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Am I a suspicious cow? Or a terrible friend........

(31 Posts)
Earlybird Sun 13-Mar-05 21:59:39

I met a woman at a park this summer, and we struck up a friendship. We live in the same area, our dds are about the same age, and we're both single mums. She has repeatedly invited us over for Sunday lunch, and it is always lovely, and has become a semi-regular thing. We always go to hers for several reasons: she used to be a professional chef, and loves to cook (I don't cook much at all), and because she lives in a large 4 BR flat with 3 reception rooms (her mother's actually) with a dedicated playroom so the girls can have a good play without being underfoot. My flat is small, so we'd be cramped, with no separate area for the kids to play.

I have been careful not to take advantage, as I don't reciprocate with cooking. However, I like to think I make it up in other ways. For instance: I always arrive for Sunday lunch with a nice bottle of wine, and I bring lunch for our dds (as they don't like our "adult" food). I also often arrive with a bag of clothes that dd has grown out of - playclothes, party dresses, jumpers, shoes, swim costumes, hats, even vests and tights! My friend is grateful for these, and I am glad to give them to someone we know/like.

Yesterday, I mentioned to my friend that dd and I were going to a park in a different part of the city. My friend asked if she and her dd could come, and volunteered to drive. She also suggested that we all go out for pizza afterward, and I agreed (we have done this a few times before at my invitation, and I have paid for all of us joking that it was "my turn to cook"). We had a lovely afternoon, and a nice meal. When the bill arrived, I wondered whether I should pay as I've done in the past, but decided that we could split the bill as eating out was her suggestion.

Anyway - I put enough money down for our half of the bill, and my friend announced suddenly that she couldn't find her wallet. We all looked around for it, and she even went out to the car to look too. She came back empty handed, with a few theories on where it could have been lost. She seemed upset, but not that upset. She didn't ask me to pay the whole food bill, but it was clear that was the only option, so of course, I did. She didn't thank me, or offer to pay me back. She dropped us home, with me making sympathetic noises. But again I kept thinking that I would be much more upset if I had lost my wallet.

We were due at her place for Sunday lunch today, and she called this morning saying the wallet had been found. I said she must be relieved, and asked what had happened. She said someone had called 5 minutes earlier to say they found it in the street near the park (me immediately suspicious thinking why would that person have waited from Saturday afternoon to late Sunday morning). I asked how she was going to collect the wallet and she said the person lives 5 minutes drive from us (me again suspicious as the park is not a local one, and it's not one people from our area would logically use). Finally, she said "don't mention it at lunch today because my mum doesn't know". There was no offer to repay me for their meal.

Final note - she asked yesterday, and again today, if I could have her dd every Thursday afternoon from 3 - 6 when she gets off work. We've done this a few times, but I have been cautious not to make it a regular thing. I told her I'd give it some thought.

I enjoy this friend, and am not a "score keeper" in relationships. I am keen not to take advantage of her generosity (with Sunday lunches), so have tried to repay with some other method (clothes, wine, food for the kids, and the odd restaurant meal). But, I feel that this friend has the capacity to take advantage, so am always cautious about not putting myself in that situation. I also question whether she lost her wallet, as it doesn't ring true for me.

Your verdict? Anyone still awake?

motherinferior Sun 13-Mar-05 22:03:27

I'm honestly not sure about the wallet, only because it's such a weird way to behave; but I certainly think she's way out of line asking you to take her dd regularly.

And it sounds to me as if you've acted admirably about the lunches.

She is taking advantage, isn't she...

pixiefish Sun 13-Mar-05 22:06:22

Still awake earlybird. Does sound a bit suspicious. Think she may have staged it- maybe she doesn't see the things that you do or maybe she just assumed that you would pay as you normally do. Having her dd every week would be very tying if you wanted to do something else. If its a regular thing then i think she should offer to pay. Its different if it's the occasional favour

milward Sun 13-Mar-05 22:07:36

Not sure on this earlybird. It does seem strange how she lost her wallet. You have been helping her as well to keep the lunch balanced. It would unbalance the relationship if you did make childcare a regular thing - what will she be doing to help you?

coppertop Sun 13-Mar-05 22:08:40

When I first read about her losing her wallet I had some sympathy because I still remember the awful moment when I was out for lunch with a friend and discovered too late that I'd left it at home. However, the rest of her story just doesn't ring true IMHO.

I agree that it sounds as though she may be taking advantage, especially wanting you to look after her dd for 3 hours every Thursday.

LGJ Sun 13-Mar-05 22:08:52

Advantage.................withdraw slightly and see what happens.

Refuse childminding.

whatsername Sun 13-Mar-05 22:11:18

Perhaps she expected you to pay (not that I'm suggesting you should have) and didn't take her wallet, and was then embarrassed and so made up the story to cover?

