Baby-Sitter Wanted (Or, Where Am I When I Need Me?)

Until recently, our neighbor Jeanine was our go-to baby-sitter. The mom of two grown boys, Jeanine was, in many ways, perfect. She lives right next door. She has dogs. She let Jackson watch cartoons and eat whatever he wants. What more could you want in a baby-sitter?

Sadly, Jeanine pinched her sciatic nerve and is no longer allowed to lift anything heavy (like, say, 21 lb. infants) until she’s done with physical therapy.

So, I need a baby-sitter for those times when I just can’t take the kids with me. You’d think, in a town of about 100,000 people, it wouldn’t be that hard to find one. But there are problems…

I don’t pay more than minimum wage, which is $8 per hour. I make $0 per hour. I cannot afford to pay the $20 per hour some baby-sitters are asking. I understand that baby-sitting is work. I just don’t think it’s $20 per hour work. I should know. I was a baby-sitter.

And that made me thing, what I need is me, 20+ years ago.

  • I was excited. I loved kids. I wanted to baby-sit from the time I realized it was a real job. Once I got to do so, I was happy just to be there. The money was a bonus.
  • I was responsible. I did what the parents told me to do, for the most part. I cleaned up after the kids and myself. Of course, I had some lapses in judgment. I remember three fairly large ones. But overall, I was good at what I did.
  • I wanted to do well. I was very attached to the kids I baby-sat. I wanted them and their parents to continue to hire me. So, I always tried to do my best.
  • I was likable. I talked. I could carry on conversations with anyone, from infants to pre-schoolers to parents. I let people get to know me, and I got to know them. I was polite and respectful.
  • I paid attention. I played with the kids. I watched their movies. I figured out what the babies liked. I didn’t just sit on the couch and do the 90’s equivalent of texting. I kept the kids busy. I remember baking with one little girl, every time I’d come over. We’d bake cookies or brownies or cake… it was very fattening.
  • I went the extra mile. When the kids were asleep, I’d do the dishes, or at least fill the dishwasher. If I knew where the vacuum was, and we’d done something messy, I’d run it. I’d tidy up the toys. I’d do my best to make sure that the house wasn’t a complete shambles when the parents got back.
  • I drove. When I was 16, I got a car. It was a Chevy Sprint, but it got me from home to job and back again.

Before anyone gets very angry about baby-sitting not being $20 per hour work, I do differentiate between being a nanny and being a baby-sitter. A nanny, in my mind, is more like a Mom-lite. A substitute parent. Someone who fills in for the parent on a regular basis for many hours at a time. A baby-sitter is a simple caregiver. Someone who comes over for an hour or two to watch the kids while Mom goes Christmas shopping, or gives the kids dinner and puts them to bed, then watches TV for 4 hours while the kids sleep, so the parents can go to dinner and a movie. A responsible playmate, who also cleans up after him- or herself.

So, yeah… I wish I had me. Even without the driving, I was pretty damned good. I just wish I knew where to find someone like that.

5 thoughts on “Baby-Sitter Wanted (Or, Where Am I When I Need Me?)

  1. It is so hard to find a babysitter. Especially during the day, which is when I most need one, but only sporadically and for a couple hours. We are lucky that family can usually do it and I have one backup who is a mom who I have known for five years so I trust her. But otherwise I don’t have anyone to call either. I have some friends who teach youth group at their church and have gotten to know a lot of the teens really well and they usually have suggestions.

    I haven’t really been okay with leaving my kids with a teen yet unless I will be at home as it is a lot to care for two under two even for an adult, and even the best teens are not adults. But if you know any people active in volunteer work with teens at their church or something else like that, that may be a good way to find someone. And if you need someone during the day, homeschoolers can work out very well if you are open to a young person, which it sounds like you are. I also have gotten recommendations from neighbors on teenagers who live in our neighborhood, though again I am not hiring a 15 year old so I haven’t actually called any of them, but that’s another way to get names that at least you know someone has thought they were good with their kids. You could also advertise at a local college if you have one nearby if you need someone like once a week from 12-3 or something and then that person may be available at other times too.

  2. The closest family available to care for the kids is about an hour away. (My marvelous cousins who took the kids for our anniversary weekend.)
    You gave me the idea to talk to my friend who goes to church and ask if she can put the word out there. Thanks!
    The teens we have in our neighborhood: 1) has 6 younger brothers and sisters so doesn’t want to baby-sit and 2) we never see (his dad threatened to kill our cats). A really nice teenage girl used to live in that house.
    I could try the local community college. I just have to find the right number to call. I may do that if the church thing doesn’t pan out.

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