When Flora was about four months old, Dan and I went out to dinner for my birthday. We left Flora at home with her godparents.
Yes, four months into active motherhood, and I left my baby. For all of two hours.
And yes, it was a little anxiety-provoking. Flora at four months was not the easiest baby. I worried about her crying. I had left a bottle of pumped milk for the sitters. She wasn’t a good sleeper, but she like to be held.
But I also knew I needed to celebrate my birthday and spend time alone with my husband out of the house.
I know some parents don’t leave their children with sitters. Or don’t leave their children over night. I can’t say I understand those choices. Growing up, my parents always had date nights and hired sitters. I don’t recall my grandparents babysitting us, although later when my mother was back at work full-time, her father would occasionally come stay with Dr. Sis when she was sick and couldn’t go to school. We even had a (gasp!) boy sitter occasionally! (Gosh, he was a cutie. He was the brother of one of our regular sitters. Anyhoo, I digress.)
While we still lived in the South Side, we probably mostly asked friends to babysit for us. I worked from home. About once a week, my MIL drove into the South Side so I could run around to work or do errands as needed.
And then we moved to the suburbs. Although we moved to a house next door to my in-laws, I knew that finding babysitters that weren’t my in-laws was important. Dan and I figured that it would be better to “save” his parents for emergency situations (like having a sick child and no PTO at work) and hire unrelated help.
When we first moved into the area where we live now, we relied on word-of-mouth. Dan had close friends who also had young children. They suggested a couple of sitters, a daycare, and an in-home daycare. The sitter they had suggested was a lovely young woman, and she *loved* our kids, but eventually left for college, so we needed to find a new one.
We decided to see if the teenage girl who lived across from us was interested in babysitting. She was, and we paid $40 for her to take the Red Cross babysitting course, and then employed her. She was our regular sitter for a couple of years, when she was 14 to 16. She was pretty okay; she did well with the children; Flora and Kate liked her; when it was time for her to go home, we watched her walk across the yard. Our only misgiving about her was that she texted all the damn time. But it wasn’t a deal breaker.
But she eventually got a “real” job (at an ice cream shop), and, of course, now she’s in college. Plus, after I had Michael, I had misgivings about leaving three children with a teenager. I found two children and an infant to be challenging. I didn’t think our neighbor was up for it.
However, I still needed a sitter. So I turned to the Internet.
I used SitterCity.com, and I would recommend it. They usually have free trials; I’ve also used their paid subscription services, though not for more than three months at any time. [SitterCity has not compensated me in any way for mentioning them in this post.]
Sooner or later, I’ll probably have to return to SitterCity. One of my sitters is earning her Masters degree, and my nanny is looking for year-round, full-time employment as a teacher.
Staying connected with Dan is important to me. Date nights mean a lot to us and our marriage. After all, we were married before we were parents. Additionally, because of Dan’s schedule, sometimes I need that Saturday morning sitter so I can go get a pedicure or bikini wax. Being able to leave my children with people who care well for them means peace of mind for mom (and dad). We have to put it in our budget, and we can’t be all that spontaneous — sitters need to be asked in advance — but the investment in good help is invaluable.
While parenthood is a life-long commitment, the actual direct care of children eventually fades away. Some day, our children will be old enough to be left to their own devices when Dan and I go out. Some day, we won’t need sitters at all, because the children will have flown the nest. While I am sure I will miss them, by employing sitters regularly now, I get to stay intimate with my husband, participate in social outings (with or without my husband), and take “me time” when needed. I’m lucky to have the option to employ babysitters and nannies now.
Related post: The Great Nanny Experiment of 2012
Who’s your babysitter? How did you find her (or him)?