Would you rather let your friends borrow your car or your babysitter?
When a friend asks, "Can I have the name of your babysitter?" I freeze. No matter how many times I hear the question or who is asking it, I am left dumbstruck each and every time. I have no words-well, none that I can say out loud. The words in my head sound something like:
How dare you test our friendship in such a way to ask for my babysitter's information? Do you know how difficult it is to find a reliable babysitter who doesn't charge an outrageous hourly fee AND who drives? Do you understand the necessity that is the rare date with my partner after weeks of day-in, day-out motherhood and housekeeping? Ok, maybe I don't do that much housekeeping, but sometimes just living in my hundred year old house whose "good bones" are its best feature is enough to drive me to any local watering hole for a drink or two. Do you understand that my babysitter needs to be on call for me and only me 24/7 for that emergency girls' night out? Can you imagine the devastation that would be my life if I were unable to escape motherhood for a couple of civilized hours because my babysitter is at YOUR house watching YOUR kids while I watch Carrie Fischer's "Wishful Drinking" on HBO...AGAIN?!? I mean, how many times are they going to air that show, anyway? Must you deny me these scarce slivers of respite by stripping me of my childcare? Have you no heart?
I have on the rare occasion offered my babysitter's name to close friends when they were in dire need. Surely they know that my babysitter's telephone number is the ultimate gift; far better and more meaningful than a bottle of wine or a batch of homemade brownies. However selfless the gesture, mind you, my friends understand that they must abide by the Babysitter Protocol Guidelines. If you were not given a copy upon the birth or adoption of your first child, you'll just have to glean your information from me or members of your book club or parents at the bus stop or religious leaders. It is no longer in print. I can provide you with a few excerpts so that you do not put your friends in an awkward position.
- If you are lucky enough to receive the ultimate gift of childcare, understand that this a one-time offer. You may exchange cell phone numbers with the babysitter for the sole purpose of checking in throughout your one evening. Article 4 subsection D of the Guidelines suggests strongly that you to delete the number after your evening of borrowed care is complete-or at least by your first cup of coffee the next morning.
- You may NOT contact the babysitter again without clearing it with the babysitter's primary employer under penalty of bad babysitting karma. You'll see what happens when you mock the handbook and you find yourself stranded at home on your birthday because the babysitter you stole decided to go to Atlantic City with friends at the last minute.
- You MAY ask your borrowed caregiver if he or she has any friends who babysit, and, should those friends be free agents, they are fair game.
- If you MUST ask a friend for the name or number of his/her babysitter, do yourself a favor and state for the record, "In accordance with the Babysitter Protocol Guidelines, I shall not poach your babysitter, and I will be forever in your debt." (The debt part is optional.)
I encourage you to collect an army of babysitters so that you will always have someone to call and need never test the boundaries of your friendships. Treat your sitters well, and they'll come back. Treat them very well, and they'll introduce you to their friends. Keep the refrigerator stocked, and when it's time to pay for a job well done, always round up generously.
We have done well to find a few sitters who are responsible and fantastic with our kids, and I loathe the day that they decide to move on to greener pastures. But until that day, hands off! Did I say that out loud? I meant, do let me know if you're in need of a babysitter, and I'll do my best to pretend I'm trying to find someone for you.