Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Babysitters Blah Blah Blah

For the past three months – yes, three solid months – I have been trying to find an Occasional Babysitter for Gwen. She goes to daycare three days a week and we are very happy with her caregiver, Denise, but this is a separate thing. You see, as much as I love spending my Fridays off with Gwen, since my return to work several life-maintenance tasks have cropped up: a dental appointment, a doctor’s appointment, a visit to my financial advisor, an eye exam, an oil change, and so on. The things that pile up when you spend every waking minute either At Work or With a Toddler. All of these are things that are much easier to manage without a toddler in tow, as you can imagine, and when the list got long enough that it was starting to stress me out I hit upon the idea of getting an Occasional Babysitter to come by on those Fridays off and let me get out and do a few errands. There was also the pipe dream of having a night out with my husband once in a while.

Now, quick-witted readers would have already noticed that I am, as usual, going about things the hard way. Why not ask Chris’s parents to babysit for me? Well, Chris’s mom, Gwen’s beloved Gramma, already babysits Gwen for one full day every week, for which I am immensely grateful, so I don’t feel comfortable asking for more – especially since she lives about half an hour out of town, and asking her to travel that distance to hang out with Gwen for only an hour or so isn’t the greatest solution. Alright, then, why not hit up one of your dozens of mommyfriends? Well, most of them are at work as well. But even for those at home, the complication arises at naptime. Most moms, myself included, don’t have space for more than one toddler to sleep. So if Gwen went to someone else’s house, she wouldn’t be able to nap; and if my friend and her little one were to come to our place, while Gwen would have her own bed, the other toddler would be out of luck. So again, I didn’t think that was the right solution either.

So I decided to try and find an Occasional Babysitter, someone who could come to our place on a semi-regular, on-call basis, with no other kids to look after and no other priorities besides getting Gwen down for that all-important mid-day nap.

As you may have guessed from the fact that I am now posting about this, the search has proved far more difficult than I anticipated.

My first candidate was a teenager I know from church. I appreciated the fact that I already know her, and the church connection leads me to trust her. We played phone tag for about two weeks before realizing that her summer schedule of music classes, camping trips, and other extra-curricular activities prevented her from even visiting our house for a few “get to know Gwen” sessions, let alone an actual Babysitting Event. No hard feelings here, as that’s exactly how a fifteen-year-old girl should spend her summer.

Next, I put an ad on kijiji: “Experienced Babysitter Wanted”. I got three responses. The first respondent actually made it over to our house for a very informal interview and to hang out with Gwen for a bit. I admit, I was not overly thrilled with her – just didn’t get the warm and fuzzies – but told myself I was just being overprotective, asking too much. After all, she’s not there to be my new best friend and confidante; she’s just there to hang out with my kid for a couple of hours. I booked her for my next flex day, which was two weeks later, and told her we’d be in touch closer to the time to arrange a few more meet-and-greets.

Relieved, I was finally able to book all the appointments mentioned above. I called every single one of those providers (optometrist, doctor, financial advisor, car dealership) and booked myself in for the times that were now to be covered by a babysitter. Two days later, we left for our holiday in Powell River. After our vacation, I called our new babysitter to iron out the details. She wouldn’t return my calls.

It was Monday, and my doctor’s appointment as well as an hours-long church meeting had now been booked for the upcoming Friday. I had no babysitter. Further, I couldn’t even hope to book one of the other two responders to my Kijiji ad, as it meant that I’d have to make contact; arrange an interview; and arrange some time for her to meet and get to know Gwen, all within the space of four days. Wait, let me clarify; all within the space of four work days, and because Gwen goes to bed at 7pm, this actually reduced our available time to less than ten hours. (Desperate, I did actually call one of the others, but she too failed to call me back, making me wonder if there’s some internet entity out there badmouthing my daughter and encouraging people not to babysit her.)

