Motherhood

Getting a Babysitter for the First Time

Getting a Babysitter for the First Time

When Toby was a couple months old, Alex and I asked a sitter to come over so we could take an evening bike ride. But before we left, my heart in my throat, I gave her a laundry list of details about the baby. I was such a nervous new mom! Raquel D’Apice (of The Ugly Volvo fame) writes about this phenomenon in her new book Welcome to the Club, and it made me laugh out loud…


Hello! Thank you so much for watching little [Insert Baby’s Name Here] while we are out eating a hurried-yet-romantic dinner/seeing a movie for the first time in months/attempting to enjoy some higher form of “culture” while checking our phones every fourteen seconds to see if there are any messages from you. [Insert Baby’s Name Here] is almost always happy and relaxed and should give you almost no problems, but just in case we have given you detailed notes to ensure that things go smoothly!

[Insert Baby’s Name Here] usually goes to bed without a problem, as long as her bedtime routine is executed flawlessly and without variation.

6:00-7:34 Dinner. It’s very important to us that she gets a good serving of fruits and vegetables! In the fridge is a container of organic, homemade zucchini quinoa and ricotta fritters. Cut two of them up into small (pea-size or smaller) pieces, mix with brown rice, and allow her to sprinkle it on the floor before giving her Cheerios or a mozzarella stick. If she clamors for a cookie, she is not allowed to have one unless she has eaten one-eight of a fourth of the mozzarella stick. We are super strict about this!

7:34-7:48 Bathtime. Bath toys are in a mesh bag under the sink. She is super great about bathing, but FYI, doesn’t like having water touch her skin, so please be mindful.

7:48-8:00 She will want to sit in the rocking chair while listening to the Eagles (note: NOT “HOTEL CALIFORNIA”). She’ll be most comfortable if you sing along with most of the songs. If you don’t know the lyrics, the three-ring binder with typed-out Eagles lyrics is on the bottom left-hand corner of the bookshelf.

8:00-8:37 Read her The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over, but skip the pages where the caterpillar is eating things other than fruits and vegetables. (Don’t want to set a bad precedent!)

8:37-8:39 Change her diaper and either brush her teeth or casually forget to do this.

8:40-?? Rock her in the rocking chair with the lights off. If at any point she seems anxious or confused or indifferent please text me so I can incessantly worry about it! Thx!


Welcome to the Club by Raquel D'Apice

Were you also a total nutcase when you first left the house without your baby? (Also, check out Raquel’s open letter to the female hat-wearing dog in Go, Dog, Go, which is so, so good.)

P.S. The crazy things you do as a parent.

(Excerpt from Welcome to the Club, published with permission.)

  1. Megan says...

    So funny! So true! Another amazingly hilarious book about new motherhood you’ve got to check out is “Mama Tried” by New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake:

    http://www.emilyflake.com/mama-tried/

    Seriously. You won’t regret it – I LOL’d so many times and it’s cartoons would make a great blog post! (Full disclosure – I’m a playground friend of Emily and her amazing daughter Tug – but even if I weren’t I still would have LOL’d reading Mama Tried) 😄

  2. Kim says...

    When I went back to work my daughter was only a few months old. My father watched her in the mornings. The first day, I left him a one-page, typed, single-spaced list of instructions- which he threw in the trash as soon as I left. When I found the list in the garbage later later and asked him about it, he was like, “I raised you and you’re fine.” That made me relax. A little.

  3. Yes! Haha! I left a diagram on how to SWADDLE a baby and list of activities L loved. I was a total nutcase/nervous first time mom. I even set out her bouncer and showed the sitter how it worked, even though there were only 2 buttons – vibrate and music.

  4. Ugh I never thought I’d be a mother who had a hard time leaving her baby with a sitter…but I am! So far I’ve left her with her father, my mother, and my sister-in-law. Now that she’s 8 months old, the instructions I leave them with are sparser…and sometimes I don’t even text to see how things are going! But the Moms Club chapter I’m a part of recently hosted a babysitters meet and greet, and while I met some very lovely and seemingly competent sitters there, it feels SO unsettling to leave my baby with a virtual stranger!

