Or, as I like to call it, “Why everyone who wants to be a parent someday should babysit (and not for the reasons that you think”).
I know what is going through your head. You think that I am going to advise you to do a lot of babysitting before becoming a parent so that you can see what it is like to be responsible for taking care of kids. How children can lead to levels of exhaustion and fear that would impossible to describe without having experienced it firsthand.
That is not what I am thinking at all.
I was just carrying my 28lb toddler while trying to simultaneously hold my kale smoothie (which he was drinking from my straw) and a covered cup of hot cocoa (The smoothie makes me cold! Hot beverages are dangerous around babies!) and I was thinking about how today my “work day” will be 10 hours long. Today, during my shift, I will be a cook, a cleaning person, a mediator, a clown, a nurse, an IT specialist, a detective, a photographer, a chauffeur, a dishwasher, an actor and a human jungle gym. I will not be getting paid.
I managed to get the smoothie, cocoa and kid safely up the stairs and my thoughts continued to swirl as I snatched tiny socks up off of the floor, straightened a mini bookshelf and changed a diaper. As I continued to do task after task, all while trying to keep my son, toothbrush and glasses out of the toilet and the toilet paper out of my son’s mouth, I had the same refrain echoing through my head:
“I used to get paid for this.”
And so, here is why I am now determined to spread the word to all of you: If you have yet to have children and plan to (either imminently or in the future) then take my word for this. Babysit. Babysit now. Do it as much as you can. It is an amazing job. This is why:
1. You get paid to play
Even if you have the best, most high-power job–you know, like one where you go to meetings and write emails (a friend once said it best when she explained that I do not totally understand a person’s job unless you can dress up as that person for Halloween)–I am sure that you can find a few minutes out of your week to play with some kids. You can give piggyback rides and play hide-and-seek and, at the end of your playtime, someone is going to hand money to you.
2. The Snacks
If you are babysitting, that means that you get to spend time in someone else’s home, which means that you get to raid someone else’s pantry. And, in all likelihood, a person with kids has good snacks. Of course you don’t buy Birthday Cake flavored Goldfish at home. You still shop at Whole Foods. But while babysitting you get to have snack time and enjoy double-stuffed Oreos, Pop Tarts and those little bags of gummy fruit (those are just examples of what is in my cabinet currently, but the possibilities are endless). And then there are meals. If you are babysitting during breakfast hours, imagine your cereal options. And what lunch is better than a PBJ with a juice box?
3. You a hero
As a babysitter, you do all of the things that parents simply do not have the time or energy to do. You do art projects. You make up creative games. You can take all of the receipts that you’ve been meaning to throw out of your purse and roll them into balls and throw them. That is a solid half-hour of entertainment, and you get to simultaneously “work” while knowing that someone else will be cleaning up your (literal) paper trail. You take kids to the park. You can pretend to be the bad guy. You let the kids use the bathtub as a pool. Because, why not? It’s fun.
And it’s only for 20 minutes.
Babysitting is especially lucrative because you get paid in cash. And not only do you get paid in cash, but you have an hourly rate, which means that if you are watching children for 3 hours and 15 minutes you will inevitably get paid for that entire extra hour. No one wants to piss off the babysitter.
5. You get to go home at the end of the day/night
As a babysitter, you are there for the honeymoon period. You aren’t responsible for cleaning up the giant mess that you and the kids have made because “you were having so much fun!” and so you just “ran out of time playing!”. You don’t have to be the main disciplinarian, as special rules apply when you are over (“Yes you can stay up an hour late, but just for tonight”). You may have to deal with some of the yucky realities of the different things that can come out of childrens’ bodies, but only for a bit. You can handle one nasty diaper. You can handle it because you can go home and pour yourself a drink and put your feet up, because what’s one diaper when you have Bravo to watch.
So, if you are someone who does not have children, I suggest that you babysit, as it is the second best job in the world. You get to receive wet kisses and warm snuggles and you are responsible for helping to shape a human being. You build bonds and you have inside jokes and you can eat yogurt from a tube. Babysit. Babysit whenever you can. Because someday, perhaps, you will have to do everything, and more, and you will be doing it without pay.
It really is only the second best job. I haven’t had all of the jobs (see above; I cannot be a consultant because what the hell does a consultant wear? A French Maid, however, I could be!) but I have worked professionally as a teacher and writer and I have performed as an actor and singer, but nothing in the world compares to the moment when you, as a parent, walk through the door, after your child has been with his babysitter, and your wild maniac of a toddler comes barreling towards you, chanting, “Mama! Mama!”
Yes, being a parent is the hardest job in the world. I see you brain surgeon shaking your head (by the way, I know how to dress up as you, so ha!). You are responsible for saving lives. Well, so am I. And not only am I responsible for making sure that my kids are safe, but also happy, secure and confident. I have to instill values and carry more weight than I ever could have imagined, both literally and figuratively.
I hope I have made myself clear and that you think of me when you are dunking your cookies in milk while playing Candyland and getting a big hug from little arms FOR PAY.
But, for now, I have must run; My son’s face is covered in a mixture of oreos and snot.
Is this part of motherhood fun? No. But is it worth it? Yes. Without a doubt.