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.