Helping others is a wonderful gesture, especially when you're helping out someone who truly needs the help.
But when the other person starts to take advantage, it's hard to decide what to do next.
One woman struggled with this decision when, after repeatedly helping her disabled neighbor with small tasks, she started to wonder if she should say no to providing further help.
Redditor "EcstaticTraffic7" shared in the "Am I the A**hole?" subReddit her predicament, wondering if she was in the wrong for feeling taken advantage of by her neighbor and not wanting to help her anymore.
She asked the group:
"[Am I the A**hole] for no longer wanting to help a disabled neighbor?"
She explained first she has helped her neighbor out before, but they aren't particularly close.
"I [37 f[emale]] have a disabled neighbor [30f] who I've lived near for about 7 years. We have hung out here and there over the years, but we are not super close. She lives alone and has no family nearby."
"She has a disability that I don't know much about which makes it impossible to lift anything at all from the ground, and limited range of motion with her arms. Though, I do see her doing work with her hands, I do not understand what she can and cannot do."
When her neighbor started asking for help, she saw little reason to say no.
"A few years ago, she started texting me and my husband [47m] for small to medium favors, like opening a window or putting her sleep apnea machine together. I go over and help. She has an aide who calls in frequently."
But now with a lockdown in place, her neighbor's requests have increased.
"Recently, she was unable to get her groceries delivered at a time when her aide could be there so she asked if I would come over and do it. Also, she began having food delivered that people were leaving on the ground and she was texting multiple times a week for someone to come over and place it on a table near the door so she can lift it."
As the requests have multiplied, the woman feels a boundary has been crossed.
"One day recently, she asked for help and I ended up taking out lots of trash and doing a load of laundry, which I felt crossed the line. The grocery delivery slots are severely limited due to the virus, and she's asked 6 weeks in a row for help putting them away."
Then her neighbor asked if they could make this a permanent, albeit unpaid, arrangement.
"This week, she sent me a message asking if I would agree to put her groceries away permanently."
"I pushed back saying that this was a temporary favor that I would expect is going to end once the schedules align between the grocery company and her home health aide."
Her neighbor then surprised her with an unusual plan.
"She wrote me back and said that she was phasing out the aide in hopes of starting a group of people who could exchange labor for each other. She is asking that I join and commit to putting the groceries away sometimes, being a backup for other chores when people cannot do them, and walk her dog once a week."
"After expressing my boundaries with favors, I am a little taken aback by her doubling down."
The woman did mention that her neighbor does occasionally do nice things for her.
"The neighbor often suggests in text that she can offer things in return for the help. She did give me flowers once and a bottle of wine another time. She does say thank you."
But that doesn't change the fact that the new arrangement is too big of an ask.
"AITA for wanting to tell her that I cannot help at all?"
"I am a full-time public school teacher and it's a job that breeds compassion burnout as is. I do not get joy out of helping her. I find the requests annoying and I do not understand why she doesn't try to pitch in with the groceries in some small ways that are within in ability, rather than standing around while I put groceries away for 30 minutes or longer."
"Often times the requests for favors have come while I'm in bed and I have to get dressed or say no, to which I feel she has bristled slightly when told no."
"I feel bad knowing that she has these limitations, but my mindset says that she should move to a smaller apartment, get rid of the dog, and/or make lifestyle changes to accommodate the cost for an aide, rather than replace that labor with friends and neighbors. Am I being ableist?"
Redditors anonymously replied to the OP's (Original Poster's) inquiry, using the following scale:
- NTA: "Not the A**hole"
- YTA: "You're the A**hole"
- ESH: "Everyone Sucks Here"
- NAH: "No A**holes Here"
Many Redditors chimed in, confirming that helping is nice, but there should also be clear limits to that unpaid help.
"NTA. It's a sad situation, but you can't become her unpaid aide. Asking for a favor once in a while is absolutely fine. But if your "pitching in" gets to the point where she can let her aid go, then yeah she's crossed all boundaries." - Brookes19
"This. You are not free labor. You aren't a friend or family. I'm not saying don't shovel her driveway if you have time during the winter, or put her trash can back from the street if it's still out when you do yours, but these things are kindnesses. They are not a job."
