I had a long conversation with a friend the other day about the line between doing too much for others and not doing enough. She was trying to help a friend with her child and was babysitting her but it was starting to be for longer and longer periods of time. She knows the child needs more attention based on various issues, but at what point does she let the mother know that it has become too much and how does she know when the mother is trying to take advantage of the situation.
It really is a sticky situation and the line between helping and hindering is a fine one. I suggested that she come up with rules that she can live with like not taking the child over night during the week, only on weekends. These rules help her establish boundaries to not get used by the mother but also give boundaries to the mother to make sure she doesn't take advantage of my friend's hospitality.
I have this quote in my therapy notes that I thought fit this situation really well. It is from the book - Healing the Eight Stages of Life by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant, and Dennis Linn:
The person who just gives to others risks burn out, smothering others, and an empty inner life. When caring for others is not in a healthy balance with caring for self, we can fall into any one of the following distorations of caring: 1) doing for others what they can do for themselves, 2) giving help others don't want or need, 3) giving help I don't want to give, and 4) I or the person helped expecting something but not asking for it.
I have come to realize when I am crossing that fine line I am feeling resentment and that is my cue to stop what I am doing. But for my friend, I think having a few rules in place before hand will help prevent getting to that point. When I have moved into a resentment phase I am no longer helping that person, or myself either, I am hindering both of us. Starting with a plan in place first and not going all co-dependent in the first place are both guides to be more of a help to others than a hinderance.