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Your Babysitter

As your child’s babysitter, I know a lot about you



Babysitting — one of the most undervalued, misunderstood, unpopular professions. Not many teens will say that they aspire to grow up and become babysitters.

But I ran a popular babysitting group from my home for over ten years. I’ve mentored and guided at least a dozen babysitters who called me for advice on how to set up a group or how to navigate sticky situations. Oh, and I’ve also changed more than 38,000 diapers.

Let me let you in on a secret: Your babysitter could likely succeed in many other professions. She’s talented and smart and has strong values. Your babysitter cares about your baby with more love than you’d ever imagine. She wants this relationship to work out well.

And… your babysitter is human. As in a human being with feelings and faults, preferences and pride, and even (gasp!) a life after babysitting hours are over.

I started babysitting because I was good with babies. And also, because I was madly in love with my eldest child and couldn’t imagine running out the door and leaving her in the hands of someone who would perhaps love her or perhaps just put up with her. There was a lack of quality babysitting options in my community at the time, and the clincher was when my daughter absolutely refused a bottle.

I learned a lot. For every issue your baby may have, I’ve got tips and tricks to handle it. Most were spontaneous discoveries, gifts from Hashem.

I learned that there are many ways to rock a baby; short and quick or long slow strides. I can even do both at once; with one hand on one stroller and my foot on another stroller. I learned how to spoon-feed three kids at once. And finally, I learned how to preempt the need for that by studying a child’s cues and catching them before they cry.

I’ve discovered that for a child to feel comfortable with me, he needs to know that I can feed him. For a bottle-fed child, there must be an adequate supply of milk. Stop looking at me like that…. I know you can’t pump three bottles, but if that’s what your baby goes through, then you need to supplement.

On that note, please send food your child will actually eat. (My favorite was one baby who liked cold leftover cholent.) There were some parents who sent food their baby disliked thinking that I’d be better at getting chicken mush down than they were. I don’t mind trying, but please don’t be as stubborn as your baby!

A few sweet, considerate parents only sent finger foods so that I wouldn’t have to spoon feed the baby. If these types of foods are satisfying for your baby, then wonderful — much appreciated.

Except for the rare occasion in which a child is a misfit for the group, I can handle the most difficult baby. Did you know that it’s often a difficult parent and not the baby who drives a babysitter over the edge? There’s not much you can do about your baby’s behavior. But what you can do is make sure that you’re a dream parent. Believe me, it will only help your baby.

The best parents send ice coffee and a fresh muffin on a random morning. They make eye contact and treat me as a friend. They answer the phone if I call in the middle of the morning, and pay one day before payment is due. They gift according to their means, and write heartfelt notes that show me that they’re really millionaires. They send enough packages of Puffs for the entire group. When they close the front door, I whisper in their baby’s ear that they have the best mom in the world.

Average parents make comments like, “She falls at home too” when their kid gets a boo-boo. They say, “I forgot her favorite blanket. I sent an extra pacifier, but I forgot a change of clothing.” They scribble, “Thanks a mil” on the envelope of their payment. You’re so normal, and I love it because you, too, are forgiving when it is I who lost a sock or forgot the bib. Her PJs are cute, I’ll change her after she eats. We smile and share joint nachas as we’re both exhausted from the same little darling.

The terrible, horrible parent says things like, “Whose child scratched MY child?” Sorry, I won’t tell you. “Where’s the bangle she had on her hand this morning?” Umm did it ever slip off at home? Oh, it did? Interesting... Your baby is a prince, but you’re spoiled, rigid, or maybe just stressed. It’s going to take serious work on my part to not let my feelings toward you trickle down to your innocent baby. “So we’re pulling out on Erev Pesach and aren’t paying for Pesach.” No problem. Please, just go!

As your child’s babysitter, I know a lot about you. I can tell when you’re expecting your next baby — months before you put on maternity. I’ve noticed that many women get “Mama Bear Syndrome” while pregnant (I can relate). When that happens, I cut you some slack and grow thick skin. I record nachas moments. I keep a “gemach” of extra baby supplies for the harder days.

It’s my pleasure to be here for you. Just please be self-aware enough to know that you’re feeling emotional and overprotective. A few months down the line, it’s nice when, with tears in your eyes, you’re able to verbalize a thank-you.


The Biggest Compliment I ever Received:

“It’s calmer here than in my home with one baby!”


Jaw Dropper:

“Are you still babysitting?!” when you meet me years later. ’Cuz I’ll answer, “What about you… are you still at that firm?” What’s up with the incredulousness and pity? It makes me feel that I have poor judgment.


Never Say:

“My baby slept just fine last night” if he didn’t. I know the truth from your baby’s behavior, never mind the bags under your eyes. I’ll be able to collaborate with you better if you admit, “My baby is teething, off schedule, and very sleep-deprived.”


Never Ever Say:

“I only believe in giving one dose of Tylenol because too much pain relief is not good for him. I need to give it to him at night, so I didn’t put it in his bag for the morning.” Lady, I’m not here to drug up your kid, but seriously — do you want him to be in pain? Remember, I can’t take him for a drive or a walk in his stroller, and I only have two hands.


Nicest Thing Anyone Said to Me:

“My, is that your baby? Wow, what a cute kid! How adorable!” One of the reasons I’m babysitting is because I’m madly in love with this child of mine. A look in her direction as you pick up your own darling earns you big-time brownie points.


Trust Is a Must

Your baby can sense whether or not you’re comfortable. By all means, do your due diligence — research, and speak to references. But once you’ve decided to send to my group, please stop the checking out. The less confidence you have in me, the less happy your baby will be, and then you’ll have reason to be less confident. Feel free to stand outside my door and you’ll hear his cry of separation stop almost instantly.


Methods, Not Madness

Your baby is smarter than you think and can learn that Morah’s got one style and Mom has another. Please don’t panic if I give him the bottle before his nap instead of after. I appreciate an educated mom, and I’m pleased that you’re well-read and have found the prize parenting method. I’ll even read the book you swear by (although it’s hard to find a parenting book I haven’t read.) Still, please bear in mind that most methods don’t take group dynamics into account.


You Probably Never Realized That:

I don’t get a coffee break! I only have a few minutes before my older kids come through the door, and I must sit down and have a drink, so please pick up on time.


Heartwarming Moment

I needed to cancel babysitting once (this was once in ten years, when I was coughing up blood). One busy mom actually sent me food for Shabbos!


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 763)

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