Can't Buy Me Love


“I need your advice. I don’t know what to do with my daughter. I’m at my wits’ end with the girl!” My friend on the other end of the phone waited patiently — she knew I had a lot to say.

“I had it all worked out so neatly on paper. While the boys are at school, she would take the baby out the house so that I could clean for Passover. It sounded perfectly fair — I get to do the heavy cleaning and she gets to spend time outside with her friends, looking after an adorable one-year old. At the beginning of the week, she was very enthusiastic, but now that some time has passed, she drags her heels, and refuses to help in any way. She doesn’t want to take the baby, because she finds it hard to be so vigilant. Apparently he has a taste for pebbles, leaves, and beetles.

I’ve done everything by the book. I’ve praised her often, letting her know that it is solely due to her babysitting that the house is getting cleaned. I’ve given her time off to unwind. I’ve allowed her to go to the store and buy treats for herself and her friends, and when that didn’t work, I’ve expressed disappointment at her lack of willingness to chip in. I’ve felt like grounding her, taking away reading privileges, and all sorts of other diabolical punishments. Thankfully, I haven’t followed through with any of them, but the fact that I feel so agitated about it is bothering me.

The thing is, I’m totally at her mercy. If she doesn’t take the baby, there is no way I can do the work. He gets into everything and my other boys are not capable of looking after him. Ugh. I’m really stuck.”

My friend waited a little longer before replying. She wanted to make sure I had vented it all. “Is there any way you could get a babysitter?’

“No,” I replied. “They’re all helping their moms.”

“Have you considered paying her for her help? You could offer the money and say that you are paying her for her work the same way you would pay any other babysitter.”

“What a great idea! It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it? I’m going to try it out right away.”


I called my daughter to my room.

“Hi honey. I have an idea that might make it easier for you to feel better about helping us. I’d like to pay you for your babysitting work.”


“I don’t need anything. What would I use the money for? I have everything I need.” She swung her foot sullenly to and fro, keeping her face averted from mine. She stood up and walked out the room.

I wasn’t sure whether to feel deflated that she had rejected my offer, or inspired because it seemed that her material needs were taken care of, and that she was so aware of this fact. She sat at the kitchen table doodling in a notebook. She picked desultorily at her breakfast toast. After a long moment of silence, she cocked her head to the side and asked, “Mom, do you want to play that animal, city, girl’s name, boy’s name game?”

I realized that she was offering me an olive branch, and I jumped at the opportunity to connect with her.

| “I don’t have time right now…”

She flinched before I could complete my sentence.

“As I was saying, I don’t have time right now because the baby is sleeping, the boys are at school, and this is the perfect moment for me to get things done. But, what I would really like is to spend time with you this afternoon. I’ll ask Tatty when he gets home to look after the boys for half an hour, and we can play the game then. How does that sound?”

Her answering smile was all the confirmation I needed.