    • Woah Mom’s club chapter hosted a babysitter meet & greet?! That sounds amazing! Here I am filtering internet ads for sitters based on hobbies they’ve listed. Gosh, my neighborhood needs to step it up!

  5. Lisa says...

    The first time we tried leaving my son was a disaster. We left him with my mom (grandmother to 5, teacher of many decades) and with a bottle of carefully pumped milk. He woke up as we walked out the door, so she gave him the milk which ended up everywhere (but in the baby’s mouth). We managed one drink. The next time was a couple of months later when I left him with my husband to go out for a friend’s birthday drinks. It was AWESOME wearing something non breast feeding (!) and carrying the world’s smallest bag with stuff only I needed (!!). But – I spent the whole 1.5 hours I was at the drink showing people pictures of him, thinking about him and missing him like crazy

  6. Lula says...

    Our babysitter works at our daycare and we may be a little too comfortable because the first time we left our son at about 6 months we rushed out the door after showing her where everything was kept without giving her our phone numbers, emergency numbers, or telling her where we’d be. I had to text her a short while later, after I’d realized my mistake.

  7. Tovah says...

    Can’t wait to read this book! I ordered my copy!

  8. Cindy lucarotti says...

    HILARIOUS! My kids are now 33 and 35 and it still rings true!

  9. Chiara says...

    When I came back to work after my maternity leave I was lucky enough to be able to count on the help of my morther, but I gave her a sort of booklet entitled “Matteo Leonardo: instructions for use”, where I had specified every sort of information about my son’s habits and needs and how to act in almost every circumstances

  10. That’s so funny! I’m not a mom, but I can definitely imagine being exactly like that when the time comes!

  11. Daria says...

    It is hilarious indeed, but I have to say I don’t recognize myself in it – my daughter is 2 months old and we have been going out without her since she was one week old, and never really worried – we have two really great trained nurses who sometimes stay the night (they work at an actual hospital with babies) and they know about babies far more than we do – I am much calmer when my daughter is with one of them than when my parents in law or my mom are babysitting! I just think you have to find the right person… NB we live in Paris, France, so it is of course easier when you live in a big city.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome!!! we adored our babysitter, too, and i trusted her with all my heart (of course:) but i was so wobbly as a new mother. i would still text her constantly while we were out. luckily, she was so indulgent and would text me photos of them together and calm all my nerves.

  12. Barbara says...

    The first time I left the house was for a restorative yoga class (I was rather mangled after giving birth and needed it desparately). My husband was staying with our son, so not even a sitter.
    I kept my phone right next to me (during yoga.!) and checked it constantly.
    I was, in fact, thinking about the baby so intensively, I made my breasts leak so badly (drops falling down), I had to leave early.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a sweet new mother moment! it’s so hard! :)

  13. Tamsin says...

    My Mum sat for our 9 month old last weekend, and it was a parent’s dream! After Mum’s first attempt two months ago (4hours of solid crying) she spent two days in advance taking careful notes of everything I did with Hattie so she could replicate my strategies exactly! They had a lovely day together in the end, so thanks Mum for being a superstar babysitter!

  14. Yen says...

    I had the same experience when we had to change to a different nanny when our son turned 2. I had our kitchen and living room walls taped with papers full of reminders and instructions. My friend had a good laugh when she visited. I guess, I was her first or only friend who did that.

  15. Lol, still am. We rarely leave our three kids home with other people. We miss them too much.

  16. Alexus says...

    *sigh* My son is almost six and we are just now sort of beginning to maybe start to consider thinking about leaving him with a non-family-member, actual hired and paid babysitter. I’m fully aware that this is ridiculous.
    Someone smack me please.

    • Christina says...

