Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top Ten List: Just Get A Babysitter

When the Cap'n and I were dating, we would go out to nice restaurants and see parents struggling with obstreperous children and we would ask each other: "Why don't they just get a babysitter?" [Editor's Note: Obstr-whaterous? Oh, how I hate it when you make me get out the dictionary, ya twit. -Kate]

We were a couple of asshats. [Editor's Note: See? That word I know. -Kate]

Getting a babysitter is not easy.  If you're one of those people who has on demand childcare in the form of a Mrs. Doubtfire-like mother-in-law who just wants to spend time with her grandchildren and never takes your money - congratulations.  And go suck it.  I hope you appreciate how good you have it. 

I have no such luck.  I had a teenager live with me for a year and guess what?  Even when you import one to live in your house, it still doesn't mean that they'll babysit for you.  And when they do?  It doesn't mean that they'll do anything other than text on your couch while your kids set stuff on fire.

Kate offered to take me to lunch yesterday - someplace really swank and cool.  [Editor's Note Again: To be clear, I didn't offer to take her. I offered to let her come along. HUGE difference. Bring your own cash. -Kate] Do you know what my first reaction was?  Horror.  Why was it horror?  Because who will pick up my kids and feed them lunch and make sure the baby has a nap?  Me go out to lunch? In the middle of the day?  Was she out of her damn mind? 

So that's great.  Because a normal person would have said: "Thank you."  Then I was embarrassed for being a jackhole and getting all weird and I tried to explain, even though she already understood.  Sort of.  So I made a list to help explain and here it is.

The Top Ten Reasons It Is Not That Easy To Just Get A Babysitter.
10.  Presumably you love your children and therefore do not want random strangers in your house taking care of them.  I know.  Picky, picky, picky.  That narrows the pool.  Are they responsible and trustworthy?  Do they have references?  Do they know CPR?  Will they make creative, mentally stimulating craft projects instead of just watching TV? 

Then maybe you start to get desperate, because everyone is busy or out of town or already babysitting for someone else.  The questions change.  Have you ever been convicted of a felony? No? Good!  Arrested for one?  Oh. Drat.  Then you find yourself hiring someone you've never met because your friend told you they worked as a camp counselor at the Y and you know they do background checks.  And you'll only be gone an hour.  Then the Bad Thoughts come and you just stay home.

9.  A miracle occurs and you get a reliable babysitter.  Then you realize that the cost of dinner and a movie just escalated by another $60 bringing the total for the evening to approximately $2.9 million dollars Canadian.  Not worth it.  Just stay home.

8.  It's your anniversary.  Or Mother's Day.  Or your birthday.  Or some other stupid day that's supposed to be all special and all about you.  That's hilarious.  Except that there is a law of babysitting that states: "If the event is intended to make Mommy feel special, there will not be a babysitter available.  And if there is any chance of actually finding one, you had best believe that Mommy will have to find the babysitter herself for her own special day.  And good luck with that."

7. It's still your special day and of course there's no babysitter, so you decide to just bring the kids.  It's better than cleaning and cooking and then cleaning again.  And so you call and make a reservation (for your own very special dinner) and you get there.  And then the next Law of Babysitting kicks in: If it's important to you/potentially really embarrassing, your kids will act like a pack of rabid, snarling wildebeests prompting the question from everyone in your vicinity - "Why didn't they just get a babysitter?" [Editor's Note: Is this where you use that obstreposteroserous word again? -Kate]

6. Finding a new babysitter means you get to have the following awkward conversation.  It starts like this: "How much do you charge per hour?"  It concludes with the realization that teenagers now make more per hour to sit on your couch, eat microwave popcorn and watch Pixar movies than you made at your first office job with a college degree. 

5. When you get home you learn that even though you are dealing with someone who is 17, they've cleverly imposed several hidden charges that jack up your bill.  Home after midnight fee: $20.  Don't have enough cash and have to write a check fee: $5.  Didn't leave enough cash for the specialty pizza they ordered: $10.  I learned the hard way that America's entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and living in my subdivision.  Also, that teenagers willingly extort money from grown-ups other than their parents.

4. More awkward conversations! Such as: "Do you mind if my boyfriend comes over after the kids go to sleep?" and "Wait.  Are you wearing my shirt?" and "Do you have Pay-Per-View?" and "What the hell happened to my cat?"

