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Dear Wendy

Trapped Babysitting Younger Siblings

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  • #911465 Reply


    Before I start:

    I take care of myself aside from household amenities. I buy my own food, clothes, transportation, tuition, phone bill(and hers), I cook (sometimes) and clean, just started buying some groceries as well. I’m not a bum mooching off of her mom lol.

    I am 19 years old and I have two younger siblings who are 10 and 7 (both boys but the youngest one needs a little more attention and discipline than the average child). A couple years ago, my mother got a divorce with their father and we moved out to a new place. She got a job and paid for an after school program for them but once rent + bills started piling on, she started to cut costs on a lot of things: including childcare.

    She asked me to babysit for the summer. The summer turned into an all-year thing because according to her, I need to sacrifice my time in order to help her out with the kids.

    Now I am a college student, I had a job (prior to the pandemic, I’m currently furloughed) but now I am looking for a new job since my old job wasn’t working out for me anyways. I recently picked up a GREAT opportunity that would look great on my resume. The interview went well and they invited me for a second one but I couldn’t make it because I wouldn’t be able to do the job if I got hired. Why? Babysitting.

    I understand my mom needs help and childcare isn’t cheap but this is really starting to cut into my life. I know that may sound selfish because she pays the bills and what not, but I am not a personal babysitter.

    Whenever I talk to her about it, she goes on this self-entitled rant about how she took care of me, had to pay for my childcare, etc. And that’s why I need to babysit. She also tells me if I refuse to babysit, I’d have to find somewhere else to live because she can’t continue to house someone who “doesn’t contribute.“ Living somewhere else is impossible because we live in NYC so the average rent is through the roof. She knows that!

    The point is:

    I understand that she has a lot of responsibilities and babysitting is the least I could do sometimes but is this really the answer? Passing up job opportunities (no, she doesn’t pay me to babysit), revolving my life & schedule around my siblings when they have a father who is alive and well? His income is around 100k while hers is about 78k (before deductions). You’re telling me with a little bit of communication, they both can’t put aside $125 a week ($1k a month amongst both of them) to ensure a safe place for their children to stay until they’re off of work (when I’m busy, of course. I have no problem babysitting otherwise.)

    My question is, what would she do if I wasn’t here? There are (well, before the pandemic) free after school programs and child care programs that work around tight budgets. She just has to search but she won’t search because she’s too complacent with me being the babysitter. To me, that just isn’t fair. Now she’s looking for a new job because she hates her current one and is willing to work any shift regardless how it effects me and my schedule. She does not care how this is effecting me and talking to her about it is like talking to a freaking brick wall. She doesn’t care and has made that clear (yes, she’s even said it).

    Call me selfish but as a growing adult with her own agenda, this is so unsettling. I feel trapped. Advice?

    #911481 Reply

    The crux of it is, you’re an adult living in your mom’s house and she wants you to contribute if you’re going to live there. Right now she has you babysitting as your contribution (cooking a meal every now and then and paying for your own food and phone isn’t contributing).

    Why not get a job and pay her what she’d pay for a babysitter or after school program? She should be ok with that because you’d be contributing monetarily. And it’s definitely less than you’d pay for rent and utilities. Remember, you have a roof over your head and you’re using her heat, A/C, cable, internet, electricity, kitchen, etc.

    Or work out a sum with her that you’ll pay for rent.

    Or move out and get a place with friends.

    #911616 Reply

    She is paying for you to babysit if she pays your rent and utilities. You aren’t contributing. That would be your contribution. Or you could pay her rent.

    If you don’t like it, you can move out.

    #911778 Reply

    Seek out others for a shared flat, and move out.Would that be a possibility if you got the job you wanted? If not, she is subsidising you and so it’s not unreasonable to expect you to pay your way either with time or money. If as Kate suggests your job would cover childcare costs that could work too.Living in someone else’s space always comes with their rules and expectations- if those do not suit you, try to make it on your own.Also, if there are all these free childcare options, is there a reason you can’t perhaps implement those yourself? It might lighten your load to a level you could accept if you decide you want to/have to stay.

    #911806 Reply

    I’m much more sympathetic to the LW. It’s the parents’ responsibility to support the two younger children. That means food, shelter, clothing, care, everything. I agree with the LW that it is on the two parents to come up with the money.

    LW is of legal age, yes. However, I don’t know of many parents who would start charging their children rent (in the form of money or childcare) at 19, while the kid is trying to launch. A dream job, an opportunity to move forward in life — I would never rob my older kid of that because I didn’t want to ask my ex for the proper amount of child support. I would want my kid to thrive in every way possible, especially if said kid was paying their own food, tuition, transportation, and my phone bill already — at age 19! Jesus.

