Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Good Babysitter Is Hard to Find...

Child #1 has become quite the in-demand babysitter around these parts. She’s mature, responsible, and actually plays with the kids, not to mention that in-between age where she’s too young to drive and have a really major social life, but is old enough to stay up late and be responsible with other people’s precious cargo. All of this adds up to the fact that she’s got a lot of steady jobs and that people fight for her Saturday-night services. Even Jim and I have to get in line if we want her to babysit for her brother, the boy known affectionately as child #2. Her clients treat her very well, stocking their refrigerators in anticipation of her arrival, pre-ordering pizza and anything else she might want to eat for dinner, and warning their children that they’ll be going to bed early and without fuss, lest they incur the wrath of the babysitter. To top it all off, she makes a small fortune, often getting upwards of $70 or $80 for a weekend stint.

Makes me want to reconsider my career path. But then I remind myself that I really don’t like kids, can’t stay up late, and am not that responsible. Better to leave it to the professionals.

But as she was taking off for one of her most recent gigs, I got to thinking about my days as a babysitter. A few things came to mind:

1. There were no television shows on after the 11:00 news with the exception of Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, and the Late, Late Movie on ABC which was always a movie about a babysitter who gets killed after the 11:00 news and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert ended.

2. Nobody ordered me any food. I was usually left with a brick of Velveeta, some “macaroni” (what pasta was called before it became fancy), and a jug of apple juice and told to wing it. One night, I ingested so much Velveeta that I proceeded to throw up the instant I walked in the front door of my own house. I have not eaten Velveeta since and just typing the word Velveeta makes me queasy.

3. The pay stunk. I was paid a dollar an hour, regardless of the number of children involved. That meant that sometimes, several families in the neighborhood would dump all of their kids on me at the same time, meaning that they each only paid about .33c an hour for me to watch their little darlings, none of whom were potty trained. One time, I had eight children. (Remember, this was in the day when people had more than 2.3 children per family.) They all needed to be fed, bathed, and put to bed. Oh, and there was a dog. Who also wasn’t potty trained. I went home with $4 that night, even though the house was cleaner than when the parents left and I had taught one of the kids French. But only the curse words.

4. It was the early days of Saturday Night Live. That means that I saw every classic skit, the first time it aired. I watched Dan Ackroyd play Julia Child, and John Belushi do “chee-burger, chee-burger.” And I saw Elvis Costello play his first American gig, singing “Watching the Detectives” in all of his skinny jeaned, pigeon-toed glory. I was in his thrall. When I wasn’t worried about getting slaughtered by a babysitter-killing axe murderer.

5. I kept the house dark. I thought it would be a good idea to turn all of the lights off while babysitting. You know, to let the babysitter-killing axe murderer know that nobody was home so don’t bother to come looking for the babysitter to kill. I didn’t account for the robbers who would love to let themselves into a vacant house and steal all of my aunt’s estate jewelry.(I babysat for my cousins on a regular basis.) No, that didn’t cross my mind.

6. I wasn’t allowed to use the phone, touch the thermostat, or fall asleep. That made for a conversation-starved, freezing and/or overheated, sleep-deprived teenager. Ever met one of those? They’re not much fun to be around.

Sound like hell? It was. That’s why I’m so glad that people nowadays, in their quest to live normal lives outside of their children and have relationships with their significant others, have come to value the services of a good babysitter.

So what are your babysitting stories? Please share.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Argh, I used to hate babysitting so I didn't do it often. But my mom loves to tell a story about a babysitter my siblings and I had when we were little. Apparently, I didn't like her because she had "mean eyebrows." I can't remember this woman at all, but I imagine her looking a little like Frida Kahlo.


  2. Funny blog and brings back lots of memories. In my babysitting days at first there was no TV only the radio.

    I got 50 cents an hour and was told not to get into the refrigerator. One place I went they left a glass of milk and a piece of pie or cake on the end table for me.

    I once had someone try to break in when I was babysitting at a police officer's home. He told me where his gun was and I started hollering that I had a gun and the person quit rattling the doorknob.

    Glad those days are over. I don't even babysit great grands unless it's a dire emergency.

    But I did raise a couple of grandkids.


  3. Had one house catch fire while I was babysitting. I refused to babysit after that. (It was an electrical fire - and I got all four kids out okay AND got a neighbor to call the fire dept and kids parents before I started to cry.)

    I remember SNL skits and the lack of TV options as well! I always had a book and there were some nights it was very hard to stay awake - but being scared of the Psycho style killers always worked wonders, didn't it?

  4. An electrical fire, Kessa, yipes! Talk about Adventures in Babysitting! Glad everyone was okay.