Advice · Friendship

Someone Wants Some Free Babysitting

I’m hosting an open house for the holidays, and have invited my friends, as well as friends and families of my young child. Inevitably, that means some adults that I don’t know very well are invited, but I’m hoping to get to know them better. I’m also looking forward to hanging out with my friends while my child plays with theirs.

One parent who I don’t know very well has two children who are a bit older than my child. She’s asked if it would be okay to drop all three of the children off at the party while she goes to another commitment.

I don’t know her other children, and I don’t know her very well. Is it a jerk move for me to say no, that if her older kids are here then I’ll need her to be here as well?

I have a feeling that this parent has internalized the idea that it ‘doesn’t hurt to ask.’ As I’ve said before, I generally disagree with that sentiment. Obviously I don’t think any gets hurt hurt, but it can be obnoxious, and mostly just serves to transfer responsibility from the asker to someone else. It’s especially annoying when there’s a power differential or when the person doing the asking doesn’t really know the person they’re asking.

In this case, she falls into the former category. My guess is — if she’s thinking about it at all — she’s assuming you’ll either say yes because you don’t mind, or say yes because she knows that it’s more awkward to turn down such a request. If she’s like most people, I don’t think she’s doing this consciously or to be manipulative; she’s just oblivious to the fact that her request might put other people out.

But that’s not your problem, and you’re not the jerk here. If anyone is being a jerk it’s the parent made the request, although ‘jerk’ is a bit harsh. They’re being thoughtless, which is annoying, but a lot of people are, and it’s not up to you to accommodate that. You’re having a party, and you get to decide how you want it to go. It’s completely understandable that you’d want to be able to spend time with your friends without worrying about entertaining or watching over other peoples’ children.

So go forth and say no. If you’re looking for a script, I’d go with something like “Unfortunately because of the nature of the party we need parents to be there with their kids. Hopefully you’ll all be able to come for a bit when your commitment is over.”

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