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Dear Wendy

Do I say yes or no?

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  • #1094932 Reply
    Andrea Letsen

    Hi all! Been a long time since my last (and only) post on here and been largely silent since which I apologise for.

    I have a bit of an odd situation that I would like some advice for. Since my last post a couple of years ago, I have worked on myself a lot and am now better able to set my own boundaries. With this particular situation though, I am wondering if I am wanting to enforce boundaries or being spiteful.

    My brother has a daughter, my beautiful little niece, who is approaching 2 years old. Bit of a back story on my brother – he has never really been able to hold a job for very long (usually from preferring to sleep or go out drinking with his mates than go to work), he has been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his adult life, he’s not respectful of women in many ways and has a foul temper (to my knowledge he has never laid his hands on a woman, but he has been known to get into many many fights with other men – often his own friends, and has threatened our mother with physical violence in the past).

    My brother has been used to our mother having his daughter for 3 (sometimes 4) days a week so him and his girlfriend (nieces mother) were able to go to work. However, it is common knowledge that my brother often didn’t go to work during those days and would just sleep or get high (yes he uses marijuana too). Recently my mother moved out of the country, leaving my brother without an on-demand babysitter for my niece. So I knew it wouldn’t be long before my phone started ringing.

    He has since been in touch with me asking whether I would have my niece one day a week. I don’t know whether to say yes or no. My son is 11 years old and I never got the help from our mother that my brother has. Me and my sons father did it almost completely by ourselves and we’re happy we did. However throughout the years, and even since my brother has his daughter – my brother has made nasty comments to me about my ‘motherhood’, claiming his girlfriend is a natural mother whereas I am not apparently, claiming that the occasional friday night that my mother would have my son meant I was lazy (I stopped her having my son overnight because he hated it). Whilst I don’t doubt my abilities as a mother, it isn’t nice to hear such things from your own brother – especially one who has only seen my son enough times to count on one hand and have fingers left over.

    All these reasons and some others make me want to say no to his request that I babysit one day a week. He has complained how difficult his daughter is, allegedly constantly crying no matter what he does, that he doesn’t get a break, that its so hard etc. A huge part of me is glad he’s finally experiencing the reality of parenthood (especially in the younger years) so he knows its not as easy as he made it out to be prior to him having children of his own. I would love to spend time with my niece and develop a relationship with her, and I am free (for the time-being) to do so.

    Am I just being spiteful if I refuse and tell him to deal with it like most other parents (including myself) had to? I feel like I would just be being spiteful so I’m leaning towards saying yes. I would also much rather my niece be with me than around her father when he’s stressed out as he’s not a pleasant presence when he’s in one of his moods and she deserves better than that.

    Sorry for the long post. Thank you in advance for all advice and guidance x

    #1094941 Reply

    I would probably say no, as it’s likely to turn into more than one day (what, he’s only going to “work” one day a week? He truly has a solution for the other 4 days?), so it’s better to not get involved at all than to get involved and then have it turn into a huge imposition shitshow.

    Unless it’s really something you can do and don’t at all mind doing, and you know you can set firm boundaries to keep it to one day, tell him you can’t.

    #1094942 Reply
    Andrea Letsen

    Hi Kate, thanks for the response and advice.

    He definitely is the type who if you give him an inch, he takes a mile – but I am comfortable in my ability to say no to anything more than what he’s asked. He has asked our dad if he’ll help out one day a week too and I believe there is someone else who will be doing the third day.

    I guess what gets to me is the whole ‘I need a break’ excuse that he gives, because that indicates to me he wouldn’t be working – because if he was at work, well work is the break lol. It doesn’t make sense to me how in one breath he’s claiming it’s so him and his girlfriend can work, but then in the second breath state how its so he can have a break. If I were to do it, and subsequently find out it was just so he could have a longer sleep and have a day to himself, rather than going to work, I think that would annoy me a lot. So you’re probably right that my best bet is to say no because it’s likely to end badly.

