babysitterHow many babysitters does one need to have on their list in order to be certain one will always be available when you need one? A gazillion. This is what new parents learn, and it is shocking news.

Prior to becoming parents, we thought we’d still have a social life because we’d have relatives, friends, and paid sitters watch our kids while we went out. Parents start out having 2-3 people on their list of people to call to sit, and realize quickly how woefully inadequate this number is. Apparently it is statistically quite easy for 2-3 people to have their own social plans or other sitting gigs on a Saturday night. We quickly learned we needed at least  5 potential sitters on our list to have a snowballs chance in hell of getting childcare when we needed it. Notice 5 potential sitters does not guarantee you childcare, it just gives you fairly good odds. You will still have times you scramble.

For a while, to preserve a date night, from when Page was about one to two years old we hired a regular Saturday night sitter. Friends had suggested this to us as the only way to guarantee a sitter. It’s a great deal for the sitter because it sets up a regular gig for them so it is consistent financially. The down side for us was also that it was consistent financially.  It was expensive and we still had to find sitters any time we wanted to do something that didn’t fall on a Saturday night. But it did have the pro of building in a regular date night to help us stay connected as a couple, another whole separate parenting issue of its own…

The scramble for childcare is an ongoing part of parenting until the child can be left home alone. The dire times are the down-to-the-wire scramble. One time when Page was seven and we had a Saturday night dinner party to attend, I was still scrambling for childcare as of Saturday morning. I was desperately trying to pawn my child off on another family (several families… any family…) at that point because I had exhausted all relatives and sitter possibilities so had moved on to other families who we could barter a swap with, i.e., take Page Saturday and I’ll take your child another time. It’s a Desperation Dance people with children are very familiar with. Thankfully a neighbor was happy to do it (as was I happy to reciprocate and take her daughter the following week while they went to see a concert). Usually it all works out, though when you end up having to scramble and do the childcare desperation dance it is, truth be told, quite stressful.

When all else fails I suggest you take your children with you to the dinner party, have one spouse create a diversion when you arrive, and have the other spouse stash the kids in the basement with snacks, iPads, and promises of grand rewards if they make it through the evening undetected.

Originally published at chapelboro.com on July 17, 2013