Stay-at-Home Moms Aren't Free Daycares

by Ann Douglas

SAHM's taken advantage of by friendsStay-at-home moms face lots of daily challenges. What happens when a good friend starts to take advantage of a mom who chooses to stay home?

We hear stories like Nancy's whose best friend decided that Nancy's house was the perfect daycare for her daughter. Nancy didn't think so and here's why.

Nancy shared, "My best friend has a little girl the same age as my daughter -- both are 5. My friend insists on dropping her child off constantly for free babysitting. I'm a stay-at-home mom; she works. I love my friend, and I really don't mind watching her daughter but the problem is that I find her daughter isn't very well-behaved. If I insist on some time outs, or that she not toss toys at my dog, my friend finds out and says her daughter said I was 'mean.' I am almost ready to explode. Help!"

How would you reply to Nancy?

Here's what I suggested to her. The fact that she's a "stay-at-home mom" doesn't mean that Nancy is obligated to provide free daycare (and drop-in free daycare, at that) to her best friend's daughter.

It sounds like Nancy's friend has been taking advantage of her generosity for a while, and that she's starting to get a bit worn down by the constant childcare demands. Who wouldn't?

Of course, the lack of support from Nancy's friend when a discipline issue involving her daughter arises is only making the situation worse for Nancy.

Clearly, Nancy can't let things keep going the way they are headed. Certainly not when she's feeling "ready to explode!"

Nancy could suggest to her friend that the two of them meet for coffee to discuss the situation. Then it would be wise to think ahead of time to what your ideal outcome would be.

I asked Nancy if she wanted her best friend to make alternate childcare arrangements? Would Nancy be okay caring for her friend's child on a part-time basis -- provided she knew in advance if her friend was going to be dropping her daughter off?

Further, I suggested that if the childcare arrangement is going to continue, what ground rules could Nancy and her friend agree to when it comes to discipline?

I wished her good luck coming up with a solution to this sticky situation.

What would you do in Nancy's shoes?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to


MissyJ's picture

Submitted by MissyJ on

Boy have I been in Nancy's shoes repeatedly over the years. That whole mentality of "well since YOU (SAHM or even WAHM) don't *do anything*", you can then _______ (insert assumption and request to take on even more here!) ARGH!

I found that I had to set up some clear boundaries. I admit to still struggling with that word that begins with "N" and ends with "O", but I have managed to pronounce it more often. I've had some be taken aback that I *gasp* AM busy and likely others that will suspect that I'm being unreasonable and not a "team player". HA!! If only they could peek at my schedule! My TRUE team of our inner family circle and both my work and volunteer colleagues know better!

My advice to Nancy is to try what Ann suggests and within that conversation set some limits. The first topic would have to address the discipline issue. Look for a few positives to mention about the friend's daughter, but then present that you do need to have your friend understand and SUPPORT Nancy's rules for her own home... and the consequences. This should be clearly communicated with the child before she visits and IF something happens then the parent needs to back Nancy up.

If the friend finds this to be an unreasonable request, then Nancy should share that she is sorry that she feels this way and wish her the best. I'd *maybe* consider allowing the girls to get together at a park for a playdate with BOTH parents present but she would no longer be able to visit in my home.

IF the friend agreed to the terms for rules, then the conversation on limits and boundaries could continue. For example, Nancy could share "I love having your daughter over to visit ON OCCASION, but please understand that I can't be available to host her more than ___ times a week (or month... or century if she prefers.) Nancy doesn't owe the friend an explanation but if pressed may state that she opted to become a SAHM to be able to spend some 1:1 time with her family -- and free to come/go as she wishes. At this time, she isn't interested in taking on a more regular babysitting gig, but if the friend needs assistance that Nancy would be willing to make some inquiries for someone local for her.

Best of luck!

girlisrad's picture

Submitted by girlisrad on

My advice is pretty simple: Tell her straight up that you are not willing to watch her as often as you do, for free. Day care facilities (people) get paid well because that job is demanding and exhausting. It is no LESS difficult because you are friends with the parent. She should not be using you the way she is.

Honesty is the best policy here... otherwise you will continue to build animosity, and it could have a poor reflection on your friendship.