Monday, March 24, 2014

Desperately Seeking Sitters

So we VTs survived another spring break!  I should qualify that:  this break should be called "late winter break," because it is almost always way too cold for cavorting in swimsuits with umbrella drinks, contrary to what one conjures up.  I don't why these schools have to have "spring" break in early March.  Anyhoo.

I had the prescience about a week before "spring" break to book a sitter for the last evening of the week so PVT and I could celebrate having survived.  We were excited to go to this new outpost of "Noodles, Sushi, Cocktails, Happiness."  So:  we raced back from a soccer game; I "de-mommed" and put on hottish jeans, a semi-flirty top, very high shoes (you know me), and even put on my new eyelash fillers, all while getting the kids' dinners so the sitter wouldn't have to bother (important detail).  I had the sitter's dinner ready too (also important).  PVT showered.  Woo hoo!  We were ready to rock!

And then.  5:30 came.  5:45.  I text the sitter:  "Are you still coming?"  Our reservation was at 6 pm..  6 pm, 6:15, 6:30 (I am starving by now and have some tater tots), 6:45...the sitter texts:  "Oops sorry!  I forgot!" and then..."just remind me if it's been a while since you asked."  Meh?  A week and a half is long term?  It's my job to remind her to come?  Much groaning and gnashing of teeth ensued.

The mythical perfect sitter
So thus ends babysitting relationship #624 in the 11 1/2 years I have had children.  Ah for eff's sake.  This one started out great:  she was taking a year off before starting her Master's degree (hopefully not in anything requiring, um, punctuality or a calendar).  All she was doing was babysitting and teaching yoga in the meantime.  But it seemed that each time she came, she would arrive later and later - sometimes up to 30 minutes late.  Then one time she texted right when she was supposed to arrive:  "I am not going to come - I'm not feeling well!"  Another time she didn't show at all, so this was her second no show.

I don't get it, you all.  Now I know my kids can be punks, but every sitter has been exceedingly complimentary on my kids' behaviour - they save their ornery antics for us.  I pay these sitters crazy well (around $15 per hour plus tip - I am always so happy everyone is alive when I return).  I make sure they are fed.  I am rarely gone longer than 2-3 hours.  I rarely even have them put the kids to bed!  So what's the deal?

I have found that the high school girls - smart ones from nice families - are the best.   They still play with the kids, they try to clean up, they are eager to do a grown up job.  In fact, we have one of these right now, and she is fabulous.  But then:  they start driving, they start dating, and poof!  They are never available ever again (I know; this is what happened to my own stellar babysitting career).

We've tried franchises like Seeking Sitters.  They always provide someone competent and lovely.  But the problem?  It's just a someone.  They can never guarantee the same sitter, so you never build up a relationship with any one girl.  Plus they usually have a four hour minimum - four hours?  I never need to be away that long, or pay that kind of money!

We tried too.  After vetting about 30 replies based on the sitter's grammar and ability to compose a sentence, I narrowed my search down to a hand full, and found two I really liked:  one had just moved here a week ago from Boston to live with her fiance and was searching for a job.  We had her once before she found a real job.  The other was a senior at a local ultra-Christian college just down the road.  She was really good too - until she asked if she could live with us and be a "live in nanny" - which sort of creeped us out.  So that ended too.

We also have a lovely, energetic young widow we have used - she brings her own daughters along, and the kids love it - it's always a big raging kiddie party here.  But she is busy with her own girls and life, and I am loathe to bother her that often.

The great irony is that we rarely go out - maybe every other month? - although we'd like to more often.  My more critical needs often fall during the day - sometimes I would like or need to be at the big kids' school, and it's nap time or something I can't bring the littles too.  Sometimes we need help getting kids to and fro on these increasingly busier weekends, and I don't want to drag the baby all over town.

And my mother has told me she is never, never moving to Tulsa.  Short of never leaving the house until the baby is 12, any ideas, friends?


Laura Murphy said...

I always said I wanted a Granny in the attic. Just someone on hand, so I could pop out easily.

After 23 years of parenting, we are back to life with a toddler. But this time we have older daughters! It's been great.

So my advice is, have girls first. haha

But what you really need is an ironclad scheduled sitter (from that Christian college down the road makes the most sense, I guarantee you those kids need money). Just get it on the calendar. Once a week for two hours during the day, and then once a month for a date night. If it never changes, you'll both remember. And if you don't need to volunteer and a date night isn't possible, surely you can think up something to do during those golden hours away?

Good luck....

Karen Forbes said...

Any young unmarried teachers from school? That is where I found my "go-to" girl. They have already been vetted and know how to deal with lots of kids so 6 should be a piece of cake.