The Untold Stories—that sounds like a crappy TLC show (actually I think it is. Anyway...)
I think I have finally gotten to a point in life where I will no longer be a nanny ever again. Maybe babysitting occasionally but my days of chasing after other people's children for 50 hours a week is behind me.
With that said I think I am ready to share the secret stories, the ones that I've tucked away over the years too scared I would run into the parents again.
My freshman year of college when everyone on my hall was getting paid pocket change to slave away at retail stores and be screamed at by their incompetent underpaid bosses, I went the babysitting route to make some shoe money. I could charge whatever I wanted and work whenever I pleased, it sounded perfect! I put an add up on Craigslist and by that weekend I had already met with 6 moms and their spit upping babies at the Starbucks on my block.
Starbucks is the go-to meetup for any girl in the city needing to make sure the person they're meeting isn't going to kidnap them. I walked in with an over-sized pair of glasses on covering the majority of my face and left them on as my eyes scanned the room. I was looking for a 30-something blonde wearing a North Face and holding a baby. I saw about a dozen 30-something blondes, all wearing big, puffy North Face jackets (and Uggs, of course. The stereotype is painfully true.) and bouncing a baby on their knee. I finally spotted who I thought was my 30-something blonde woman and walked over with a big smile on my face. The smile that says, "You can trust this complete stranger with your child and eagerly pay me accordingly!" We spent the next half hour chatting with an unspoken understanding that we were both making sure we hadn't seen the other on an America's Most Wanted poster.
Once I felt confident she wasn't hiding anyone in her basement we scheduled my first "get to know the baby" date. Jacqueline, the mom, wanted me to come over Monday afternoon for a few hours while she was there and get to know her 9 month old. She said there was a lot to learn and remember and she felt it would be best if she were there. Hmm, okay. "Get to know the baby" AKA she was only 95% sure I wasn't hiding anyone in my basement.
Being a babysitter in a big city is a slippery slope, being a really good babysitter is an even slippery slope. Once the parents like you they will start recommending you to their friends. You start out wanting to work a couple days a week after class and suddenly your only social life is with preschoolers. And it's so hard to turn down! The date night gigs were the best. I usually arrived right after they put their kids down and got paid to watch TV.
I was truly blessed with so many wonderful kids to babysit and their parents were just as great. I actually looked forward to working for most of them. But of course there were always the...outliers.
Within five minutes of meeting a new mom I could always guess exactly what kind of mom she was, with no previous information about her. Those groups were:
The fist time mom.
The first time mom of a girl.
The mom of all boys.
The mom of several kids.
The first time mom and the first time mom of a girl were very similar; the only difference being the level of protectiveness. Moms of little girls always had a slight increase in that area. I could always expect around 15 texts the first time mom of a girl while they were on their date night, where as for just the first time mom it was only around 5. The texts were always the same.
What she would text: How's everything going so far?
What she meant: Is my baby still alive?
What she would text: How'd bath time go?
What she meant: Did you drown my baby?
What she would text: Did he fuss when you put him in his crib?
What she meant: Did you invite your boyfriend over to make out while you let my baby cry?
I got referred to a new family by another couple I had been babysitting for for several years. Those were always easier on both of us. The parents were ready to trust me since their close friends already trusted me.
However, this wasn't the case with this family.
They were first time parents and had a 10 month old son. My first night babysitting for them Sherri, the mom, went over all her son's needs with me. When he eats, what he eats, bedtime routine, no allergies, he needs his blanket to sleep with but not during story time, white noise on volume 4 and a half, shut the bedroom door mostly but keep at least a 3 inch crack, if he wakes up crying it could mean all sorts of things...
Sherri: "Like, if it's a high-pitched 'weeehhh!!!! weeehhh! muhhhh!' that means it's his diaper. But if it's more of like, a low rumble that turns into a high-pitched squeal then he's hungry...."
She stood there for 5 minutes mimicking all of his cries, which all sounded the exact same. I babysat for them a couple times a week for over two years and every single time I arrived she would go over his bedtime routines, food preferences, and schedule as if I lacked the ability to remember basic facts. I truly wondered why she trusted me with her child if she felt I couldn't remember that, um, he's a baby and needs his diaper changed.
Not all the mom's were like this. There were others who balanced out the over-protective ones. A mom of five boys needed a last minute babysitter and found my Craigslist ad. She didn't even want to meet me first! I spoke with her on the phone and felt comfortable enough to meet her at the Whole Foods up the street from their condo.
She was a lot easier to spot than the 30-something blonde at Starbucks. Even though she was also a 30-something blonde there's something about being the mom of 5 boys that makes you look like the mom of 5 boys. Pony tail. Dirt stained jeans. In very good shape.
She waved frantically when we spotted each other and started walking toward her place before I even got to her. She gave me the briefest rundown of her kids. Their names, no allergies, and bed time. She said the baby goes to bed first and to put him in the pack-n-play in their master bedroom.
We were having a great time, a wild and hectic time, but fun nonetheless.
That is until I put the baby down for bed.
If you 1.) have your baby sleep in your room, 2.) have other children and most importantly 3.) have a babysitter coming over would you not take 3 seconds and pick up the dozen condoms spread across your bed and bedroom floor?!
I truly wish that was the most awkward/inappropriate experience I had over the years. But no. I would gladly go back and tidy up all those condoms myself if I could not have babysat for one particular family.
It was the worst combination—terrible kids and terrible parents. That combo is rare. You at least usually like one or the other. But their kids were brats, unashamed little terrorists and the mom and dad were even worse in their own creepy way.
They had an almost one year old, and almost two year old, and an almost three year old. The mom would offer these absurd recommendations for when her two year old would get out of hand.
"It really calms him down to give him a bath. He loves playing in there for hours. I only do that when his dad is also home, of course, I can't stay in there with him and leave the other two by themselves. Maybe you could set up a little craft area for Peyton and just sit on the toilet and hold the baby in your lap while Evan plays in the tub. That would work!"
Oh. would it? Would that work? Are you for real, woman?! I am not sitting on the toilet holding a squirmy 10 month old and facilitating art class for a 3-year-old while your undiagnosed toddler calms himself in the tub for 2 hours!
Except one day I did. Because she was right. It was the only, and I mean only thing to make him stop screaming.
And the next day I quit.
The kid wasn't even the main reason I quit. I had to get to their house every morning at 7. I would arrive right at 7 every single morning. And every single morning the dad would mosey out of the shower right as I walked in, on the dot. He would meander out of the bathroom still soaking wet as if he purposefully didn't dry off and he'd walk out to the living room to say good morning to me all while only being covered with a towel the size of a large washcloth. The only thing keeping it around his waist was his thumb and pointer finger pinching the ends together, daring me to give him the satisfaction of noticing.
After working for a few crazies I was able to see the warning signs in the interview process and turn down their offers to save myself. I am all about cleaning up after and cooking for your children, but ma'am I will not clean your bathroom. I also won't fold your husbands boxers no matter how many days you leave my "to-do" list on top of his laundry pile. I got the hint but apparently you didn't.
It would be remiss of me to only tell the bad stories and not mention the lovely families I had the privilege of working for over the years. You welcomed me into your homes and trusted me with your children and I will never take that lightly. I loved every minute with your precious kids—the dance parties, walking around the city after a rainstorm to find good puddles to jump in, the sheer joy it brought them when we'd go to the park, and my personal favorite--rocking your babies to sleep. I will always cherish those memories and the experience I gained. Oh and eating all the pizza and chips in your pantry was awesome. Sorry for always finishing the last cookie.