The fact that it’s actually dusk-dark out at 4:30 PM now instead of pitch black gives me hope that eventually these short, cold days will come to an end and once again we’ll be able to go for walks around the neighborhood and visit playgrounds and sit in the backyard and I don’t know, do anything other than rattle around our house during the post-dinner, pre-bedtime zone each day. Just about every evening there comes a time when Riley is running around yelling and Dylan is crawling around whining and everyone is kind of bored and cooped-up but there’s really nowhere to go and our house feels cramped and annoyingly full of clutter and I find myself thinking what a grind this all is, WOE.

Then eventually there are bedtimes and goodnight kisses and almost immediately my little battery light starts going booooooooop! on its way back to full charge. It is brief, my daily moment of anti-zen, but it has surely become a regular 6 PM occurrence, and I’m convinced the weather plays no small part in this shameful fleeing desire to jump in the car, abandon my family, and set up a new life in Cabo San Lucas.

I got a welcome taste of sunlight earlier when I met Ashley and her kids at Cougar Mountain Park, which is situated at a high enough elevation that the cloud cover spread all around us. It was like peering out the window of a plane:


Riley managed to trip and fall facefirst into the dirt about a thousand times while we were hiking around and spent the majority of the outing howling and/or whining, but despite his lack of enjoyment for the fresh air and blue skies it was a nice break from the unrelenting Januaryness of January.



81 Responses to “Clouded”

  1. Mel on January 16th, 2009 7:08 pm

    I didn’t read all of the comments so if someone else has suggested this oh well…

    First off I think you guys handled it perfectly. Would have done the same and the being paid back in babysitting is perfect. You get out and she’s paying you back without falling into another potential debt hole…etc.

    ONE HINT. You should keep a ledger that each of you sign or initial at the end of each night of babysitting.

    So it goes like this…the ledger starts at $500.00, tonight you go out and when you come home and you would normally hand her the money for that nights sitting instead pull out the ledger and a pen. Explain to her that in order to keep it fair, simple and up front that each night she sits you will mark down how much you would have paid her for that night and that you’ll both sign so that later there is no confusion. That way she understands that you are keeping track and this isn’t a free ride and that payment can’t be “forgotten” in the future.

    So you mark down -$50.00 (just a number),the date and Balance Owing $450.00 then sign it get her to sign and say your cheery good night and thanks so much!

    Enjoy your night out…I’m just trying to hide in a dark bedroom and read my fav. blogs…ahhh

  2. H on January 16th, 2009 7:29 pm

    I agree with what you did and with many of the comments (putting it down on paper, expecting not to get it back, etc. etc) and I truly believe we (all of us) need to do more bartering these days.

  3. Karl on January 16th, 2009 9:07 pm

    Been there (not quite the same, but close enough), done that. More than once with different people, lost some of the money, got some of it back in cash or kind. I don’t regret any of it, I would do all of it again in the same situation. The time we pissed the cash down the woe-is-me well, we knew it was a flyer and might not work out. The person came back for more and we just said no. (which is key! be prepared to just say no more.)

    In no case was the amount going to put us into serious trouble, which is also key. We knew we might lose it, and did lose some of it. Oh well! In at least one case I think we might have made the difference between survival and a really ugly situation. That is good enough for me.

  4. Kim on January 16th, 2009 9:09 pm

    I’d have lent her the money too, but agree with other commenters that you should agree soon on how much babysitting will pay back the loan and stick to it.

    Also, I am confused as to why she didn’t get paid with all the snow days. Do you not have to pay for days when daycare is closed? I don’t have kids yet, but always thought of it as something that was a monthly fee pretty much regardless. Pretty shitty if you ask me if you have to pay, but they don’t still pay the caregivers.