3.  You must learn to master several new technologies in order to contact prospective babysitters.  Call their cell phone? Email them?  No no no.  That's old school.  Most of the babysitters I have used over the past three years do not answer their phones.  In fact, their "phones" are primarily used for frantically checking for new text messages (in the manner of rats tapping pedals to get pellets) and Facebook.  And don't bother leaving a voicemail.  Voicemail doesn't even exist for them.  So if I'm out and I want to call to see if the kids are doing OK and the baby is asleep?  No can do.  But I can text that question and get back: "Yeah right LOL".

2.  You start to realize that you've found a babysitter with whom you'd like to go steady.  Now you begin a bizarre ass-kissing ritual whereby you try to convince her that babysitting for you is the best gig ever and she should never, ever say no when you ask her or make other plans or cheat on you with another family.  You may find yourself tipping her, buying Doctor Pepper for your fridge and assiduously [Editor's Note: And, once again, the dictionary. Thank you for nothing, you useless whore. -Kate] avoiding sharing any relevant information about her with your friends - for fear that they will steal her away from you.  Does this sounds like an unhealthy relationship?  That's because it is.  She has all the power and you are a creepy, needy, over-protective stalker.  And this scenario arises if you're lucky.

1. Let's say you find a great babysitter and all the awkwardness is behind you.  For a while, life is good. You can go out to dinner with your husband, or to get your teeth cleaned, or maybe even to get a drink with your friends...Then that selfish little whore will want to do something like go to college. Or get a real job and her own apartment. That hardly seems fair. To me. It means that I have to start all over.  Oh, I understand that these babysitters are growing up and need to move onto the next stage of their lives. But I also need to to see the new Twilight movie. I think we all need to get our priorities straight.

Starting with mine.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

32 comments:

  1. Thank you!!!! You nailed it! All this, plus when you're a military family, you move every two years (or more often) and get to start all over trying to find someone. Asking people you don't even know for recommendations, hoping they don't promote psychos watching kids.

    And how come there are never any teenagers to watch my kids during the day when I have appointments?? They should be willing to skip a class or two to earn some money at my house, right?

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  2. In the UK - Sitters They find the sitter for you. It just costs you an arm. We've used them several times and they are a Godsend!

    Thank you for so many laughs. I miss Erma Bombeck, but I think that sometimes you're channelling her. I've nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award for holding up a mirror to mommies everywhere, and helping us laugh again.

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  3. Remember when we were teens and we babysat for $5/hr... and we cleaned up the kitchen and played with the kids and DIDN'T EVEN OWN CELL PHONES! I do feel cheated sometimes. But I can't complain, I have gma/gpa nearby and a sister who will babysit for us usually. Now that my boys are older (7 and 9) we also swap with neighbor. Her son sleeps over with us sometimes and our boys sleep over with them at other times.

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  4. I would totally babysit for you! Just not for free! Muahahaaaaa.

    And yes, sometimes I wish people would JUST STAY HOME. I'm sorry that its "date night" and you don't have a sitter. But I dont give two shits, and I dont want to wach IRON MAN 2 with you and your CRYING 4 MONTH OLD!!!

    *deep breath*

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  5. You guys are awesome! I have yet to find a babysitter for fear of having a psycho watching my kids, or them being abused, or kidnapped, etc (paranoid, much?!?).

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  6. I love this. We have had a paid babysitter twice because of all these reasons. Plus our church does "Parents Night Out" for $10 per kid (4 hours of care with background checked caregivers). I need this to kick back up for the fall, desperately!

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  7. I am living this nightmare now! My child is almost 7 months old and I have gone out at night exactly 1 time. All I want is an pediatric neurosurgeon with a PhD in child development to watch my child for $5/hour. Is that really asking so much?

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  8. I am so old I remember babysitting for $1 an hour per kiddo, or $15 for the evening! Cell phones were only seen on the Jetsons(which I watched ALL the time, because it was all about the kiddos!)and I would never have thought to leave dishes in the sink for the parents to do! My girls are getting a little older so it is fairly easy to find people willing to watch them that we know and trust, but we missed alot of stuff when they were younger because of not having a sitter I would trust.

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  9. @ Like Family, have you checked to see if the base has a babysitter registry? My dad was in the air force and I was on the registry on the base, plus all the parents I sat for recommended me to their friends.
    Lydia, it is just as stressful on the sitters end, you know...or it was for me. My folks used to interview the parents as a screening process so that I didn't wind up getting driven home by some douche of a dad who was frisky. We were at one base for a loooong time and I never had a free weekend at all, so when we transferred to another base I decided not to add my name to the registry so I could just be a (somewhat semi-normal) kid again for awhile, but after we had been there almost a year one of the families I sat for transferred to our base and the word of mouth spread like wildfire, lol. They actually went to my dad's squadron looking for me. Talk about stalkers, lol. But they were a nice family and the dad wasn't a wierdo perv that I had to be nervous around and the mom always drove me home and you can't ask for more than that.

