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Why I Can’t “Just Hire A Babysitter”

Don’t you just hate it when people will say, “Well, why didn’t you just hire a babysitter so you could go take that big test?” Or, “Come out with us last minute. You can just get a babysitter—it’s not like it’s that hard!” With a flick of their hand or an exaggerated eye roll, they say it as if it’s just that easy. They question why you weren’t sane enough to make arrangements and procure someone responsible out of thin air at a moment’s notice!

Well, in case you are one of those parents who have it all (so…that should be none of you), are childless, or are living under a rock, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not always that easy.

I can’t always “just hire a babysitter” and there’s a simple, recurrent explanation: I’m too broke for that nonsense!

You know how many things I do, places I go, and obligations I fulfill that I wish I could do alone, instead of having to adapt in order to make it possible to bring the kids with me? If I paid a babysitter every time I technically needed one, I’d have no budget for basic human necessities, like toilet paper or wine. Should I get personal right now and break down my finances for you, with exact numbers, in order to prove why I can’t “just hire a babysitter?”

Yes, I have some willing family semi-close by, but guess what? They have a life too! So they can’t always watch my kids at a drop of a hat. And if I use them too much, I run the risk of taking advantage of them, which is entirely possible even though they love my kids and even if I try to return the favor or make it up to them. At the end of the day, my kids are not their responsibility.

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Yes, maybe I can find a friend or neighbor willing to do a babysitting swap so neither of us pays. But believe it or not, that’s not always easy to set up. What if I can’t stand her kids or she hates mine? What if our kids don’t play well together, making babysitting (twice the amount of kids we’re used to) absolute torture because of the nonstop fighting? What if she isn’t free the day/time I need her? What if she doesn’t hold up her end of the deal and flakes on me? What if I live in a rural area where driving my kids to a friend’s for a swap means driving 45 minutes out of the way? What if it all works out once, but the stars don’t align ever again? This is a great option sometimes, but it’s not always possible when you need it, especially for anyone who doesn’t have a friend/neighbor nearby to swap with.

And even the times I CAN “just” hire a babysitter, it usually ends up being a financial strain that leaves me feeling guilty no matter how much I paid.

“Sorry I’m broke and could only pay you with my crunchy homemade cookies instead of cash!”
Or, “Sorry I didn’t pay you enough per hour, per kid; I know you left feeling it wasn’t worth it.”
Or, “Sorry, husband, I overpaid the babysitter in an attempt to be fair, so instead of dinner and a movie tonight, we have to skip the show and go to McDonalds …again. Happy Anniversary.”

There are plenty more realistic reasons why someone can’t “just hire a babysitter.” So can we all just cool it on the judgment of parents who have to bring their kids to certain things that you wouldn’t have? And can we restrain our annoyance when Bob and Sally once again can’t stay for game night because they have to get the kids to bed on time? Don’t fault parents who tried to save for a babysitter but didn’t have enough money every time they needed one. Don’t fault those who tried to find someone to swap with and couldn’t. Don’t punish those who tried to adjust their schedules so one parent could stay home but failed.

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The next time you see a mother struggling with her kids at her OB office, instead of grumbling and staring while she chases them from behind her big belly, offer to distract the kids while you wait. Listen to her hurried explanations she will feel obligated to give about the babysitter falling through and not being able to reschedule her appointment. And then validate how great she’s doing. Lift her up!

The next time you see a couple who brought their three kids to the nice, sit-down restaurant but are being kind of loud—maybe offer to buy the parents a drink or dessert for the kids, instead of glaring at them for daring to have a night out together. Acknowledge their efforts to keep the kids calm and quiet and let them have their moment. This is probably a special night for them. So choose to focus on the good, like your delicious food or your sexy companion sitting across from you. Doing so will take the pressure off the family and will make your overall night much more enjoyable

And the next time you’re tempted to make another parent feel like their kids are a burden on them and everyone else, just stop. Give the benefit of the doubt because chances are, we did try to secure a babysitter and it obviously didn’t work. Because the next person who scoffs at me and asks why I didn’t “just hire a babysitter,” you’re running the risk of getting a verbal sarcastic beat down:

“Because I’d rather bring them, tired, hungry, poopy and loud to inflict pain and discomfort on myself and every living soul around me. For fun.
Care to solve my problem and watch them for me next time?”

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