March 13, 2012 at 9:14 AM ET
Among the world’s most awkward conversations, declining to be the guardian for someone else’s child is one of the worst. After all, there’s your friend or relative asking you to be the back-up parents if something ever happens to them — and you’d rather not.
What’s the best way to let them down easy, but still get your point across clearly? Being a guardian is a big responsibility and once you’re named in that will, people really are counting on you. So whether you’re just not that into the couple, the kiddo, or the whole idea, trust your gut and take a pass.
First off, lie if you can. Explain to the folks asking you that unfortunately, you’ve already agreed to be the guardian for another family: your pregnant sister, your spouse’s old college roommate, anyone that could possibly fit the bill in this scenario.
There's actually nothing wrong with being named as a guardian for more than one family; the chances of more than one couple needing you to raise their child are incredibly remote. But most people will respect your reasoning and move on to their next candidate.
If you can’t lie, or you don’t have any close friends or siblings with kids to lie about, concentrate on the practical, day-to-day stuff that would make the arrangement tough on everyone. Things like the size of your home, the expense of raising your own children, feeling like you just couldn't do the best job given everything on your plate — are all perfectly valid ways of saying no thanks.
You can always deflect and make it about keeping all those parenting balls in the air: “Oh wow! I can barely handle the two I’ve got and take a shower every morning!” That’s how I declined the position, and I meant it. The thought of raising someone else’s kid right now, on top of my own toddler, dog, and full-time job, was enough to give me night sweats.
And while my friend and I did have ten or fifteen semi-strained minutes together, she absolutely understood where I was coming from, and we're still just as close a year later.
Whatever you do, don’t talk about how close you may or may not feel to the person asking you, to their husband or to their child, and don’t bring up anything about their parenting style. That’s a recipe for turning a touchy exchange into a long, painful dialogue about your relationship and their family’s values.
That's the kind of conversation you probably want to guard against.
Awkward! More on the tricky side of parenting from TODAY Moms:
Jacoba Urist is a lawyer, mom and family finance writer, specializing in estate planning and personal finance issues for parents. Her writing appears on the Huffington Post and MSN Money. Follow her on twitter @TheHappiestPare