    The mother’s ranting about how she had to take care of LW and pay for her childcare, etc. — that’s not how parenting works. That’s the big clue that this mother is not playing fair here. At all. The LW should not get a guilt trip, as if she owes her mom for her own upbringing.

    Solution? I don’t know, LW. I guess you could try to talk to your mom about all of this one more time. See if you can catch her when she’s not stressed. Don’t do a confrontation; position it as though you’re a team — that it’s in her own interest for you to get good jobs and move forward in life. Ask her if y’all can brainstorm solutions together. Be on the same side as much as you can. Good luck! (You sound like you’re kicking ass, so I know you’ll be okay.)

    #911851 Reply
    Kate B.Kate B.

    I am sympathetic to the LW, too. All of those things that the mother says she did are not the LW’s fault. Mother made the choice to have a child, and of that stuff goes with it. The idea that the LW has to schedule her whole life around taking care of the siblings, even to the point of not accepting/seeking out jobs that would allow her to live on her own is gaslighting. The mother is attempting to guilt the LW into providing free childcare. Having said that, I do agree that as long as the LW lives under her mother’s roof, mother has more leverage. So, LW, start to plan your exit. Find another place to live.

    #911875 Reply

    What FYI said. I have a 19yo and a 5 & 2yo. I would never impede my son’s life & future so I could save money on childcare. Your mother isn’t focused on your best interests. 19 years old is technically an adult, but most are years away from being self sufficient. But it doesn’t matter that I think she’s a shitty mom, its her house and you’re technically an adult. You need to stop turning down job interviews or offers to babysit. Get a place with roommates, move somewhere cheaper, or agree to pay your mom rent instead of babysitting, all of your options require you to have a job. This should be a problem for 2 years max. A 12 & 9yo can be left home alone for a few hours

    #912050 Reply

    Definitely don’t avoid job opportunities OP, at most it could help you get some money and as others have said you could maybe contribute that way to ease the burden on yourself. Is it right or fair? Probably not but considering you live in an expensive city with no other way to move out that wouldn’t cost a lot more it might be the only way right now. If that is an unbearable thought you’d have to move out on your own, I’d look at budgeting that out before making any decisions.

    #912066 Reply

    Also, where is the father of these children!? That isn’t something you should manage, LW, at all, but he does have responsibilities here — financial and otherwise. They’re his kids. . That’s something for your mom to handle, not you, but I want to validate your point of view.

    Hang in there.

    #912109 Reply

    The mom may well be a hot mess, but so are a lot of people who have kids, unfortunately.

    Mom has reportedly said she literally does not care, so I’m not sure a heart to heart will make an impact here.

    The options are either solve the mom’s childcare problem for her or find somewhere else to live. A valuable life skill is to learn to work around assholes or remove yourself from the situation.

    I sympathize, but some kind of action is needed here.

    #912116 Reply

    I guess another thing you could do if you think she won’t actually kick you out is just call her bluff. Get a job. Tell her you’re getting a job and will only be able to sit certain hours. Give her some notice to find another solution, but get the job and go to work. Sit for the kids once a week or whatever. Give your mom some of your wages to help out. Live your life. I don’t know if she would truly kick you out or not. Many moms wouldn’t, some would.

    #912257 Reply

    You know, you’re all right, I didn’t extend much sympathy to the LW. I’m sorry.

    Your mother is not being the best. You absolutely should go for whatever job you want/find. Your mother will find an alternative if you can’t watch her kids. That’s her job as a parent and it sucks that she is being manipulative to you. It doesn’t sound like she’s thinking about this fairly or logically at all.

    So that’s the kind of mom you have. My apologies. I also have a pretty shitty mother. I spent summers working and watching my sister. We were expected to pay rent at 18, no joke. I moved out as soon as I could to get away from her. I can empathize with your situation, but you’re not going to be able to prosper, grow up and focus on your education and career if she’s treating you like this.

    You have to get out of there as soon as you can. If you are going to college, which you say you are- ask for help in finding housing. There’s often on or offline boards of people looking for apartment shares/roommates. It’s going to suck and your money will be stretched thin, but it will also be really good for you.

    I wish you all the luck. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to raise her kids. She needs to figure this out. You could try a talk when she’s in a calm, good mood but I would just tell her you got a job, you’re looking for a place and you can only do so much because you have to start your own life.

    When all the dust settles, maybe try out some counseling via your school. It’s never too early to learn how to set boundaries with a controlling, manipulative parent.

    Good luck.

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