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I babysit for free, now my neighbor wants me to pay her daughter?

My neighbor and I have been swapping sitting services for the last four years. Our now seven year old DDs get along great and it gives us all an easy way to have a much needed night out. Recently, I have been watching her DD after school a few afternoons a month (I work from home) and occasionally on a weekend. No money has ever changed hands for these sitting services.

 A few months ago, DH had a last minute business dinner and I was invited. The neighbors were busy, so they asked if we wanted their older daughter to sit and told us her rate (this daughter is a college freshman). Since I desperately wanted to get out (and dinner was paid for!), I agreed. Now, though, it seems we have opened a can of worms and every time we ask if they can watch our DD, they seem to always be busy and offer their daughter's services instead - at her going rate.

We really can't afford both a sitter AND a night out. I also feel very resentful that they want us to pay, yet have never offered to pay ME for all the afternoons and weekends. Their older DD is in classes at the time I am watching their younger one, but I almost feel that they should offer to pay her fee when we need a sitter. I am terrible at confrontations and I'm not sure what to do here. Any ideas?

Re: I babysit for free, now my neighbor wants me to pay her daughter?

  • The very first thing that comes to my mind is her being a freshman college student she could be a typical student. And that would be a broke student. Maybe they just do that to help out their daughter and it doesn't honestly have anything to do with you guys.

    Don't bring it up. But the next time they ask for a babysitter instead of offering up free services why don't you say "sure here are my rates" and maybe they will catch on and understand trading off free services is way better.

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  • Hmmm, this is awkward. I can see that the college age daughter needs to be paid for her services.

     However, it sounds like what has suddenly happened is that you are still helping your neighbor out with child care for free, but she is not returning the favor the way that she was initially?

    Next time that she offers up her older daughter's services, could you tell her that you don't have it in the budget to pay to go out plus pay for a babysitter? If I were you, I would become increasingly resentful of watching her child if the favor is no longer being returned. If it doesn't change, I would probably find myself less available to watch her daughter. 

  • I agree with the other poster, but I also completely see where you are coming from. I think saying "Here are my rates" is a very passive aggressive way of telling her you arent happy with having to pay her daughter to watch your kids. I would bring it up the next time she asks you to watch her children and just let her know that you appreciate the aggreement you guys used to have, but because things have changed and you now have to pay her daughter to watch your kids, you don't think that this will work out anymore. I understand confrontation is hard but it's better to just calmly explain the situation so there is no bad blood afterwards.
  • It probably is that they're trying to help their college-age daughter out by getting her a paying gig- but I also think that they've changed the terms from you-help-me-I'll-help-you to you-help-me-you-help-my-daughter.  And even if they really haven't been available on those nights- I feel like if someone was watching my kid for free, I'd feel really bad about asking them to do it again before I felt like I'd returned the last favor, you know? If it were me, the next time they called asking if I could watch their seven-year-old, I'd say simply, "I'm sorry, that just won't work for us." I also would generally expand the number of babysitters you have on hand to call- you might find a few more families that were willing to trade off with you, or other sitters with different rates.  

    I don't think it needs to be a confrontation, but I think if they were to question it or press for why you weren't available the last three times they called, I might say simply, "I enjoyed trading nights babysitting you when it was just that- us trading. We like hiring your daughter as a babysitter, but we also want to have a variety of people to call when we need a sitter." 

  • Business lesson number one!  Glad you learned it the hard way. Don't work for free, ever!  
  • You can't always expect people to watch your kids for free. If you don't feel like the arrangement is fair, you can either talk to her about it or stop watching her kids for free.
  • I think you need to ultimately bring it up.  I know it's hard, but try to find a way of wording it that it isn't "confrontation".  You've been given a couple ideas already. 

    Another idea is to be VERY honest w/ them, but said in a very gentle way - the next time they ask for you to sit, tell them "I have to be honest about this because I'm finding myself getting upset and I REALLY don't want to be upset.  We started swapping sitting w/ each other to help one another out, and I really enjoyed doing this.  However, lately, it seems as if you all aren't available and you always offer up your DD.  Clearly, we love using your DD.  But I feel that our original terms have changed - we sit for you for free, but we have to pay for your DD to watch.  I fully  understand that you all are busy and if the swap will no longer work, that's fine.  But in turn, we need to work something else out.".

