Since I gave birth to my twins, I have found that the anxiety I already had before having them has been multiplied by a thousand. This huge increase in feelings of panic makes it really difficult for me to be apart from my boys. It's not that I believe myself to be the only one who knows how to take care of them. I don't worry about the everyday mishaps, the bumped heads, scraped knees or the occasional bite fight over a toy- Lord knows those things can and do happen on my watch all the time. It's the fear of a freak accident that makes me so reluctant to leave them. I have visions of a tumble off the couch with an awkward landing that leads to a fractured spine, or a topple into the toilet bowl that ends in an accidental drowning. The rational part of me knows that those things are unlikely to happen and that they could easily occur with me there, but that's the thing about anxiety- it's not rational.
My husband and girlfriends let me make excuses as to why I couldn't leave the boys until they were a year old. Besides a rare night of letting my mom watch them here or there (during which I would spend the entire time pestering her with text messages for updates) I didn't leave the babies. I would bring them with me to try on bridesmaids dresses or to celebratory lunches with the ladies. My husband and I would sneak in mini-dates after they got their vaccinations and they would sleep next to us in the booth while we had a quick lunch out. But after a year of letting me be a three-headed monster, my husband and friends finally convinced me that the time had come to hire a sitter.
We subscribed to an online service and thanks to the fact that our town is surrounded by colleges, we were quickly overwhelmed with applicants. After sifting through them all, emailing a few and meeting several more in person, we settled on a sweet girl named Mina.* Of all the sitters we met with, Mina was the only one who made a point to learn the boys' names. The boys warmed up to her quickly, she got down on the floor to play with their toys and she looks a little like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I thought it must be good juju to have someone who's a dead ringer for a Disney princess as your babysitter.
I knew I had made the right choice the very first time we had her come watch the boys. We left the stroller out in case she wanted to take the kids for a walk and she sent us a text message asking if we wanted her to put their shoes on before they got into the stroller. Anytime I can get them out in public and a diaper isn't visible I consider it a win, so the fact that she showed this level of concern and had things that under control left me very impressed and pleased with our decision.
Because I am so grateful to have a sitter that I trust, I go out of my way to make sure she wants to keep working for us. We always plan to have her come her during the start of nap time in hopes that she gets at least an hour to hang out before the boys wake up. I make their lunch and pour milk into their sippy cups so it's all ready to go in the fridge. I try to have a good mix of salty and sweet snacks in the house for her to munch on. I know she takes annual vacations to Disney World, so I even make sure to dress the boys in Mickey Mouse tops when she comes over in hopes that she will find them extra adorable. And just in case this isn't enough to keep her coming back, we pay her an hourly rate at the high end of what is common for babysitters in our area of the country. I don't mind doing these things because I know how difficult it can be to watch two toddlers at the same time and I want to make her job as easy as possible. Plus, I can relax more when I'm away knowing some of the little things are taken care of.
At the start of this summer Mina got another job as a waitress, so instead of us giving her the date we want her to work, when we decide we need an afternoon away, I text her and she gets back to me with her upcoming schedule. Because it was a busy summer at her restaurant, we recently went almost two months before she had a free afternoon, but it's worth it. Yes this means we don't always get to see the latest blockbuster everyone is talking about and that our date nights are actually date days (luckily, there's no judgment for day drinking during the weekend in the Zander household) but I don't care when I get out of the house as long as I can be stress free when it happens.
For her, this may just be a way to pick up some (hopefully easy) cash, but having a babysitter I can trust allows me to take the time to recharge my batteries, which is pretty close to priceless. Let's hope she doesn't read this and ask for a raise, because for the peace of mind I get from knowing my kids will be okay, I wouldn't be able to say no.
(Image: Veronica Lara/Shutterstock)