If you're happy with the freindship in other ways then I would be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Decide whether you want to be committed to looking after her dd, and stick with your decision.

Socci Sun 13-Mar-05 22:12:42

Message withdrawn

Branster Sun 13-Mar-05 22:15:01

the wallet story is neither here nor there. it doesn't matter if she lost it or not so give the benefit of the doubt.
however you should address the very rude (imho) fact that she has still not paid or at least offered to pay for the meal. it's basic manners and if you don't want a repeat don't go eating out with her again.
babysitting i should think requires some thought: it sounds to me like you'd be relied on for more than you think. working hours would also include travel time and very likely overtime so those two days you will be completely stuck every single week. and all for free. if she does offer or agree to pay you then you need to find out whether you should be a registered childminder: what if something were to happen to her dd when she was in your care? I think this one is a lot to ask from you.
perhaps cool it off for a while with her if you're not sure about how she's treating you?

Socci Sun 13-Mar-05 22:15:58

Message withdrawn

whatsername Sun 13-Mar-05 22:23:49

If you accepted money to look after her dd then I'm pretty sure you'd need to be registered as a childminder.

Earlybird Sun 13-Mar-05 22:32:32

Thanks for the feedback. I do like this friend very much, but she is quite a powerful character who some would label as pushy. On some levels she is quite generous, but I have always had a nagging feeling that I needed to be on my guard as it could be "give an inch, and she'll take a mile".

Regarding the Thursday after school request, I'm a SAHM with an occasional nanny....so, I guess in my friend's mind, it would be little more than a regular playdate. Her daughter is no trouble, but I'd rather invite when I want, instead of having a regular/expected commitment (though of course I'd be available if there was an emergency). And then there's anxiety about how to decline without putting the entire friendship in jeopardy. Somehow I have this silly feeling that if I can be helpful, then I should if I'm any kind of friend. Amazing how easy it is to make me feel guilty....

Socci Sun 13-Mar-05 22:34:58

Message withdrawn

whatsername Sun 13-Mar-05 22:39:56

If you don't want to be committed to a regular time looking after her dd then that is reason enough. There is no 'should' about it, she's her responsibility, not yours.

Kibby Sun 13-Mar-05 22:41:40

when someone asked me if I would take their child to school every day because she was working, I was honest and said Oh i'm hopeless at being comiiteed to something like that I'd hate to feel tied but give me a shout in an emergency etc and it was fine, could you try that, agree with Branston, let the purse matter go and next time you go out say joculalry it's your shout this time or something like that.

goreousgirl Sun 13-Mar-05 23:26:58

It's amazing what we mums go through for a 'friend'! Whatever the truth, and whatever the reasons, it is clear that there is mistrust, and for that reason only, I think it's unlikley the friendship can continue in a close way..... It's a shame because, it sounds ideal - but IMO I think you'll lose the benefit that you're gaining from a good friendship through mistrust here and there. Personally, I'd cool it, and try and strike it up again in a while. As for every Thursday - unless you're getting an equal favour in return, it's definitely too much for someone to ask!! Good luck - tough situation!

HUNKERMUNKER Sun 13-Mar-05 23:27:55

I think she probably figured you'd pay for lunch as you have done in the past, and hadn't brought her wallet with her. Then to save face when you didn't pay (totally fair enough IMO - her idea to eat out, so split the bill), she had to come up with something convoluted.

I'd be tempted to leave the meal thing for now (but if you go out again to eat, expect her to pay as you got it last time Ask her if she has her wallet before you order too!).

The main issue here has to be the assumption that you'll provide ongoing free childcare for her. And that is most definitely NOT ON. Tell her you're happy to help occasionally, but you can't make it a regular thing because you'd hate to let her down.

And if all else fails, I'll go out for lunch with you instead - I always pay my share and you sound lovely

goreousgirl Sun 13-Mar-05 23:31:04

Here here Hunkermunker!

nightowl Sun 13-Mar-05 23:37:27

i surpose it is possible that the reason she didnt offer to repay or thank you at the time was because she was worried about losing the wallet.

however, some people will actually use their "generosity" to make you feel guilty if you actually refused anything they wanted in return. ok perhaps that doesnt make sense?

