other moms.

Mom #1 had a conflict -- she had to be at a meeting herself, and her babysitter was already watching four kids. So I called Mom #2 who was delighted to help. Problem solved.

Then the bonus: A few hours later Mom #1 called me to tell me she had figured out a way to re-arrange her schedule so that my daughter could come to her house. I was, frankly, floored. She had spent a good amount of time figuring out how to take care of me. She's not my oldest friend, my best friend, my sister or my mother. Sometimes, other moms simply rock.

When I started writing Mommy Wars, my anthology about the inner struggles of working and stay-at-home moms, I was new enough to motherhood and working such long hours myself that I hadn't figured out how wonderful other moms can be. As I wrote the book, I discovered that the only real "mommy war" was inside my own head as I struggled to balance my life. My jealousy of other moms stemmed only from my insecurities; I don't feel judgmental of other moms any longer. And I don't feel judged in return anymore, either. More often than not, other moms are my safety net, my cheerleaders, my life-saving network.

Who is your safety net? Have you found support from other moms? Is it harder to be supportive when you are a new mom? Does willingness to help other moms come with time? And dads, what about your experiences? Do you find other dads or moms help fathers, too?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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first! ha ha.

Posted by: experienced mom | January 5, 2007 7:17 AM

be sure to reciprocate. I'm not saying this about you personally, Leslie, but some moms (both working and SAHM) mostly take from others, with not much giving back.

Posted by: experienced mom | January 5, 2007 7:22 AM

This is a great topio! This is something I had such a hard time when I first had children -- the idea that I couldn't be as independent and self-reliant now as I had always been before. At first, I just HATED asking others for help -- I saw it as an admission of weakness, and felt like a loser -- as if I couldn't cope with things on my own. Calling someone to arrange a playdate so you could work (or go to an appointment or whatever) always felt like begging to me somehow -- even if I did reciprocate.

And in our old neighborhood, somehow I felt like everybody was always keeping score -- like it had to be fifty-fifty. And with three kids and a job, I wasn't very good at keeping track and quite frankly I didn't mind if I was repaid or not most of the time anyway.

Like Leslie, as I've gotten older and wiser, I've begun to wonder if I was kind of imagining some of the angst and tension I thought I was feeling. Lately, I'm also amazed at how supportive the women in my neighborhood have been. (This from someone who managed to BORROW a colonial costume for my child's elementary school event from a neighbor yesterday -- so I don't have to spend the weekend MAKING one!!! Sure glad I had the guts to ask around on that one. And you better believe I will be repaying my neighbor handsomely for saving me that kind of time and money!)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | January 5, 2007 7:35 AM

This is a great topic!

Sorry I have to bring this up, if I don't someone else will, but in all of your scrambling to find someone to watch your kids, was Dad scrambling too? Did Dad consider coming home early "just this once"? Why is it only your responsibility? I assume this because you didn't say your husband had an important meeting too.

I find that if I have a really important work-related meeting/event, my husband helps out and visa versa. I don't think he thinks it's all up to me to work through the child issues.

With regard to your friends--they sound terrific. As someone else said, be nice, very nice to them. Unfortunately, I don't think I could ask this of any of my friends. I have arranged playdates, but I wouldn't dare say it was because I had to go to a meeting. My issue, not that my friends are not generous.

Posted by: working mother | January 5, 2007 8:00 AM

I am curious about your experiences, Experienced Mom. I have not EVER experienced a mom who took, took, took and never reciprocated. I find moms are highly attuned to being fair. Most are almost paranoid about "taking" too much. Can you tell more about what you've seen?

Maybe I'm just lucky that my kids' schools (all very small) have pretty tight-knit, friendly communities.

LOVED the question from Working Mother about Dad. No, he wasn't scrambling (at all) to come up with any childcare alternatives or to rework his schedule. My last resort was to drop our four year old off at his office, but I get the feeling that he catches some degree of grief when he has a kid at work on a weekday, even for a few hours. A source of deep frustration (mine) in our relationship -- childcare is "my" responsibility and I've never figured out why. Our relationship is good in all other ways, and he does a great deal of household and other family-related work (taxes, construction projects, etc) so I have "chosen" to accept this shirking (since I don't really have any other choice!)

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 8:14 AM

The other day, I came home early from work to find my au pair watching my two children, plus my neighbor's two children (who don't get along very well with my kids). I was told that my neighbor had asked my au pair to babysit while she went to a doctor's appointment. My au pair was upset and told me she didn't feel comfortable telling my neighbor "no". My neighbor's kids had been there for about 3 hours when I arrived. I was pretty angry. I figure the least my neighbor could have done was to call me to see if it would be okay (and I also told my au pair that she should have called me to let me know what was going on as well). I had actually planned to leave work several hours earlier than I was able to, so that I could pick up my children and go on a little spontaneous (for them) outing, but fortunately I guess, that didn't happen.

When my neighbor arrived to pick her children up, I told her in no uncertain terms NEVER to do that again. She did apologize to me but has not offered to pay my au pair for her babysitting work. I'm still irritated.

SO am I an unkind mother to another mother?

Posted by: KatieMc | January 5, 2007 8:28 AM

"I have "chosen" to accept this shirking (since I don't really have any other choice!)"

That's a tough one. Then what you are saying is that you both don't value your career as much as his? That really shows a true imbalance in your relationship. Both my husband and I are professionals and he has always earned more than me, but it has been a back and forth with regard to compromises when it comes to family life. He has even moved and changed jobs twice for me (and I have for him). Could this be why women tend not to be accorded as much respect or consideration for leadership in the workplace? I'm sure your situation is very common and that is why it is assumed to be the way for all families.

But the point I am really trying to make is that the children are his responsibility too.

Posted by: working mother | January 5, 2007 8:28 AM

There is a SAH dad in the neighborhood and he always asks the moms to watch his children (elementary school age) so he can play golf, or whatever. Of course, you don't know what it is he is doing until afterwards as it seems impolite to ask him why he needs his son/daughter to come over after school. Especially since he is looking for a job. He always takes takes takes. His wife works and doesn't seem to realize his impositions, even when pointed out to her. I don't mind helping out as I can do other things, like work, when others are around, but I do mind the assumption that I wouldn't mind all the time. rant off now.

Posted by: dotted | January 5, 2007 8:28 AM

"SO am I an unkind mother to another mother?"

Absolutely not! That other mother was rude. You were right, she should have called you first and offered to pay something to your aupair if you were inclined to say yes. The proper thing for your au pair to do was to tell this woman that she would need to call you to see if it was ok so that you could be the bad guy. I think a young woman from another country is easily intimidated so I don't think I'd be angry with her. Your neighbor deserves to be whipped.... I've had other mothers ask if their kid could be watched by my baby sitter and I've always said yes (asked my sitter first). I understand stuff happens. Also, the few times this has happened, the other mother has given my babysitter something extra. That's just being polite.

Posted by: To KatieMc | January 5, 2007 8:35 AM

"He always takes takes takes"

He takes because you all willingly give. Say no. It's not that hard especially since it seems he is imposing on you all. I probably wouldn't tell his wife as it's between you and the father, but I'd have no problem setting limits.

Posted by: To Dotted | January 5, 2007 8:38 AM

Well, I slept late this morning. It was worth it!

Posted by: First Comment | January 5, 2007 8:43 AM

Thanks "working mother",

I'm glad a woman pointed this out before a man had to. My wife and I spent 2 hours last night "negotiating" our schedules for the upcoming summer and school year in the fall. Our daughter is entering kindergarten and our son is entering preschool. We're preparing for the change so we can both maneuver our requirements at work to best meet our family obligations. We have each committed to taking a couple of days off to cover difficult coverage days when outside care facilities are closed. In addition, there are 8 days per year when my wife has evening meetings which will require me to leave work early.

If it turns out that we both have conflicts, we have utilized neighbors (men or women) and will continue to do so. We make ourselves available as well for our neighbors, especially during the peak times when our outside care facility is not open.

I have to admit that it would be easier to "let" my wife do all of this planning BUT we would miss the intimacy that we both share owning the schedule we have jointly created. In addition, we both have to sacrifice a little at work. Neither one of us is allowed to shoot for the stars while the other is expected to take care of the kids needs. My wife is my equal, not because we share every task down the middle but because we are equally invested to creating our lives together.

Posted by: equal_too | January 5, 2007 8:47 AM

KatieMc,

Nope, I think the other mother was rude. The aupair is not the neighborhood slave taking in children at will without pay.

I wish I had a support network of other mothers or fathers for that matter. Back home in Ohio I have about 100 people who would all be ready to help, but also, I don't live there.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 8:56 AM

I think most moms and dads give more than they take, when it comes to helping out with the kids. I try to stay one step ahead, but when I had 4 kids under age 8, I took more than I gave, because people were in a position to help me without putting themselves out too much. Now that my kids are older, I give a lot more than I take, not necessarily to the same people that helped me out, but with the idea that what goes around comes around. If a mom with younger kids protests that I am doing too much, I say that it's in response to all the people who helped me when I needed it.

That said, there are a few individuals out there who take, take, take. Perhaps they think since I'm home with the kids anyway, more kids aren't any more work. Not true! Depending on the child of course, some actually entertain my children and I gain more free time. But in general, I think addition kids means more mess, more disputes to settle, and more of my time spent talking to and nurturing additional children. I believe play dates are great, and children learn so much by mixing with other families, but I do enjoy when my kids are out for awhile in a reciprocal arrangement.
The one problem that comes to mind was someone who asked if I would watch her son once a week after school because she needed a break. This was a kid who needed lots of adult interaction, but got along well with my child. A snack was involved, and I never was offered any reciprocation at all. When I asked for my child to be watched at their house, the SAHM said she was too busy! So I stopped being available.

Posted by: experienced mom | January 5, 2007 8:57 AM

I think my first instinct in the situation Leslie describes would have been to call my husband FIRST and I'm really surprised that he was Leslie's last resort. Maybe that is a naive position since I don't have kids yet, but even if somehow it becomes my responsibility to handle childcare issues in our future family, I would think that would mean regular day-to-day stuff and that in a tough spot he would be the next in line, not a neighbor, since, afterall, he is still their father and responsibile for them regardless of how family duties are divided. I can understand if she called and he also had something important he couldn't get out of that she would then go on to call neighbors, but shouldn't the call to him come first? Maybe it did and she just didn't say that....?

Posted by: notyetamom | January 5, 2007 9:05 AM

Leslie,

If your husband "does a great deal of household and other family-related work (taxes, construction projects, etc)", why then, is it consider shirking if you are responsible for a greater portion of childcare?

Seems to me that you have a pretty good balance.

Posted by: Danielle | January 5, 2007 9:13 AM

I find that it is not the people with children that are most generous when in a pinch and I need a last minute sitter, but my friends without kids. I could be a bit more intimidated about asking other moms/friends with families, but it always seems as if they have family plans... and with my friends without kids - they offer to watch my child without asking!

As for taking and receiving - sometimes you take for a while from one friend, not have the opportunity to give back to them, but can help out another person. I feel that it all evens out in the wash. When my daughter was tiny my friends helped out a ton because her father was not there - there is no way that I have been able to repay that at this point - but hope to one day when they have children.

Does anyone else find families more wrapped into themselves than helpful to others?

Posted by: single mom | January 5, 2007 9:16 AM

Hello all, it's been awhile.

Quick question. If Leslie's husband had anticipated that she had the kids for the day, then something changes, why does it fall equally to him to solve that issue? I am not saying he can't or shouldn't help with the solution or take on the kids.

I'm just wondering whether you all take the position that an upset to her schedule that impacts the kids IS his problem equally, but an upset to her schedule that does NOT impact the kids is not his concern. Example - If she was supposed to be running an errand, but then had a plumbing emergency, is it equally his responsibility to solve that, or only because the kids were involved?

