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AIBU - told friend it isn't my fault she can't cope with her brood

(80 Posts)
EspressoMonkey Wed 26-Jun-13 10:46:44

We live abroad and have two DCs, 3 and 1. I would like more but feel at the moment that 2 is our lot. We have no family support and my DH works long hours and spends a lot of time out of the country.

I am friends with another expat mum who has 3 DC, aged 4, 2 and 1 and she is pregnant with her 4th. She struggles to cope and so doesn't take her DCs out by herself. I often help her with her DCS when we are out and about at the park, zoo etc. I do it whenever possible and have been happy to do so.

Last week we all went to the outdoor pool. It was a hot day and we agreed to meet outside the pool complex at a certain time. We were on time but my friend and her DCs were 35 mins late, thus my DCs and myself stood outside in the heat waiting for them. We did this as we have membership which gives my friend a discount on her admission.

When she arrived her DCs were not ready for the pool, but mine already had sun lotion and swim suits on. My DCs are hot and bothered because we were waiting around so we went straight in and i said to my friend "see you in the pool when you are all ready".

I had my hands full in the pool, DC2 is not very steady on her feet and so was holding both my hands. DC1 found the water cold and was a bit apprehensive. Another friend's DC waded over to us and chatted to us and played so i felt as if i had the responsibility of three DCs. I was coping but it was not relaxed.

Then there was a bit of commotion at the other end of the pool, splashing etc. The pool was very busy, there were plenty of mums and dads in there with free hands. I briefly glanced over at the commotion but then another DC splashed my eldest in the face, who then started crying. Her friend then hit this other DC and i had to break up a squabble, speaking a mixture of English and French so all parties understood. It was hectic.

A while later my friend joined us in the pool. She was very off with me and asked why i hadn't helped her 2YO DD when he was struggling in the pool? Then i realised that the commotion was her DD struggling in the water. I apologised but said that i didn't know that the child who was splashing about was her DD, i had my hands full at the time plus there were lots of parents in the pool with free hands who helped her out anyway. What i didn't say was that your DCs are your responsibility and you never asked me to be responsible for your DD. I didn't even know she was in the pool!

My friend then made a big deal about how she can't come to the pool without adult help as she can't cope and that i KNOW that etc. I had enough of her using me as free childcare and snapped back that "it isn't my fault you can't cope". I was hot, and bit ratty because yet again we had been standing around waiting for them. My youngest DC is now mobile and needs my help more than ever. My hands are pretty full as it is. I will help her as much as i can but my DCs come first from now on. We didn't have a third DC as i feel i wouldn't cope. My friend will shortly have four DCs under 4.

AIBU and how do i get our friendship back on track without being her unpaid childminder again?

tigerlilygrr Wed 26-Jun-13 11:09:50

I was a qualified lifeguard for four years. It is extremely irresponsible for each adult to supervise more than two children under eight. I simply would not go the pool if I couldn't comply with that rule (which is the standard practice in all council run leisure centres as far as I know). And I am talking about pools with lifeguards as well.

I do sympathise a bit with your friend but whatever the outcome, please don't go to the pool with her again unless there's another adult present.

pianodoodle Wed 26-Jun-13 11:12:04


I hope she'll realise that she was being unreasonable with you due to stress/heat/pregnancy and apologise so you can still be friends

Sounds like she needs a helper but not one with their own children to mind at the same time!

LIZS Wed 26-Jun-13 11:13:29

Maybe suggest an Au pair would be a good idea ? Why should you be able to cope with 3 under 4 but she can't hmm

WinkyWinkola Wed 26-Jun-13 11:17:26

No way would I go to the pool with more than 2 children under 8. That's just dumb.

Right now is not the time for pools.

NatashaBee Wed 26-Jun-13 11:27:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

xylem8 Wed 26-Jun-13 11:40:38

I think she was very shaken up after the nasty scare with her 2 yr old getting into difficulties.Cut her a bit of slack and give her time to cool down.

xylem8 Wed 26-Jun-13 11:41:41

I agree she has too many young Dc to cope with single handed at the pool.Arrange to meet somewhere safer next time

pinkyredrose Wed 26-Jun-13 12:02:46

Why on Earth is she having another DC when she can't cope with the ones she's got!

redexpat Wed 26-Jun-13 12:05:47

I have full sympathy for both of you actually. It's tough living abroad and not having a support network. You end up being friends with other expats that you would never be friends with at home. I think she feels as if you have it easier, and should therefore pick up on the fact that she needs help. But you're right, it's not your fault she can't cope and frankly she should be more prepared. I delayed having children because I didn't have a support network where I am. Another local expat is whining all the time about how lonely she is and how there is nothing to do in the day, that she doesn't know anyone and it really winds me up that she didn't think about this before she got pregnant. There are things to do, but she lives in the countryside, her DH takes the car to work, and there are limited busses. She could use social networking sites, but won't.

thebody Wed 26-Jun-13 12:06:38

You aren't being unreasonable. In any situation your own children are your priority and responsibility.

