June 11, 2010
A year or two ago, I interviewed babysitters very differently than I do now. Two years ago I was willing to hire a sitter because she had CPR and claimed to love children. She proceeded to sit on my floor and pat my kids on the back while watching soap operas. One down. The next one got cozy on my couch and decided it was ok to change what was recording on our TiVo because she wanted to watch something else. Meanwhile, my kids sat on the floor and looked up at her with curiosity. Two down. I hired a doula who is my mom’s age, and she was wonderful. She came over twice a week, made me something to eat and insisted I go take a nap. While I fitfully slept, she folded laundry, tidied up and fed the babies. But she was ghastly expensive and I desperately needed more help. Three down. All this within the span of a month. Over the next few months I tried one more gal, who seemed great at first – then called in pregnant one day. Four down.
Somewhere along the way in that first couple of months, KK came along. She was laid back, and at first I thought maybe she was not so motivated because she came across as very mellow. Boy howdy was I wrong! She is one of the best things that happened to my kids and our family. This girl walked in and started laughing with my babies, and was equally at ease laughing with me, even though she is young enough to be my daughter (notice I didn’t say I am old enough to be her mother). Over the past two years I also hired two more amazing young ladies, and they all work a few hours a week so I can get out to the store, meet a friend for coffee now and again and they provide extra energy to the kids when I feel just worn out. From them all I have re-learned things I used to know and thought I still did. They are all closer to having been babysat and been children than I am. They are more in touch with playing games, blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk than I am. I was so sure I was. I wanted my kids fiercely and I love them with all my heart. But no one tells you how hard motherhood can be. And truly, you can’t know anything about anything until you are actually there.
Due to the kids’ therapy requirements, I needed to have help. But I could not decide if I wanted one full time person or an occasional sitter. What I did decide, was to have a few college age gals who all do a few part time hours. Then if one got sick, quit or went on vacation, I had back up. Having energetic young sitters around to help me care for and play with my kids has been the best choice I could have made. On days I felt too tired to function, they showed up with songs and games in mind. On days I had more energy, we all walked to Starbuck’s for coffee. But more than just providing energy, they became part of our family. It’s not an office job, they don’t have to dress up. They do have to be on time, they do work for money. But the job of caring for someone’s children, and being able to entrust my kids, my entire home and its contents to someone, is a huge deal. While we are already a family of six and not looking to expand, learning to be comfortable with sitters was not easy at first.
On the eve of watching two of our girls prepare move on to ‘real world’ situations in their lives, I find myself thinking again about interviewing new people. This time around I will ask tougher questions. I will watch more closely how my kids respond when the girls arrive for interviews. I am no longer desperate for another person to be with me and my ducklings all day. When I find the right person, I wonder if they will fit into that narrow space that requires them to be professional when they arrive, yet quickly become comfortable with our family. But not so comfortable that they become couch potato number five.