example: my neighbour has been "kind?" in some ways. if its cold and i happen to mention i need something from the shop she will go to the shop for me to save taking the kids out. one day she did a bit of ironing for me. one day she watched the kids for 5 mins while i went off to do something or other. she has done little favours for me here and there (which i never asked for, she offered). none of these things ever cost her any money though. i also did things for her, gave her clothes and bits of furniture, fixed things in her house because she doesnt have a clue how to. shortly after she had done something for me, she would be round asking for things..a teabag here, some coffee there, some sugar, some butter, a slice of bread nothing major. i didnt mind this but it was getting every day. then it was a glass of wine, 50p for the tv, a ciggarette, then £5 for some gas...it got more and more but i felt too guilty to say no, like i was being spiteful and i think she knew that. she came here crying one day saying she had spent the money she needed to get a part to get her cooker fixed and her brother would kill her as he had lent it her. so i coughed up £15. she paid me a couple of quid here and there and after 2 weeks i got fed up and told her that as much as i appreciated her helping me out, i couldnt help her out anymore with anything which cost money..as i didnt have it. it seems to have worked. she doesnt ask for money anymore but she knows i will help her with anything else. right at the moment its fine, but she drove me crazy last year. ive loads of threads on it somewhere but she was just here all the time with her kid and it really got me down. its real easy to let it get to that stage aswell frighteningly enough.

nightowl Sun 13-Mar-05 23:40:45

sorry lost the point there, what i meant to add was...yes i think she is trying to take advantage!

charleypops Mon 14-Mar-05 00:09:34

Some people are born to manipulate and will do it as naturally as breathe. Doesn't mean they're bad people, and some have otherwise vibrant and attractive personalities, but I always feel uncomfortable with people asking or assuming things of me that I would never ask/assume of another, so I never bother to form real friendships with people like this.

Regarding the childcare, I like Kibby's post of 10.41. That's what I'd like to think I'd say. As for the pizza thing, I'd forget about that for now. You'll cool off the friendship I'm sure if this sort of thing continues to bug you. Otherwise, as long as you're honest it will find its' own happy natural level.

bathmummy Mon 14-Mar-05 08:03:12

Totally agree with hunker munker.
She was probably just covering up her embarrassment of not realising you were going to split the bill and had no money on her. Shame she didn’t feel able to tell the truth but I can see why she would feel uncomfortable. Just a shame that she didn’t offer to pay once she had "found" her wallett....
I would give her another chance - friends are so valuabel and important and obviously your chidlren enjoy each others company.
As for the babysitting, sure she has asked a lot of you so just tell her. Be pleasant but just say that you have thought about it and although you love having her child over now and again, don’t feel able to make it a permanent fixed arrangement right now but offer to carry on with occasional babysitting if she is really desperate andsee how it all pans out. After all, she only asked so at least give her an answer.
She may offer to pay in full next time you are out and she might be cool about the babysitting thing and tell you not to worry and sorry if she were asking too much, fully understands etc. - I would wait and see and not throw the towel in yet.

WideWebWitch Mon 14-Mar-05 08:24:06

I agree, you shouldn't agree to the childcare, definitely not. Unless you're interested in a reciprocal arrangement, are you? Then it would work for both of you. But otherwise I'd say no. Hm, I'm not sure about the lunch thing. I'd be suspicious too I think. I used to have a friend like this but the other way around: I would very regularly feed her and her ds, I mean at least twice a week, a decent meal, which I had absolutely no problem with but I did get upset when I felt she was taking advantage as a) she didn't ever reciprocate and would ask us to leave if it was tea time or near to it at her house, I mean, she begrudged my ds even an apple and it really peed me off and b) she asked me for a fiver I supposedly owed her from a night out (? can't remember exactly) when I'd fed her an awful lot and provided booze and stuff and so I really felt she was out of order to ask for the cash. So I've sort of been in the other position. I think if I were you I'd try to get the friendship back onto a more even footing - could you do every other Sunday or something? It is really hard when this kind of issue clouds a friendship, I know.

welshmum Mon 14-Mar-05 09:15:03

Hello Earlybird - hope you're fine and dandy. My twopennorth. How much do you want to continue with the friendship? If the answer is alot then I think you need a bit of honesty between you. I'd take a deep breath and start by telling her how much you value the friendship and then dive in - starting off with the childcare and why you'd prefer not to be pinned down, moving on to lunches - you enjoy going to her place and would like to think you repaid her in the following ways etc That's what I'd do - but I don't like to have stuff unsaid and assumed - it drives me batty.
All the best

Twiglett Mon 14-Mar-05 09:30:30

I agree with what Hunkermunker said .. I think she probably expected you to get it and didn't take her wallet and made up a sad excuse to save face, I am sure she was mortified

I do not personally see how a bottle of wine, 2nd hand clothes and the odd meal actually equals a regular sunday lunch paid for and cooked by your friend (based on effort and expense) but I really do not see that as an issue

the issue here is the parameters of your friendship, when I invite people for lunch I do it because I want to see them, want to cook not for what I can get or so that it can be reciprocated, I would never tot up financially or effort-wise both sides of the relationship and see who comes out ahead

she sounds nice TBH and I would ignore the whole meal / restaurant thing and laugh it off

But I would say to definitely say NO to the regular childcare, that would be a huge burden on your friendship

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