Finally, on Wednesday, I had to bite the bullet. This particular bullet came in the shape of asking Denise to watch Gwen for a half-day on Friday, and in retrospect, I have no idea why I was so resistant to the concept in the first place. Gwen is happy there, she loves seeing her friends, and she of course has a place to nap. I guess the point is that just bringing Gwen to Denise’s when I want to run errands does absolutely nothing to get me closer to a night out with my husband. (There also seems to be some latent fear on my part that this additional babysitting will cause Denise to judge me. Welcome to motherhood, enjoy the guilt trip!)

Anyway, Denise was more than happy to help out, and so we agreed that I would drop Gwen off shortly before lunch on Friday. As it happened, my doctor’s appointment was at 10am, and my meeting wasn’t until 1pm, so I could have watched Gwen until about 12:45: but at Denise’s, lunch is served shortly after 11am, and then the kids go down for their naps, and I couldn’t really just drop Gwen off right at naptime and expect her to happily go to sleep without some playtime first.

This arrangement had some interesting outcomes. First, it meant that I took Gwen along to my doctor’s appointment. This was up in the air until about 9:30pm on Thursday night, since sometimes Chris is still working out of his home office at that time of day, and might have been available to watch Gwen. The conversation went like this: “Well, if I have to stay home and watch her I will, but I’d prefer not to.” And then “Well, if I have to take her along to the doctor’s appointment, I will, but I’d prefer not to.” In the end, as my Facebook friends already know, I took her with me to the doctor, hiding brand new books in my bag as a distraction. Bonus: I was, of course, visiting the doctor to discuss birth control. OF COURSE I WAS.

The other outcome of this arrangement was that after the doctor’s appointment (where she was good as gold) and dropping Gwen off at Denise’s, I suddenly found myself with about two Gwen-free, work-free hours to kill. It was like the heady days of the first Gramma Time. Suddenly, it was like time … slowed … down. I had nowhere to rush to, no reason to be stressed. I crossed about a half-dozen things off my to-do list, things like “buy new watch strap” and “go to library” and “withdraw cash to spend at Mary’s garage sale” and so on. I’m sure it will surprise exactly no one to learn that I filled every single moment of those two hours, and then had only a few minutes to scarf lunch and get myself to my meeting on time.

So, the day was a success. Gwen had a great time and I got a lot of stuff done. Now I’m considering taking a different approach for my next flex day, which also features a day off work with a few random appointments that are best kept toddler-free. Instead of paying a babysitter $8/hour to come to our house – which would add up to $32 - it makes a lot more sense to take Gwen to Denise’s for a $20/half-day, a place she already knows with a person she already trusts. Especially when you consider the frustrating part of the whole endeavour, which is scheduling those damn meet-and-greets to take place sometime between 4:30 and 7:00pm, and making sure you have enough of them that both Babysitter and Babysittee feel comfortable being left alone with each other.

As mentioned above, this doesn’t solve the dilemma of having a date with my husband, nor the occasional problem that crops up when my church council meetings and his marital arts classes land on the same night. But I guess that one will have to wait for another day.


Amberism said...

I'm glad you came up with an alternative solution at least! Good luck finding a sitter, it's been three years and I still don't have a babysitter :(. Largely due to the fact that we moved here knowing nobody. So if I can't get my Mom to watch the kids (and thank God my Mom moved) then we're outta luck... no idea how to go about getting a babysitter, and truth be told, people around my neck of the woods scare me a bit..

yagowe said...

Your last paragraph includes the best typo EVAR.

Bradi Nathan said...

The best advice I received was advice never taken, "Don't be a martyr!" I would have been a better wife and mother if I had gotten the much needed help!

Anonymous said...

The best babysitters we ever found were the very local teenage girls, usually grades 8-10 (any older and they tend to want real jobs or have boyfriends you need to worry about).

Ask your neighbours if they know anyone in the area who has a child of babysitter age who might be interested in picking up some extra work.

Neighbours mean that you have access to parents, that the babysitter will 'run into' Gwen more often, and that it isn't difficult to get the sitter home at the end of an evening.

Good luck!


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