"I'm not sure what's going on with her that makes her want to get rid of an aide, maybe it's financial, who knows. But a polite but firm no is in order. 'I'm sorry, once quarantine is over my husband and I will be back to our very hectic lives, and I'm afraid we don't have regular schedules that we can commit to a regular thing. We're happy to help for now, but going forward our schedule isn't reliable.' Or leave out that last sentence if you aren't happy to help for now." - Jade_Echo
"She asked OP to put away her groceries sometimes, walk her dog once a week, and be a backup for other chores. That's a lot. If she wants to call this an "exchange," she should be immediately describing exactly what she'll be doing in exchange for all this." - IAmTheNightSoil
"NTA. You are writing this, and i can tell how stressed you are in writing this."
"this woman, who has aides, and people helping her, has really over stepped the mark."
"you have done her laundry, put things away, taking time out, and this bit: 'she was phasing out the aide in hopes of starting a group of people who could exchange labor for each other'"
"but is she labouring for someone else, if she's not capable of doing so, or Is she basically getting a group of people who will ASSIST HER?"
"So NTA, she's taken and will continue to take advantage of you, and she's living in a way that is not convient to her lifestyle, and will continue to do so."
"She got a dog, that she doesn't or can't walk but expects you or others to do it, she lives in a way that she can't afford an assistant but expects you to do it."
"try your best to distance yourself from her" - AngelIslington
Others agreed and also questioned the neighbor's choices to dismiss her aide and start a trading service.
"NTA -> I find it very confusing that she decided to start a 'labour trade' or whatever without consulting you and basically voluntelling you for it. Like why would she assume she could just phase out her aide and you'd just take over everything for free?"
"You've already been very kind helping her with frequent tasks. It would be one thing if it was only occasionally or something small like bringing her mail to the door, but this is too much." - its_not_about_you247
"Agreed, NTA - at first this all sounded reasonable. But phasing out her aide is too much. The occasional favor is fine (but don't get out of bed! Too bad if she bristles), but you already have a full time job, you can't commit to this." - WritPositWrit
"NTA. It stops being a favour when it becomes a repeated chore. There is an aide available, she just doesn't want to pay."
"I would double down with a 'i don't mind helping on the rare occasion that no one else is able to cover. I cannot commit to weekly chores for you when there are other situations occurring in my life. Your aide should stay on if these occasions are becoming less rare.'" - court_in_the_middle
A few Redditors who self identified as disabled confirmed the neighbor was overstepping her boundaries, like this one:
"I am also disabled in a few ways one of which is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I'm in the UK unfortunately I am not having the same luck with groceries, I have to do my grocery shopping online at Asda's (sorry Walmart's) website or other supermarkets and try to book a delivery slot."
"This is where things fall down - because every Tom Dick & Harry has jumped into buying groceries this way because of the pandemic and can't be arsed queing outside of stores to be let in to solo shop - there are rarely any delivery slots available for customers who are regulars and predate the pandemic and also because the supermarkets haven't put a system in place to identify their elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers to prioritize them. It's all first come first served."
"I'm lucky that I have some kind neighbours who have either bought me odd bits when I've run out or like tomorrow because I've not managed to get a delivery one is collecting my order for me because we also have a click and collect system over here at some supermarkets."
"But that is as far as I would EVER go with asking my neighbours to do for me! I am way too proud and stubborn. Partly because I subscribe to the 'use it or lose it' way of thinking but also because I struggle more than they know to maintain the cleanliness inside and would die of embarrassment if they ever saw how bad things have gotten."
"My family are allowed in but nobody else. I chip away as and when I'm able."
"You are not her scivvy. Tell her NO. Full stop. Straight away, she gets her carer back that's who does for her, THEY were getting paid."
"If others want to do this exchange thing that's their lookout but I highly doubt that anyone else was actually signed up for it and if they were they won't be for long I guarantee it!" - Neleh9791
It can be a wonderful feeling to help someone out, but there of course have to be limits.
Hopefully the two women will be able to discuss this rationally, or the teacher will be able to set clearer boundaries going forward, so she doesn't feel pushed too far and taken for granted.
*If you enjoyed this article, you can read more like it by clicking on the AITA link below.*
The book Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life is available here.