My husband and I went out on another couples’ date over the weekend. (Wow, going out 2 weekends in a row. Maybe I’m not such a party pooper!) We don’t really have a regular baby-sitter so we borrowed one for the night. This girl was a sweet, responsible, married, 20-something-year old who works in a preschool and is studying to become a teacher. Sounds like the perfect sitter right?
Wrong. I paid this sweet, responsible girl $10 an hour to do nothing. She sat on the couch and watched television for 3 hours. My children are old enough that she didn’t have to change diapers or warm bottles or listen to colicky screams. She came over late enough that she wasn’t required to feed them or bathe them. And according to my very informative 7-year-old, she chose not to read to them, play with them, or even have a conversation with them. I basically forked over $30 for her presence. When I returned, she was still on the couch watching tv in one room, while my children (still awake at 9:30!) watched tv in another room. It pained me to give her money.
But she’s hardly the only baby-sitter I’ve encountered who behaves this way. It seems that every baby-sitter I use thinks it’s acceptable to park the kids in front of the television for movies and video games until it’s time for bed. When I was a baby-sitter, I actually played with the children. We colored, we played board games and hide and seek, I read them stories. Even at the age of 12, I knew I was being paid for a particular service, and that service did not include ignoring the children.
I often tell people that the sign of a good baby-sitter is a pizza box in the fridge. I typically order pizza for the sitter and the kids to eat for dinner, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the sitter to simply shove the box of leftover slices in the refrigerator. My theory is that if she’s thoughtful enough to put away the pizza, then she’s more likely to do other thoughtful things like wash the dinner plates and clean up toys and oh, I don’t know, interact with the kids. These are all tasks I was quite capable of doing at the age of 12. Most of the sitters I’ve used have graduated from high school and live on their own. Don’t they clean up after themselves in their own homes? Would they leave the uneaten pizza sitting on their kitchen counter and wait for someone else to clean it up?
I had one baby-sitter who was amazing. She brought a craft book and made origami with the kids. She drew pictures for them. She limited their television viewing. She played Candy Land with them. She read them bedtime stories. She washed the dishes. She cleaned up the toys (or made them clean up their own toys which is a feat that should have doubled her pay!). And not only did she put the pizza in the fridge, but she located my tin foil and individually wrapped each slice. That’s a girl who earned her $10 an hour. Sadly, we were only able to use her once before she left for college. But she set the standard high, and no sitter since has been able to fill her shoes.
When I mentioned my frustration on Facebook yesterday, several friends wrote in and told me about Sittercity.com, an online source for finding baby-sitters and nannies. And the best part is that they offer free memberships to military families! I’m now signed up and making a list of potential sitters that have completed background checks and are certified in childhood CPR and First Aid. And because they’re seeking good reviews from parents on the website, I’m pretty sure these ladies will do more than catch up on their Lifetime movies.
I’m hoping this new avenue of sitter hunting will change my now tainted view of this generation of baby-sitters. I’m hoping I can find a baby-sitter who actually likes her job, who can give me a reason to dish out all that cash, who can maybe even be a regular, positive fixture in my children’s lives. But honestly, at this point, I’ll take one who’ll simply put the pizza in the fridge.