She sounds like a user, make other friends.

soverylucky Wed 26-Jun-13 12:09:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

1Veryhungrycaterpillar Wed 26-Jun-13 12:09:42

That's so dangerous, you must have felt v shaken up too after being made to feel responsible, I would never take my swimming without my DH (the pools here wouldn't let you anyway) She needs to get some paid help before its too late

LimeLeaffLizard Wed 26-Jun-13 12:15:47

I feel a bit sorry for your friend. She obviously does need help with managing so many small children, and maybe in a nice way you should suggest she gets an au pair.

She was being unreasonable on the pool day. Of course it isn't your responsibility to supervise her children and if she can't manage them in that environment then they can't go.

However, I wouldn't dump her as a friend just because of this.

Maybe you can meet her for a drink one evening without the kids?

If you are both expats with kids the same age it would be nice to keep your friendship.

flybynight Wed 26-Jun-13 12:15:56

I had three children under three whilst I was an expat. I would have gone mad without the support of my friends! And OP, you have been a very good friend.

Your friend needs to recognise her limits, however. Playing at the pool is no good for her. I'm pretty sure she will know that she has been unreasonable. Fear can make people say unreasonable things.

If you like her, and want to continue the friendship (and my expat baby years friends are my rock solid friends. Shared experience and all that) the paddling pool/ bubbles/ ice lollies suggestions are brilliant and much easier contained.

Good luck.

pigletmania Wed 26-Jun-13 12:16:57

Yanbu if she can't cope why is she having more kids! Her children ar her responsibility not yours, you hav your ands full with yours. Especially at the poor where they need more supervision than ever!

Mumsyblouse Wed 26-Jun-13 12:17:28

The ratio of children she has isn't allowed in most UK pools, of course you cannot look after three tiny children each one needing support/help in the water when she is pregnant too. I would think the pool just isn't the place to meet up for quite a long time, you can't have six tiny ones between you when the baby is born, the baby alone needs one adult. This is ridiculous, you need to stop the pool visits for a start and rethink perhaps going to her house (if she trashes your home) because you can't continue to meet out in public places without chaos ensuing- how will you have a conversation between friends anyway?

1Veryhungrycaterpillar Wed 26-Jun-13 12:21:36

I like flybynights take on things

pinkballetflats Wed 26-Jun-13 12:28:47

Id abandon the idea ofspecifically trying to get germ to see she is BU because that takes self-examination which doesn't seem to be something she presently is able to do. But, if you focus on your in needs and boundaries and make these clear to her and you stick to them she may evensally have a lightbulb moment. If you keep accommodating her needs she'll continue in the same vein.

somanystripes Wed 26-Jun-13 12:30:44

YANBU. She sounds chaotic and irresponsible. Her DD shouldn't have been in the pool if she couldn't supervise her. Absolutely no one else's responsibility and it's frankly worrying if she thinks that it is. Tragedy waiting to happen. I'd imagine she rounded on you as she knew she was in the wrong, but it's a ridiculous expectation that you keep track of her DCs as well as your own when she didn't even tell you they were there.

If you do like her and think the relationship is worth saving, then you need to have a frank conversation about her expectations. Either you agree a plan of action before you go somewhere together - e.g. meet at x time with the kids ready to go, stay together and make it really clear when one expects the other mum to be keeping an eye out (but briefly - like if one of you go to the loo - not that she expects you to keep track of all five kids for extended periods). Or, you tell her that actually you have your hands full and the situation today shows that it's not feasible to do those outings without another adult to help. Suggest she gets an au pair or nanny to help out, or that you just do play dates at home.

If you're not getting much out of the relationship, perhaps apologise for snapping as you were stressed too (it'll be awkward if you have to see her around otherwise), but let the friendship tale off. Just say 'no, I think it would be too tricky/stressful' next time she suggests a pool outing or similar where you could be left holding the baby (literally).

Either way, she needs to have a word with herself.

