Asking for help is hard, Chapter 2: Momma needs a sitter.

We love raising our kids close to Lake Michigan in a city like Grand Rapids, it’s just right for us. The only problem is that our parents live in our hometown, 2 ½ hrs away. The distance was once considered a sanity buffer, but now that we have 2 kids, grandparents living within a half-hour would be celebrated. Hell, I would probably be working part-time if that were the case. But, it’s not in the cards for our life right now.
Stage 1 of Parenthood: Find an excuse to visit the grandparents so they can relieve you for a few hrs. Our 1st baby was transported across the state rather flawlessly. Usually slept in the car the both ways, and when we would spend the weekend in our home town, our folks would fight over who would get to babysit while we went out with our friends. Occasionally, when we’d require a night out in GR, we would call & ask a Grandparent or Aunt to come out and they wouldn’t blink an eye. As the baby grew into a toddler, the new-baby smell was gone, so family stopped jumping at the chance to visit. My oldest also didn’t enjoy the car rides as often, and occasionally screamed bloody murder after an hour trapped in her carseat. She was so strong too, there were times we were literally both fighting her with all our strength to get her strapped in again. We quickly learned that we simply had to crank up the music and GET HOME instead of stopping to give her (and us) a break. Once we added baby #2 to the mix, traveling in general became a giant pain in the ass. So, we sucked it up for awhile and either put the kids to bed ourselves before we would go out & leave them with a family-member, went out by ourselves (and usually felt guilty about leaving the other behind) but essentially, stopped going anywhere without our children.

Talk about needing a beer. Let’s be honest: some days, Momma needs more than A beer.

One of the many times my lovely neighbor was helping me out, she discovered that the hubs and I hadn’t gone out kid-free in a long time. I can’t remember how, but I’m sure it was written all over my wiped-out face. The next time she picked up my daughter at school, she put a small note in her backpack. “Here is the number for the best babysitter in the world… GO ON A DATE!!” She told me that she met her sitter at church, and she was studying to be an RN at Calvin College. Ok, so she sounds perfect, but come on, how great can she really be? I put the note on my fridge and there it sat for several months. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my daughters with a young girl I never met; my oldest was VERY difficult to get ready for bed, not to mention, refused to potty train. And my youngest loved nursing so much, she refused to take a bottle until she was 8 mos old. Plus, since I am a stay at home mom, I didn’t feel I deserved, or could afford to dump my kids on someone else. It is my job, and if I need a night off, I should suck it up, or try to get a family member to do it for free.

One night, during my family’s after-dinner walk around the neighborhood, we walked past our neighbor’s house and our sitter came running out with our oldest’s best friend to say hi. Our sitter was so friendly and told us that she had a standing job there on Fridays & occasional Saturdays, so if we ever wanted to drop the kids off just to get dinner alone on a night she was already babysitting the neighbor, just say the word. The hubs & I looked at each other and almost threw our kids and ran at that very moment. How perfect is that for a “test-run”? We waited a week until we took her up on her offer. When we left, our youngest lost it, but our sitter told us she calmed down within a minute after we left and went back to her happy self. And, she said it was actually easier than watching just one child because the older two entertained each other. After a few test-runs, we were hooked.

At first, we used our sitter on a need-only basis, just like we did with our family. Work-related events where spouses were invited, things like that, then, a Silversun Pickups concert came to a venue a few minutes from our house… when tickets went on sale, we realized we could actually go, with friends, because we had a SITTER! I don’t think I truly understood the value of a sitter until we found one that we really loved, who we felt loved our kids, wanted to play & spend time with them and who we felt comfortable enough to trust with our girls. We now feel that our sitter is a part of our family and call her at least a couple times a month. Sometimes, we don’t even have a plan; it’s just good to hire her so we can get out of the house without our 2 attachments. It is one of those priceless sanity-savers I don’t know how I ever lived without!!

One final note: I babysat a lot of kids when I was a teenager. I was the oldest of 4 girls, I suppose it was in my blood. One family I babysat had 4 kids, the youngest (who was 2 when I started babysitting them) is graduating from high school this year, the oldest is married & graduating from law school this weekend – they make me feel old, but very proud, and to this day, they treat me as a part of their family, and I feel the same way. The father helped my husband get a job at IBM in Tucson, and is my oldest’s Godfather. I could talk to both of them about anything and everything. They always told me how grateful they were for giving them a LIFE when I started babysitting. Recently, they told me that once I moved I was irreplaceable, which warms my heart. I didn’t realize just how important I was to them until we were facing the same situation. Let me tell you, not only has it helped my children grow, but having a few hours to yourself and being able to reconnect – uninterrupted & unfiltered – with the person you will spend the rest of your life with has made me a much better Momma AND wife!

Do you have a sitter in your life? Do yourself a favor, and talk to friends & coworkers who have kids. They may have a sitter they love that you could piggyback on for an evening. Get involved in your school, church, community, etc; seek out neighbors who have teenagers you would trust. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your children with a sitter who will have to put them to bed, just hire them for 2 hrs so you can have a nice dinner alone for a change. A night off, even if it’s just once a month is so vital for every Mom’s sanity.

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