I just find it odd because on the nights when I know Proud Mama is working late and I have the boy, if something comes up at work I consider it my responsibility to make arrangements to delay the work thing until I can get to it or delegate it. I normally don't even mention it to her.

Honest question.

Posted by: Proud Papa | January 5, 2007 9:17 AM

It takes a village to raise a child. Don't take advantage!

Posted by: Understanding | January 5, 2007 9:24 AM

You know, it's not about Moms being nice to other Moms - it's about being a decent human being to other people.

I don't have kids and I've been known to do some emergency baby sitting for one or two of my neighbors since I work from home. (I'm even on the emergency contact list for my next door neighbor's little girl.) Why? Because life is what happens when you make plans - if you don't recognize that it can happen to you just as easily as anyone else, you won't have a safety net.

The Golden Rule and all that jazz.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 5, 2007 9:24 AM

Interesting take Proud Papa...I have to say I agree with your reasoning given your original premise.

However, I don't agree with your original premise (that it is her primary responsibility). But that is probably best decided parent by parent...but for us, the other parent is the first choice and is assumed to be the first choice. You decided otherwise and that is fine too!

Posted by: dotted | January 5, 2007 9:24 AM

"My wife is my equal, not because we share every task down the middle but because we are equally invested to creating our lives together."

Very nicely said "equal_too". It's nice that it is coming from a father too.

And Danielle, child responsibilities are different than the household chores in my opinion. What Leslie's husband is saying by making the children totally her responsiblity is that his career is more important than hers. The taxes or taking out the trash do not interfere with one's job. You can choose when to do either. Taking responsibility for children is another matter and it seems to me that Leslie's husband is in a way not respectful of her as a person. That's what it looks like from the outside. I don't think I'd want to have children with someone who didn't value me and my aspirations. I agree that things don't have to be entirely equal all the time, but if one parent has a work emergency, it seems to me that the other parent can see to it that the children are taken care of.

Posted by: working mother | January 5, 2007 9:25 AM

Actually, it is difficult to say no to the SAH taker-dad because the first reaction is to say yes..the first reaction is to help. That is the way it is for parents (and that is what Leslie is pointing out)...we do try to help each other.

Posted by: dotted | January 5, 2007 9:26 AM

Maybe I'm weird but I wish that my friends and neighbors would ask me for help more often- my husband and I are both lucky to have very flexible schedules and we both feel like we ought to use our good fortune in this respect to others' benefit. But, I've found that even when they're really struggling with some difficult child care issue (unexpected meeting, one spouse out of town, etc), our friends and neighbors are reluctant to ask for help- we always have to volunteer.

Posted by: randdommom | January 5, 2007 9:28 AM

Sorry, but I think it is ridiculous to expect a neighbor to fill in for you when your husband cannot. That is more than just "shirking". Heaven forbid you have something happen that you are unable to do what you are doing:would your husband know anything about what needs to be done and be able to handle it? Dual-parenthood should be a partnership and not with "silent partners." BTW, I do not use "playdates" as babysitting either.

Posted by: Sunniday | January 5, 2007 9:28 AM

I too think it is not the au pair's fault, although perhaps it does point up that she doesn't think well on her feet. I'm sure the other mom was really pushy and said something like "They're no trouble and I'll be back soon; Mary and I watch each other's kids all the time", and possibly even, "Mary told me it would be ok to ask you to watch them in an emeregency." (which maybe WOULD be ok, except this was an appointment and so clearly not an emergency). Nevertheless the au pair should have said she would have to check with you first. I think it's good your neighbor didn't pay, because that might make her think it's ok to do it as long as she pays.

Moms always help me when my kids throw tantrums at the grocery, and I'm willing to help moms who need emergency babysitting, although no one's asked me yet.

Posted by: m | January 5, 2007 9:31 AM

to KatieMc - I think you can cross that neighbor off your friend list!!

She needs to pay the au pair for the time.

It's people like that who give the whole neighbor/share thing a bad name.

A curse on her!

Posted by: RoseG | January 5, 2007 9:37 AM

I've had some wonderful support from moms I know, not surprising they are fellow Moms of girls from my dd's Girl Scout Troop.

Summer of 2005 I had gotten laid off from my job, found another one and my dh decided to take a sound tech job on a cruise ship going to Mexico. The daycare person I used ended up being horrible and treated my dd like dirt. So I ended up pulling her from there for the last week. A couple of Moms from the troop volunteered to have her come over, took her with them to swim and other trips and were just amazing.

Posted by: librarianmom | January 5, 2007 9:40 AM

I've had some wonderful support from moms I know, not surprising they are fellow Moms of girls from my dd's Girl Scout Troop.

Summer of 2005 I had gotten laid off from my job, found another one and my dh decided to take a sound tech job on a cruise ship going to Mexico. The daycare person I used ended up being horrible and treated my dd like dirt. So I ended up pulling her from there for the last week before school started. A couple of Moms from the troop volunteered to have her come over, took her with them to swim and other trips and were just amazing.

Posted by: librarianmom | January 5, 2007 9:40 AM

Proud Papa - You said "If Leslie's husband had anticipated that she had the kids for the day, then something changes, why does it fall equally to him to solve that issue?" Well, I think it all depends on the arrangement you have within your marriage but I think inflexibility creates unecessary problems.

My husband and I both work full time out of the home. I do daycare drop off and he does pick up but our schedules frequently require us to switch or for one of us to handle both. If I have an early morning court appearance or meeting my husband is always the first one I call. Yes, mornings are normally my responsibility but I think most jobs come with ocassional meetings, conferences, etc... that will skew your schedule a bit. If both my husband and I were to *assume* that its the other's responsibility to just figure it out when a conflict arises, it would create a great deal of unecessary stress for both of us. Marriage is a partnership. If I can help my husband out, I will and he does the same for me.


http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | January 5, 2007 9:40 AM

I'm pretty much always happy to help other moms. Usually having another couple of kids in the mix keeps my kids from fighting with each other and generally ups the fun. If I'm having two kids over then I'm happy to have a few more - not a big deal to cut up some more apples. I do fee like we have to support each other. If moms don't help each other who will?

Its taken me some time to get comfortable asking for help. We have no family in the area and its always just been the two of us doing all the work. I'm getting better and remembering that it makes other people feel good to help out.

That said, I did have a taker. Her husband is lout and a workaholic. He couldn't be around when she was on bedrest - guess who picked up the slack, when she had surgery - guess who picked up the slack? Finally though it got to the point where I was just the sitter - she was asking me to watch the kids every six weeks so she could get her hair done - I don't know about others, but I get my hair done when kids are at school or on the weekend so my husband is able to watch the kids. Long story short, I had to cut her off because I felt that her husband knew that I would do things so he never had to. I feel bad for her, but she chose this guy and lets him behave this way. It is not my job to fix.

One final point (this has not happened to me but I know some who feel this way) so SAHMs feel like their time is valued less by WMs? Just putting it out there.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 9:50 AM

I also tried very hard not to have to ask for help, especially being a single mother I had a feeling that maybe others were judging me anyway so wanted to work extra hard not to be a burden on anyone - plus I could rarely help out when the kids were little anyway, my schedule was very stretched as it was. But I was very grateful for one mother who helped me a couple of times when I had to be at work early for a meeting, she was fine with having the kids over there for a half hour or so before they went to school - her kids were going too so it wasn't a lot of trouble but I know it is always more work to have other kids around. So I very much appreciated her and did not overdo it. On the other hand when I tried getting my son involved in Cub Scouts, the mother who ran his den did NOT like it that I relied on her... she volunteered to be a den mother, lived down the street from me, and met her son at school too so I thought it might be OK with her to have my son walk home with them on those days. I was home by the time the meetings were over so I picked him up. But she let me know that she resented my not being there for pickup at school (which was impossible) so... no more Cub Scouts. My son didn't like it that much anyway. I realize it was her prerogative not to pick up my son, but was kind of surprised at her I guess, if I had been in that position it wouldn't have bothered me. Oh well.

On the other hand I did more than my share of driving other kids around and feeding them etc when mine were in middle and high school, so I "paid back", although I was not in a position to do too much when they were young.

Posted by: Catherine | January 5, 2007 9:59 AM

Proud Papa - I understand what you are saying, but personally I think family related has TWO people responsible for it in a dual-parent family, including the plumbing problem. In terms of the errand, if it was just for the wife (pick up new pantyhose) there is no reason not to ask your husband to do it but he isn't really "responsible" for it, but if is for the family (pick up dinner), he should feel just as responsible and I think there is no reason NOT to expect him to do it especially if wife is dealing with big plumbing problem. (It is also fine if his answer is go out to dinner.) A marriage is a partnership... even if you have duties divided up in some way, even as specific as your schedule for that day, if something unexpected comes up there is no reason not to expect your partner to help just as you should expect to help your partner whenever you can... couples should WANT to do this for each other and personally I know my husband would rather I call him first for ANYTHING, even just advice, before I call anyone else because we are a team and everything is teamwork in a marriage even when you split it up and ESPECIALLY when something unexpected happens. Just a newlywed's thoughts. : )

Posted by: notyetamom | January 5, 2007 10:03 AM

I agree with your premise that in Leslie's situation, her husband probably did not expect to be called, but that would be my beef with the situation. Why not? Perhaps two heads can up with a solution together, even if it does mean calling the neighbor. He should not be the last resort.

Posted by: To Proud Papa | January 5, 2007 10:03 AM

"I realize it was her prerogative not to pick up my son"

Yes, it was her perogative and you had a heck of a nerve assuming she would babysit your son on a regular basis, even if for only a few minutes per week.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 10:11 AM

How does letting a child walk with you to a cub scout meeting that you volunteered for equal regular babysitting?

It was a walk down the street. Not a two hour drive.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 10:17 AM

Proud Papa,

I'll second others who've said that if this is the arrangement that works in your household, that's great, but it wouldn't work for us.

For us, it's not about whose career is more important. It's about the fact that we need both jobs and both of us have to be perceived as team players in our respective workplaces. So we approach our collective parenting and work responsibilities as a team in order to protect the job security of each parent. I'm the drop-off parent and he's the pick-up parent, as a general plan. Schedules and needs change, however. If I'm in a bind, my husband's the first one I call. He does likewise. We bend over backwards to objectively determine which parent is better positioned to handle any sick days, doctor's appointments, or other childcare related emergencies. I can only recall one instance in eleven years where we had concurrent, legitimate, high-urgency work crises and we called a neighbor and asked for help.

We no longer live in that neighborhood and I'm the "bad" mom in my current neighborhood because I'm the only mom who works outside the home. Between the pitying looks and the explicit disdainful comments from parents of both genders in each of 5 couples, my husband and I would probably risk losing one of our jobs before we'd ask any of these parents to help us out in a work-related emergency. Life is too short to waste it engaging with people who are judging your families choices sans any relevant information. The irony of writing that sentence on this blog has not escaped me.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 5, 2007 10:26 AM

"I realize it was her prerogative not to pick up my son"
"Yes, it was her perogative and you had a heck of a nerve assuming she would babysit your son on a regular basis, even if for only a few minutes per week."

That's crazy. When my daughter stayed after school for an extra class one of the moms offered to drive her home every week because she knew I would have to leave work early to get to the school. When I was a Girl Scout leader I picked up one of the girls because it was a hassle for her mom to load all 4 kids in the car. When I coach soccer I make sure the parents know that I can pick up/drop off their kids if they have conflicting schedules (many of the parents have multiple kids on various fields). I have found that most parents will help out whenever you ask.

Posted by: KS | January 5, 2007 10:28 AM

My lifeline has been my mom. I'm an introvert, so I don't know our neighbors really well -- they're all very nice, but we're not friends to the point where I would feel comfortable imposing on them.

