This post is inspired by the amazing babysitters in my kids’ lives and the amazing babysitter my daughter will be one day. Big thanks to my mom for helping me by sharing real life insight from her own experience “raising” great babysitters and watching me go become one.
Dear Worried Mother,
Tonight is the big night, huh? The first time you are leaving your little angel with a babysitter. This is a huge deal! You have spent these early months doing everything for your baby. You feed him, bathe him, soothe him, swaddle him… You are his everything! What a precious gift that is, to have this time to bond with him. As hard as this has been, you will never regret it, as I’m sure you know: the days are long, but the years are so very short.
As wonderful as this time with baby has been, it’s time, isn’t it? Time for a mental break. Time for bodily fluid-free clothing and hair styled in something other than the trusted mommy-tail. Time for uninterrupted conversation with your husband, or a carefree night out with the girls, or an afternoon of shopping all alone… Whatever the occasion, I know this break is much needed and well deserved. Even though we both know you will be thinking about your baby while you’re gone, you need to feel safe knowing you are leaving your little one in trustworthy hands. This is scary, and you need to know everything will be fine.
I so get that. Really. Tonight is a big deal for me too, because your babysitter, the one with whom you have entrusted your entire world all wrapped up in a tiny body, is my entire world wrapped up in a slightly larger body. Your babysitter is my daughter.
We have been working really hard to get to this day. My sweet girl has been feeding and diapering her dolls since she could walk, and she has long aspired to be a babysitter one day! She has spent her whole life practicing to care for little ones, from retrieving her brother’s paci when she was just a toddler to helping in the church nursery, she knows a lot more about being a caretaker than most kids her age. She studied hard for her CPR and First Aid certification – and so did I, since I had to quiz her on all the techniques! My girl will have her cell phone with her tonight, but don’t expect her to be SnapChatting instead of watching your kiddo. We have talked endlessly about being present, paying attention, and certainly respecting your child’s privacy online. You can be sure she takes this more seriously than she has taken anything else in her life. This girl is so ready.
Thanks for offering your wifi password and Netflix for after the baby is asleep, but don’t expect she will get much use out of it. I have taught her the value of hard work, and she appreciates your willingness to hire her. You can expect to come home to a clean house – cleaner than you left it, if my words have really stuck! Rather than working for baby’s two waking hours and then getting paid to sit on the couch for two more until you return, I have taught her to earn her keep by working until the job is done. If that means emptying the dishwasher, folding some laundry, or color-coding the Lego collection, she ought to be working while she’s there. I’m telling you, if you’re looking for quality babysitting, you’ve come to the right place with my little girl.
Still, that’s what she is – my little girl. She’s not going to do everything right or the same way you would. Only you can do that; that’s what makes you so special, Mom! But please remember she is still learning. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you make a big deal about her feeding the baby carrots when you left out peas instead, or that she let your toddler watch that annoying Sponge Bob during TV time instead of mom-approved Daniel Tiger, or that she forgot to put baby’s bib on before feeding him and may have stained his little onesie, my little girl is going to beat herself up for weeks over something that only mildly inconvenienced you.
As a mom, I totally understand how freeing it feels to finally get out of the house and be an adult, but please let my daughter know what time you will return, and stick to it. She will not be bringing her homework to your house (see above about working while she’s there!), and she may have other responsibilities to attend to as well. If we know how long she will be out, we can make arrangements, but when you are late coming home, it stresses her and me alike. Remember that the person loving your little one tonight is a person herself, and she is learning some adulting skills outside your home as well.
Speaking of my little person, she is quite an interesting one! She loves to dance, plays the clarinet, and is hoping to make the debate team next year. She is loyal to a fault and is sometimes mistreated by those she calls friends. Her heart is so tender to those on the margins; I’m proud of the way she intentionally engages with others who are lonely, sad, or ostracized. I know you would absolutely love her if you took the time to get to know her – and I do so wish you would. By spending a little extra time getting to know her, you have a unique opportunity to both learn what makes her tick and become a positive influence. How much more confident will you feel knowing that the person you’re trusting with your baby is being mentored by the best mom ever – YOU! When you help the babysitter be her best self, she will be prepared to help your child become his best self too.
I get that it’s awkward spending time with her; you don’t exactly have much in common now that you’re in full-on mommy mode. Maybe you’re avoiding it because you don’t know what you would talk about or how to get the conversation started. Why don’t you start by asking what she’s into? If you know she had to hurry home after babysitting to study, ask her how the test went. Or if she wasn’t available one Friday because she had to march at the football game, ask about her band’s show. Invite her (and one of her friends to help ease the tension) to join your family for ice cream one evening – I’ll send some money so you aren’t put out. Then you’ll get to watch first-hand how she interacts with your kids while also taking some time investing in her. That’s a win-win, right? Whatever you do, I promise your time will not be wasted with my precious girl.
Right now you are in the trenches of parenting, and it is so hard to see past what is right in front of you. I have been there, mama, and I am in your corner! But please try to remember that even the babysitter is somebody’s baby – my baby – and she needs love and respect too. If you’re still not 100% sure about things, rather than projecting your anxiety onto my girl, perhaps you would be willing to let her start babysitting in our home, with me present to assist and guide her. I may have a bit of experience with childrearing, after all. If you don’t have a babysitter you trust right now, you can raise one up by investing in her while she is young. I know you don’t have family around you can rely on, but my girl can become family, if you invite her in. We know it takes a village to raise a child – so let’s be each other’s village, for both of our children.