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  10. Ummmm...I have three (that's right, THREE) sets of relatives that will babysit, at the drop of a hat, for free. My parents live next door, we live on the same property as my aunt and uncle and my Mrs. Doubtfire MIL lives 10 mins away. Do I appreciate it? OH HELL YES. Going to suck it now...

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  11. I have witnessed a miracle and it wasn't the birth of my 6 month old son. We have a babysitter but only for the daytime Monday - Friday while we work. We have a wedding coming up on a Saturday and I have been formulating plans on the best way to bribe her to watch him that day so that she will always be ours! Though I think I probably RSVP'd that we would be there in a state of delirium thinking that I deserved a night out...I might as well stay home and send the bride and groom the 3 billion dollars I would have to spend on the sitter to cover the meals they paid for that we won't eat unless I can come up with a really good plan to sway her to give up a Saturday night!

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  12. ARGH! I'm going thru this right now!! Hubby and I have tickets to a concert (gasp!) and my go-to college babysitter that can stay out super late is GONE that weekend! (I know because she answered my text within a milli-second, from VEGAS, after not returning my voice mail for three days.) Still no idea what I'm gonna do. Any grandparents are several thousand miles away...

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  13. I totally know what you mean! Luckily, I do have my brother and his wife who don't want any of their own, but they love to borrow mine on occasion and so they don't mind sitting for us. We'll call him Uncle Cool. Uncle Cool has 2 or 3 game systems and doesnt mind playing with my 11 year old and only plays games with him that are age appropriate. and Aunt Cool does crafty-things and has the patience of a saint. My other sis in law always talks about swapping out sitting, but I wouldnt leave a stray dog with her and they never come home within a reasonable time (its-2am-and-your-kids-are-howling-for-you-and-won't-sleep-and-neither-can-anyone-else-in-the-house-and-my-kid-is-even-saying-mom-please-DO-something-and-for-the-love-of-maude-answer-your-damn-cell-phone!) and never tell you what time they ARE coming home. I once watched her kids for her and they BOTH started running fevers and she would not answer her damn phone or return any of the 10 voicemails I left. and she is soooo nitpicky about what you do with them that I was trying to get her to tell me whether it was ok to give them something for their fevers and even said that on the v-mail! and that's just the tip of the iceberg (I know, I know, just GIVE THEM THE TYLENOL. And if it was any other person, I would have, but you dont know this (psycho) person... ok, so rant over....but, I just won't watch them anymore. Then I gotta see her facebook whines about how no one will watch her kids and we are all hypocrites..etc. etc.

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  14. So very, very true! Of course you forgot for that $25/hour they don't even bother to clean the dishes off the table and put them in the sink. Oh nos!! That is way too much for them! Our standards have definitely lowered over time. Our family lives 2 hours away, so yeah...we NEVER have a free babysitter unless we want to take them 2 hours to Grandma's house. We are happy to go on a "date" more than 2 times a year.

    Oh, and love your observation that when Mommy wants to go out for her HER special day she needs to make the reservations and find the babysitter. We totally get the shaft.

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  15. One of my best friends has her own parents and her in-laws fighting over who gets to babysit their two children. This is enough to make me want to not be her friend anymore out of sheer envy. She's a whore; friends or not.

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  16. OMG, I could have written this article! Have you looked into local churches that offer Parents Night Out? That has been our salvation. Our church charges $20 for 1st child and $10 per additional child, for 4 hours. They offer it once a month.

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  17. Nailed it! Seriously, when I was looking for an in home sitter for my now 15 month old twins and my 10 year old, I found myself so frustrated by the teenagers that answered my advertisements saying that they would charge $19-$25 an hour!! Are you kidding?!!! I would NEVER pay a 18 year old with incredibly little experience, more than my mortgage payment! I very nearly chewed the twits new faces. Thank GOD I found our current sitter who charges us a measly $8 an hour, which is what she makes in her night job--she's a fabulous grandmother, goes to our church, loves my kids like they're her own grandkids, and we just love her to pieces. We differ on housekeeping stuff, so I have to clean my floors and tidy up more than I'd like to have to do at the end of the day, but whatever...$8/hour, out of my own home, speaks English, and loves my kids. I'm the winner! :) Now...night babysitters...that's a horse of a different color, and I HATE spending $200 on dinner and a movie for my hubby and I! So, we don't go out, even on those "special occasions." Oh well...someday we'll find a pot of gold, I guess!

