Free Babysitting…And Why I Turned It Down
My Free Babysitting Offer
Babysitting – first, can I say that the word “babysitting”is not something I care for anyone to do? To simply “sit with baby” isn’t what I would want to pay someone for. But care for, play with and truly interact with my kids, that is something parents deeply desire. A babysitter allows for parents to create space for themselves. To carve out time to get non-kid things done, and the opportunity to reconnect.
Since we travel full-time, I don’t have a long list of sitters in every State. I don’t have my go-to sitter to allow for Nathan and me to “get away” from the children and do our own thing. (Well…except for in Austin – more on that later).
Recently we visited with some wonderful friends in Minneapolis Minnesota. I’ve known Holly for a while now, and this was our first opportunity for us to meet her husband Jer. As the wonderful hospitable hosts they are, they offered on multiple occasions to watch the girls so we could take a break and have some alone time.
And I Turned It Down
But I kept putting it off. It nagged at me a bit, as I had this dangling carrot of free babysitting in front of me. We’ve had the offers before from friends along our travels, and it’s super rare that we’ve actually done it. For anyone who has kids, though, you recognize how big of a deal it is to have a sitter.
Back in Nashville, I remember Nathan and I going out on a “date night” and my best friend babysitting the girls. (We had this monthly exchange where we would swap out babysitting for those crazy late nights when you cringe to pay someone to sit and watch TV on your couch while your kids are in bed). We calculated that, with the six hours we were gone, plus the ridiculous pricey meal, plus the 3-D movie we went to (we go to the movies maybe twice a year), we would have spent over $200 for one “date night”.
Babysitting: The Good…and Not
So there are pros and cons to babysitting:
- You allow other people to be fully focused on your kids – a win-win for someone to engage in play and fun and get paid for it, and your kids to have some new, focused attention.
- It gives you a break from “parent-mode” to really focus on non-kid tasks, or your relationship with other adults.
- It can be expensive.
- It’s more coordinating schedules – which is stressful in and of itself.
Sometimes it’s not worth the hassle. But for date night…this is important. It’s important to create space for your relationship. We have to allow for time for the two of us to connect outside of the parenting world. Babysitting does this.
I don’t have a babysitter on the road – so I needed to jump on this opportunity for free babysitting, right?
Maybe “Babysitting” Isn’t Just a Person, OR a TV
Babysitting has many faces. In our life, we don’t have a person. Yet we have opportunities when our children are occupied every single day. So although I much appreciated the offer to watch our children so Nathan and I could have some one-on-one time, I recognized this: we’ve created that space for 1-1 time every day, so it wasn’t lacking.
We have our “date night” times:
- Early morning as we sip our coffee before the kids wake.
- Middle of the day as we brush past each other and stop to hug/kiss…and the world stops around us.
- Evening as our kids are running around the campsite, playing in hammocks and lost in their own world, and Nathan and I get lost in conversation. We aren’t always “on” for our kids. We encourage them to do their own thing.
- And every night, as we tuck the girls in bed and devote that time for us to be at our most intimate and connected.
At least four times a day, we break to connect. We also work as a team to tackle the other things that need to get done. He watches the girls while I work and I have the girls while he goes for a mountain bike ride. He stays with some while I take one on a date for our special time and I watch the others while he and one walk the dog and “go stalking” (last week they called up three owls that would not leave us alone!)
This Beautiful Life
We are together all the time. Yet we allow for separation. We may be in close quarters, but I don’t feel we are lacking. I get the offer of “a break”, and yet I feel so fulfilled that it isn’t necessary. We had the privilege of choosing to visit with our friends all together vs. leaving our children to get our rare 1-1 time together. And even during this time, we spent half the day at a playground where our children played in absolute bliss, and we dove into deep adult conversations, just the four of us. We had our double date, no babysitting and schedule coordinating involved.
I paint a perfect picture here of an unhurried life where we are always together and have those times to connect. I recognize this isn’t possible for many families. The transient lifestyle has created a whole different world for us. But I was once in that other world as well – different schedules, high stress, and constantly going…
Some Caregivers Required
Babysitting was essential for us. I needed it to get my work done, and there were times Nathan and I relished the opportunity. So for those of you who need that break, let me suggest a few things to help you navigate the babysitting waters:
- Look at what is the best use of babysitting time – what can you absolutely not do with kids easily? Run those errands, get focused work accomplished, or check out the non-child-friendly restaurant you’re wanting to go to?
- Utilize friends – do a “babysitting swap” like I did with my friend – one night a month Nathan would stay with our kids and I would go to her house for a late night, and vice versa – it was a win/win, as I could sit in a house with sleeping babies and focus on what I wanted to do (work, chill, a chick-flick, henna), and they could get a free night out on the town.
- Swap playdates – where every playdate doesn’t have to be an obligatory socializing event for the parents – let it be more free babysitting while you’re kids are having fun with friends and everyone is occupied!
- Add in the no-kid couples who enjoy children and would love to have some time to play with them – they are so important in our lives.
- Remember family – maybe they don’t have a weekly date at grandma’s house, but…maybe they do. If you have family close-by, sometimes even though intentions are good that they’ll spend time with your family, it doesn’t happen. Can you plan a regular date for them – weekly, monthly? Sometimes the opportunities to stay with an aunt/uncle or grandparents is a treat for everyone, and allows them to connect with family while you do your thing.
- If you do pay for a sitter, pay them well. They are strangers who you have gotten to know for the sole sake of them devoting time to your children. Screen them and get to know them as if you were hiring your most important personal assistant. They are caring for your precious treasures. I will pay for quality care; someone who doesn’t just sit idle while my kids do their thing, but who gets in there with them and makes it a magical experience. Like our prized sitter in Austin, who spends a day running around the playground with them, or transforming our garden into a magical fairyland with signs and houses. What she has poured into the girls is worth every cent we’ve paid her.
- Remember – babysitting doesn’t just have to be a scheduled, coordinated, you-away-from-your-house type of thing. When can you bring in those moments to steal away even with children around? Before they wake, after they are in bed, or when they are so engrossed in play — their creativity is babysitter enough?
So Holly and Jer, thank you for the kind and generous offer of watching our children.
I’m so glad to have friends that would support that for Nathan and me. And I’m grateful for the fact that we are fulfilled in our need for this, and that we chose to spend more time with you two instead. If you’re looking for more freedom and not just hoping for retirement, check out Holly’s site for some awesome tips and inspiration.
My sister-in-law once had a business that was all about helping moms “take a break from those you love so you can love them better.” I loved the idea…and I recognize those breaks can be in so many ways. I felt refreshed from a double date day with the girls and our friends, and we all had the opportunity to steal away and do what we wanted. In the end, what we wanted most was to all be together!
If you are just feeling overloaded and overwhelmed, where a babysitter sounds like absolute bliss so you don’t have to even think about someone else, take a listen to our podcast this week: Head Clutter and the Chaos of Overwhelm
Take time for yourself this week. Allow for breaks from parenthood, however you need to go about it. But don’t get to the point you’re begging for anyone to watch your kids. Don’t make decisions out of desperation. Unfortunately, not everyone has your children’s best interests at heart. So be intentional. Make space for it on a regular basis, so you can have that valuable time with your kids be refreshed and excited to connect.