      We have four kids, our oldest is 8 and we have never left them with anyone other than family and very close friends. And I’m perfectly ok with that.
      *I fully get that it’s a privilege to have family close to us and not everyone has that as a reality.

    • Anitra says...

      My kids are 6, 5 & 5 (Twins) and I’ve never left them with non-family either.

    • Bec says...

      Ha! I love this comment. We are our own worst enemies sometimes aren’t we?! My oldest is 5 and I’m wondering why we haven’t gone down the pay-the-babysitter route yet. Let’s do it!

    • Connie says...

      not ridiculous at all! I’m with you. i have a 3.5 and 4 month old. i would not smack you:)

    • Linda K says...

      Virtual smack. Do it now. I say this as someone who has an 11 year-old and an 8 year-old who have never had a non-family babysitter. I’m an idiot. At this point, I’m just waiting for my eldest to be legally allowed to babysit….

  17. When your kid has a serious heart condition no one wants to baby sit for you! We adopted her at age 3.5, and had no family support. She didn’t have a sitter until she was 5 with our Grandparent-wannabe across the street neighbors, with few worries from us!
    Someone needs to make a video regarding Grandparents. If your child happens to be the youngest ( mine now 13, the oldest 36) you get the Cliff Notes version of Granparenting. The Oldest grandchild in my family was seen almost daily, showered with gifts and attention. My child as the youngest sees them maybe fours times a year!!

  18. Sarah says...

    I don’t often leave my toddler with a babysitter. Not because I’m worried about him, but because I’m worried about the babysitter. The kid’s a handful!

  19. Jennifer says...

    I babysat a lot of newborns as a teenager. After I had my first baby, I thought, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t do half of the stuff I am doing now with any of those newborns! WHAT WAS I DOING?!”

    Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Seriously, were they just sleeping the whole time?? That can’t be right. I don’t remember frequent feeding or changing or waking up. Maybe I just have a bad memory!

    • Sue says...

      Same here! There didn’t seem to be much for me to do with the kids (of all ages) that u babysat as a teenager. But when I have my two g’kids (4 and 2), I don’t even seem to have time to go to the bathroom!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i KNOW! when i was 13, i babysat regularly for infant twins in our michigan subdivision. i must have had NO clue what i was doing!

  20. Ha ha this is hilarious and true, but here in India grandparents help so mothers are usually happyct be rid of their child for a break.

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  21. sarah says...

    This makes me so sad that people don’t go out with friends, or with their significant other for months (or years!) on end. My husband and I get a babysitter about every two weeks to just go out and grab dinner alone. When we leave my son’s already in his crib, and we don’t go in unless he’s crying, which he does before falling asleep about once a year, so he likely doesn’t even know we’re gone. I still tell him the deal before we leave though just in case :) To each their own, but my husband and I get along so much better if we have some grown up time alone every so often!

  22. In our case, grandparents on both sides were in other countries, so that was out. We asked around and were referred to a local woman. It was great–when she couldn’t make it, she would find us someone else, and insist they get the same amount she did (which was very low–€5 an hour, and €25 for the night if it went past midnight). She was totally fine–she worked at the preschool by day.
    I never expected her to fix dinner, though. I always had my kid’s dinner cooked and ready to go (including the right-size bites, which progressively got bigger with age). And we left food for the baby sitter. Duh. Though she never touched it.
    Eventually, our kid got bigger and didn’t want somebody from the PRESCHOOL to babysit, so we turned to local teens. But it was a constant turnover–they usually were too scared to be in a house alone at night until they were about 15, then they got their driver’s licenses at 18 (France) and that was the end of babysitting.

  23. t says...

    I think i was losing my mind and needed down time but i never felt this way (even when they were first born). We always told (and still tell) babysitters to do whatever they need to do to keep our kids alive and happy. If that means ice cream for dinner or movies on TV to keep them from running with scissors then that is fine with me. I feel that if we get to have fun they can have fun. We left our twins home to vacation in croatia for 10 nights before they turned 1. We needed a break.

    but if leaving your child is going to make you bananas then that is counter-intuitive too. whatever works.