But luckily, we live a block from my mom. She works two jobs herself (hit 60 and instead of scaling back toward retirement, opened her own company on the side). But it is really important to her to help us out with the grandkids, as her hours tend to be more flexible.

It was a nice bonus the first year or so, but the last few months, it has been a complete lifesaver. My son has just been chronically sick of late -- since November, I don't think we've had a solid week where he didn't have to miss at least one day for something (today, the unexplained rash). My husband and I split sick days based on who has fewer conflicts when, but there's just been so many of them lately that it's overwhelming. I feel like I'm constantly treading water, about to get sucked under if he gets sick one more time -- and then he gets sick one more time. And we just can't afford a nanny right now.

So thank God for my mother. Today she took my daughter to school, so my husband could go get Benadryl and get home in time for me to do my 8:00 conference call before leaving for his 9:00 meeting. She did all our dishes twice when we were all so sick over Christmas (the second time when she was sick herself, thanks to Typhoid Jakey). And she kept my daughter overnight several nights so she wouldn't get the same bug the rest of us had. We literally couldn't have made it this far without her.

The biggest problem is that I really don't have any good way to reciprocate, so I feel constantly guilty for imposing, even though she really really wants to help.

Posted by: Laura | January 5, 2007 10:31 AM

I'm with you scarry - how big of an inconvenience is it really. Sounds like a pretty selfish woman when she was doing it anyway esp. given that this is a single mom who has no back up.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 10:36 AM

Laura, I'm betting your mom doesn't read her active participation in your family as in imposition at all, and she is fortunate to have such a considerate daughter.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 5, 2007 10:38 AM

I know moxiemom and I am sure that the kid felt her resentment too. Maybe you, I and KS are just too nice.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 10:42 AM

geez, if I'd been the mom who picks my son up from school every day and walks to Cub Scouts, I'd have SUGGESTED to the single mom that I'd be glad to have her son walk with us as well. It doesn't even have anything to do with whether or not the other parent is a single mom. It's about being part of a community raising our kids up together, and helping out another human being. It's also about efficiency.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 10:45 AM

"Actually, it is difficult to say no to the SAH taker-dad because the first reaction is to say yes..the first reaction is to help. That is the way it is for parents (and that is what Leslie is pointing out)...we do try to help each other"

Dotted--it's one thing to try to help others, most of us have that inclination. It's quite another to allow someone to take advantage of you. It's not a bad thing to set limits. If you feel put upon, then put a stop to it. You're not a bad person for doing so.

Posted by: working mother | January 5, 2007 10:46 AM

Thanks, NCLawyer. Intellectually I know you're right (Lord knows she's told me that enough), but when you're buried in the thick of things and overwhelmed and emotional, it's hard to really believe it.

Now, off to use valuable naptime to get some of that annoying work done instead of reading this dang addictive blog! :-)

Posted by: Laura | January 5, 2007 10:47 AM

If more people did these "random acts of kindness" as a pay it forward and didn't expect something in return it would sure be nice, wouldn't it?
If you do something nice/good for someone and nobody knows does it count? :-)

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 10:51 AM

Interesting comment from Leslie:

My last resort was to drop our four year old off at his office, but I get the feeling that he catches some degree of grief when he has a kid at work on a weekday, even for a few hours.

Hmm, not a friendly work environment (or maybe it's in his mind). I work for a consulting firm that does both Government and commercial work. First, I have a pretty flexible schedule that lets me work from home or take a few hours off in the event of a child issue (or just because I want to. :-) However, if I have to be in the office, there's still a solution - the company provides wireless internet access that's outside the company firewall for visitors, customers, etc who are here. (It's not an open hot spot - it's still protected from random users in the building.) So, bring in the kid and a laptop from home; let the kid surf the web while Dad attends the mandatory meeting. Of course, it only works with older kids - our youngest is 10 - but I've never had a complaint.

(And before anybody asks, yes I've tightly locked down the laptop to prevent the kids from doing anything I don't want them to. Since I do that kind of thing for a living, I kind of think I'm pretty good at it - I'm good enough that the 17 and 16 year olds are pretty frustrated at times.)

Posted by: Army Brat | January 5, 2007 10:53 AM

I think it is harder for working moms and single moms to ask for help from other moms -- for fear of being judged, and also for fear of not being able to reciprocate. But I've found SAHMs really eager to help especially when the conflict is work-related. They do expect to be "paid back" and I expect to pay them back!!! But we try not to keep track -- silly and self-defeating to be too anal.

The nasty neighbor taking advantage of the au pair is a pretty common scenario I think. Golf Dad sounds awful too. Our babysitter is full of stories of people who are gracious to me but rude to her. We have to stick up for childcare providers and make boundaries clear.

Working Mom -- you are making some excellent points. You've done a better job negotiating equality at home. And you are right that my "inequality" is pretty common, unfortunately. You are setting a really good example.

Danielle -- yes...but what gets me is that we never openly, fairly agreed that childcare would be solely my responsibility. He just refused to have anything to do with it, including boycotting making calls to schedule babysitters for a weekend night. (And he's a great guy.) I don't even know how it got this way, but here we are! It reminds me of birth control...de facto the woman's responsibility.

And Lawyer Mama, I agree, it's the lack of flexibility and reciprocity in my DH that gets me, especially when the same seems so "second nature" for other moms!

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 10:54 AM

"She had spent a good amount of time figuring out how to take care of me."

It's interesting that this woman (Mom #1 in Leslie's story) is being praised for doing precisely what you folks are always talking about learning NOT to do: spend your time trying to fix other people's problems AS THOUGH THEY WERE YOURS.

Mom #2 was able to help. Great. Mom #1 probably would have helped if she'd been able. Also great. But for Mom #2 to take on Leslie's problem with the goal of solving it by rearranging her own complicated schedule is a fine example of co-dependency at work. (Yeah, yeah, I know it's pop psych, but there is a grain of validity to the concept.)

Leslie, why are you applauding someone whose boundaries are so thin that she needs to fix other people's problems?

Posted by: pittypat | January 5, 2007 11:03 AM

My children are adults now but I remember the wonderful support system of other moms in the neighborhood. We all jumped in for any mom in need - a working mom or stay at home mom. It was a great network that did not keep score. We were young mothers in the 80's and now some of us are helping to raise our grandchildren. Guess what - that network still exists today!

Posted by: Older Mom | January 5, 2007 11:05 AM

Pittypat says "Leslie, why are you applauding someone whose boundaries are so thin that she needs to fix other people's problems?"

Please. Codependent? That woman was being KIND. And couldn't we all use a little more kindness in our lives? I find your post to be very cynical.

Posted by: Unreal | January 5, 2007 11:09 AM

I'm a mother and I was pretty annoyed by what Leslie wrote. "Moms helping moms"-- and as a side thought, "hey Dads, do other parents help you?" I guess it is because of the arrangement in Leslie's family that she is blind to the fact that "parents help parents"!

Case in point-- with schools closed this week, on Tuesday I stayed home because I got the time off to grieve Ford but my husband didn't, Wednesday we hired a sitter who also watched a neighbors' child (the kids get along great!), thurday my husband stayed home and watched son and neighbor's kid and today neighbor dad is watching our kid and his. So for this week at least, it was the dads who were giving up work time and not the moms.

In response to Proud PApa, I had to read your post several times before I could even figure out what you were talking about it is just so foreign to the way our family handles things. My husband would be furious if I went behind his back and asked a neighbor or sitter to watch our child before he was given an opportunity to step in. As someone said before-- "I know my husband would rather I call him first for ANYTHING, even just advice, before I call anyone else because we are a team and everything is teamwork in a marriage even when you split it up and ESPECIALLY when something unexpected happens." That is certainly what works for us, but I guess I can imagine being married to someone who wouldn't want to be distracted by unexpected problems and conversely wouldn't want to bother me when there is some problem. And I have trust/ jealousy issues, so I wouldn't want my husband to entrust our child to someone else without first seeing if could do it.

Posted by: mom, mom, mom-- ack! | January 5, 2007 11:12 AM

I'm a mother and I was pretty annoyed by what Leslie wrote. "Moms helping moms"-- and as a side thought, "hey Dads, do other parents help you?" I guess it is because of the arrangement in Leslie's family that she is blind to the fact that "parents help parents"!

Case in point-- with schools closed this week, on Tuesday I stayed home because I got the time off to grieve Ford but my husband didn't, Wednesday we hired a sitter who also watched a neighbors' child (the kids get along great!), thurday my husband stayed home and watched son and neighbor's kid and today neighbor dad is watching our kid and his. So for this week at least, it was the dads who were giving up work time and not the moms.

In response to Proud PApa, I had to read your post several times before I could even figure out what you were talking about it is just so foreign to the way our family handles things. My husband would be furious if I went behind his back and asked a neighbor or sitter to watch our child before he was given an opportunity to step in. As someone said before-- "I know my husband would rather I call him first for ANYTHING, even just advice, before I call anyone else because we are a team and everything is teamwork in a marriage even when you split it up and ESPECIALLY when something unexpected happens." That is certainly what works for us, but I guess I can imagine being married to someone who wouldn't want to be distracted by unexpected problems and conversely wouldn't want to bother me when there is some problem. And I have trust/ jealousy issues, so I wouldn't want my husband to entrust our child to someone else without first seeing if could do it.

Posted by: mom, mom, mom-- ack! | January 5, 2007 11:12 AM

Just to be clear, the den mother initially said "no problem" about having my son walk with them, then started acting snarky about it. So I pulled my son out as soon as I knew it was not OK with her. I would not have done it to begin with if I thought it was an imposition, plus I tend to believe people when they say something is OK, I am a direct person. I did not "assume" anyone would babysit him. Turns out I ran into someone who was passive agressive, and it took a little while before I knew it. Live and learn.

Posted by: Catherine | January 5, 2007 11:12 AM

Scarry - I agree, we are likely too nice AND humble! haha.

Leslie - I don't think that all SAHMs expect to be "paid back" but there is a line where as I said in my previous post, I have felt like a sitter. That line is different for everyone. I'm happy to help someone who can't "pay back" but I don't want to be taken for granted either.

Pitty Pat - I think you can interpret Mom #1 either way. I chose to think that she's just a nice person who was willing to go out of her way. Nothing wrong with that.

Finally, in terms of reciprocity - we have a group of 3 families who take a turn once a month having all kids one Saturday evening for about 5 hours so the other two can go on a date and save on a sitter. We also have a weekly play group which rotates between homes so that 3 afternoons a month each mom has some free time. Works for us and is very symbiotic.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 11:15 AM

Pittypat, you know I love your comments and you've got a really good point here.

I don't mean to applaud Mom #1 thinking about my and my problems...she really shouldn't. But I couldn't help but be touched by her kindness. I will never forget it, and I will do anything I can to help her in the future. I feel like now I know what a truly sweet person she is -- codependent or not -- and you only run across those types so often.

What do you think? I am wrong here? I always enjoy your opinions whether I agree or not so let me know!

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 11:18 AM

Pittypat,

Either mom could have said no. Leslie had no idea what their schedules were like that day. They could have had the day off for all she knew. You know, I am used to being alone and only relying on my husband, but one day when my daughter was about 6 months old, I came home to our apartment to find a notice on the door stating that they were going to repave the parking lot the next day and any cars that were not moved to the other parking lot were going to be towed. I went over to the office and ask them if someone could move my car, they said they couldn't be liable for my car but they would watch my daughter while I moved them both. Well, I am sure you all know what I told them about that. I came home and all upset and called my husband. He said run upstairs and ask Dan or Vicki if they could move the car for me. Long story short, it was my problem, but Vickie on her way out the door to Indiana for a funeral took the few minutes to move my car for me.

