As you may know, we’re back in Brooklyn. Which is for the best, even though many of the reasons we left were still waiting for us when we got back: namely the insane cost of living, which includes everything from the rent to the cost of daycare to the price of a six-pack.
Now can I whine about how terrifying they are?
Look, I’m not bashing babysitters. Leaving your kids with anyone is a scary proposition.
Whether you’re dropping them at a new daycare or preschool – surrounded by teachers who seem perfectly friendly and competent during your visits but, like Ben Stiller in Happy Gilmore, may very well turn psychotic as soon as you walk out the door – or leaving them with a neighbor for an afternoon or letting them take a walk on the beach with Invisible Jesus so you can run some errands, it’s hard not to worry. (Jesus should at least be wearing more than a robe!)
Even using family members isn’t without its anxieties. Putting your most precious possession in the hands of anyone – including an uncle or a grandparent (which carries its own risks) – is not always a recipe for relaxation (and that goes double if your most precious possession is a child and not your iPhone.) Hell, just letting the husband handle the kids for a few days while you go off for a “w(h)ine weekend” with your girlfriends can leave some wives uneasy. Sure, those wives probably should never have even had kids with a man they can’t trust to care for his own flesh and blood in the first place, but here they are.
Of all the people you might trust with your children, babysitters are the scariest. Any stranger who fancies some easy money can promote themselves as an option, and since parents are often scrambling for affordable, short-term, last-minute childcare, occasionally we’re forced to pick someone we haven’t used before. Gulp.
Once you rule out family members, and stop being insensitive enough to consider your spouse a “babysitter,” you basically have three options:
- A Professional – a nanny, a daycare teacher, or someone from one of those networks like Care.com or whatever. Basically someone who has credentials and does it for a living and needs some extra income. The problem is they are expensive, and often very set in their ways, and occasionally with resumes that are unsettling in their lengthiness and specificity and probably lies.
- A College Kid – Cheaper, because beer and/or cosmos don’t cost that much. (Do girls in college drink Cosmos? I didn’t know a single girl when I was in college.) But they’re frequently out-of-town or at a butt-chugging party or just plain over-scheduled and stupid.
- A High School Kid – Cheaper still, but are you crazy? I couldn’t even care for my own laundry when I was in high school.
That’s it. Those are your choices. What do you do, hotshot? WHAT DO YOU DO?
The scary truth is that it’s almost impossible to know if someone is a worthy guardian for your kid, even for just one night, until you’ve given that person a shot. And sometimes you have to gamble.
It happens to all of us: all of your usual sitters are booked and all of your word-of-mouth recommendations have dried up, but you’ll be damned if you’re going to miss that concert, or be forced to cancel the long-held restaurant reservations for your anniversary. So you scour the bulletin boards on Craigslist or the local coffee shop and pray to god that the phone number you choose doesn’t belong to one of the may babysitting pretenders who either underestimate the role or flat under perform it.
To make matters worse, Detective Munch isn’t yet four, which means that if he’s not properly supervised, it’s almost more shocking when he doesn’t get hurt. Kids get hurt, no matter who’s around – even you. It’s just what they do. They’re morons. So it’s not always the babysitter’s fault, or something the babysitter can prevent. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want someone who will try. You just won’t always know who actually will.
And if you end up leaving a kid in the hands of a shitty babysitter, or a distracted kid, or even a stressed professional – the prospect of an injury is too good for any parent to be completely comfortable during their date night, at least until that second drink.
Which is why I always have around twelve.