Make It Stop: “I’m My Sister’s On-Call Babysitter!”

Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? [email protected] the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, how to say “no” to babysitting:

I have a 16-month-old nephew who I adore to bits. What I don’t adore is being asked to babysit him all the time by my older sister and her boyfriend. I understand that new parents want to get out, but they’re asking me to watch him usually Saturday and Sunday and a couple of times during the week. It’s not just for work, it’s so they can go out with their friends. My grandma even made a comment to her, “Whose baby is this, yours or your sister’s?”  What can I do to stop being the on-call sitter?

Perhaps the thought of saying “no” to your sister makes your inner voice freak out: What if I offend her? What if she thinks I’m a bitch? What if I hurt her feelings? Do not listen to that voice. That voice is a jerk because it made you put other people’s needs ahead of your own and got you into this mess in the first place.

Part of being an adult is learning how to decline requests politely. Sure, it’ll feel weird at first, especially if you aren’t used to channeling your inner Nancy Reagan (she was the queen of just saying no). But it’s essential for you to master this skill. I promise you that after a little practice it will get easier. Here, I made a tip sheet for you:

Anna Goldfarb’s Guide To Saying “No”

  1. Don’t elaborate.
  2. Don’t offer excuses.
  3. Just say “no.”

If you offer an excuse, you run the risk of the other party offering to accommodate your excuse, which just paints you into a corner. It’s essential that you resist the temptation to over-explain. For instance, when your sister asks, “Hey, can you babysit tonight?” And you say, “I can’t because I want to watch “Dance Moms.”” She might counter with, “Oh, you can watch it at my place. Come over at 7p.m. Cool?” *sad trombone noise*

See what happens when you don’t stick to my rules?

Feel free to use my guide when:

  • Telemarketers call your house and ask you to take a survey: “I can’t. Good bye.”
  • Macy’s salespeople try to spritz you with the latest Juicy Couture perfume: “No, thank you.”
  • People offer you bourbon chicken samples at the mall food court: “No, thanks.”
  • A friend who lives across town texts you at the last minute asking you to come to her house to watch “The Unauthorized ‘Saved By The Bell’ Movie,” even though you just washed your hair, tossed on sweatpants, and settled in to read a book: “Sorry, not tonight.”
  • You’re invited to an acquaintance’s birthday dinner at an expensive restaurant and you know that it will set you back a chunk of change, because while you order a plate of pasta and one glass of wine, other people will order lobster and pricey cocktails and at the end of the meal you’re expected to split the bill equally: “I’m sorry, but I can’t make it. Have fun!”
  • Your sister asks you to babysit for the millionth time that week: “I’m sorry, but I can’t. Best of luck finding someone!”

Remember: Don’t elaborate. Don’t offer excuses, just politely decline. If she tries to nail you down for other times, just stick to, “I can’t.”

You aren’t a jerk for protecting your free time. You’re a superhero for exercising your right to say “no.”

What’s a polite way to tell people they can’t smoke (cigarettes, pot, anything) in your house or on your property, short of putting up a sign?

For the record, I love the sign idea. You can have a picture of Gandalf with this text underneath: “No Jokin’, J.R.R. Tolkien says, ‘No smokin’ or tokin’.” Or if Middle Earth isn’t your steez, you can have a picture of David Lee Roth with this written underneath: “Van Halen says, “No Inhalin’!’”

OK, you don’t want to put up a sign. I get that. But I have a question: are chronic smokers an ongoing problem for you? Where do you live, a 7-11 parking lot? If you have Jets and Sharks lighting up under your window on the regular, just say, “Hey fellas! Mind if you smoke somewhere else? Thanks!” The more concise and upbeat, the more they’ll be likely to comply.

If your problem is when your friends’ blaze up at your crib, I would let your buddies know as soon as they step foot in your house that it’s a smoke-free abode. If anyone asks if it’s okay to light up, just frown and say, “Sorry! We don’t smoke in the house. Mind if you take it outside?”

Or you could do what I do, which is strut up to the offender, take the cigarette out of his damn mouth, and squash it under my red pump a la Sandy in “Grease.” That usually gets my point across.

Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!