A year later they we were all good friends and we were babysitting their dog because last time she went to the kennel she caught a cold. We are still friends today and if she called me right now I would drop what I am doing and drive to St. Louis to help her. That is what friends do.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 11:21 AM

Leslie's husband really has her snookered.

I've worked in Bigfinance and the high powered partners/directors who bring in the big bucks like Leslie's husband are GODS and GODDESSES in the office. No one in power gives them grief about having kids in the office. There may be resentment from the support staff. But I don't think that is what is going on in Leslie's mind.

It is weird that she doesn't know some of the basic workings of her own field (and other people who wield power)and it's obvious he is taking advantage of her ignorance.

Posted by: DZ | January 5, 2007 11:21 AM

What do you think? I am wrong here? I always enjoy your opinions whether I agree or not so let me know!

Geez Leslie, now I feel like you are being co-dependent on pittypat. Why can't what your friend did just be something nice a friend did? You shouldn't need affirmation from pittypat or anyone else to recognize that you have a good friend and that you didn't take advantage of her.

Let me ask you this: Would you do the same thing for her? I am almost certain that you would.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 11:29 AM

When our kids were young (not all that long ago, by the way), I always got a kick out of how my wife and other Moms would exchange kids' clothing, particularly the Catholic school uniforms, on a regular basis. It seemed that children's clothes always got full use, even if it was by the family next door since the original owner outgrew it so quickly.

I'm fairly certain we gave away our last stroller and crib, as well. The whole exercise gave an old-fashioned and welcome feeling of community to the child-rearing.

Posted by: Dave | January 5, 2007 11:30 AM

This is only slightly related . . . but do people still hire teenage babysitters? I can remember several teens who babysat my brother and I when we were small, and I also did a lot of babysitting when I was that age. Would that have been an option for you, Leslie? The teens who babysat us were all neighbors, and my parents knew their parents and knew they were good, responsible kids. My brother and I considered it a treat - to have someone whose entire attention would be devoted to us for the afternoon or evening was such fun! It seems like a lot of my friends who have kids now would never even consider having a teenager watch them, and it strikes me as sad - a lost opportunity for both the young kids and the teens.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 5, 2007 11:40 AM

Interesting topic today. I love it when my children have somebody to play with so I am always happy to have other kids over and give the other mom some relief. I am also a working mother so I make sure that my babysitter is OK with this arrangement.

I was kind of shocked when some posters jumped all over Leslie that she did not call her husband. If indeed her husband works in an non-child friendly enviroment it does not make him a bad father nor does it make their marriage an unequal marriage. Some jobs are just not child friendly period but somebody has to do them. I can think of very few jobs where you can take off on a moment notice unless it's a dire emergency. I brought my son to my office and everybody went gaga over him. My husband did the same the next day (my son asked) and told me that he got no work done and he will never do it again.

Finally, I have a question for you moms and dads out there who offer to watch other parents kids. How do you handle children who were clearly brought up in a home with no limits? They turn my house upside down and destroy all my efforts to teach my kids proper behavior. I think I am being reasonable in discipline attitude but I have observed a number of times that parents completely let their children run around, jump on furniture, scream, and they don't say anything. What do you do? Talk to parents? Discipline the kids yourself?

Posted by: another working mother | January 5, 2007 11:41 AM

Hi Scarry -- I just find Pittypat's comments thought provoking and wanted to find out more. I am completely at peace with Mom #1 and don't need affirmation. Didn't mean to give out that needy vibe!

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 11:44 AM

Leslie,

Appreciating Mom #1 for her kindness is perfectly reasonable. If someone went out of her way for me in that manner, I'd feel some pretty warm fuzzies, too.

What I'm objecting to is the idea that people like Mom #1 should serve as role models when, in fact, they are examples of exactly what both WOHMs and SAHMs need to avoid becoming.

Saying "yeah, I can do that" is being helpful; spending several hours figuring out how to fix someone else's problem is pathological.

So, gung ho on the appreciation. But maybe a little caveat to your readers would help.

Posted by: pittypat | January 5, 2007 11:44 AM

Future Mom -- teenage babysitters are the best! My kids love them, the babysitter's parents often stay home as "back up." Plus, my kids now have "big friends" that they see and admire in the neighborhood. Teenage babysitters even take a Red Cross course now.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 5, 2007 11:45 AM

AS for the afterthought of the dad - do you dad's out there feel like it's part of the larger problem of keeping dads engaged in raising the child? I don't have any children, but as I was explaining to my fiance the other night, when a kid misbehaves in a store people always say, "Why didn't his MOTHER teach him better", etc. Is it a perceived "inability" of the father just because he's a father and not a mother (even though he is a parent). I'm not really stating myself very clearly here.. but I hope you guys get the point.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 11:46 AM

Again, Leslie's husband is a VERY powerful player in his company. There is no child friendly office environment issue for him.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 11:47 AM

Catherine, one step further, I've got a neighbor who calls several times a week and asks my favorite daughter over to play with her daughter. I usually don't mind, but the problem is that when she makes her contribution to the gossip pack, she more or less brags how much time she has spent helping me out by watching my daughter as if it's an act of charity.

Usually, it's a loss or inconvenience on my part.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin. Many years ago, I would take my daughter up to the park every Saturday. On the way we would knock on her friend's door and offer to take her to the park too. This continued for about 2 months and then the mother began coming up with a bunch of lame excuses why her doughter couldn't go.

I figured it out later on... She had run out of child care credit. Child care credit? that's the time debt you rack up when somebody else supervises your kid without you reciprocating.

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 5, 2007 11:48 AM

Saying "yeah, I can do that" is being helpful; spending several hours figuring out how to fix someone else's problem is pathological

Call me pathological then. A normal friend wouldn't hang up on Leslie and not give a second thought to her issue. Do you think she really thought about it for hours and worried herself into a tizzy? No, she probably just thought, hey, I can rearrange some things to help a friend.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 11:51 AM

"AS for the afterthought of the dad - do you dad's out there feel like it's part of the larger problem of keeping dads engaged in raising the child?"

Many people on this blog have reminded men (not to mention, white middle-upper-class men) that we have it good and not to complain. It's good advice.

It's fine with me if people assume the Mother is in charge. She deserves plenty of credit for how great our kids are. She knows and I know how involved I am in raising my kids, so the default "mother" rather than "parent" doesn't bother me a bit.

In fact, I was visiting my aunt with the kids (wife was at home), and my Aunt told the kids to ask their mother if it was okay to have a snack. I knew what she meant, and the kids got their snack (and wife had a quiet afternoon to herself).

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 5, 2007 11:52 AM

Another working mother,

I, for one, have absolutely no compulsion "rearranging" a child's perception of acceptable behavior, particularly in my house --- or my neighborhood, for that matter. If the parent objects to my stricter interpretation, they are free not to bring their kids around again.

My experience, though, has been that the kids don't really mind, as my kids clued them in that I was serious and the behavior improved without issue.

I once hollered at some kids down the block from the vantage point of my porch and their parents took exception. That is, until, I explained that the little girls were playing a game of hiding between parked cars and leaping out in front of traffic to get the cars to screech to a halt. Even their permissive, easy-going, "explain the reason why", parents found reason to adapt my standards (and response) at that particular stunt.

Posted by: Dave | January 5, 2007 11:56 AM

Dave - I don't have children, but my sister has 3 (4 yrs, 2.5 yrs, and a newborn). She told me that carseats etc now have expiration dates. So, is it safe to share things like this?

Futuremom - I'm only 24 and I did a ton of babysitting when I was a teenager.

Here's another question. If you have a mom (or dad, whatever) that you generally help out, but you don't feel is holding up their end of the bargan (considering their ability), is there a tactful way to approach them? I know some of you mentioned having infants and not being able to help until later, so I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about moms that could be helping, but honestly don't realize they're taking too much and not giving enough. Or is this a non-issue?

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 11:56 AM

"She deserves plenty of credit for how great our kids are."

Except for your DNA, your wife deserves pretty much all the credit for how great your kids are.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 11:57 AM

FutureMom - good luck finding teens you want to hire! In this area teens aren't just hanging about waiting to be hired - they've got lives and after school activities. The ones who don't you wonder if you'd really want them watching your children!

Catherine - don't despair about cub scouts. Moms get snarky. Their kids are still little and perfect because of perfect parenting. Once children get a few years older and mess up then parents have to acknowledge that they are their own selves, and not the product of perfect parenting. At that point (middle school usually) Moms become more tolerant to each other -- because they can no longer attribute their angel babies success to their own efforts.

There are plenty of things for kids to do besides the scouts where you don't have den mothers to deal with!

Posted by: RoseG | January 5, 2007 12:01 PM

Bexie - I'm not that much older - only 28. :-)

I guess I ask because most of my friends seem horrified at the thought of their precious babies being at the mercy of a teenager. One of the families I sat for had me watch their younger child when she was less than a week old (albeit only for a short time). I think I was 18 when she was born, so I wasn't *that* young, but still . . . everything was fine. Is a toddler really that much more susceptible to harm with a responsible teenager than with another mother?

Posted by: FutureMom | January 5, 2007 12:03 PM

Wow, I don't think my arrangement is as cold as it may be characterized in some of the comments. Proud Mama is a lawyer, just as some of you other moms are, and I have learned to assume that when she's working late she's pounding away on something that's time-sensitive. So, I do use her as a last resort. I don't think that's such a bad thing. I understand that marriage is a partnership, naturally.

An aside, having nothing to do with parenting -- more of a business observation: Last-minute meetings that I cannot attend fall into 2 categories - 1) Meetings that I am critical to, that must be rescheduled and 2) Meetings that I am not critical to that can go on with someone attending in my place. In the rare case that it's your boss trying to saddle you with a last-minute meeting that you are critical to, rarely is a meeting the best way to handle such an emergency. Food for thought.

Posted by: Proud Papa | January 5, 2007 12:04 PM

To another working mother - I often have the same problem. Usually when we have those kids over I gather them all together at the beginning of the play date and go over the rules of the house very clearly. If I catch them breaking a rule (these are 6 year olds and 4 year olds) I remind them of the rule and tell them that if they can't follow the rules they will have to leave my house. Thus far, I've never had to kick anyone out. There are some pretty difficult kids out there who don't seem to have any limits - worst case, you just don't have that kid over. Tough spot though.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 12:05 PM

Bexie,

Regarding expiration dates: Well, you have to use common sense, both as giver and receiver. I think, however, that any expiration date was probably mandated in as conservative a manner as possible to protect the manufacturer from lawsuits (and possibly increase sales). The truth of the matter in terms of usability is probably something else. I, personally, felt I could rely on my own judgement and, was apparently correct, or lucky.

Posted by: Dave | January 5, 2007 12:05 PM

to 11:21 -

Maybe I missed something, but why did you need help moving the cars? Put the child and a stroller in one car, move to the next lot, walk back to the first lot, and repeat.

Really not trying to be snarky, but this just didn't hit me as a situation where you would need help.

Posted by: just wondering | January 5, 2007 12:07 PM

Scarry,

I don't think the issue is quite as simple as you're making it when you say, "Do you think she really thought about it for hours and worried herself into a tizzy? No, she probably just thought, hey, I can rearrange some things to help a friend."

Leslie said: "A few hours later Mom #1 called me to tell me she had figured out a way to re-arrange her schedule so that my daughter could come to her house. I was, frankly, floored. She had spent a good amount of time figuring out how to take care of me."

So, clearly, Mom #1 DID think about it for a few hours. Did she "worry herself into a tizzy"? Who knows? But, as Leslie makes very plain, she spent a LOT of time figuring out how to solve Leslie's problem. Apparently, she went well beyond just thinking "hey, I can rearrange some things to help a friend." After all, she called back after a few HOURS, not a few minutes.