Animol Wed 26-Jun-13 12:34:32

I have slightly the opposite problem - also an expat with 4 kids - other friends often just don't get it when I say no actually we can't come swimming with you - yes the weather is lovely but there'll be thousands of people there and I will spend the whole time checking my kids counting up to 4 and starting from 1 again - my tip is go to the pool when the weather's not so good!
I think your friend was probably very stressed after what happened to her little one but still YANBU

VenusSurprising Wed 26-Jun-13 12:38:24

Look if she can't figure out that she's being dangerous, by not letting anyone know her two year old is swimming in the pool, without checking that anyone is looking after her at all, never mind assuming that you'd be there to rescue her if she was drowning, she'll never figure out that she's being unreasonable.

Maybe try and meet her without kids, or just ease off, and arrange play dates with others?

Fwiw, I think you were foolish to wait thirty five minutes for her with your kids in the boiling sun. I would have given her five minutes maximum, and let her pay the full whack of admission herself if she was any later.
It's not safe to overheat, and then have a cold swim.

Sometimes we can be too polite, and miss the point, which is to ensure our own safety, and that of our own children first and foremost.

Violetroses Wed 26-Jun-13 12:51:30

YANBU, but I can't help feeling sorry for her. She must be feeling overwhelmed, and highly conscious of how she's not coping...and that she's about to bring another child into the chaos. She probably went home and sobbed.

She's pregnant. She's your friend. Don't end the friendship, but don't let that situation happen again - ie don't meet at the pool.

An au pair is a good idea.

I had three under five and found it unimaginably hard. It quickly gets better though!

lunar1 Wed 26-Jun-13 13:01:44

I really feel for you op, I am in the same situation with my friend. She has 3 under 5 and wants no 4. She can't cope with the three she has, whenever we do things I help her lots despite me having 2 of my own.

In theory I'd love a third child but I know I can cope with 2, I can give 2 children a lovely childhood. I can give them My time and let them do whatever activities they want within reason. If I had a third I would have to make more sacrifices than I would like. My friend knows this is why we have stopped at 2.

Every time we do something she has me running round like an idiot after her older 2 while she sits with the 6
Month old. So I have 4 to manage while she has 1!

I put up with it without comment until dc3 was 4 months old after all she had a new baby. She was at my house with all the children 2 months ago and while her children destroyed my house she told
Me she couldn't wait to add to her family!

I have been steadily reducing how often I see her which was about 3 times a week and is now once or twice a week. And if I'm honest I'm looking forward to it being about once a month. Why should I cope with the family she chose to have?!

Nicknamegrief Wed 26-Jun-13 13:01:51

It sounds like you had quite a day of it, with everything going a bit pear shaped. I am not surprised your and your friend got a bit ratty with each other. It all sounds very stressful.

Maybe she is 'too aware' of how hard it is to juggle that many small children, maybe number 4 wasn't planned did she's feeling completely overwhelmed.

Where children a concerned and particularly with a number of young children, it can go from sane to insane and unmanageable really quickly and I would imagine that this was probably what happened to her. In the heat, getting everyone ready, pregnant, feeling guilty about keeping you waiting and then your 2yo vanishes and reappears in the pool. Most of us would snap under that pressure and blow up on the person closest to us. Not excuseable but understandable.

I think it's great that you want to get back on track with your friendship. I really liked the idea of a paddling pool party in the back garden. Sit down and have a chat about it. Explain that while you want to stay friends that keeping your two on track is manageable you find it hard to hard to manage helping her out with hers particularly at places like the pool. Obviously you might not feel like that, in which case don't say it. Also everyone else may have better suggestions.

I'm sure if she's a reasonable person she is fully aware of the truth of the situation and feels as bad about it as you do.

YABU for thinking or even saying it, but there may have been nicer ways to have said it.

Also there are plenty of swimming pools that let you take 3 children under the age of 8 in the UK. I have four children (3 under 8) and have taken mine by myself to various 'council' pools around the UK. I only do this knowing that I can handle it though. IME it's the getting them all dry and dressed that is the most stressful part of the trip.

Wishihadabs Wed 26-Jun-13 13:08:39

I god I feel your pain. I would apologise for your outburst (and hope she is big enough to do so too) then arrange an easier playdate (some excellent suggestions on here). I have some (well one ) very good friend who I just had to meet up with out of the house for a while, so as not to get landed with caring for all 4 dcs. Also enabled me to leave when I wanted too. TBH I would have been straight with her from the start "love to come swimming, but I won't be able to help much " . As others have said 2 non-swimmers are the absolute limit of what anyone can safely supervise.

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