Ask Ellie: Mom feels as if she’s being used as a babysitter

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: My eight-year-old daughter’s friend is a sweet girl, enjoyable to be around.

Her parents are divorced and don’t communicate well. The mother will call to request a playdate at my house. Later, if the father picks her up, he’ll say he heard about it at the last minute.

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I’m happy to have her over after school, or to stay for dinner, or occasional sleepovers.

But I’m not happy to be taken for granted as a babysitter. The requests arrive often, with little pre-planning.

My other children often have guests, too. However, I’m feeling that these parents are taking advantage of our welcoming atmosphere.

I feel sad for their daughter, though I’m not sure she realizes that she’s being dumped on others so often.

I don’t know the parents well and they don’t seem bothered about not knowing me. But I feel somewhat weird about that.

Fallback Babysitter?

Divorce isn’t only hard on kids. It’s hard on parents, too, especially if they both work outside the home, and/or if “not communicating well” is part of what divided them.

It’s even harder when an innocent youngster is caught in the middle.

You’re fortunate to have a happy home and family that can easily accommodate visitors. It’s more than a favour that you grant her parents, it’s a normalizing outreach to this girl, making her part of a welcoming, relaxed scene.

Consider taking the first step to get to know the mother better, so you can better realize what’s going on.

Example: Does she work full-time? Is there hired or grandparent babysitting help? Do she and her ex have a firm schedule for his time with his daughter?

That knowledge might help you feel better about hosting your daughter’s friend when either the child requests it or the mother dearly needs the help.

 

Dear Ellie: I recently left my husband of 37 years. Early on, I questioned his behaviours, which were self-focused and self-serving.

I believed he was deprived of some attention and love as the 10th child.

Though he always seemed caring and concerned about others, it was only to benefit through praise and compliments for him. Yet I never once heard him say anything positive about me.

He craved attention from our daughters’ friends so much that he’d ask when they were visiting next. Once, he asked these teenagers what it’s like to be friends with someone whose father was as good looking as he!

There were many affairs. The last one, year-long, finally broke me.

Leaving him crushed me and my grown daughters, though they understood my decision.

It’s almost a year and I’ve cut off almost all communication with him as he’d become harassing, accusing me of being a controlling wife.

After 10 years of sobriety and two new girlfriends, he’s begun to drink and sends me messages trying to hold onto some control.

I think there’s deep psychological thinking about his role in the world that’s skewed. Your take on this?

On My Own

I can give you a “take,” but not a diagnosis of your husband’s “deep psychological thinking.” Neither I nor you are mental health professionals.

But you’ve lived with him for almost four decades, raised children with him, accepted his self-glorifying perceptions and waited in vain to hear anything flattering about you.

So, I rely on your “take”: Whether he was desperate for attention since childhood, and/or became a serial cheater because he felt entitled to be, it was time for you to find a better life for yourself.

Feedback regarding the woman who was reluctant to contact a relative from her parent’s past (Feb. 4):

Reader: “Twenty years ago I was contacted by a cousin whose maternal aunt had met a son she gave up for adoption. The father was my father.

“Since both my parents were deceased, there was no one to be hurt by this news.

“My two sisters and myself have had a wonderful relationship with our brother! He had a wonderful life with his adopted family, and continues that relationship with his other siblings: us!

“Think what we would’ve missed if we hadn’t taken that first step!”

Reader 2: “My sister and I recently discovered that an uncle of ours had a child out of wedlock.

“She knew nothing about her biological father until she submitted her DNA to an ancestry check and was found to be a match to my sister.

“Meeting her has been positive for all three of us!”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Help a mother and you help a child.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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