I understand friendship and wanting to help people. But many of the posters on this blog subscribe to the "I need to be everything to everybody" myth, and, as so many of their posts demonstrate, it's exhausting and ultimately not very productive.

Posted by: pittypat | January 5, 2007 12:07 PM

RoseG -

I see your point. I still contend that acting as a referee to 8-year-olds is some of the best leadership and workplace training available to most high school students, but I can see that the average fifteen-year-old these days might not see it that way.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 5, 2007 12:07 PM

This is a great topic and I'm having this problem right now. I am 37 wks pregnant with my second child, my first child is 20 months and if the baby comes before her due date I don't have anyone to take care of my son during the night! Two neighborhood mothers have offered help, but I don't feel very comfortable with waking them up in the middle of the night. We'll see, hope the baby waits until my parents arrive!

Posted by: ML | January 5, 2007 12:13 PM

"She deserves plenty of credit for how great our kids are."

Except for your DNA, your wife deserves pretty much all the credit for how great your kids are.

Posted by: | January 5, 2007 11:57 AM

and you know precisely what about Arlington Dad's parenting contribution to make such an insulting comment?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 12:16 PM

I do think that in some ways the professinalization of childcare has made some parents much less willing to hire teen age babysitters. If you are thinking about childcare rather than babysitting, then 13 seems much too young to care for a child.

I have done an interesting variation on teenage babysitting. My 10 year old had a girl on her soccer team whose mom was having a hard time taking her to practice. I offered to have her daughter walk home with my 10 year old and then be babysat by my 13 year old and then I would drive the two to practice. The only problem was that she was very generous in paying my daugter -- $10 for an hour. But my daughter got babysitting experience, the younger daughter had a playmate, and I was driving to practice anyway.

As for "child care credit," I think it is important to realize that everyone has emergencies & that we can all pitch in. A stay at home mom may need help on week-ends or evenings especially if she is also providing elder care to a parent.

There does need to be mutuality. But to answer the question from the last poster, I think that if someone is a "taker," you just need to ask for help & in away that is polite but makes it clear that you expect some help.

With activities, sometimes one parent can drop off & the working parent can pick up.

You can always say, I have some errands to do this week-end. It would be great if x could go to your house when it is convenient for your family so I have some time to do the errands.

Posted by: parent of a teen | January 5, 2007 12:17 PM

I, too, would only call my husband as a last resort. I wouldn't hesitate to call him if it was a medical emergency or something like that, or ask him to come home early if it was pre-planned and a good reason. But I wouldn't expect him to ask me to come and help him at his office and ditch one of my responsibilities at the last moment - why should it be the reverse? Yes, our kids are our joint responsibility but technically, during the weekdays, they are mine, just as his job is his.

Similarly, Leslie works part-time and if this meeting was at a time where she normally wouldn't need child-care, it is completely reasonable that she should be responsible for finding the child-care. She's the one who knows the parents and children at school, who has the network. Ditto for evening/weekend babysitters - she's the one with the contacts (references from other parents, etc.)

My husband doesn't like to call to order pizza. He'll pick it up, he'll go to the door and pay the delivery guy, but he won't call and order it. It kind of drives me nuts and even though he *thinks* it's a negotiated separation of responsibilities, it's not really. But who cares??? It's just one of those things that I do and he doesn't. So what if a dad doesn't like to find babysitters if he's doing plenty of other things?

I recently "gave up" a built-in agreement of reciprocacy by quitting a babysitting co-op I'd belonged to for 6 1/2 years. The group was small - 7 families when I quit - and the women in the group are among my best friends here locally. I know that I could still call on any of them in a pinch, but I just didn't need the formal relationship anymore.

What I have now is an informal agreement with a friend who lives very close to me to watch each other's 4 year old boys whenever needed. They are friends and get to have a playdate, we get what we need.

Moxiemom - did the friend you talked about with the louse of a husband ever sit for you to reciprocate for you helping her? And why should it matter what she's doing (having her hair done, etc.) when you watch her children - maybe she just needs some time to sit alone and stare at the trees....I don't think it's right to judge the reasons people need child care. And I realize how frustrating those situations can be, but do you really think that by cutting her loose that you caused any degree of change in her husband's willingness to help out?

Posted by: momof4 | January 5, 2007 12:21 PM

I, too, would only call my husband as a last resort. I wouldn't hesitate to call him if it was a medical emergency or something like that, or ask him to come home early if it was pre-planned and a good reason. But I wouldn't expect him to ask me to come and help him at his office and ditch one of my responsibilities at the last moment - why should it be the reverse? Yes, our kids are our joint responsibility but technically, during the weekdays, they are mine, just as his job is his.

Similarly, Leslie works part-time and if this meeting was at a time where she normally wouldn't need child-care, it is completely reasonable that she should be responsible for finding the child-care. She's the one who knows the parents and children at school, who has the network. Ditto for evening/weekend babysitters - she's the one with the contacts (references from other parents, etc.)

My husband doesn't like to call to order pizza. He'll pick it up, he'll go to the door and pay the delivery guy, but he won't call and order it. It kind of drives me nuts and even though he *thinks* it's a negotiated separation of responsibilities, it's not really. But who cares??? It's just one of those things that I do and he doesn't. So what if a dad doesn't like to find babysitters if he's doing plenty of other things?

I recently "gave up" a built-in agreement of reciprocacy by quitting a babysitting co-op I'd belonged to for 6 1/2 years. The group was small - 7 families when I quit - and the women in the group are among my best friends here locally. I know that I could still call on any of them in a pinch, but I just didn't need the formal relationship anymore.

What I have now is an informal agreement with a friend who lives very close to me to watch each other's 4 year old boys whenever needed. They are friends and get to have a playdate, we get what we need.

Moxiemom - did the friend you talked about with the louse of a husband ever sit for you to reciprocate for you helping her? And why should it matter what she's doing (having her hair done, etc.) when you watch her children - maybe she just needs some time to sit alone and stare at the trees....I don't think it's right to judge the reasons people need child care. And I realize how frustrating those situations can be, but do you really think that by cutting her loose that you caused any degree of change in her husband's willingness to help out?

Posted by: momof4 | January 5, 2007 12:22 PM

ML - Ifeel your pain. I was in the exact same spot except my daughter came 5 weeks early. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and accept the help. Keep in mind that it might be disruptive, but your neighbor is probably happy to help and will probably feel really good that she was able to help out. Sometimes we help others by allowing them to help. I did send my husband home to my son as soon as possible which left me kind of lonley and sad in the hosp. with a baby in the NICU, but sometimes that's the way it goes. If you end up getting them up - you can always get them a nice bottle of wine or a Norstrom gift card as a thank you too. Good luck - I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 12:23 PM

I have had great experiences with teen-age babysitters, but they've proved to be no solution at all to same-day, daytime crises. In our experience, they have to be scheduled several days, if not weeks, in advance. It's not just that most are involved in sports, community service and other after-school activities, and have a ton of homework on weeknights -- they have typical teenage lives.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 5, 2007 12:23 PM

I started babysitting when I was 11. I realize now that I was probably a little young, but I was "responsible for my age," my own mom was only a couple of houses away, and the kids I sat for weren't all that young. (They were long out of diapers and basically only needed supervision so they wouldn't kill each other.) I think some kids are too young to sit at 13 (or even 16), but others are fine - I guess my parents felt comfortable because they knew the other kids who sat for us pretty well. Perhaps part of the problem is that neighborhoods tend not to be as friendly these days, and neighbors don't know each other very well.

Posted by: FutureMom | January 5, 2007 12:28 PM

to 11:21 -
Maybe I missed something, but why did you need help moving the cars? Put the child and a stroller in one car, move to the next lot, walk back to the first lot, and repeat.

Really not trying to be snarky, but this just didn't hit me as a situation where you would need help.

I knew someone would ask this. The other lot was across a busy road. So, I am supposed to drive one car over carry back the car seat (not light) and walk a stroller and car seat across a busy road without a crosswalk? I did need help and I wasn't afraid to ask for it. Speaking of help, the manager of the apartment complex needed it to when corporate called her and chewed her out for not giving people enough notice, she eventually got fired. I guess moving two cars for a person without a baby wouldn't be a big deal, but it was for me.

Pittypat, I may be making light of the situation, but I think that you are blowing it way out of proportion too, so I guess we will have to agree to disagree..

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 12:31 PM

Momof4 - I understand where you are coming from. My friend rarely reciprocated the favor. I think it does matter what people are doing. If I'm going to make a change in my schedule to accomodate you - it matters. If you have a doctor's appt. or medical emergency, I am more than willing to drop everything to help you. If you want to get your hair done every six weeks, then you need a sitter or a husband. If my friend called me and said "I can't take it, I need a break" then I'm happy to help. If she said "I can't take it, I need a break every Tuesday from 3 to 5" she needs to hire someone. Let me add that we can all afford a sitter so $ is not an issue. Whether I changed her husband or not - probably not, but I don't think that it was my job to fill in for him. He is still a lout, and she hires sitters all the time now. That's where my limits are - everyone has a different line.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 12:36 PM

Imight also add that one of the children I was watching for this friend was 18 mos. old (I had a 3 and 5 year old at the time) which was a significant amount of additional work given that we had no more diapers or gates and a whole host of choking hazards in our house. This was babysitting, not a playdate. Big difference.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 12:42 PM

"Two neighborhood mothers have offered help, but I don't feel very comfortable with waking them up in the middle of the night."

ML -- it's a one-time offer, and these mothers understand your worry about a middle of the night labor. Most parents of a second or third child have worried about and worked out all scenarios of how to care for exisitng child when the baby comes, so these mothers know how important thier generous offer is. There's a good chance you won't have to call anyone in the middle of the night, but you should feel fortunate that you have two people you can call on. Remember, it's not like you're calling them at midnight so you can go to a movie. And someday, you'll make this type of offer to the young mother down street too!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | January 5, 2007 12:46 PM

"I don't think it's right to judge the reasons people need child care."

I realize this was directed to moxiemom, but I can't resist commenting. The reason someone needs child care impacts my judgment of whether I should inconvenience myself and/or my family to assist. If you go into labor and our family can pitch in over the next 48 hours so your 6 year old isn't sitting in the hospital for hours by himself, please call me. We'll move heaven and earth, and wouldn't dream of declining to assist.

On the other hand, another poster above mentioned perhaps wanting childcare so she can run errands. If we're not doing anything that afternoon, sure drop Henry off and we'll take care of him, but we wouldn't cancel or change any plans to be available, because she can very well take Henry along on her errands, if need be. Call me a meanie, but I don't think there's anything wrong with making judgments that distinguish between big needs, like mental health time, and preferences, like I'd prefer to go to Target by myself. The level of the need then gets balanced against our families' ability to meet that need and/or our willingness to extend ourselves to meet that need. There are crises, and then there are conveniences. You can count on us for the crises 100% of the time; for conveniences, it's a case-by-case call.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 12:53 PM

Count me in on the "I love other moms and couldn't make my life work without them!" sentiment; I say moms only because I find that we single moms tend to gravitate toward each other and I honestly don't really know many dads. I think we've talked about this before, but it's also more awkward for me to approach a dad than a mom, being concerned about the whole appearances thing. My best mom friend locally is WAY ahead of me on the child care credit - with the combination of a more flexible schedule, and a bigger and better house, the kids almost always prefer to be with her. Which is mostly fine, though I do find myself feeling guilty ...
Another conflict I've had (and I am suspicious this is going to provoke eye-rolling - my kid isn't a perfect angel either) is that it seems my son always wants to be friends with the biggest brats ... no matter how much I might want to help out the mom, these are the kids that I sometimes wish would just go away. So I can appreciate the difficulty in dealing with kids who terrorize your house. I also sometimes wish his friends DID come from bigger families, because I would LOVE to help out with a baby - I love babies, and all I get is rowdy boys - sigh. :)

Posted by: TakomaMom | January 5, 2007 12:53 PM

to 12:31 - thanks for the explanation. I assumed there was a car seat in each car and that there would only be a baby in a stroller to deal with.

to ML - take your neighbor's up on their offer of help. If they didn't mean it, it will teach them to stop making insincere gestures :)

A lesson here that I learned a while ago is that I never offer help unless I really mean it. And, if I do offer, I will follow through.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 12:54 PM

Proud Papa, I take what you're saying, but I think people are reacting to a slightly different issue. Leslie mentioned that she could not shift her work schedule like you suggest. Thus, it's not whether she should have made the problem with the child's schedule change into her husband's problem or not. Rather, it's whether she should have turned to her husband before turning to the neighbors. Different marriages and different work situations may lead to different solutions, but it sounds like your soultion just wasn't reasonably available to Leslie this time.

