My friend’s being a jerk.
Playgroup’s been running smoothly for over two years. It’s a drop-off-free-zone, meaning mamas stay social while munchkins play. But lately, one of the moms is bending the rules. She’s started dropping her daughter off and hightailing it, or, worse, having grandma do it for her. If she’d asked nicely and it was once in a while, it’d be no prob. But week after week with no explanation and summer looming? Uh, no thanks. So how do we break the news without breaking up?
Taking advantage is not cool. Friends help each other out but, like all solid relationships, it’s a give and take. So if all she’s doing is taking… you know where we’re going.
The shortcut solution is to change the playgroup day or time. Not perfect though: the new time might not work for you and/or others, and she might simply do the same thing again. So, time to be less passive-aggressive – it’s far more empowering.
First, decide if you’re okay with looking after her daughter every week for who knows how long. It doesn’t matter what any other moms think if you’re okay with being on the hook. Grumbling about someone who’s not pulling her weight is contagious, so don’t get sucked into that negativity-trap. If she’s a good friend and you know (or suspect) there’s more to the story than the nothing she’s told you, maybe you can cut her some slack. With the knowledge that when you’re in a pinch she’ll return the favour. If you can’t be sure she’d spot you… not such a good friend. So that might make the conversation easier.
Yup, conversation time. You need to talk about that extra playdate mouth to feed, whether you mind it or not. It’s best not to discuss this during a playgroup she happens to stick around for – she would definitely feel ganged-up-upon no matter how carefully you state the facts. If the rest of the group’s on board, elect a spokesperson. The best person to approach her is the one who’s the most concerned/sympathetic/tactful, and definitely not whoever’s most annoyed.
A few conversation tips:
- Plan what you want to say. Not to the point of memorization, but so you’ve got the gist and don’t walk away lamenting what you should have said.
- Speak in ‘I’ and not ‘We’ so she doesn’t feel like the group’s been slamming her. Your talk will go nowhere fast if she gets her back up.
- Start with a concerned ‘I’ and not an attacking ‘You’. As in ‘I notice you haven’t been making it to playgroup lately, is everything okay?” instead of ‘You never come to playgroup anymore, how come?” She’ll feel less accused, which’ll help her open up.
- Listen to her! Pay attention instead of planning your response. It really, truly, could all be a misunderstanding. She may reply immediately with an apology and let you know what’s what. Or she may not, in which case…
- Use a ‘When’ statement. As in ‘When you’re not here most of the time, I feel like more of a babysitter than a friend,’ or ‘When you’re only here to drop off, I don’t think it’s fair to the rest of us’, or ‘When you’re not around, I don’t think your daughter listens well.” Be honest though – only talk about her daughter if it’s actually an issue.
- If she’s getting defensive but you can talk her back down, or if she’s totally receptive and opening up more than she ever has before, present a few options for how to resolve the problem. Another reason to plan ahead!
Rock. You. Hard place. A conversation like this is never easy, but the alternative’s not fun either. You can give it some time to see if it’ll sort itself out, especially if you’ll be away most of the summer, but set a deadline and don’t chicken out. Letting the situation stew for too long is a recipe for disaster.
High-maintenance relationships demand too much and offer little in return. Don’t let fear of rocking the boat keep you stuck in a situation where someone’s taking you for granted. If you can’t handle the conversation, you probably don’t need that “friendship”. Keep an open mind though, you never know what might come from your honesty… a heart-to-heart could be the difference between a playgroup friend’s mom (whom you’ll bid adieu to once JK starts in September) and a BFF.
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