    • Eva says...

      Can’t say I’ve felt that way either.Twins here too. They’re 8 months and we’re leaving them for 4 nights next week for a proper break. We have no family support so have had no option but to get babysitters in order to get any kind of time off. I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s a twin thing but there are a lot of things that I know I would do differently and be much more anxious about if I only had one baby,am just in survival mode and anyone willing to help (paid or otherwise) is most welcome!

  24. Ugh. Still haven’t done the babysitter thing yet (kids are 2 and 3) – just grandparents and our preschool does some parents-night-out nights where the teachers watch the parents for a few hours at school. Which is totally amazing. But this still made me giggle! Sounds like a great book.

  25. Klara says...

    Oh I’d love to get this book as a gift for mums and dads to be! :o)

    Well, for the past 2 years I have been the babysitter! A lot of friends had their first babies and had difficulties leaving the kids in someone elses care, other than the grandparents. I offered to babysit, which made the transition to a “strange” babysitter easier for every one of them (the parents, that is ;o)).

    So, for new parents who are frightened of getting a babysitter for the first time: first ask a friend to babysit!

  26. The first time we had a sitter was this year. My kids are almost 5 and almost 3. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves! We had some shopping to do that needed to be done child-free. Boring landscaping stuff that we had to pay attention to and not deal with someone looking at the other one.

  27. Chantel says...

    I am the WORST when it comes to leaving my kids. They just turned 4 and 2 and I still don’t feel comfortable leaving them with anyone other than their grand parents! Well meaning friends have offered as has my sister but none of them have children and for some reason this totally freaks me out. Maybe it’s the questions or comments they make that make me uneasy. Like my good friend who upon mentioning that my 2 month old was maybe fussy from the tacos we had eaten said (with 100% seriousness), “So, how do you feed your baby tacos??”! Brain immediately says, uh, maybe not a suitable babysitter! Which is unfortunate because they are lovely people.

  28. Polly says...

    My 20 month old does great with family, but he has never done well with anyone else. Baby brother is coming any day and I’m terrified of the hospital stay simply because I don’t know how my first born will sleep the night or survive without mom for 2 days. I’m the, “Here, diaper bag, sippy cup, hopefully he eats something or possibly takes a nap with you, ha ha” mom, but this just is eating me up! But my mom, who is my grounding influence, reminds me that even if he doesn’t sleep 2 nights, he will survive. True. I think most all of this very hilarious article is very first mom oriented. Thank goodness kids are more flexible than we give them credit for!

  29. KN says...

    I knew a woman who actually did this. Huge three ring binder with instructions for every moment, every possible problem, anything that could possibly happen. She left it with a family friend who was watching her kids for one night, and who just happened to have successfully raised 6 thriving and healthy children on her own!!

  30. Kellie P. says...

    I was so nervous about it I convinced my husband to build me a little office/cabin in the backyard and my employer to let me work from home. *insert crazy smiley emoji*

  31. Maureen says...

    We’ve left our 7 month old with my mother for a couple of hours, but I cannot bring myself to leave our neighborhood! Luckily, we live in a fun place, with plenty of date night options, but I am pretty sure I’m someday going to need to be more than 15 minutes walking distance from my apartment! (Not today though. Not yet!)

  32. Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick says...

    As a mother of many and grandmother to ten it was sheer, unadulterated therapy to read your letter to the baby sitter…let alone your longneeded, articulate and ascerbic anaysis of the distressing interactions of that cute female dog with a gay in Go Dog Go. Thank you for being so funny and for sharing it with the rest of us. Thanks to my daughter who shared you with me. Brava!!! How do I pre-order your book?