Posted by: Tom T. | January 5, 2007 12:58 PM

Well, who wants to talk about folding towels today?

Actually I am washing windows today. Trying to get a bit more light in the cave so I can find the dust bunnies.

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 1:01 PM

"There are crises, and then there are conveniences. You can count on us for the crises 100% of the time; for conveniences, it's a case-by-case call. "

Oh, I definitely agree with this. I certainly wouldn't rearrange my schedule so that someone else could go to Target by herself.

But the case moxiemom was talking about was a little different - it was a mom who wanted a sitter so she could have a regular hair appointment. I personally wouldn't get a sitter to have my hair done - I actually ran into this a lot in my babysitting co-op....I used the co-op mostly so I could volunteer in my older children's schools, but many other moms used it to get their hair done, go grocery shopping alone, go read a book at Starbucks, or clean their house in peace. But if it's a reciprocal agreement between friends - either formal or informal - why should it matter what the reason is?

I just think that rather than cutting another mom off completely, the more friendly thing to do was to either ask that she reciprocate or tell her "sorry, I can't do it this time" more often.

I realize some will disagree with me on this, but I think that generally it's a "better" situation for both the children and the parent to have a network of other parents of similarly aged children to depend on than to pay people to watch your kids. It's a "village situation" rather than a "business arrangement."


Posted by: momof4 | January 5, 2007 1:05 PM

Towels are too easy... but I can tell you how to fold a fitted sheet like a pro!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 1:10 PM

'I don't have anyone to take care of my son during the night! Two neighborhood mothers have offered help' when the baby comes.

take one of them up on it if you need too, they have offered. there is something about the birth of a baby that brings joy to everyone involved in the process. it's not rational, but if they have offered, I suspect they will be thrilled to get a middle of the night phone call. Don't risk not getting to the hospital on time, my 3rd child was almost born in the car.

Posted by: experienced mom | January 5, 2007 1:14 PM

"I think that generally it's a "better" situation for both the children and the parent to have a network of other parents of similarly aged children to depend on than to pay people to watch your kids."

How do people do that? Is there a forced friendship kind of thing going on to barter childcare? Can you "fire" or "reprimand" someone in the network?

How is the network thing "better" than dependable paid child care?

Posted by: Liz | January 5, 2007 1:18 PM

To Mom of 4 at 12:22. I hate calling the pizza place too! The people who work there get no training on telephone skills, and placing an order, particularly a complicated one, is stressful to me, because I'm not confident that I'm being understood or that I'm understanding what they're saying. Lately, I've started ordering pizza over the Internet, and it works like a charm. No stress, and my order is always perfect! You may want to suggest this idea to your husband.

Posted by: Tom T. | January 5, 2007 1:19 PM

... but I can tell you how to fold a fitted sheet like a pro!

Not something that I want to be proficient at!

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 1:30 PM

What's the difference between a bankrupt attorney and a pigeon?

The pigeon can still make a deposit on a Mercedes.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a terrorist?

You can negotiate with a terrorist.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a vulture?

Lawyers accumulate frequent flyer points.

Posted by: Lawyer Joke Time! | January 5, 2007 1:33 PM

To momof4:

I'm cracking up thinking about an adult who doesn't want to speak on the phone to order pizza. Luckily there's an easy solution - Introduce your husband to the miracle of online ordering - Papa John's and Pizza Hut both have it, as do most other chains I'd bet. You pick what you want, use whatever coupons you'd like, and know that your order is going in correctly...it will change his life, it sounds like.

Posted by: Isn't the internet amazing? | January 5, 2007 1:41 PM

Doesn't "Internet-ed" pizza take longer than "Phone-ed" pizza?

I'm hungry now! I can't wait an extra 10 minutes.

Posted by: Hungry question | January 5, 2007 1:47 PM

"Phone-ed" actually is a word. Phoned. Darn. Too hungry to think.

Posted by: Hungry question | January 5, 2007 1:48 PM

In my experience interneted in pizza is faster. But I guess it depends on the system that you particular pizza place uses.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 1:54 PM

What's wrong with using a playdate as babysitting if both adults are ok with it?

Posted by: Chausti | January 5, 2007 1:58 PM

I thought I wasn't going to be able to contribute, being kidless and all, but whaddya know...I actually ordered online from Domino's for pickup and would have had a more pleasant experience ordering by phone, as the kid who worked there was extremely polite and helpful. As it was, I ordered the wrong size sodas and he exchanged them for me no problem. He also read "Cinnastix" instead of breadsticks, so he gave me both for free. Not that there's anything wrong with online ordering, but he said phone ordering made it easier to correct mistakes. I guess it's up to personal preference though. :-) Happy Friday, everyone!

Posted by: Mona | January 5, 2007 2:00 PM

I absolutely HATE calling in for pizza (or calling anywhere else for that matter). I will do it, however I sequester myself in an empty bedroom and close the door. Even at work (since I don't use the phone that much) I will go into an empty conference room to place a call, instead of our small so-quiet-you-can-hear-a-pin-drop cubes. I know it's weird. Especially since I have plenty of experience publicly. There's just something about that darned phone.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 2:01 PM

Mona - there are several posters (myself included) that do not have children.

Speaking of being childless, can someone explain to me the difference between sitting and a playdate? Are kids not allowed to play when they're being sitted? Or is there some etiquitte to playdates that I am unfamiliar with?

And I'd like to add that I absolute hate that terminology. Ok junior, it's 2pm so you HAVE to play right now! (I know it's not really like that, but that's what it sounds like!).

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 2:04 PM

We live in a townhouse community. My fiancee works from home and i get home really early, so we've offered to be on pick up from school lists for several of our neighbors kids so their parents don't have to take off and rush to get home from DC to get them. I've driven kids to school that have missed the bus or have heavy projects. While we don't have kids ourselves sometimes they lend us other help like tools, or help carrying stuff into the house. Its so much easier to be a neighborhood that volunteers to help each other. I don't expect to be "paid back" I just hate watching the other people in my neighborhood suffer. Just help each other, its a good thing.

-l.

Posted by: ljb | January 5, 2007 2:06 PM

Internet-ed pizza is much faster where I live.

The persons taking the phone-ed pizza are outsourced employees who merely take your order and punch it back into the internet.

I'm one of those guys that has a really, really difficult time ordering pizza. To me, it's an ethical thing, caving to convenience as well as junk food. The guilt of it all....

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 5, 2007 2:11 PM

I was also very reluctant to take people up on offers of help when I was a new Mom. That all changed when my husband went into the hospital for 10 days with pneumonia and I had an 18-month old at home and no family. My best friend took my daughter for 3 days while I dropped by for breakfast those day to see her. Not only did my BF get my daughter to sleep thru the night, but my daughter enjoyed spending so much time with her BF, who was my BF's daughter. While I couldn't repay my BF back exactly, we found a different way: she was in the process of getting a divorce and had her kids every other weekend so she spent those childless weekends with us getting her kid fix!

We now have a strong network of friends that we can call on for help and vice versa. We have left our 2 kids overnight with friends while we flew out of the country and their grandparents were flying in. On the flip side, we provided grandparent support to those friends' kids when our friends were out of the country.

The critical thing is finding people you trust, being willing to do step in and help those friends, and knowing when to ask for help yourself. We couldn't survive without these friends. The Parent Network ROCKS!

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | January 5, 2007 2:15 PM

Guess what I am having for dinner tonight?

Big Clue: Fredia doesn't like pizza so she will have something else.

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 2:18 PM

Totally off topic but from today's post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/04/AR2007010401497.html
YONKERS, N.Y. -- Most of the infant car seats tested by Consumer Reports "failed disastrously" in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph, the magazine reported Thursday.

The seats came off their bases or twisted in place, the report said. In one case, a test dummy was hurled 30 feet.

Posted by: ljb | January 5, 2007 2:20 PM

Speaking of the guilt thing when ordering pizza:

My mother started picking up takeout pizza in the early '60s. In our neighborhood, any wife who did not cook all meals from scratch (except the Friday night fish fry) was considered lazy and a bad wife/mother. A woman who had pizza delivered to her home was instantly labeled as shirking her wifely duties, with divorce not far down the road.

My mother would sneak the pizza through the garage into the house to avoid the scrutiny of the nosy neighbors. My job was to stomp the empty pizza boxes into the smallest possible size to hide at the bottom of the garbage cans on trash day.

Boy, have things changed!!! No pizza box shame today!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 2:26 PM

My children are very good friends with our neighboors' kids: same age, same school and all 4 love hanging out together any chance they get. Their mom is stay at home. We have a very friendly relationship with her and her husband. She has a flexible schedule and we have at times asked for help with school pick ups or drop offs or taking one our kids while we take the other to the doctor etc. we can't really reciprocate on school days since both my husband and I work but we find multiple ways of making sure that this is a mutually beneficial relationship: we take their kids with us to the movies, to the pool, just out for ice cream, we have them over for dinner or snacks etc or I keep her little girl while she unexpectedly needs to run to the store on the week end. We have all said multiple times how blessed we are to have this kind of support on our block. It has made a huge difference in our lives and the lives of our kids.

Posted by: FC mom | January 5, 2007 2:27 PM

Posted by: | January 5, 2007 02:26 PM

I can't even imagine.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 2:28 PM

I think, for the most part, parents help eachother out a lot.

I think that if we're talking about a truly inconveniencing issue, it's much better that the people who chose to be responsible for a person be involved directly and THEN seek external sources.

I think it's fine and dandy for one parent to be pretty much the one in charge of the daily child care issues, but Leslie has lamented and groaned about the fathers ability to contribute to this issue more than once and so obviously it's not all fine and dandy with them.

Posted by: Liz D | January 5, 2007 2:29 PM

Bexie et. al. In my mind the difference between babysitting and a playdate is the level of supervision. An infant or toddler is infinitely more work than an older child. When my children 4 &6 have playdates I am in the house and available but I generally don't have to supervise their every move. I can clean the kitchen, put away laundry, make a call etc.. while those kids are over. With a smaller child you must solely focus on the child and keeping them out of trouble especially if your home isn't set up for a small child. Seems like a small distinction, but it is acutually a big one. Hope that helps.

I'm also interested in the instructions on folding a fitted sheet. Can't do it to save my life! Please enlighten me.

Posted by: moxiemom | January 5, 2007 2:30 PM

1:10: PLEASE give us (at least me) your secret of folding fitted sheets. I will be eternally grateful.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 2:34 PM

Moxiemom - ummm... I guess my question was more directed to the topic earlier of whether or not it is appropriate to "get your hair done" during a playdate vs hiring a sitter.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 2:36 PM

moxiemom, to fold a fitted sheet, you just fold it in half, then half again, and again and again until it fits on the shelf of the closet.

It's so easy, I can do it with both eyes closed on a bum knee. What's the problem?

