Dear Family Foxhole,
My mom is a single mom, and she asks me to do a lot of babysitting of my younger brother. I am 12 and he is 8. I really don’t want to do this job, but I feel bad telling her that. She works four days each week until 5:30, which means I have to babysit for two hours after school, plus on Saturday mornings from when I wake up until noon.
How do I get out of this?
You probably can’t get out of helping your mom in some way, but maybe babysitting isn’t the only way to do it. Can you ask her if there is some other chore you can do that would get you out of this one? But beware: you could end up doing something you like even less!
Would you like babysitting more if it were a job? Ask your mom to pay you. After all, in just two years, you’ll be old enough to get a job as a dishwasher or bagger at a grocery store and that will take up your time and force your mom to pay someone else to do this job.
But it could be that she can’t pay you. If you ask her, she might feel embarrassed if her answer has to be “no.” Are you ready to hear that? If you suspect that is the case, ask her to pay you in something other than money, like pushing your bedtime back a bit or buying your favorite cereal or tea or something else that she’d already be buying.
There may not be much that either you or your mother can do to change the situation. If your mother has to work, she needs childcare. And if she doesn’t have the money to pay you, then she doesn’t.
But a family isn’t a business. We care for each other because we are family, not because it’s our job. Your mom cares for you for free, and I’ll bet that there are even ways that your younger brother contributes to your happiness and care, too. Try to reframe this from being a chore to being a responsibility that you take on as a contributing part of your family. It’s a lesson in maturity. Most of adulthood is doing stuff like this, and those adults who embrace these tasks as part of their life, rather than a disruption to it, are happier.
Experiment with ways to make this more fun. Can you take your brother out of the house to the library or playground? Can you work with him to set some homework goals that can help him improve his grades? Forget for a bit that you are 12 and go enjoy the things you did when you were 8–playing with action figures or playing imagination games. No one else is watching, so get silly, And pass along the things you like to him. Teach him wiffle ball or how to make a frosting rose or whatever it is you do. Give him time on his own, too, to play or read or watch some TV, but if you can see this time together as precious (You’ll be working an after school job before you know it!), you might just come to enjoy it!