October 19, 2004


It sounds so simple: hire a babysitter, have more time to work. And back when Damian was a baby, it was simple. I mean, rock baby, make silly faces at baby, sing to baby, dangle funny toys in front of baby's face. Not that complex a job. It got harder as he got older and we didn't know why (hint: huge looming developmental disorder on the horizon). His part time nanny back then was well, any words I write will sound trite and over the top, but she was and is a tremendously kind, warm, intelligent, loving person (told you, sappy -- but all true). And we were lucky. Damian was lucky, though he didn't know it then. He needed someone like her in his life. Desperately.

She left four years ago. Damian's been in preschool, in therapies, on the road. No regular babysitter needed, no room for one in his life. I missed the ability to go out to dinner occasionally without child in tow. Missed the chance to run out while someone was here or tell her he needs park time and not have to face said park myself. But I also liked having the house to myself while he was at school. Liked that nobody else riffled through our fridge, knew our daily schedule and habits. Floor time therapists may come over for two hour chunks and yes, we let them into our lives to some small extent, but it's not the same as an ongoing relationship with someone you yourself hire to companion your child.

The past couple of weeks we've interviewed a couple of people and I've talked to a few more on the phone and I'm reminded once again of how strange a relationship it is. You're in essence asking this person to be a surrogate you, but you the way you wish you were all the time: loving, supportive, never flying off the handle, always attentive and interested in play time. A clone of the best parts of yourself. And its not an unreasonable expectation if you're only hiring this person for ten hours a week (or in this case, less). If you pay me to be nice to a child, trust me, I'll be nice to that child.

But that's it, isn't it? Because I know you can trust me. But how do I know I can trust some strange woman who rings my doorbell, who I spoke with for a few minutes on the phone, who Dan and I have to judge based on a half hour of slightly stilted conversation? We can't hire them all for an afternoon each, watch behind a two way mirror, make the call based on an in-the-field experience, babysitter plus kid, analyze the chemical interaction of that combination. We have to decide to trust. And when we do, we're inviting that person to become almost a part of our family albeit for just a few hours per week. Obviously she'll get to know Damian, but she'll get to know us too. It's an intimate relationship in its way. And yet we'll hand over a check every week. Paying for companionship for my child and freedom for me. Odd. But I need this. And so we meet people. We talk to others on the phone. We decide to invite someone to become part of the fabric of our lives.

Posted by Tamar at October 19, 2004 04:43 PM

Well, you can do what I do -- hire them, but spend the first few weeks being in the house when they are, working upstairs on the computer with one ear open, getting a feel for how this person is interacting with your kid.

I'm finding that as my kids get older, the younger babysitters are better -- the college/grad student. More of an older sister type than a surrogate mom type.

Posted by: Allison at October 20, 2004 03:12 AM

Yeah, I'm planning on hopefully finding someone (high school neighbor) to come in a couple afternoons a week to help me out. This way I can have this person play and watch the kiddos while I tackle some heavy housework & cook a nice dinner. Then if this works out this person will hopefully be able to babysit at night maybe once a month so my hubs & I can have a night out as a couple.

Posted by: Grace at October 20, 2004 10:53 AM

Allison, I plan to do just that. Probably longer than the first couple of weeks, in fact. I like my home office and as long as Damian doesn't come and interrupt me too often, I want to stay. (He likes to check in with me from time to time.)

I lean toward younger women, too. The one we'll probably hire is in her 20's, I think. Nice. Smart, too. Fingers crossed it works out.

Grace, I too look forward to monthly nights out as a couple instead of a family. What a luxury.

Posted by: Tamar at October 20, 2004 09:56 PM