    Good luck - I know this is hard. :(

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  • image doglove:
    You can't always expect people to watch your kids for free. If you don't feel like the arrangement is fair, you can either talk to her about it or stop watching her kids for free.

     This.  I will go one further and say if cant afford the date you can't afford the sitter. I offer no sympathy. 

  • It sounds like they are just trying to get their daughter a paying gig and experience.  I do have to pay for my babysitter, so I while I can relate to paying fa ton or both the date and the sitter, I also don't have sympathy.  It doesn't sound like they are going back to watching your DD for free, so I would stop swapping sitter services as well. I don't really know how to word it though. 
  • Hmm, maybe word your requests differently and ask if the girls can play together for a few hours while you and DH run some "errands."  Of course they don't need to know that these errands consist of dinner and a movie.  If it's a no go and she offers up her older daughter to watch them for a fee, then stop your services with her.  Be busy the next time she needs you to watch her kid... and be busy the next time too.  And then find a new babysitter and accept that you'll have to pay someone.
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  • While I think it's perfectly fine for a college age babysitter to expect to be paid for her services, I completely see your point - it was an even exchange, but it no longer is.  So you know how you make it even?  You stop watching her kid.  You'll likely seem petty if you request to be paid (you are presumably a grown woman, not a broke college student), so I would just stop the situation altogether.

    Next time the neighbor needs you to watch her young daughter, I would simply say "I really wish I could help, but I don't think our babysitting swap is working for us anymore.  I'd like to still call your older daughter to babysit from time to time, and of course I will pay her when I do.  But it doesn't make sense for me to be paying for babysitting while you are still getting it for free, and so I think it is best that we both persue other options."

  • I understand them wanting to help their daughter make money but I understand that the arrangement is no longer fair. This is what I would do to get the point across without seeming upset or mean. I would make plans to go out with your H but I'd plan upfront to not be upset if it was a no go and this is why. Call up the neighbor and tell her that you and your H have had a long week and you were going that she could possibly watch your DD while you guys went out for a relaxing dinner. Should she say she was busy but her daughter would be glad to watch her, say this, 'Well, we love your DD and she's a great sitter but we really can't afford to pay for a date night and a sitter. You know how expensive a simple meal out can be these days! I totally understand that it's only fair to pay your DD since she doesn't have a child to trade off the free services with. Thats why the deal that you and I have always had worked out so great! We were both able to spend time with our spouse's, run errands, etc. without having to try to afford a sitter. I really hate that our arrangement is working out anymore! However, if I ever have any spare money for a sitter, your DD will be the first person I contact since she's so good with my DD. Also, should things slow down for you and you'd like to go back to our previous arrangement just let me know! I loved the trade off that we had going!' This way, she will get that the arrangement is over and it will look like she was the reason it ended!
  • It doesn't matter if everyone sympathizes with you or not.  I'm pretty sure that these arrangements were made to benefit you and your neighbor.  A college student should be able to secure her own part-time job without her parents forcing her onto someone else for babysitting services.  She needs real work experience anyway.  If the arrangement, is no longer working just let her know that she will need to find a babysitter to watch her daughter after school.  If you make yourself available to watch her kid then she should do the same for you.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  It will cost far more for afterschool daycare than it would to trade babysitting services.  Don't feel bad that you don't have enough for the date and the sitter.  Everyone has not arrived but that doesn't mean that you will never be able to afford both.  You'll just have to find something that works out for you.  Maybe save up for one date a month that way you will have enough to go on a date and hire a sitter.  You could even start up something with friends that has each couple watching the kids one Friday or Saturday.  That will ensure that you get at least three days to yourself.  When it comes to kids, you have to be creative and find what works for you.  Even if you have to fill the kids day with fun so they are tired later on.  You could have a late night date at home with dinner and dancing or a movie.  The sky is the limit.
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