I never thought I would become so dependent on a babysitter. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My in-laws live nearby. And we have plenty of family friends with whom we frequently swap kids whenever one of us need to go to the doctor, run an errand, or just chill out for a couple hours.
But over the past several years, I have become completely dependent on our family’s babysitter. So much so that I don’t know what we would do with her, because even though I am a SAHM with in-laws nearby and friends who can help, that isn’t always an option. I work part-time from home and sometimes I just need someone to take my kids to the park while I participate on a conference call. I volunteer and attend meetings. And believe it or not, occasionally my husband and I like to get out of the house without our kids in tow or calling in a favor.
She has been with us for six years now. Six years. To say that I appreciate her is a vast understatement. She puts up with my kids’ bickering without batting an eye. She helps them with their homework. She supervises their piano lessons. She carts them around town and puts them to bed and makes sure that they brush their teeth. She gets them to eat their vegetables, for heaven’s sake, and she doesn’t give in to their annoying whines. I never leave a note with instructions, yet she knows what to do and how to do it. She even cleans the freaking kitchen. I sure as hell don’t clean the kitchen.
I’ve managed to keep her a secret for a long time. Sure, my friends know she exists. I sing her praises all the time. I haven’t become a hermit; my husband and I do actually venture out of the house without our kids now and then. So my friends know that someone must be watching the kids. But they know enough not to ask for her name and number because I give them The Look every time they casually mention that they are looking for a sitter — that look that says don’t even think about asking for her name because I’m not sharing — or I casually change the subject (“Let me tell you about my last bikini wax…”).
I know how hard a good babysitter is to come by. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the babysitter who leaves the house a mess or lets the kids watch re-runs of The Family Guy until midnight. And there are a whole lot of meh babysitters out there, too. I should know; I was one of them when I used to babysit back in the day. I let the kids skip naps and didn’t know the first thing about potty-training.
You know those images of the clouds parting and the heavens opening and an angel descending down upon the earth? Well, finding a good babysitter is like that. Angel from heaven, good babysitter. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
It hasn’t been easy keeping her around so long, what with all the poaching vulture parents wanting to snatch her up and all. And then there’s the tiny issue of my loud and annoying kids. But a good babysitter is worth their weight in gold, so we’ve kept increasing her hourly rate. Twelve dollars an hour became $15 and then $20. And while some people might say “$20 an hour?! For a babysitter?!” I say it’s a small price to pay for someone to keep my kids alive (and happy!) while my husband and I go out for a much-needed date night or while I go to an evening meeting. Did I mention she helps them with their homework? That alone is worth the price tag.
I know there will come a time when our babysitter will leave us. She’s a 20-something woman with a life of her own. She won’t want to keep nagging at my kids to eat their broccoli or break up their wrestling matches forever. But I with some luck, prayers, and cold hard cash in her hands, maybe that won’t happen for a long time — for a very long time.
In fact, maybe it’s time for another raise.