Three Unexpected Ways to Use a Babysitter

published Sep 26, 2021
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Credit: Leela Cyd

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My children are small — 4 and a newly minted 2-year-old! We’ve survived the baby years and won gold medals at what feels like the parenting Olympics —  juggling work, childcare, and COVID for the past year and a half. We are lucky enough to be able to afford the occasional hiring of a small circle of vaccinated sitters. I’m booking one every couple of weeks for a few hours to take a much-needed breath. Even two hours can go a long way. 

I’ve found that the traditional “date night” is too much for us. We are fried by the end of the week, both turning into pumpkins around the 6 p.m. hour as we near the finish line for the bedtime routine. The last thing we feel like doing is dressing up, acting alive, and eating an expensive meal while paying someone to put our kids to bed. But luckily, we’ve found a solution that works so well that I had to share with my fellow brothers-and-sisters in arms (other parents!). 

A sitter is not always in the realm of possibility for many parents, for financial reasons or otherwise. It is a privilege to be able to hire someone solely for a mental health break. Childcare should be infrastructure in our country but it simply is not. For a couple hours of time away, perhaps think beyond the traditional model and share a sitter with other parents (splitting the cost) or enlist a family member who also has children and alternate blocks of time.

I asked some other friends for their out-of-the-box babysitter tips too — here’s what we came up with:

Credit: Leela Cyd

The Sunday Sitter

Booking a sitter from 9 a.m. until noon on a Sunday morning is my new holy practice. My husband and I might go to a nice breakfast and then peruse an antique store — wherever those precious hours take us. The only rules are to go strictly to places our kids would melt down at (fancy restaurant, highly breakable shop) and to take our time. Other days we might do something separate, like meet a friend for a hike! The other person might go on a bike ride, and convene afterwards for coffee in a park. The things we did before we were parents are so crucial to revisit occasionally without packing diaper bags, hunting for endless snacks, and finding favorite sweaters. 

Recently, we maximized this weekend sitter arrangement by hosting our friends’ kids of similar ages. We piled them at our house with a sitter, and the adults jumped in the car, whooping with glee. After a hearty meal, a spin at a plant nursery, and an artisanal outdoor market, we found ourselves at the batting cages — nevermind it had been 20 years since any of us had really swung a bat — we (sorta) hit softballs with gusto to kill the last half hour of our double date. 

Try booking a weekend sitter for unexpected adventures. It puts you in a great mood for the day and you actually have energy to tackle the many things on the bucket list. 

The Trip Recovery Sitter

This genius tip comes from a parent of a toddler, Ellen O’Connell Whittet, who just got back from a small family gathering out of state. We all know “vacation” is a relative term when traveling with kids — I like to reframe and call these adventures “journeys” — and coming back from them takes a lot of effort! Between the laundry, the unpacking, and now with many schools/daycares requiring COVID tests, there are new logistical hurdles to surmount. All the while, parents are dragging from imperfect sleeping arrangements away from home. 

Booking a vacation recovery nanny for a few hours is luxe defined. Thank your future self for booking this little safe landing. Kids get the benefit of hanging out with a non-parent for a couple hours of energized fun while we can unpack, throw the laundry in, get stuff organized for the week ahead and maybe even have a couple hours of alone time to just wander aimlessly.

The Sitter Who Lets You Tackle a Task

This tip from interior designer, Julia Lake, and mother of three boys comes with a caveat — you have to have a premeditated specific task in mind and just do that! It’s called “staying on task” for a reason. Don’t try to do it all in a small time frame!

Take on the garage, clean the pantry, clear out a closet. Try to get your caregiver to get kids out of the house for this one and enjoy the solitude and satisfaction of getting something big off your list.

Credit: Leela Cyd

More genius babysitter recommendations

The collective parent consciousness has so many ideas on ways to take a break from kids. I learned a ton and am taking notes from this informal poll of my friends. We all need a rest, by ourselves, with our partner if we have, with friends. No family is the same but the want to nurture all parts of our being is universal — and will make us better parents when we carve out a little time away. Here are some highlights.

“I’ve literally gotten a sitter to go to the lake at night and skinny dip by myself and sit under the stars. It felt wrong not to take a dip when it was warm out on Lake Superior.” — Kate Lindello

“[I hire a] standing shared sitter with another mom, so that we can do some work, grocery shop, nap, go to an estate sale, or sit in my car listening to a podcast, eating croissants staring into the void doing absolutely nothing. It’s magic and worth every penny. — Kelly Christine Sutton

“We used a babysitter to go for long bike rides together at dawn.” — Elise Hanna

“Couples Therapy!” — anonymous

“We hired two sitters for a birthday party/bbq so the adults could relax and the kids were entertained.” — Miki Hashimoto

“Get kids out of the house with a sitter, then sneak back in so you can lay around to have some alone time.” — Julia Mayer