When we moved across town to be closer to my husband’s work, I was excited to meet our new neighbors. I didn’t expect them to come bearing gifts or casseroles, but I did expect to meet a few parents that we could relate to, hopefully with some kids around the same age as mine. I never expected the welcome we received.
On moving day, we packed and loaded and reloaded the moving van — because furniture Tetris. I had just closed the trunk of my car when I got a text from the babysitter, “I just finished work, I can come over anytime! :)” I told her to meet us at the new house and loaded the kids in the car. We pulled into the neighborhood at the same time. We gave her a quick tour of the place and pointed her and the kids toward the playground. They took off and I got to work unloading the van. As I finished up, the babysitter introduced us to one of our neighbors — a mom who had just moved in a few weeks prior with her husband and two sons. She was pregnant with her third child, a girl. After our babysitter left, this sweet woman proceeded to tell me how amazing our babysitter was with the kids (I know!) and how she was so glad that she found her (wait, what?) to be on call for when her new baby came.
Welcome to the neighborhood!
At first, I was understanding. I had experienced life as a babysitter. Kids are kids; a job is a job; money is money. When an opportunity presents itself, you take it. I had worked for families who did early-morning runs, dinner dates, midday shopping trips, probably some afternoon delights. I had no problem babysitting for three different families back to back to back in one day. The paychecks sustained me, but I truly cared for these children. My babysitter was just adding another family to her list, just as I once did. What I couldn’t understand was how my neighbor, who literally could have picked a babysitter off the street — because, hello, she just did — had to take ours.
It took me three years, six months and 17 days to find our first babysitter. My daughter was an incredibly high-needs baby who would scream if I was not holding her constantly. As she approached toddlerhood, I discovered that the source of her discomfort was multiple allergies to foods that had been flooding her system through my breast milk. My second child was born with eczema that he would scratch until it bled if left alone for even just a second. I had resigned myself to constant round-the-clock care for the rest of their childhoods.
Then we attended an event showcasing local summer camps and my daughter took to one of the booth attendants like I have never seen her bond with anyone! The woman casually offered to babysit and I had to keep myself from getting prematurely excited. We had put out ads and crowdsourced for babysitters in the past, and while some have been available and friendly, they had been unable to provide the care that we need. After going over the basics of what babysitting for our family entailed — the extra effort required, plus the extra pay — this incredible person still wanted to babysit. It was a miracle!
It truly was lifesaving. I was experiencing extreme parental burnout. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in years. I was doing my absolute best, but I knew that my kids needed more. I wasn’t playing. I wasn’t fun. I was barely making it through the day, just covering the basics. Our babysitter only came for a few hours, a few days a week, but in those hours, she worked magic. She had a boundless energy and a joyful smile. Her presence gave me a break, but it also gave me a reminder of how to enjoy the days. When she would leave, we would all feel recharged. It helped improve our family dynamic.
Part of the problem with my neighbor stealing “finding” our babysitter, was that I felt that she didn’t deserve her. Especially after learning more about their family. I learned how they felt about our other neighbors from different cultures and countries. I learned how they felt about their son playing with dolls. I learned how they felt about using physical punishment against their children. I learned that everything their parenting stood for was everything I was against. While I tried to suck it up and make sharing work, it was difficult to coordinate schedules with our babysitter. She had a new job and less time. We haven’t had her over in months.
Last week, my daughter was so excited when our babysitter got out of her car! She took off running down the sidewalk at the sight of her. She leapt into her arms and immediately engaged her in play. The babysitter commented on my daughter’s new haircut. My daughter beamed with pride. Then the babysitter gave her one last hug, walked past my daughter, and right into our neighbor’s house to babysit.
My neighbor is moving away this fall, right around the time of my wedding anniversary. My husband and I would really love to go out on a date. Maybe our babysitter will be available.