Monday, July 14, 2008

Adventures in Babysitting

Before and during my pregnancy, I had many grand ideas about parenting and the role that a child would play in our lives. In particular, while I imagined an overwhelming love for my child, I vowed that M. and I would still make time to be spouses instead of just "parents." We would make time for a date night at least once a month, and we would communicate about more than just poopy diapers and speculation on whether any new teeth are popping through.

While we have managed to have the occasional conversation about non-parent subjects like the upcoming election or how work is going, we have not been so successful on the hoped-for monthly "date night." What I didn't fully comprehend was how difficult and nerve-wracking it is to find a reliable, fun and trustworthy babysitter. I mean, I babysat all the time when I was in high school - my friends and I seemed to have no problem getting people to entrust the lives of their children to us. But it just doesn't seem as simple to find a babysitter these days. Having good grades and a younger brother (my glowing qualifications back in the day) doesn't cut it anymore. You need a resume, references, CPR certifications, early childhood classes... And you pay through the nose for these things. The going rate for a babysitter in our Maryland county is apparently $15/hour. Yikes! I was all "I remember being psyched to make $5/hr for watching 3 kids," but my mom had me beat. Apparently she used to charge 25 cents an hour. Talk about slave wages! But parents these days "want the best for their children," and clearly "the best" = "Bill Gates-like wages."

Given the complexity of finding a babysitter, where does one even begin? An obvious place to start would be family, because while every family has the odd crazy or two, you can usually trust family. They already love your child, they just have to be shown how to handle nap time and where the clean diapers are kept. Unfortunately, M. and I have no family in the area, so that's out. Another place to look is through co-worker recommendations, but most of our co-workers don't have kids, and our lengthy commutes mean those who do have kids use babysitters that live too far away from our house.

After nearly 21-months of parenthood, we are reaching the desperation point. Determined to find someone, I signed us up at Not cheap ($100 for a year-long membership), but at this point I'm willing to make a few sacrifices. We arranged to meet a young college-age woman at our house this past Saturday. Her cover letter expounded on the evils of tv-watching, the childhood education classes she has taken, and her several years of experience. She seemed if anything overenthusiastic, but this can be a good quality when trying to entertain a 1-year old. We asked her to come over for about 3 hours. The first hour would be spent watching Finn while we were in the house, and for the final 2 hours M. and I would go to Lowe's for a shopping extravaganza to kick-off our planned and increasingly imminent basement remodel.

Friday arrives, and somehow the babysitter has still not managed to e-mail us her resume and references though she has contacted us several times. M. and I start to panic a little. How can we possibly leave our precious only child with a stranger without checking her references first? A flurry of e-mails follow. M. gets a bit snippy and demands her references ASAP. He actually used the acronym, which made me cringe. It irritates me that M. is treating this as a customer/supplier relationship. He doesn't seem to understand the need to make a trusted babysitter feel like part of the family rather than a lowly employee. But trustworthiness not yet verified, I did understand where his sentiment was coming from.

We finally receive some references (though no resume), and decide to move forward with the babysitting date. However, 10 minutes after the babysitter was supposed to show Saturday morning, something makes me check my e-mail. There it is, a message sent at 1:30 am the previous night. The babysitter has a "stomach bug." I choose to believe her, though I have suspicions that she chickened out because she was afraid she'd ticked us off. The bottom line, however, is that she will not be showing up. M. and I decide it is fate. Maybe we're just not ready for the corporate approach to finding a babysitter. This is not the kind of thing that can be handled adequately over e-mail and the internet. I don't want to look at resumes and training certificates. I want to do it the way my mom did it - word of mouth from a friend, someone who's already tested out the babysitter and determined reliability.

Alas, we are now stuck with a membership to, not sure yet whether we will attempt the online match-making again. We have still purchased absolutely nothing for the bathroom and office that will be constructed in our basement any week now. And worst of all, we are still babysitter-less. The desperation grows...


  1. Check out community colleges electronic bulletin boards. SitterCity should give you a break - don't they vet these people?

  2. What about posting at the local high school? I'm sure there are responsible HS kids out there - aren't there?

    I'd like to think that I would just take the plungre regardless but I have a MOT group to help me line up sitters, etc. Have you ever thought about joining a nearby mom's group or play group?

  3. Thanks for posting a comment on my blog - I love your blog!!!! Your commentary is too funny. Wow, I don't envy you having to randomly find a babysitter. I noticed last night at Giant that the bulletin board there advertised babysitters too. I actually second Mommy, Esq about the high school - I found a summer nanny job through someone who contacted the high school. Good luck!

  4. A.- I signed up for Sittercity too. I have met (but haven't yet tried out) two sitters who seem promising. We tried the friends and family route, but there is only so much you can lean on them. I tried asking the moms of teen girls at the gym where I work... And promptly met two sitters who failed to ever call me back. So Sittercity it is, for now. I think the key is to pretend like it's (ok, not that I ever used Match, but whatever, I've heard things, lol). We had the potential sitters meet us at the local playground just to get a feel for them, and let them meet the kids on "neutral territory." I am feeling hopeful that at least one of the two sitters will work out for us.

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