I go through my day distracted by my phone, pausing while making dinner if I hear the tell-tale ding of an incoming message. After my husband falls asleep at night I lay awake, scrolling through profiles of potential matches, hoping to find one who suits my needs. But before you pin a scarlet A on my chest, hear me out. I'm not cheating; I'm trying to find a babysitter. It turns out babysitter and nanny websites are the busy mom's version of an Ashley Madison account, except I'm trying to plan an escape with my husband instead of from him.
This isn't the first time I've let young women occupy much of my time. In fact it's the third time we've tried to get a reliable sitter (our old sitter recently welcomed a baby of her own), and we can't seem to find one. Nor is it that I'm extremely picky. I'm about one episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood away from wrestling the cat into a bonnet, renaming him Nana and making a run for it. I'm looking for someone who can drive to our place and play with the kids for a couple of hours while I have a meal at a table with cloth napkins.
I even make sure the fridge is stocked with snacks for the sitter and don't care how much television the kids watch while they're there. My only sticking point is that they don't smoke (allergies run in the family). We live in an area surrounded by universities, so you'd think we'd have a line of girls around the block wanting to work for us, and the applications do come pouring in, but for whatever reason, this generation of young 20-somethings is really bad at following through on job interviews.
I've set up several meetings with prospective sitters, only to have them cancel on me at the last minute for reasons ranging from not feeling well to forgetting they had something else to do. Sometimes they stand me up completely, and then I'm left wondering if the hourly rate I've offered wasn't enough, or if they zoomed in on the selfie I have on my profile and decided they didn't like what they saw.
My husband tries to help. We both agree it would be a little odd to have him be the one chatting up possible babysitters over the Internet, but he acted as an excellent wingman this summer. He distracted our kids a couple of times with some foam noodles so I could chat up bored-looking teenagers at the pool in hopes of scoring some digits. Sadly my pickup game is weak, so we went back to the way most people connect in 2015 — online.
Obviously I'm not looking to do anything sexual with these girls, and I'm not attracted to them in any way. I care far more about their ability to make a grilled cheese sandwich or whether they know how to play Simon Says than what look they like, but it's hard not to feel like I'm doing something naughty when so many of their applications read like they could double as swingers' ads. For instance, these are actually responses I received from people who have offered to watch my children:
"Hey if you're still looking for someone let me know, I like to have fun and you made it sound fun."
"Can I bring my best friend? We do everything together."
"I've never worked with that age before, but I'm flexible and want to learn."
"My 60-year-old fiancé and I would love to come play with you."
"Whatever it is, I can handle it."
It's not just juggling emails and text messages with multiple people at once that makes me feel like I'm sneaking around. People share so much of their lives on social media, and I'll admit to doing a bit of background sleuthing on a girl's Facebook or Instagram before I reply to her message to set up a meet-and-greet. Scrolling through someone's news feed can give you a great idea of the kind of person they are, their interests and their hobbies, but it's also really awkward when you're doing some recon on a potential sitter before Zumba class and the person next to you looks over to see you looking through pictures of a slender blonde on spring break.
I've got a few more meetings with possible sitters set up this week, so I'm headed to the mall to get a new outfit. It's in anticipation of having something nice to wear for date night, but maybe I'll get lucky and impress the babysitter too.
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