  33. Joanna Tsay says...

    Our baby was three months old and we were determined to go to my husband’s office Christmas party. I asked the sitter to come half an hour early so that I could explain everything, and then we hurried off to get on the shuttle that would take us to San Francisco where the party was being held. Because I was still breastfeeding, we quickly ate an appetizer upon our arrival and then I rushed off to lock myself in a portapotty, unzip out of my little black dress and pump for 15 minutes using a manual pump I had brought disassembled in my clutch. By the time I finished we could only stay for another half hour before jumping back onto a shuttle and rushing home to feed the baby and put him to bed. Lol. It was such an ordeal but I’ll never forget the first time we hired a sitter so we could go out!

  34. I laughed the entire time reading this lol! We’re leaving in 2 weeks for our first weekend alone without our 2 under 2 and I feel a bit like this!! We’re had plenty of babysitters, which never stressed me out too much – but 3 overnights?!?

    My best friend is getting married in NYC and we will enjoy ourselves SO much more without the kiddos. But I feel like this when I say, they’re really easy at bedtime – but then again I’m the only one who ever does it, so good luck!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

    • Emma says...

      This is exactly what I though of. Love it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, laughing out loud!

  35. Michele says...

    We’ve only ever hired a sitter one time — when our daughter was almost a year old and it was a co-worker of mine who watched her for all of about 90 minutes. Then we moved closer to family and now we’re lucky enough to have relatives around to watch her on occasion. We still don’t get out on very many date nights, for some reason. Every time we do we always say we need to do it more often, but then months go by! When our daughter was almost two, my parents came to stay with her while my husband and I went out of town for the weekend and I left PAGES of information. So ridiculous. She’s six now and I’m MUCH more laid back, thank goodness for everyone involved!

  36. Ha! So true! For the second child, it’ll read: Here’s the baby. Good luck.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahaha

  37. Kim says...

    It’s scary leaving them! We moved to a new area a few months ago, and it’s remarkably hard finding a babysitter who is actually interested in children, not on their phone constantly and has actually baby sat before in some capacity. Yes, leaving your children with a relative stranger is a careful tightrope of madly exciting to get out for once, and terrifying for anyone who has ever read or seen the nightly news.

  38. Raquel is hilarious and I adore her work!

    And yes, hiring that first babysitter/dropping your baby off at daycare… always so tough on the parents! My kiddo just had his first day of Kindergarten. Guess who was fine and who was a mess?!

  39. Jane says...

    We don’t have family nearby, so we have to hire sitters if we want to go out or both of us are working. The first few times were super tough. I still send a detailed schedule to the sitter ahead of time because I believe that my kids’ nighttime routine is the key to good sleep for both the four-year-old and the 18-month-old. We’re going out of the country for 10 days (just the two of us to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary), and my mom is coming to stay with the kiddos then. It’ll be interesting…

  40. i remember leaving my son with his nanny the first day and crying as i left for work. it was one of the worst feelings in the world. i spent the first few days constantly checking my phone. she was wonderful and for two years she was with him two full days a week, sending me photos and videos throughout the day. we had our last day with her last week (he started daycare) and i think i cried as much as i did that first day i left.

  41. Brianna says...

    I never had a regular babysitter. For the first nine years of my life, my brother and I either stayed with one set or the other of our grandparents, with our two older cousins (and their parents, sometimes, but sometimes, our cousins would just come hang out), or my mom’s brother. Then we moved to where we had no family and I would just watch my brother for short amounts of time. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was babysitting. I didn’t babysit an actual baby (under a year old) until I was in my 20s, though.

  42. No. 1. He was in the NICU for almost a month before he came home and due to having started a job while pregnant I had no leave so…I went back to work 3 days after having him. Birthed on Friday, back at work Monday. 2. I was a single parent who didn’t get child support and having started a new job (see above) I didn’t have time off or fall under FMLA or have money to stay home so even when he came home from the NICU, I knew I’d have to leave him with a sitter while I worked. I found someone I trusted. Frankly, having a child under 4 lb freaked me out enough that most of the other stuff was easy by the time that was over! :)

  43. Eleanor's says...

    Our first night we were shoved out the door by my inlaws for our anniversary. My daughter was maybe 3 weeks old and I quite honestly didn’t enjoy it and don’t remember it, I was so exhausted :) when she was 2 months we hired our first sitter who happened to be in nursing school, in a labor and deliver unit. Couldn’t ask for a better first sitter!! I still stared at my phone anxiously but was proud of myself for getting out :)

  44. Elizabeth says...

    I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher and I felt this way when I had to leave sub plans for the first time! I was only gone for an afternoon at a meeting *in the same building*, and I kept wanting to rush over and check to make sure that everything was going well haha!