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 5, 2007 2:38 PM

Father of 4 - if I do that I end up with a sheet ball. What do you do with the rounded edges and the folded over fitted part?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 2:42 PM

Father of 4 - I assume you were being silly.

KLB SS MD - take the innermost part of the corner seams and treat those like the "edges" of the sheet. If you meet those parts together you will get a nicely folded fitted sheet. How do I know this when I only own one set of sheets, and just have a naked bed when I'm washing? haha.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 2:49 PM

Q: Why do closets have doors?

A: So your company cannot find out that you cannot fold sheets.

Q: Why should closet doors have locks?

A: So your mother in law cannot find out that you cannot fold sheets.

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 2:50 PM

Fred - MY mother (not my future mother in law) is the world's nebbiest person! She has no qualms about reading diaries, going through people's drawers when she is over, etc. I once heard a suggestion to put mables in your medicine cabinet so you instantly know when a guest has peered into your business. I've never done it, but when we were growing up it was fun for my sister and me to "plant" things for our mother to "find" (such as bags of oregano or condoms) since she would obviously be upset, but she couldn't admit to finding them since she earnestly insisted that she never ever ever snooped! We all joke about it now.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 2:56 PM

Hey KLB SS MD,

Would you mind saying what KLB SS MD stands for? (initials) (initials) (medical doctor)?

BTW Fred just stands for Fred

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 2:57 PM

KLB, I usually get sort of a sheetball too and just stuff it in the corner or wherever it fits best.

The secret is to get in touch with your masculine side and quit caring about things that don't matter. :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 5, 2007 2:58 PM

KLB are initials and SS MD is Silver Spring Maryland.
I thought Fred stood for Fred - boy was I wrong.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 3:01 PM

They just handed out miniature breath scan alcohol detectors to everyone here at work - the are in a little tubed key chain. Weird or what?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 3:03 PM

Between snooping mothers and hiding pizza boxes, I am just beside my self with laughter! Any other great mil or mother stories out there?

My sainted mother was in the US Marine Corp during WWII so she did not worry about such nonsense. She was the kind of mother who would say, "it's coming out of your allowance!" if you swallowed a dime.

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 3:03 PM

I bet KLB SS MD refers to a kicker/middle linebacker who owns a ship docked in Maryland. LaVar? Is that you?

$5 says she's simply from Silver Spring.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 3:08 PM

3:08 - you caught me in between commercials.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 3:10 PM

Bexie

The marbles in the medicine cabinet tip is a riot!!!

My husband had some less than honest friends. When we had parties, my husband would switch generic aspirin for powerful prescription meds in the bathroom. Sure enough, everytime we entertained certain
people, a lot of pills had been liberated...

Posted by: Liz | January 5, 2007 3:11 PM

Liz - I agree the marbles thing is pretty funny... but I always wondered how you were supposed to get them in there without spilling them yourself (hence why I have never done it). Not to be a killjoy, but are you saying you drugged your friends?

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 3:15 PM

Caution!!!

If you are in a child care jam and have to resort going down the list of friends and neighbors to help you out...

You might want to put the household that has a litter of kittens to give away at the bottom of the list...

because when you pick up your little daughter who is petting these irresistably cute furry creatures, and she is flanked by the parent that just saved your butt...

And your angel is pleading "Oh please, Mom, Can I? Oh Please, Oh please oh pleeeeeeeeeeease!"

It's almost impossible to say no!

Posted by: Father of 4 | January 5, 2007 3:20 PM

Bexie

No, we didn't drug our friends. They stole generic aspirin stored in prescription bottles.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 3:22 PM

The Fred/KLB SS MD/NC Lawyer lovefest has begun again - why don't you guys exchange numbers or something?

Posted by: timbuk | January 5, 2007 3:23 PM

Liz - okay. Whew! I must have read it wrong.

Posted by: Bexie | January 5, 2007 3:23 PM

The Fred/KLB SS MD/NC Lawyer lovefest has begun again - why don't you guys exchange numbers or something?

Because we want the world to know of our love and don't want to hid anything from our respective spouses!

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 3:34 PM

The Fred/KLB SS MD/NC Lawyer lovefest has begun again - why don't you guys exchange numbers or something?

Posted by: timbuk | January 5, 2007 03:23 PM

why don't you make your own friends and leave other people alone.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 3:35 PM

Any opinions out there on a recent situation I was confronted with?

My daughter became good friends with a boy in her 2nd grade class, and we subsequently became friends with the boy's parents and younger sister. His mom didn't work outside the home and knew that I did, and offered to pick my daughter up from school one day per week so the children could play together. I told her I knew DD would love that and offered to pay her. She refused. I thanked her and told her to please let me know if the arrangement ever became burdensome as I did not want to take advantage of her hospitality. I tried to reciprocate by having her son over occasionally on Saturdays and we had the whole family over for dinner on a few occasions as well. I also let her know that we'd be happy to watch both her children in case of emergency as she and her husband don't have any family in the area.

Well, one Saturday the Mom called me and said that she wanted to drop off both her son and daughter to play that day. It seems that little sister was upset and throwing tantrums because big brother got to come to our house without her, and she felt this feeling was justified. Now, my daughter has other friends with siblings (both older and younger) who have come to our house to play. She has also played with a child that's two years younger than her that lives across the street. However, this younger sibling was 2 years old at the time and not potty trained.

I didn't know what to say, but stumbled through what I hope was a polite decline, citing my home's lack of baby-proofing and the fact that a 2-year-old really can't play unsupervised, and the fact that most 8-year-olds aren't much interested in playing with toddlers. She was upset with me and told me her son wouldn't be able to come over without little sis. I apologized again, but stood firm.

I felt terrible because she had been so kind, but really felt the request was out of line. Little sister had been to our house on other occasions when we had the entire family over, but I really felt it was inappropriate to call me 10 minutes before she was to drop off her son to say, "Oh, by the way, I'm also planning on dropping off my toddler to play."

Was I out of line here?

Posted by: Vegas Mom | January 5, 2007 3:45 PM

Some people are so grouchy! If you don't like a post, just pass it by.

Posted by: the original anon | January 5, 2007 3:47 PM

Besides pizza box shame in my house-

My mother also snuck my father's dress shirts from the dry cleaners into the house. Women who didn't launder and iron their husband's shirts (100% cotton at the time) were considered lazy.

My father went way over to the other side of town to buy condoms to avoid recognition.

My father drove out to the country once a month to get rid of empty liquor bottles and condom wrappers.

My mother hid the Kotex boxes in the basement; she never referred to Kotex in mixed company; frequent trips to the basement were a tipoff that someone had their period (which was know as a cycle).

It all seems so silly now, but the social pressures of the '50s and '60s were incredible in some neighborhoods.

Posted by: Liz | January 5, 2007 3:48 PM

timbuk, I haven't posted since 12:23 so don't know what I did to inspire your annoyance, but if I've been part of a lovefest without my knowledge I certainly hope it was good for everyone else involved and that they'll tell me about it some day.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 5, 2007 4:02 PM

"My father drove out to the country once a month to get rid of empty liquor bottles and condom wrappers."

Liz, Did your parents also have two single beds?

*grin*

Posted by: Regular lurker | January 5, 2007 4:03 PM

ha, NC lawyer missed her own lovefest.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 4:05 PM

It was great for me - smoke anyone?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:06 PM

If talking about folding sheets is a lovefest what is a discussion about cleaning a toilet? An orgy?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:11 PM

Oh I didn't get bent out of shape about the cub scouts issue, just gave it as an example that some moms were great and helpful, others not. I didn't care for that bunch who ran that cub scout troop really. Went to one parents' meeting, was all mothers who showed and one father. I got this sheet pushed at me and asked, which one WILL you do (volunteer things for the scouts) and there was basically not one thing I could do. But the father who came, the women basically fell all over themselves thanking him for coming and did not ask him to volunteer for anything. And the big troop meetings and activities were too competitive for my son, he cried mostly that he didn't win things, actually he didn't like much of any organized group as a kid until he went to computer camp, found his passion (and now his college major). So dropping cub scouts was not a big loss to either one of us.

As far as parents mellowing out at middle school - I had a kind of funny experience with single mom prejudice then that actually worked out to my benefit. When my son was about 13, one of the boys who came over sometimes was a complete pain. He was the ringleader for a lot of prank calling from my phone, plus once I caught him out in the street by my house yelling racist epithets at some kids and then running laughing into MY house...! Then when I accused him he lied to my face, the little jerk. Sent him right home after that... BUT the greatest part was that his mother apparently discovered that I was a single mom, so she forbid him from ever coming to my house again! What a win-win situation!

Now lest I ruffle some feathers, let me say that probably most cub scout troops are great, mine just wasn't a fit to me OR my son...

Posted by: Catherine | January 5, 2007 4:11 PM

Other than typing on this blog, I have been painting today. What is better than a lovefest or orge?

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 4:16 PM

Fred, is your keyboard painted now too? I can never paint without getting my hands covered.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:18 PM

Damn, no love fest for me all because I didn't ask how to fold sheets! Next time I will know better.

Catherine,

My mom tended not to like organized clubs either. There were always one or two moms who ran everything and they totally ran over everyone else. At least that is how it was when I was in girl scouts.

Vegas mom,

I am torn. Part of me says you should have had the little girl over and the other part thinks the other parent was out of line.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 4:21 PM

I wear workgloves but still manage to become covered in paint. I better clean up now as Fredia will be home soon after being gone 3 days.

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 4:21 PM

You people are twisted. I'm outta here ;-)

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 4:21 PM

Catherine, if you just started reading the blog, you might get a giggle at the room mother topic from this summer. Some of the things there will make your cub scout experience look tame! Tea parties with real china cups for 4 years olds comes to mind.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/onbalance/2006/06/guest_blog_diary_of_a_mad_room.html

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | January 5, 2007 4:22 PM

Scarry, I think you will have to find your own orgy inducing topic as it seems that the sheet folding is so over :-)
But let us know so we can be included.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:25 PM

Vegas mom:
As the oldest of three kids I remember being forced to have my little brother (5 years younger) tag along with me when I went to friend's houses. I don't think he wanted to go play dolls with us but our mother forced us to take him along. I sincerely doubt that the two year old you mentioned WANTED to go with her brother - probably all mom's idea.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:28 PM

scarry -

when my girls were in scouts, I was the mom who ran everything. Oh, but I was the Troop Leader :)

I did ask for volunteers, but never required it.

Posted by: xyz | January 5, 2007 4:29 PM

Vegas Mom - other parent was out of line. Totally. Maybe the 8 year old wouldn't WANT the 2 year old tagging along, and if he did, then the mom should have couched it in an "this is a situation that came up, how do you GENERALLY feel about also having [2 year old] over to play." Not, "we're coming in 10 minutes!" Could have just been a mom not wanting to say no to her "baby."

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 4:29 PM

vegas mom,

I maybe would have said yes IF the other mom volunteered to stay while the daughter was there. Otherwise, I'm with you. "Gee, sorry, but I can supervise the boys only while I am doing other things. Wouldn't want anything to happen to your daughter."

My daughter's friend was being dropped off at our house when younger brother cried and said he wanted to stay too. I volunteered to keep him, but the mother said no because "he needs to learn that he can't do everything his sister does". A wise mom there.

Posted by: xyz | January 5, 2007 4:33 PM

xyz

I meant no offense. Every situation is different. :)

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 4:33 PM

The mother of the two year old was clearly out of line. Siblings are entitled to have their own friends--most especially if they are 6 years apart. Good for you for standing your ground. One thing you might have suggested is that it would have been ok if the mother stayed with the 2 year old, but even then, isn't your daughter and her son entitled to be friends without an annoying baby sister around?