    Thanks again x

    #1094949 Reply

    I’d say no. He needs a break from smoking weed and being a dick? Nah fam, you don’t need to play into that. Also, you think you’d be able to say no, but I’m sure he knows how to press your buttons.

    Tell him that you’re so sorry but he’s going to have to look elsewhere.

    #1094956 Reply
    Andrea Letsen

    Hi LisforLeslie. Thank you for the response and advice.

    You are right, I definitely shouldn’t play a part in his attempts to avoid his responsibilities. I feel a lot of guilt over the prospect that my niece will be stuck with him instead of enjoying some fun with me – but my brother does need to learn to grow up and be responsible.

    He told me that his daughter cries all the time, so I went through the ‘process of elimination’ with him (nappy, food, drink, temperature, discomfort, tiredness, boredom). He claims he’s ‘done all of that’ so I told him to take her to the GP to see if there maybe something wrong that he can’t see, and he shut me down completely, almost angrily, just repeating ‘no no no its nothing like that, i just need a break!’ – which in my mind correlates to he can’t be bothered to deal with her.

    I will be saying no. Thank you again x

    #1094958 Reply

    I think you should take your niece for the one day a week if you feel you are strong enough to say no to his request for more days. One reason is to check on the physical and mental condition of this girl. The whole “I need a break…she won’t stop crying… I won’t take her to the doctor” raises the possibility that he has or will become so frustrated that he harms the little girl.

    #1094959 Reply

    I agree with Ron. This is a chance to assess the girl’s health and safety. He sounds like he is probably a terrible parent, given all of his other habits.

    #1094962 Reply

    I agree with Ron and Peggy. Yes, your brother is irresponsible and a dick, but he’s not going to shape up and improve just because you won’t be his free child care once a week. Your saying no isn’t going to motivate him to become a better parent, or make him suddenly shape up and properly address his responsibilities. He’s also probably never going to acknowledge that parenting is hard for everyone and that he was wrong to criticize you as a mother – he sounds to me like the kind of guy who thinks his own life is uniquely difficult. These seem like the 2 scenarios at play:

    1) You say yes, you can take her one day a week but no more, and hold that boundary. You and your family develop a relationship with your niece. She gets some stability and positive attention, and you get to keep a closer eye on her welfare and be a trusted adult figure for a kid who may really need one as she grows up. Your brother will likely not express any gratitude for this, but you are playing a long game for your niece.

    2) You say no, you get none of the above, your niece gets neglected/yelled at by your lazy brother while he smokes weed all day, or she gets shuffled off to some other place where she may not be as well looked after (how many different child care situations can you fit in a week?!) Worst case, your brother can’t handle it and becomes physically abusive.

    #1094964 Reply

    Would you enjoy taking care of your niece? Do you have the time to do so?

    #1094982 Reply

    “Would you enjoy taking care of your niece? Do you have the time to do so?”

    If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then personally, I would watch after my niece one day a week.

    I get where @kate and @Listforleslie are coming from. However, this involves an innocent child who did not asked to be born into her current situation. If she could have fun with her aunt and cousin one day a week, why not let that happen? She’s always going to have a shitty dad, so you saying no won’t change that or help her in the least.

    If it were an imposition and you weren’t in a place to help, then I’d say no, don’t do it.

    #1094987 Reply

    Don’t do it unless you’d enjoy / not mind it, you have time to do it, and you know you can push back against imposition.

    Listen, other people’s kids aren’t your responsibility, and unfortunately if her parents don’t want to medically pursue what may be wrong with her and seek treatment, you can’t do anything about that. Having gone through the process of getting my adult sibling to a doctor, I can tell you that you can’t do it without permission.

    You also have to think about your emotional health. This opens you up to your brother being an asshole to you, big time. It’s inviting him into your life to interact with you and treat you like shit.

    I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying think about all these things, and don’t do it unless…

    #1094989 Reply

    To someone’s comment above too, it’s not your responsibility to make life easy enough for your brother so he won’t abuse his kid.

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