While I no longer nanny full time, I still babysit because freelancing is so flexible and lucrative that it gives me space to pursue hobbies, like other people’s kids’s diapers. But it’s not all soiled Pull-Up wrangling, I also have to deal with parents.
These days I’m able to be very selective about my clients, and all my recent clients get gold stars. But I’ve been doing this a long time, and (wino skeleton from The Last Unicorn voice) I remember. As do my nanny/babysitter friends.
This list isn’t about serious abuse. (Don’t do that either!) This is about those smaller acts of disrespect that parents may not even realize are fostering resentment in those they’ve entrusted with their spawn. If you don’t do any of these things: high five! But for the rest of you? Here are ten things we might hate about you.
1. You insist we take your kids out every day.
I get it, exercise and “fresh” Brooklyn air are good for growing kids. But; weather. Sometimes it’s 110 degrees or there’s a blizzard. If you trust me with your child, please trust me to decide whether it’s worth it to slap the rain cover on the Maclaren which, while keeping your baby snuggly-dry, does exactly nothing for me as I trudge my increasingly waterlogged body over to the library. Oh, you can hold an umbrella and push the stroller at the same time? Fine, you are a better and more talented person than me.
Some weather actually poses a genuine threat. Kristy* holed the kids up in a store to wait out an electrical storm that hit during their walk and got screamed at as a reward. If you want your kid’s claim to fame to be surviving a lightning strike, perhaps you should work on this goal together and leave the help out of it.
2. You don’t respect our time
We promise to be at a designated location caring for your children during the hours we’ve agreed upon. But that’s it. You can ask if we’re available at the very last minute on our day off, but we are under zero obligation to say yes, and the reason is frankly none of your business. Our lives do not revolve around your offspring, however much we love them. Maybe we’re working another job, or out with friends, or smoking pot and watching ALF in a snuggie. These are all valid reasons to not pinch-sit for your kid.
On the days we are ensuring your kid eats, plays and doesn’t die, please come home at the appointed hour. Of course, shit happens, so unless I’ve explicitly told you I have to leave by a certain time, an apologetic text saying you’ll be 15 minutes late is a reasonable inconvenience.
What is not okay is what happened to Dawn, who was babysitting while Mom and Dad had a night out on the town. Said celebration was supposed to turn into a pumpkin at midnight, when Dawn would go home, sleep for 6 hours, and go sit for another family. Because that’s how Dawn pays her rent. But instead, the toasty birthday couple came home at sunny 6 a.m., oblivious to the hours Dawn had spent calling them (and being sent to voicemail) and debating at what point it’s be appropriate to report them missing.
She didn’t, as the tipsy couple assumed, “just go to sleep.” (You really want to leave your kids with someone who’s going to peace out into dreamland when you’ve been missing for six hours?). What she did do is immediately go to the other family’s home, without even changing her clothes, and spent 10 hours trying to provide adequate childcare while struggling to not fall the fuck asleep. Don’t ever make your babysitter pull a Dawn.
3. You cancel last minute (and don’t offer to pay).
Hopefully, we like your kids. We may even love them. But watching them is still a job we do for money, so we can pay bills and eat and stuff. It’s very frustrating when a paid job we’ve been counting on is cancelled last minute, especially because we may well have turned down other paid work to be there for you and your darling.
If you need to cancel in under 24 hour hours, offer to pay the sitter in full. Sorry, but bitches gotta eat. If you wouldn’t take this crap from your boss, don’t dole it out.
4. You don’t tell us your kid is sick.
I do often babysit for sick kids, but it’s only fair to tell me the situation so I can assess the risks for myself and possibly prepare with gloves/mask/etc. Not only are we almost guaranteed to get with whatever nastiness is breeding inside your child, many of us work for other families. Congratulations, now the whole block has the stomach flu.
5. You’re inconsistent with discipline.
We try our best to work with whatever cockamamie discipline system you have set up. But for that to work, your kid needs to listen to us. Don’t undermine our authority. If, in accordance with your rules, we say “no,” and little Pork Belly goes crying to you, don’t just say yes because you’re distracted or vulnerable. Explain that while we’re sitting, what we say goes and keep it moving.
6. You hover (and spy).
I’m sure it’s distressing to leave while your child is crying and screaming for you. But, honest, 99% of the time, the minute you’re out of earshot, your kid’s snapped back into happy mode. Dallying around or trying to comfort your kid does nothing but prolong the goodbye tantrum. Coming back intermittently to “visit” or “check in” is actually cruel, turning one goodbye into many and disrupting the probably quite happy rapport we’ve established in your absence.
Worse than the hoverer is the spy. At a certain point, you need to either trust us or not. If you feel the need to spy on us, then maybe you shouldn’t leave your kids with us. Kristy once caught a stay-at-home parent watching her through a sneakily angled mirror in another room. WTF, parents? And nanny cams—they’re not just rude, they can be a violation. Do you know how many times I’ve changed out of clothes your baby puked on and prepped for after-work activities in front of said baby? Because I’m responsible and don’t want to leave them alone? Are you watching me change? Can you please not?
7. You expect us to be tutors, cooks and/or housekeepers.
I have happily gone above and beyond with homework help, done laundry, made delicious** meatloaf (despite my being vegan) and more! That’s because I’m fucking awesome. Also because I communicate well with my clients. They didn’t spring these tasks on me, expecting it to be no big deal to totally revise my job description.
It’s reasonable to ask us to ensure your kid does their homework. It’s not reasonable to ask us to teach them whatever they need to know to do it well. It’s great that you’re teaching your toddler French. It’s less great to ask the nanny (who doesn’t speak French) to create an immersive environment for an hour a day. I’m happy to put away our lunch dishes. I’m not happy to clean your entire kitchen. Unless we’ve agreed in advance and I’m getting paid for it.
If you want a babysitter to do extras, pay extra. Do you expect your hairdresser to polish your shoes? If so, I sure hope you’re tipping well!
8. You dump extra kids on us without warning (or a bonus).
I set rates based primarily on the number of kids I have to keep happy and healthy per hour. You fuck up my whole system when suddenly it turns out little Braedon will be joined by little Freedom for the day. I know, you (claim to) believe it’ll be easier for me since they’ll entertain each other. This may be the case. Or maybe they’ll develop a Pokemon blood feud and suddenly I’m trying to clone myself as they run screaming in two different directions down Ocean Parkway. I don’t know Kid #2; they don’t know me. Neither of us knows what we’re in for. It’s totally fine to ask us about play dates and how that might affect our rates. But you know what happens when people make assumptions.
9. You quibble over our rates.
Childcare is expensive. Everyone should have access to quality affordable childcare and it’s a disgrace that so many don’t. I am not, however, trying to solve these systemic problems by neglecting my own bills and running a childcare charity. My rates are my rates. If they’re too high for you, I sympathize! If I had a kid, there’s no way I could afford to pay me on my income! You’re under no obligation to hire me, and I’m under no obligation to cut you a deal because you swear you’ll hire me all the time. I’d rather get hired all the time at my actual rate.
And no, there isn’t a flat rate for late nights because I “can just sleep”. I like sleeping in my own bed, where I’m not waking up every time your kid has a notable dream or wants a glass of water.
10. You ask when we’re going to have babies of our own.
This is just invasive. Also, are you planning on giving me paid maternity leave and then a stipend for or on-site childcare? How exactly do you imagine this’ll all work otherwise?
*Totally her real name.
**So I am told