Metro-East Living

Play time interferes with work time

Q: I am in need of your advice on how to properly solve a problem with one of my neighbors. We are both young mothers with two small children between 6 and 8. Up until a month ago, we both had full-time jobs. Our children often have played together over the past year at her house or mine for a couple of hours to give each other a break so the other one can run an errand or just to let them play together. I recently started a business of my own and work out of my home. Now that school is out, my neighbor seems to think that means her kids can be at my house every afternoon until she gets home from her job about 4 p.m.

She has a relative who comes to her house each morning and stays until shortly after lunch. I don't recall ever saying or agreeing to having her kids here every afternoon. I recall her asking if they could come over to play in the afternoon a day or two after school was out, but I certainly didn't think it would be every day. It is difficult enough for me to keep two kids busy, much less four, while I try to take care of my own business. It's really more like impossible. What's the best way to handle this situation without destroying a good neighborly relationship?

A: Yes, it appears you have a dilemma or misunderstanding with your neighbor, but one that hopefully can be resolved with a face-to-face, polite conversation. Perhaps, she does not fully understand what your new home business is or how many hours you must devote to this business, or perhaps she feels it is one that allows you the flexibility to watch four children while doing it. Whatever it is, it is time to resolve the situation.

I suggest you call her and ask if there is a convenient time to come over to have a cup of coffee or an iced tea together. Then, be direct and polite and explain to her more about your home business, how it is going and how much time you must devote to it.

Apologize, yes, apologize, to her for any miscommunication you might have had with her indicating you would be watching her little ones every day for the entire summer. Tell her how much you enjoy them and how good they are, but the four of them require your full attention and you need to be devoting that time to your business in order to make sure it is successful.

If you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer to have them one afternoon a week if that would help her. Allow her to express her feelings and her understanding of the situation. If she needs time to make other arrangements, and if you can do so, allow her another week to make those other arrangements.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to