When I was a teenager I spent quite a few evenings and summers doing what all teenage girls do: babysitting. I’d go over to so-and-so’s house and play games and eat Mac ‘n Cheese and watch movies with their overly-rambunctious children so they could go out and do whatever it was that grownups did when they left the house without their children. It was a decent gig for making extra cash, and served double-duty as birth control during my formative years.
Fast forward a couple of decades and now I’m the one with the rugrats. I have a new and profound respect/admiration/deep personal need for babysitters. One of the first things I do when we move to a new neighborhood is to start scoping out the teenage girls in the area for prospective babysitter material. And when I find one–BAM!–it’s like we’ve hit the jackpot. Because as every parent knows, a good babysitter = freedom.
Now, I am no expert in procuring or utilizing babysitters, but I have learned a few tricks along the way. Here are some helpful tips for any of you who are lucky enough to call yourself a Babysitter Boss (I like this title more than Strung Out Parent Who Needs To Escape Their Children):
- Use references
Ask your friends to share their favorite babysitter contacts with you. Important points to consider should be: Is she available–like, now? Can she handle the on/off switch on your TV remote?Can she dial 911 in an emergency? Sold and sold.
- Find a babysitter who lives close by and/or can drive herself to your house
I learned this painful lesson early on. There is nothing–NOTHING–worse than starting your “night off” fighting traffic both ways to pick up a babysitter who lives across town or ending your special date with a late-night solo drive in the dark when all you want to do is curl up in your jammies and dream of sugar plums and that margarita you enjoyed with dinner. Find a sitter who lives within 5 minutes of your front door or–better yet–who can drive herself to your house and fight the traffic and the Z’s herself.
- Schedule your babysitter for an inconvenient time
Your toddler’s nap time and after your kids’ bedtime are YOUR times. Don’t give away those precious hours to a babysitter. Choose the least convenient time of the day to get the heck out of there–say, right when your (not so) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed toddler awakes from his nap, or the witching hour leading up to dinner. Make ’em earn those $10 (or, if you live in the Bay Area, $20) per hour.
(P.S. I’m in the wrong profession)
- Prep your kids
Let your kids know how exciting a new babysitter will be. Someone will finally sit there and play Toy Story with you for an hour and read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie 36 times in a row! She will, because I’m paying her to. You’re welcome.
- Utilize your time away
It’s nearly impossible to actually let loose and enjoy yourself when you know you only have 2 or 3 hours of freedom before you have to return to reality. So, when in doubt, fake it. Wear clothes that are impractical for nursing and/or covering up kid-crud stains. Listen to loud music with non-rated-G lyrics while you’re driving. Talk about things that aren’t related to eating habits/poop/sleep schedules/cute childhood antics. Drink an adult beverage. Or two. Put your cell phone away (remember, the babysitter knows about the whole 9-1-1 thing). Take small, leisurely bites at dinner and savor the hot-ness of your food. Relish in the fact that you can enter and exit your car in approximately 2 nano-seconds. Sit in silence. Ah, go all in–take a NAP.
- Respect thy babysitter
Leave extra snacks in the pantry and tell her to help herself. Be punctual. After the gig, send her a thank you text with cute smiley emojis. Let her know how much your kids LOOOOOVE her. Do whatever you can to convince her that–after what was probably a mildly-traumatic experience being left alone with your most-likely out of control children–she should definitely come back and do it again.
Now get out there and schedule that elusive date night or Mommy break. The babysitters are waiting…