Dinner was disastrous. The movie was looking miserable. I checked my phone every two minutes for a sign that our son had calmed down for the sitter. As usual, he’d gone bonkers the moment she hit the door, and when we left, he was screaming like we’d just told him the entire canine cast of Paw Patrol had been murdered. The mood of our date night had gone from romance, to guilty with a chance of anxiety.
“He’s fine,” my husband said.
“I know he’s fine, but I’d feel better with photo proof from the sitter.” (cough, needy, cough, cough)
Our family has had one hell of a run with babysitters. Once, our son was so distraught upon the arrival of a new sitter, he put himself to bed at 6:30 pm and told the poor woman to stay out of his room. He was four.
We’d tried it all.
We’d tried preparing our son early, giving him a few days’ notice when he was having a sitter. That only seemed to extend the misery – “I don’t waaaaant you to go out to dinner in threeee daaaays!’
We’d tried springing the sitter on him right before she came over. Results were catastrophic – he squeezed a week’s worth of fury into 30 minutes.
We were starting to think it just wasn’t worth it to go out, sans munchkin.
“He’s pretty good in restaurants. Maybe next time, we just bring him?”
“How firm do you think the ‘no kids’ policy is at Chez Fancy?”
A text! “Everything’s great here! We’re eating pizza and watching a show. All smiles”
(accompanying photo with toothy grin)
I’m happy to report that we’ve since turned a corner on the babysitter front. No drama, no tears, even some excitement to share a new game or discovery with our favorite sitter. An even greater shock, when we moved into our new neighborhood in Austin, an amazing neighbor introduced herself, and BROUGHT HER SITTER WITH HER, just in case I ever needed some help. I suspected this was a trap – I’ve literally had other moms tell me they’d rather share their husbands than share a good sitter – but no, just friendly Austin neighbor behavior.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Date Night (tips if your kid hates babysitters):
- New sitter? Ask him/her to come over for a visit, to meet everyone and play with the kids for a few minutes. You can also use this time to go over emergency numbers, schedules, etc., so everyone’s on the same page for the real deal.
- Talk positively about the sitter, going out, the fun they’re going to have. This is not the time to sob, “mama misses you so much when I’m gone.”
- Read books about kids who have babysitters, nannies, etc.
- You know who’s not above a bribe? This gal. If letting your little one choose a special dinner, treat, game, or movie gets you to your date night margarita faster, do it!
- Be ready to leave the minute the sitter arrives (easier said than done, I know, but better to curl your lashes in the Uber than to deal with a cling-bot toddler who freaks out when the doorbell rings).
- Say goodbye to your little one/s, give one hug, then get the hell out of dodge. Don’t sneak out, and don’t fall for the “one more hug” quicksand trap – you won’t get out alive. You want your children to know you’re trustworthy. “When my parents say they’ll leave, they leave, and when they say they’ll come back, they come back.”
- Let the sitter know if/how you want her to check in. If you won’t be able to relax and enjoy your appetizers until you get a text that your child is doing well (needy mama here, guilty as charged) tell her that. If you don’t want a phone call unless there’s blood or fire, let her know.
- Tip generously. You want this person to come back, right?