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  18. oh fricken hilarious... as usual. my babysitter sat from 11yrs on. her entire senior year i prayed she wouldn't go off to college. at the last minute she changed her mind, alas i think her mom was a bit pissed off at me? she continues off and on- but at some point she'll get married and have a life of her own... not if i can help it (insert evil laugh)

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  19. Seriously! #9 and #2, especially! Living on one military income, plus three kids, equals a WHOLE LOT of our "date night" money going to a paying a babysitter instead of eating fancy restaurant food or going to a cool concert. We end up taking in a movie or going bowling instead, but at least we have someone to watch our kids! Seriously, Sittercity.com is free for military and is a great service. You'll find plenty of babysitters on there who can't even form a coherent sentence, but they're easy to weed through to find those that have experience and seem to be taking babysitting seriously. I never knew how much power I had when I was a babysitter! I can't believe how much of my hope is laid on the shoulders of this teenage girl who can crush me with a simple "No, I'm going to be out of town that day".

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  20. I'm showing this to my mother. She doesn't understand why we are so deperate for babysitting when she comes to visit. She always had her mother and sisters to watch me when I was growing up. The world is so different now. I'm not even sure that I want my two girls babysitting when they are old enough to do it.

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  21. baby sitter? Yeah, like that will ever happen... Cheers to those of you who have one, for I likely will never join that elite group...

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  22. We JUST found a new sitter. College grad. Taking courses for a masters on-line. Works at a restaurant and can trade shifts. My kids love her, and she is super w/them. She actually PLAYS with them, does the dishes and cleans up. I'm waiting for her to announce she's moving or getting a real job b/c it's soooo good it can't possibly last.

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  23. Completely understand!! I have always worked, so I usually hired my favorite daycare providers and paid a little more because they did have a background check and CPR certified.

    My brother-in-law and his wife live in the same town with two sets of grandparents and another aunt and uncle for all of the free babysitting that they can get. They DEFINITELY don't appreciate that fact. My mother-in-law really only sees the kids when they need a babysitter.

    When I was pregnant with my second and threw a party for my husband's 30th birthday (all in-laws came to town along with other friends) my husband's step-mom and dad decided to take my brother-in-law's son for the night because they could "use a break". Hello... we live in a town with no relatives and I was pregnant and throwing a party! It is now 12 years later and I don't need babysitters for evenings anymore - very thankful for that!

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  24. I had this silly idea with other mom friends of mine that we would trade nights out, where I would watch her kids so her and her man could go out, and then she would do the same for me, and since it was a trade it would be free!
    I watched her kids once, she never watched mine.

    Oh ya, and my sister in law's mother crys if she doesn't get to have her granddaughter over all weekend every weekend. I mean I would love to have one night a week to go out, let alone a whole weekend (I would love that once every couple of months! As if)

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  25. God bless you and this blog for putting out there everything that has gone through my head since I procreated. My parents live 6 hours away by plane (including check-in time), my IL's live 6 hours away by car. There is no free babysitting going on here. Not to mention, I'm super-paranoid about having some random kid have free reign over my house and my child without me there. So, nights out? Together? Bwah hahaha! That's funny. My mother is coming into town in October and I'm looking forward to it. No, not to see my mother. It's because my mother will happily stay with my daughter and I might actually get to go out to dinner and *gasp* a movie with my husband. Alone.

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  26. Wanna know a secret? 12 yr. olds. No one wants them because they think they are too young. But they are desperate to prove they can be responsible and they still LOVE an excuse to play like little kids. First scent of a problem, they call their parents. How do I know? I got lucky and found my babysitter when she was just 12 and starting out. LOVED her and kept her name from all my friends. Now... I have a 12 yr. old. Honestly....she is a Great babysitter. Loves kids, wants to play, and so very much wants to be thought of as adult enough. But isn't old enough to be in the texting, facebook, friends, boys thing yet.

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  27. I am a former military wife, so I can definitely relate to Like Family's comment. I wound up getting extremely lucky with the group of ladies I met. We formed a baby-sitting co-op (God bless you, Sarah!), where we watched each other's kiddos on a point system. We had a big enough group where usually somebody was free at whatever time we needed a sitter. It was truly a life saver. (There are websites with suggestions on setting up a successful co-op.) I realize this isn't always feasible, but for those who can do it, it's great.

