I had loosely planned my first blog post last night, but something came up this morning. So, we’re going to make a stop at a convenience store real quick and get this addressed before we get back on the road for our initial destination.

A little background information:

 

Not even a year ago now I began working for myself. I started a business performing on-site tech services, as well as doing other contract and gig work to fill in the income gaps while I grow. We live on the corner of a busy street, so one of the first things I did for marketing was make a sign to put up. The previous owners of our home who had flipped the place, already had a good setup with wooden posts, and the business owner of the previous sign never came by and picked it up after it was taken down. All I needed to do was paint over the old sign and throw it up. A couple weeks after I had done that, a woman in her 60s who lived about a minute down the road, reached out about her TV and cameras.

Queue headache.

Our first appointment went fine. There were a lot of items on the list, but they were easy fixes and we knocked them out. I remember feeling pity at our first appointment, and I’ll come back to why that is important.

Moving on, I have 2 more appointments where I formally charge her, and I charge her (at the time) what my rate was for “additional hours”. The first hour is more expensive, with additional hours being cheaper. My thinking was, “I’m already here, why should I charge the client more?” (for reference, this has all changed as I have realized how costly it is to keep a business going).

Then I stopped charging her, and now she pays me when she finds it suitable. I also didn’t charge her to watch her 5 outdoor cats and 3 birds for nearly 2 weeks. Nor to help her trap and transport the same 5 cats to get them TNR’d over a period of a few weeks as she would forget the appointment, or not follow my feeding instructions for trapping, which would lead me to waste my time. She paid $20 for each of these lengthy events.

Sometimes it would slightly irritate me that she wouldn’t offer to pay, sometimes it didn’t at all as I enjoyed helping, and then when she did, I was very appreciative. But now recently over the past couple of months, I am annoyed and frustrated as she will text me weekly, at the least, to come over and help her with her TV, or Wi-Fi, or whatever else. And my reactions to how I handle her and these situations have become poorer. I used to treat her as I would anyone else, as in when I say I will be there at a certain time, then I will be there. But then I’d be late, then I wouldn’t show for days, and now I just ignore her text for days before even coming out there even more days later. I will also try to give her instructions on what to do via text as well, but she gets short with me and sometimes it feels she isn’t even trying to listen. The relationship at this point is deteriorating on both sides.

Last week I helped her set up a Wi-Fi extender, which involved some troubleshooting, and she didn’t pay for nearly an hour’s worth of work. A few days later she asks to borrow my traps to relocate a raccoon. My traps are not the cheap traps you pick up from Tractor Supply. These are gravity door traps made specifically for trapping cats, and they are costly, as well as difficult to come by. I didn’t tell her no specifically, but I did offer other solutions such as putting a lock on the door she keeps her bird food in, and not leaving cat food out overnight. She was short with my suggestions but didn’t ask again. During this time, my partner and I were enjoying some off time together, and I told him at that moment, “I am no longer going to be a doormat, next time she is paying.”

“Next time”:

 

This morning she asked me to come over for one of the usual requests. She had someone come over to do some work (who she’s paying, mind you), and they messed up something and now she needs my help to fix it. And I haven’t responded, yet, as of writing this.

SETTING BOUNDARIES is not something I am well versed in. It’s not even something I regularly do, and it’s only something I’ve tried to practice a handful of times. This is a raw skill and a new journey I am on. So, this lady across the street is unfortunately one of the first people I will be practicing this on, and as our relationship is already a little damaged, I don’t think the results will play out ideally. I feel boundaries are probably something that needs to be established immediately as a situation calls for it, and not something that is easily changed later.

Let me address a few things though that some reading this might be thinking about. I know I let this happen. I will not say it is my fault, as I won’t say it’s her fault either. And that’s because of something I will repeat often, “I was doing my best at the time.” Just as I believe she’s doing her best as well.

Hypothesis about her:

 

I said I was going to come back to the part about feeling pity for her at our first appointment. Well, I also felt it at our later appointments and other times I was helping her. She is a Latino woman in her 60s who is on her own, and she is incredibly sweet and motherly. I pitied her and wanted to help and not be a burden for her financially, and that is why I did what I initially did.

However, over the past 10 months, I have witnessed this current situation between her and me, play out with other people in her life as well. Most recently was a man who was painting her house. She told me that he offered to paint basically for free and that she was essentially only paying for the paint. At my unpaid visit for the Wi-Fi extender setup, she informed me that he had told her he’d come out to finish, but then didn’t show and isn’t responding to her. I don’t know the full details, but I personally thought the house was already finished weeks prior. My suspicions are that she kept asking for more and more favors for “fixing this and that”, as she does with me. And he wasn’t being reimbursed anymore, just like I’m not. And rather than explaining this to her, he ignored her, which I’m tempted to do also.

I don’t feel she is purposely manipulating us. I feel she is sincerely a very nice woman who doesn’t realize that this feeling of pity is what she naturally extracts from people around her. She takes the free and cheap work as a blessing, but then takes it too far. She forgets to empathize with the people who are doing this for her and the time and resources this is taking from us. I don’t feel she has ever been in our shoes and hasn’t felt what we are feeling. She doesn’t understand that you can only take so much from the well, without anything replenishing it, before it dries up.

Now:

 

So here I am this morning, feeding my cats, and I get the text from her asking for help, knowing what I had said about not being a doormat anymore. My stomach drops and I am immediately irritated and stressed. I am still sick from my third, week-long illness in 2 months I’m sure is related to the amount of stress I’ve been under, and this lady asking for unpaid help all the time is not helping. She is definitely a contributing factor.

This has to stop, and it will, but there are so many things to address. Believe it or not, I still don’t want to charge her my full hourly rate. I also have concerns about being callous. I dislike it when people beat around the bush rather than just saying what they truly mean, just for the sake of appearing “nice”.  I don’t want to do that, but I feel like if I just say it clearly, then feelings will be hurt. And that brings me to the part that is new for me, believe it or not. Realizing that MY FEELINGS ARE ALREADY HURT. I am already feeling this way, and my feelings matter. Just because someone else doesn’t acknowledge my feelings in a situation that has been created, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there and don’t exist. I am in this situation, having to tell her that her way of treating me is no longer tolerable because she didn’t take into consideration my feelings before she decided to continue to ask for favors with no reimbursement. I am only creating this situation because she created one first. The only difference is I am considering her feelings in my situation, whereas she didn’t.