  5. willikat on January 16th, 2009 9:09 pm

    I am not in a position to lend $500 to anyone right now, but if I was, I would have done it. I don’t think I’d have been as smart about it–i.e. going to the landlord. Money is weird and can make things weird or awkward. I guess my one question was–were they going to kick her out after just one short rent month? or is this indicative of a larger problem. I am not judging by any means, I’m just saying if I was evaluating the situation, I think that would be the only thing to give me pause.
    That said, I know good people who’ve had to borrow money before and sometimes they just need a helping hand. And they’re good for it.
    The fact that you’re getting babysitting back is a great decision, because you get nights out, paid for up front, and she gets to feel like she’s working off what she owes. And it won’t put her in a cycle of owing money to you so she can’t pay next month’s rent, either. And the kids! Oh, the kids. And single momhood. And she must be a wonderful lady if you trust your children to her.
    So, long story short, yes, I’d do it. And I wouldn’t expect in back, just in case.
    You and JB rock.

  6. Jamie on January 16th, 2009 9:12 pm

    If I had the money to help I’d probably do what you guys did. HAving her be able to work off the debt with babysitting is probably going to be easier and less wierd than her owing you money back. She’s more likely to be able to pay you back with the service than with cash if she’s strapped.

  7. Ashlea on January 16th, 2009 10:13 pm

    Easy peasy! What goes around comes around.
    Its scary times out there, seriously SCARY!

    She takes care of your children. And apparently well?!

    And is a mom?
    Giving is good!

  8. Julie on January 16th, 2009 10:55 pm

    It’s a no brainer…if you have the funds to spare and it isn’t causing you unnecessary hardship. Can you imagine the wave of relief she must have felt? Can you imagine how incredibly pride bruising it must have been to even ask? I agree with Penne, this whole thing is probably way weirder for her than you. Kudos to to you guys. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to step up. To ask, and to give. In this case, it sounds like everybody wins.

  9. AmyQ on January 16th, 2009 11:04 pm

    I would have done it if I had the money to spare for sure – I think you were smart to pay her landlord and offer her the chance to pay it back in babysitting. If you care for her and she has been good to your kids then it is worth helping her out. Plus the circumstances this year are putting a lot of people in a tough spot. It seems really sad to me that she doesn’t have family or anyone else to help her out – that would be really rough. I think you did the right thing, but I understand the concern too…nothing is ever a sure thing I guess. I probably would only do it once though too like some other commenters have said.

  10. alfredsmom on January 16th, 2009 11:26 pm

    that’s wonderful. And great idea to pay the landlord directly. This makes me feel like running outside and finding someone to give money to…lol.

  11. Kari on January 17th, 2009 12:25 am

    I think it was a very decent, compassionate thing to do.

    I am also of the “you don’t lend money, you give it” school of thought. I have given a lot of money in my life. But your version is pretty interesting – my school of thought means that you never think about it again – and you have an ongoing professional relationship with her.

    So I agree with the commenters that suggested you keep a log and everytime she babysits, you cross it off. Initialing it and writing a contract? This attorney says “don’t worry about it.”

    I also should tell you this. In our (mutual) state of WA, and city of Seattle, it takes about six months to evict anyone, often much longer. Just keep that in your mental file, okay?

  12. iidly on January 17th, 2009 1:29 am

    I don’t loan money ever. I give it if I have it. Lending makes things really to weird.

  13. Kelly on January 17th, 2009 4:06 am

    I never have any money, but if I did I would probably just make it a gift. That way the gesture won’t look like something that can be repeated at will.

  14. Jeanette on January 17th, 2009 5:39 am

    It’s amazing the timing of this post as I just had a mini confrontation with my brother and his wife over money. We lent them 3500.00 in July to purchase a car with the agreement that they would pay 50.00 a month, no interest. They made three payments and then quit paying due to the holidays and job hour cuts and putting their daughter through school. I just sent a email to them basically saying that I felt taken advantage of. Now we’re all mad and feel bad and it’s a situation that will take a while to resolve. I regret saying anything and I really regret lending the money, especially to a family member. Nevertheless, I think you guys did the right thing and it will be much easier for her to pay back with babysitting and feel good about herself.

  15. danielle on January 17th, 2009 6:15 am

    I think you did the right thing. Since she’s paying you back with babysitting, it will be much easier to get paid then if she had to actually give you cash.

    I find the dynamics of your relationship with her intriguing. Either she’s very comfortable with you and your family or she’s really ballsy!