Posted by: To Vegas mom | January 5, 2007 4:34 PM

scarry - no offense taken - I knew exactly what you meant. It always burns me when parental involvement is a requirement for a child to participate in something. Why is it they can't be in middle school play unless parents sell tickets during lunch time or sew costumes? I'm all for chipping in, but it shouldn't be a requirement.

Posted by: xyz | January 5, 2007 4:37 PM

I love (responsible) teenaged babysitters too. They appreciate the money and the responsibility and they are FUN. Not great for small infants or 10 hour stretches, but a few hours on a weekend -- perfect.

Moms with older kids get more accepting, I agree. We've learned the hard way that the only "perfect" kids are that way by accident not due to our perfect parenting. Some exceptions of course.

Can't resist the topic of folding laundry...I have gone since December 15 without doing any and I just cannot believe how much a family of five generates. It's all in the laundry room and I am afraid to go in there.

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 4:42 PM

Vegas mom, I feel your pain!

DD had a friend that lived a good hour and a half drive from here that would come and spend the weekend with us occasionally. She wasn't too much trouble - same age as DD, not too needy, just had to help her remember to take her asthma meds. No big deal. However, she insisted on bringing her little sister one weekend. Little sister is 4, developmentally delayed to about a 2 years old level, has a complicated medicine schedule, and can't be left alone for an instant as she gets violent and destructive, and is not completely potty trained. We didn't know all this, but did tell the girls that if little sister was coming, she was their responsibility (meaning, don't expect us to babysit her the entire weekend - we planned on spending some time taking care of what we were assured was an average 4 year old by the girls). Finding out about the meds was bad enough when we went to pick them up - the behavior issues weren't mentioned by the parents until we returned the girls on Sunday. YIKES, what a disaster.

Kids decided that after little sister was noisy the entire night Friday, they would put her to bed in the living room, on the couch, on Saturday. They failed to tell us this, and moved her out there after we went to sleep (when we went to bed, little sister was in DD's room, on her sleeping bag). Woke up at 4AM to little sister pounding on the bedroom door screaming, living room looked like a tornado had been through (coffee table on it's side, markers from the craft box open on the couch and soaking in, magazines everywhere, cat in hiding) and urine and feces all over the floor next to the couch, and smeared onto the front and side of the couch. DD and her friend didn't wake up until we went in the room and woke them up, and EVERYONE cleaned the living room up. We ended up replacing the couch shortly thereafter (never could get the feces off the front or marker stains out of the cushions). It was a nightmare. DD wasn't allowed to have any friends over for several months, and little sister is never allowed back.

You did the right thing - it's hard enough when it's one child the same age as yours, much less two extra kids and one of them at a very different developmental stage. Stick to your guns!

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | January 5, 2007 4:46 PM

Leslie,

As part of the house renovations after the hurricane, we turned one of the bedrooms into a fulltime 12' X9' laundry room. This is complete with counters, cabinets and stand alone ice maker. And still there are clothes everywhere although only 3 of us live here now. The other 3 are now adults. Fredia comments that she wish she had a separate laundry room while the other 3 were at home. I said if that were the case, we would have to stack the kids up like firewood!

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 4:50 PM

More astounding than anything on today's blog is the idea that Leslie (or any mom) could go nearly 3 weeks without doing laundry. Mine multiplies overnight on its own. All I can say is that you must have an ungodly amount of underwear and towels to make it that long without a trip to the laundry room.

Posted by: tarheelgal | January 5, 2007 4:51 PM

Fred, I have to ask - why an ice maker in the laundry room? You said you wash in hot water.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 4:54 PM

I'm a WOHM and for 10 years I've always signed up to drive carpools to my kids' field trips, sports events, etc. I also have been a room parent for both their grades, and a team parent more times than I can count. Usually I feel like we're a big parenting community helping each other out, but as our kids get older it seems like more and more parents opt out of doing their fair share. And it's not usually the working parents who aren't pulling their weight, at least not at my kids' school! The parents with tennis lessons, lunch plans, etc are just too busy to help out. The most frustrating is leaving work early to drive half a team to a track meet an hour away, sit at the track meet (and cheer the team of course!), then drive the group back to school, only then to WAIT for a parent (who doesn't work) to show up 10, 20, 30 minutes late after the scheduled pickup time, with no excuse and only a flimsy apology for being late. You can't leave the kid there on the street. Aaargh.

Posted by: late poster | January 5, 2007 4:57 PM

my son has a friend who we alternate playdates with. i told the mom that i felt guilty because my son is an only child & when her son came over that instantly freed up my time because the two boys played together but since her son was 1 of 3 that didn't free up her time quite the same way.

i have found that other moms are just like people (gee what a concept) some are helpful & some are not.

Posted by: quark | January 5, 2007 5:04 PM

for the cocktails, silly

Posted by: to KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 5:04 PM

We don't have an ice maker in the fridge. This icemaker is small commercial unit as Fredia is an ice freak.

Here is the story. My sainted mother came into a stand alone maker when we moved from LA to the deep south in 1965. She decide she would have one forever and she did until the day she died. Dad would do ANYTHING mom wanted.

So Fredia was so impressed by the i.m. that she decided she HAD to have one. I asked her why and her rational was, "Your mother had one and so I should have one!"

Here is a typical unit:
http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?pid=04689482000&vertical=Sears&BV_UseBVCookie=Yes

Posted by: fred | January 5, 2007 5:13 PM

Fred,

To each his own, but I'm betting that an orgy is more fun than a lovefest, particularly if there's paint and/or ice involved.

Sounds as though you've made fine, productive use of you unexpected day off.

Posted by: NC lawyer | January 5, 2007 5:25 PM

Laundry explanation: one of the three weeks was in florida so it was all bathing suits and summer clothes. It is a MOUNTAIN of laundry.

Posted by: Leslie | January 5, 2007 5:53 PM

I remember one summer my mother did a load of bath towels for our summer vacation. When we got home two weeks later the house smelled really bad - like something had died. Well, she washed the towels but never got them into the dryer so there they sat - wet - for two weeks in a hot house.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 6:04 PM

Fred - all I can say is Wow - yours is HUGE!!!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 6:05 PM

Ice maker of course :-)

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 6:05 PM

My clothes moutain dissolved yesterday...a week in Pittsburgh in changeable weather generated a ton of clothes. It was going nonstop between other activities all day. Folding clothes has to be done in order to do another load here, and it only takes a minute as I'm not a picky folder.

And I missed the love fest. I'm deprived once again.

Posted by: dotted | January 5, 2007 6:08 PM

KLB SS MD,

Hey, our four kids did not just "magically" appear!

Posted by: Fred | January 5, 2007 6:46 PM

I am glad to hear that your wife isn't "frigid" with all that ice around.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | January 5, 2007 6:56 PM

I belong to a fantastic group of moms and we pinch hit for each other. It is really important!

Posted by: Shandra | January 5, 2007 7:12 PM

I'm sorry I missed this topic today. Shortly after my daughter was born, I found a group of other new moms through the hospital where I'd given birth. We've now all known each other for a year, and they've been an invaluable source of support.

We end up babysitting each others' kids occasionally, someone's always available to trade stories or ideas, and once a week we get together to let the kids play and to blow off some steam ourselves.

I can't imagine how much more difficult this first year of parenting would have been if I hadn't had my gang to turn to. As far as I'm concerned, other moms rock.

Posted by: NewSAHM | January 5, 2007 8:14 PM

XYZ,

I think it was the attitude of the moms in the girl scouts. My mom was a SAHM so she had no problem with driving or baking, etc.

The problem came with the other moms thinking they were better than my family. We lived in a small town and there was only one troop, so you had the banker's wife and the principal's wife and they just weren't very nice to my mom and she is so kind and thoughtful that I think she just thought she could find better uses of her time. I think she just didn't want me exposed to it all at such an early age, but boy, I found out anyway. I didn't like it that much and my dad would never let me stay overnight at camp, which is the best part. (Parniod father)

I do think that living in a bigger place would have made it better. I mean you would have more options and different clubs to pick from. I'll join/do whatever activity my kids think they will enjoy.

Posted by: scarry | January 5, 2007 9:17 PM

Well the story about the developmentally delayed four-year old sounds like a nightmare. I would have expected the parents to buy me a new couch. I can't believe they didn't tell you about her problems. Scary that they trusted you to get her meds right without telling you the routine directly.

As to Vegas Mom's "normal" two-year old friend: I suspect the other mom felt frustrated that when she picked up your daughter from school, that provided a signficant "break" for you in not having to do a school pick-up during working hours. However, when her son played at your house occasionally, that didn't provide her a break since she still had the 2 yo. Maybe after a few weeks of this she felt like the balance needed a little rebalancing. If I were in this situation, I would refuse to take the 2yo because I would need some notice (and because the older kids won't play with the 2yo) but I would offer to babysit both kids for her for free some weekend day so she could get a break of her own. That way, you can "compensate" her fairly without becoming a routine babysitter. You could have a mental schedule of one babysitting offer for every 6 times she picks up your kid, or something. Also, I would tell the toddler something like, "not today, sweetheart, we'll have you over on a special day" (the day you babysit), which will remove the toddler's sense of being rejected (which is the real issue from the child's point of view), and by the next playdate the toddler will very likely have forgotten that she ever wanted to play with big kids.

My mom had a similar situation, not in the involvment of toddlers, but in that she had more kids than the "sharer". There were three of us, but only one of hte other kid. So the other kid's mom asked my mom to pick her kid up every day from school (neither mom was WOHM). She figured my mom had to go anyway, and there were more of us, so it was no big deal for my mom to do it. Anway, she never reciprocated, except on very rare occasion (like twice a year). I didn't know till later, but my mom really really resented it, even though she would have had to make the same number of pickups even if she wasn't picking up this woman's kid. She just felt like a free chauffeur. This woman should have been doing at least 1/4 of the pickups (one kid was hers out of four), if not half (since picking us up, in the age before carseats, required no more work than picking up her own kid, by the same logic as she used to justify getting my mom to pick up her kid). Anyway, so I'm pretty sensitive to the issue of moms taking advantage of other moms.

Posted by: m | January 5, 2007 10:49 PM

If I were in this situation, I first would have asked my husband to come get my daughter. If there was a compelling reason why he couldn't do it "just this once" I would've started dialing for dollars to find an alternative.

When we were still living in the States, I had a great support network living in our town, including my parents, my sister, friends (both with and without children) and even neighbors who I know in a bind would've helped out with this.

Once we moved overseas, that safety net was gone and I've had to start from scratch making friends and building relationships to get to the place where we were.

Conversely, now that we're living overseas, I find women (and men) that we have known only briefly to be a lot more accommodating about the possibility of helping out if needed. I'm sure it's because we're all in the same boat. I may not have as many options, but I have a few sitters I could call, and also a few friends who have always been willing to help out if needed, and similarly, I've gone out of my way a lot more to help others than I would have at home.

Posted by: LivingInVienna | January 7, 2007 8:00 AM

The mothers described in the first post are the same pals you had before motherhood whom you felt comfortable calling at 3:00 am during a crisis. Some people are just like this, and God bless them. They are the happiest people in the world because helping other people is one of the things that makes us happy. It's a shame that so many people don't go out of their way for others.

Posted by: Diahni Gordon | January 8, 2007 3:56 PM

Have you heard of this situation? My four year old was at home with a babysitter while I was at work (I work part-time). I came home to a baby sitter sitting alone almost in tears. A neighbor with a daughter the same age TOOK my daughter to her house. She is a SAHM and I guess she needed someone to play with her child so that she could get some housework done.
The sitter had tried to call me; but, I was in a meeting. The baby sitter knew the woman, and me, knowing the personalities involved certainly did not blame the baby sitter. I was flabbergasted! Needless to say that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

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