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  28. I lived this myself and then bought a babysitting business because I could not stand it any longer. I had a fabulous sitter who graduated from OT school, AND moved, AND got engaged. How dare she? And after that I was so done with looking for new reliable people. I found a franchise SeekingSitters.com and if this business does nothing except provide me with a roster of great sitters at my beck and call, I am happy! You pay a bit more, but someone else does all the interviewing, background checking, CPR certifying, etc etc. And the sitters bring activities and are not supposed to be texting and on the phone. Sitter not going to make it? No problem because I do all the texting for you to find a replacement. That's some selfish self-promotion, but it has been a lifesaver for me so why wouldn't I share with you?! It's a national company too, so there may be one in your area! And for those military families, your membership transfers when you move! Awesomeness all wrapped up in a bright pink and black polka-dotted Tshirt! Check it out or email me! julieb@seekingsitters.com

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  29. This made me snort Diet Pepsi up my nose. You hit the nail on the head! I FINALLY found a great sitter after MUCH effort, and we won't share her information with ANYONE. The ass kissing that we do is laughable, and I can't believe how much sitters charge these days (I sat for 3 kids under 6 for $3/hour in 1996!), but even when we pay her as much as I made at my first job to sit for the kids (even while the baby is fast asleep), it is worth it to save my sanity. When she graduates college, I may have to seriously suppress the urge to kidnap her and keep her in the closet!

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  30. I'd like to send this to all of the people who have told me how important it is to have a weekly date-night with my husband.

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  31. I know, I know. Good babysitters can be one in a million. I have been babysitting for the same family for close to ten years (since I was 12). They don't remember life without me being around. Here are some tips from a babysitter who never wants to leave the family: 1)Find us when we're in middle school. Our parents usually give us crap for allowance, so any extra money to get make-up and other cute crap is a plus. Also, this is usually when we start hating our parents, so it's nice to leave the house. 2)Tell us from the beginning: "We do not allow the use of cell phones while the children are awake, because if they are injured you could get in serious trouble. After they are asleep, you may use the phone, but you need to check on the children every 15 minutes." If we're smart, we don't want to get in trouble. And at that age, saying that makes us think it's the cops. Just be weirdly stern about it. But to have us sit in the quiet, alone, in a house that isn't ours... Yeah, sometimes we'd like to talk on the phone. I, however, have no social life and usually just call my mother... 3)Don't make us clean up the mess that is ALREADY there before we get there, but do tell us that we are expected to clean up ANY mess that was made during our shift. But I'm not cleaning your gross, moldy, week-old crusted lasagna pan. This is where some hidden fees come in if you do want me to clean the house. But, I always clean the messes that are made while I'm there. Always. 4)Pay us more than our crappy minimum wage jobs do (when we actually have them). I usually ask for somewhere around $10/hour if I have to drive. Gas is not cheap when you're a broke college student. I was paid $5/hour watching four (5-yr-old twins, a 3 and a 1 year old) kids on a Friday night and given a list of chores... at 16 years old. Even though I adore kids... believe me, $5/hour does not cover the brain cells I lost. I turned down a night out with friends, but I still would've much rather sat on my couch and did nothing that night. 5)Treat us well, and we'll come back. Pay us crap, and wonder why we don't even answer the text messages. 6) Tell them you'd like them to make what's at the house for dinner and you don't order out. Avoid the issue of them ordering a bunch of food and expecting you to pay them back. // Now, there are some more things... but I feel like this is enough for now.

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  32. Urgh, where do I begin?! I've been searching for a more regular sitter in my area and it is frightening! One young lady did bother to tell me during a meet and greet over the phone that she had 5 kids under 5 already in her home until I actually went to see the place. That's when I noticed she was also 8 months pregnant. I think that one has her hands full, pass. The next was the chain smoker who claimed she no longer smokes in the home. Which might have been a little easy to miss with the 3 extremely large big screen tvs with cribs, bouncy seats and pillows all around. I can see who the sitter is here, pass. Thankfully, I've made friends with a lady and she and I swap sitting. We don't abuse each other, our kids all get along, and we always help out the other when we're in a pinch. Hubs does occasionally make noises about finding a regular sitter on days he's frustrated from taking care of the kids but is gently reminded of my recent findings of smoke filled theater or distracted octomom. I really wish my Mom and sister lived closer.

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