  45. Ariana says...

    Some days life gives you a message and today I really needed the open letter to the female hat-wearing dog . Thanks for re-posting, I got a good laugh and my resolve is a little stronger!

    • Rosemary says...

      I love that post and I loved your comment!

  46. My oldest daughter’s first babysitter was my sister, who has kids of her own, and is sort of my mama-guru, so I never had that anxiety. Then, by the time #2 and #3 rolled around, all our sitters were other friends’ sitters or my nephew’s girlfriends, and by that point, it was like “okay, see ya!!” while running to the car. BUT, when I leave them with my mom, I do have lots of instructions because… well, it’s been a long time since she had little kids, right?! Ha.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha it’s so true with second kids — with anton, i was never worried! i knew he would be fine. but when it’s your first you feel like everything is just holding on by a thread. :)

  47. Alice says...

    Lol, It’s hard to be a new mother!!

  48. Lisa says...

    Lol I sit for two families, and I’m grateful neither of them is this crazy. I think I would be, though, if I were handing my precious kids off to a stranger!

  49. Jennifer Hale says...

    So true!

  50. Betsy says...

    The morning of our first night out without our first kid, he developed an umbilical hernia. Thankfully, our ped was around the corner and said it was totally fine and our babysitter was a friend with two teen boys, so she’d seen everything.

  51. Kali says...

    We were this way even when my mom would watch our girls. Her response was always, “Well thank god you and your sister survived your youth!” I didn’t really think it was funny at the time but now that my kids are 3 and 5, we’re starting to laugh.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha that’s so funny. i did the same! we went away for a weekend, and my mom stayed with toby, and i left her sooooo many tips and ideas and things!

  52. kiki says...

    yes. when i went back to work we had a nanny hang out with our little guy for the first few months. and OMG. the schedule i left her; it’s laughable!! (i also included detailed information about our cat and dog. insert see-no-evil emoji here. lol)

  53. Lindsey says...

    Emerson is 3.5 months and I haven’t left him yet (other than with his dad). I know, I know. I need to woman up.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      he’s still little! take as long as you need :) but i’m sure he will be in great hands when you find a sitter you love. our babysitter used to always say, “toby and I are going to have a great time!” when alex and i were leaving, and that one line make me feel so much better all night :)

  54. Ali says...

    I understand that this is a satire, but it is pretty spot-on with a lot of my white, upper-middle class friends. I do not have children myself, but I work with them all day. I am not sure when this hyperactive parenting began, but it’s frustrating to me and seems very classist.

    • Jennifer Hale says...

      The piece is a total exaggeration, that’s why it’s funny!

    • sabrina says...

      We are definitely not upper middle class, we live in the country and we are pretty free range with our three kids. But the first few times I left my oldest as a baby I was a total nutcase! I just worried about him and had big expectations for his childhood and care. Now after three kids, I’m pretty laid back. Maybe it’s a first time mom thing more than a class thing.

  55. Natalie Brennan says...

    Laughing too, this rings embarrasingly true!

  56. AmyB says...

    We’ve never actually “hired a sitter”…and my oldest is 17! I’ve been insanely fortunate to live near family, so sitters have always been grandparents or cousins…once a teenage neighbor who had been “buddies” with our youngest for years by the time she was old enough to babysit, so it was no biggie. Obviously it isn’t an option for everyone, so I’m incredibly grateful…I can only imagine the stress of leaving kids with a relative stranger!