  16. Michelle on January 17th, 2009 6:39 am

    Whenever this topic comes up, I ask myself if I really need the money. If I don’t and I think the person is legit, I’d give it. Sure, I’d say it was a “loan” but I’d never actually expect to see it back. I think you did the right thing. There is FAR too much cynicism out there and you know what? If someone is desperate enough to ask, chances are they need it more than I do.

  17. Barbara on January 17th, 2009 7:20 am

    It’s a win-win until it’s not. Hopefully it will remain that. I’d have done the same thing if I was able. We never know the far-reaching affect our kindness will have.

  18. babelbabe on January 17th, 2009 7:33 am

    i don’t know what babysitting goes for in your part of the US but here in Pittsburgh, 500 bucks would about cover say 5 (maybe 6-7 tops) full nights (movie and dinner). that’s not a lot – so I hope she can manage to help you out babysitting, and it all works out. Whether it does or not, you did a really kind thing.

  19. Anonymous on January 17th, 2009 8:20 am

    I would have helped her out because it was the right thing to do and then I would have respected her dignity by not posting her personal stuff online…fake name or not.

  20. Mary on January 17th, 2009 8:38 am

    The situation sounds like a gift for both of you.

  21. Mymsie on January 17th, 2009 9:54 am

    I understand the concern but I think it’s fabulous you gave her the benefit of the doubt, especially given your experience with her at daycare and the fact that she supports little ones.

  22. k-stin on January 17th, 2009 11:21 am

    If it was me, I would maybe just agree on how much baby-sitting would equal the $500, write it down or something, then there can’t be any question of whether she returned the payment.

    I agree with the others that it’s good to pay directly to the landlord. I can see what you mean about awkwardness, though.

  23. Sonia on January 17th, 2009 11:30 am

    I’ve been on the receiving end of generosity like yours during tough times, and I think you and JB did a really good thing. The help I got from friends, was more along the lines of *extra* fun stuff that I’d have not been able to join them for, had they not paid for my room. I have been fortunate enough to not be in such dire financial straits that I couldn’t pay my mortgage or car payments. But I’ve been in that place where there are NO extras at all, and we’re just getting by day to day, barely.

    On the flip side….. I have a family member who will milk whatever she can get out of you, or any other friend or family member she suckers, as often as she can get away with it. “We can’t afford to eat this week” was her frequent refrain. I fell for it hook, line and sinker every time, and took her kids, free, so she could work. When she planned cosmetic surgery and a tropical vacation several months later, I had an “ah-ha” moment and put a stop to the free babysitting. Within weeks, I was no longer useful to her, and unceremoniously dumped on my face.

    I’m NOT suggesting that your sitter is pulling something on you, at all. In fact, it sounds to me like she’s legit, and it was probably really difficult to ask for help. I’m hoping that everything turns out well with your sitter, and you all benefit from this arrangement. Have fun on your dates!! We’ll need a full run down of the restaurants and movies you encounter, natch. ;)

  24. Jenny on January 17th, 2009 5:00 pm

    I’d like to think that I would have done the same thing. And I think you guys have handled it perfectly.

    I’m in a situation where my office is probably going to close and I need to find a new job. There is a pretty good chance that I could be looking at a period of unemployement. That’s pretty scary. My parents who are pretty awesome are offering to pay off the rest of my car. Their rationale is that I didn’t get as much help as my siblings did when going to college and I didn’t. (I was the oldest of 5 and money was just tight when I was that age) But it sure hurts thinking about taking that money when I have always prided myself on being independent and self sufficient. I’m leaning towards taking the money with the intention of paying at least part of it back when I get a new job. The extra $350/month would sure be useful to sock away while my office is still open and would stretch the severence and possibly the unemployment a lot further. This economy is really scary right now.

  25. Jill on January 17th, 2009 5:05 pm

    As someone who has worked in childcare, as well as sat for the kids I teach (though this was before I had any children) I cannot IMAGINE asking one of my kids’ parents for money. But I can’t even ask my own parents for money, so maybe that’s just me. It must’ve taken a lot for her to ask. I wish that we were in the position to help someone out – even with a few hundred dollars.

