First, a confession. I stole a neighbor's nanny. It wasn't even hard. Well, it was a little hard, because I ran down the street after the woman and begged for her number after seeing her in action at a neighborhood music class. She was only working for my neighbor three days a week, so I hired her to nanny for our family for the other two. My neighbor was not amused.
In hindsight, I should have first asked my neighbor, "Can I have Jenny's number?" (Her name really was Jenny. But her number was not 867-5309.) I didn't ask; I just took matters into my own greedy and fairly desperate hands.
Parenting is hard enough without us competing for good babysitters, but I understand the impulse. So, if you've got a favorite sitter, be it a professional weekday nanny or a weekend teenage sitter, you've got some choices to make when someone asks for their number.
Choice One: Tell The Truth, and Be a PITA
Here's the deal: You don't want to give out your sitter's number. This person may be the stable table keeping your house of cards from toppling. Maybe they are the Friday savior who means you get enough couple-time to not divorce. Or they just get your kids, and no one else does, so you do not want to lose them.
You could cheerily say, "Sorry, not sorry! I keep that in the vault!" and walk away. Or stare, dead-eyed, and say, "No way." Or try: "I am afraid my life is going to fall apart if I share my sitter." The person asking is not going to find you funny. They'll think you are kind of a b**ch, and they're kind of right. But guess what? You get to keep your sitter to yourself... for now.
Choice Two: Deflect Like a Flake
Wait, you feel your phone on vibrate! Right after they ask for the number, fake being distracted by an incoming phone call. Or tease, "You want my sitter's number? I want your sitter's number!" Or pretend you can't hear. "What? What's that? I caught my kid's earache; I gotta get home — ask me again never."
And if the request comes through text? Pretend you never saw it.
Choice Three: Straight-Up Lie
Try, "Oh, I accidentally deleted that number; isn't that crazy?" Or give the wrong digits. (Later, you can be all, "That was the wrong number? I could have sworn....”) Or how about you say, "I told my sitter that I would never give out her number without her permission." Now you appear super responsible. Offer to pass your friend's number to your sitter — and then never do it.
Choice Four: Share It
OK, in case you hadn’t picked up on it, choices one through three are only half-serious.
So, for real: You should probably share your sitter's number. For one thing, every sitter needs work, even if this is a 15-year-old earning pocket cash. Keeping someone from making money is a cruel thing to do. Also, um, people can hunt down your sitter. I have done it! They can spot them in the park with your kids or look them up on Instagram. They could keep asking around.
You could always share the number but make your schedule clear: "I need them every Saturday night," or "Please promise me you will only ask them for Fridays," or something similar. You know, have a normal conversation. Appeal to their nature as another parent.
Jenny, the nanny I "stole," eventually introduced me to her friend Suzette who became my real, forever nanny. During the 15 years Suzette worked for us, I could never give her a full five days of employment, so of course I was happy if she could work for other families, too. I just did my best to lay out the hours I wanted, and everyone figured out compromises. It was bumpy and sometimes stressful, but ultimately we figured things out — and I wasn't holding Suzette back.
Here are the instances when you do not need to share the number:
- The ask is some general Facebook "who here has a good sitter?" thing.
- The ask is through a giant text thread, and other people are already weighing in.
- The person asking is straight-up bonkers, and you know better than to subject your good sitter to that family.
But otherwise, share the number and tell your sitter they might get a call. Reiterate what days and times you really count on. Maybe slip them a little bonus for staying loyal. No one can truly steal your sitter if you use them consistently and treat them well.