With the birth of my son, I don’t feel the anxiety I felt with my oldest when it comes to letting other people care for my children. Evan was probably five months old when we left him with a sitter for the first time; Penelope was two when we had the guts to entrust our child to someone who wasn’t a family member.
Learning to allow other people love your children is a difficult lesson to learn for some parents. We can sometimes get caught in a sort of tunnel vision, thinking that we have to be the sole care providers for our babies in order to be good parents. But burn out is a real problem for parents when they don’t have regular breaks away from home. And burn out leads to stressed out and cranky moms and dads.
Nine times out of ten, a happy parent leads to a happy child.
When Penelope was two, we started having our next-door neighbor come over and babysit. Megan had incredible credentials as a nanny for local families in the past, and she also knew our daughter on a personally. Penelope was always excited to spend time with Miss Megan.
Taking Penelope to preschool was another story. We started her out at Holy Communion Day School, a small Montessori program downtown, two mornings a week. The teachers there are amazing, and she already had several friends in her toddler class.
But that first month was so hard on her. I would have to pry her off of me, screaming and crying. Those drop-offs were tough, but her teachers insisted that she was fine after a few minutes. And she was all smiles and not wanting to go when it was time to pick her up after lunch. Over time, drop-offs became easy and tear-free.
With Evan, things are a bit trickier. When a sitter comes to stay with him, he seems as happy as a clam. When I take him to the nursery at church, he gives all the volunteers a run for their money with his screaming. No mom wants to see their child cry, but perhaps my tough veteran mom skin has helped get me through those rare (and short-lived) times.
I can’t adequately put into words how much I enjoy my free time. It gives me a chance to breathe, reset, and renew. To run errands without having to quickly rush through the store. To be me. And when it is time to reunite, everyone is happy.
As our kids have gotten older, Drew and I are so lucky to have had several trustworthy babysitters, as well as preschool teachers and nursery and Sunday school volunteers at church. We get so much peace of mind knowing that our kids are well-loved and cared for when we need to have some time away.
I want to pass along some of my knowledge to you, if you are having trouble putting your trust in someone else.
4 Tips for Finding a Caregiver:
- Ask your friends for recommendations. If you don’t have friends with kids, ask your moms group! These recommendations are worth their weight in gold.
- Interview the baby sitter and let them meet your kids. Ask them how much they typically charge and whether they expect a tip. It seems that $12 an hour is the going rate here in Charleston, but that rate can vary depending on the experience of the sitter, as well as how many kids they are watching. I typically pay $20/hour if they are watching both kids.
- Go with your gut. Did you like this person? Did you get a good feeling about them? Did you call any of their references if you found them online or through a nanny service?
- Leave a very detailed list of instructions, telling them about your child’s typical routine and where things are that they will need throughout the evening.