    To the person that questioned why she didn’t get paid…at most corporate daycares (and I don’t know if Dylan and Riley are in a corporate center or smaller facility) yes, the parents have to pay their normal weekly tuition regardless of whether or not their children attend that many days in a particular week. Even for snow days or holidays. However, daycare teachers get paid hourly, and if they don’t work, they don’t get paid, holiday or not.

  26. lisa on January 17th, 2009 8:37 pm

    you did the right thing. i think she would have to really trust you guys to even ask, and with the way you responded, it showed mutual trust. that’s priceless.

    i like the ledger idea. i would even make a descriptive entry like “2 hrs. 20 min. @ $x.xx = $xx.xx” so there is no miscommunication later, like she rounded the hours off, you count by 15 minute increments. not a lot of difference, but could cause a problem down the line.

    there is someone i am dealing with now who i really don’t trust. i don’t mind favors but it should never cost ME money to do a favor for YOU! i will get the car at the bodyshop for you, but it better have gas and not require me to fork over $10 in fuel for the priviledge of getting your car for you (not to mention i hate getting gas for MYSELF!)

    you did good, girl!

  27. lucy on January 18th, 2009 8:57 am

    I think (as many have pointed out) it all comes down to your perspective. It’s hard not to feel taken advantage of – so giving and not lending – letting it go instead of analyzing how that person spends their money (from now on), is the easier way to deal with it.

    I know daycare workers are underpaid – and they are taking care of what is most precious to us. I would have been compassionate – but not nearly as smart as you and JB – I would have given her money and waited to be repaid (which is impossible when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck…there is never any ‘extra’ to give someone repayment). The way you handled it – giving it to the landlord and taking repayment in services was smart.

    It is a tough spot to be in – to be poor and struggling – and see others who are not…”if only I had some of their money, we wouldn’t be struggling so much” – I do think it can make you a target of people who want help and prey on your compassion.

    My inclination is to always help if I have the money but I have been burned – and when I rewind the conversations in my head, “I don’t have money for diapers…” it makes me feel stupid for believing. On the other hand, people have shown me kindness when I needed it – and I was very grateful for that.

  28. T on January 18th, 2009 10:25 am

    Jen said: I make it a policy to never lend anyone anything that I would be heartbroken or financially screwed if I didn’t get back.

    I’d say that’s a good way to think about it. If you are not in a position to lend, don’t. And expect it won’t be repaid.

    I lent $750 to my then boyfriend, and when he got a job again he never repaid a cent. We broke up w/in a year and here I am two years later he still hasn’t paid me back and I have had pretty serious situations come up where I could’ve used it. I offerred him to repay it $10 at a time if that’s all he could do, but nothing. I now realise I wasn’t in a position to loan it & shouldn’t have.

    But…if you have a good relationship with the girl then I can see why you did it. It was pretty unprofessional of her but maybe she thought this really was her only and last option. I would only agree on what amount of babysitting equals $500 but it sounds like an excellent bartering plan. Perhaps if you really like her as a babysitter you can line her up as a permanent one for future date-nights!

  29. Karen on January 18th, 2009 2:10 pm

    If I could spare the money, I would give it and not expect it to come back. At all. In any way. I have been helped when I needed it (only recently monetarily) and I will pay back everything I’ve ever borrowed. I have helped other people and been repaid and not been repaid. And it doesn’t matter to me either way. I can’t take it with me when I die so I might as well use it to help people in need.

    Plus I know how very hard it is to ask. Most people can barely bring themselves to do it (me included). If someone humbles themselves like that to me, I will do all I can to help.

  30. Heather-in-Australia on January 18th, 2009 3:19 pm

    I would have done pretty much what you and JB did, too. I think paying you back via babysitting is a smart system & a great way, on many levels, to honour the wonderful, caring presence you say she has given and gives :).

    Considering how excruciating it is to humble oneself to ask for help in that manner, I’d probably be leery of posting about it for fear she finds the post, too no matter how slim the chance. But unlike Anonymous I’d be willing to bet you knew it was a sure thing she wouldn’t find it before you posted, thus keeping her dignity intact indeed :).

  31. Josh on January 18th, 2009 5:29 pm


    Holy crap Riley looks hilarious! What the hell did you do? Push him down the whole mountain? That is awesome, save that picture and hang it on your wall to remind him what happens when he whines on outings!

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