Consider this post a Public Service Announcement. You've been warned.
I've been babysitting since I was 13 years old. If you're counting, that's 11 years. It's an extremely effective method of birth control. Don't get me wrong; I love kids. They are loving and insightful and just plain adorable. Most of the time. However, I realize that at this point in my life, I am too selfish to be a mother. Plus, I'm extremely single. Over the course of the past 11 years, I've had many wonderful, not-so-wonderful, and interesting experiences.
In high school, before I was legally able to drive after dark, I had to have the parents drive me home after babysitting. Generally, that duty fell to the husbands. One particular experience stands out in my mind. It was late and one husband was driving me home. It was a short drive because they live just a few streets away. Sounds like an uneventful thing, right? Wrong. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, the husband started bragging to me about the affair he was having behind his wife's back. Awkward! Luckily, we arrived at my house before I had to say anything. I politely said goodnight and try to block out the awkward moment.
Around the same time, I was babysitting two kids that lived across the street from me. Keep in mind, this is back in the day, before everyone had cell phones. (I had a pager, but that's not really the same thing. It was way lame.) The parents had recently gotten divorced after the husband had an affair with another woman from their Sunday School class. (I swear, I don't only babysit for adulterers.) The kids and I decided to play outside because it was a nice summer day. The little boy, WW, accidentally locked us out of the house. He was only 6, so I couldn't be too angry with him. I knew their mom would be home in less than an hour, so I knew we would be alright. Wrong. WW was very upset about his parents' recent divorce. He snapped. He took off running down the street. Do you know how fast 6-year-old boy can run?! I finally caught him when he lost steam at the bottom of the hill. Talk about panic. I should have asked for hazard pay.
I've decided that there are some unspoken rules for babysitting. I foolishly thought that these things were common sense, but apparently they aren't. I've decided to share a few babysitting etiquette tips for all of those parents out there.
1. Try and give your sitter an accurate estimate of when you will be home. It upsets me when parents leave me saying it will be an early night and then they roll home after midnight. I really appreciate the parents that send a courtesy text when they are on their way home. That way, I can be sure I'm not in the bathroom or something when they get home. I realize I'm being paid to be there, but what if your boss told you that your workday ended at 5pm, but he kept you at work until 8pm? Not cool.
2. Please don't expect me to do laundry or clean your house. You are paying me to take care of your children. It's difficult to do that when I'm knee-deep in your dirty clothes.
3. Be realistic of your expectations of a sitter. One mom said to me: "You know, he's starting kindergarten in a week. I realized that all of his friends know how to read and he doesn't. Can you try and teach him this afternoon? Read to him and stuff, and I'm sure it'll work." The same mom also told me: "We are going to the beach tomorrow. Our rental house has a swimming pool, but he doesn't know how to swim. You need to call our pool and see if a lifeguard can give him private lessons. By the way...he's afraid of the water. Good luck!"
4. If you want me to drive your kids all around town, consider adding gas money into what you pay me. It's the polite thing to do. Providing necessary carseats is also nice. I do happen to own a booster seat for these purposes.
5. Don't come home hammered. You aren't in college anymore, so stop drinking like you're at a frat party. Knocking over furniture as you stumble in is not classy. When you are that wasted, you tend to lose your filter and say things that you shouldn't. I once had a mom tell me: "You know, some days I don't really like my daughter." Wow. Some things should never be said out loud. Also, you suck at math when you're drunk. Calculating how much you owe me when you can't see straight isn't easy. And most of the time, you under-pay.
6. If you have 4 kids, pay accordingly.
7. If you have a unique and complicated bedtime routine, please tell me. Even if you forget, your child will still expect me to read the 4 stories, sing your made-up lullaby, say your nightly prayer, tuck them (and their 75 stuffed animals) in juuuuust right, and do it all as if I were you. You are setting me up for failure and a breakdown from your child if you keep these things a secret. It's a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
8. Keep your cell phone on and handy. I should be able to reach you if I need to.
I love babysitting, and I'm actually doing it right now. Don't worry, little A is fast asleep. I can see him on his video monitor, and I'm typing this on my iPad that I brought with me. I have the privilege of spending time with some very wonderful kids and I love watching them grow. I am grateful for all of the opportunities I've been given and I wouldn't change a thing. These are just a few tips that I have for all of my parent friends.
Love and baby kisses,