Motherhood Mondays: On Babysitters

My lovelies, for this Motherhood Monday, let’s talk about babysitters.

Our very first babysitter was Naudia, who is still with us. (In the photo above, she’s reading Toby his favorite story–he was only 3 months old.)

One thing that really surprised me was how hard it was to leave Toby with a babysitter for the first time. (How old were your babies when you first got a babysitter?) For us, Toby was two months old. Alex and I had planned to go to lunch and take a bike ride, and Naudia came over to babysit. But as soon as we walked out the door, I wanted to turn around and walk right back in. (My heart was racing!) Alex encouraged me to take a break and enticed me with the promise of roast chicken and fries at a nearby French bistro. I downed a glass of wine during lunch to calm my nerves and then took a wobbly bike ride while obsessing about Toby the entire time. I must have texted Naudia 1,000 times during our three-hour date! It’s funny because I knew rationally that nothing bad was going to happen, but I felt so anxious–my heart was in my throat. As a new mom, my emotions were so heightened. (Did you mamas feel the same?)

Thankfully, each consecutive time that Alex and I went out, I felt more and more comfortable, and I’m so glad that Alex encouraged me. You don’t always realize how much you need a break until you take one. I would return home a much more relaxed, refreshed and reinvigorated mother. (And now, of course, it’s all much easier now that Toby’s older!)

Nowadays Naudia is like part of our family. We completely adore her. She now babysits Toby while I work from home. When she arrives in the morning, Toby peeks over the banister and yelps and kicks with excitement. She has cute nicknames for him, takes him on “dates”, and she even has his photo as her phone’s wallpaper. And it’s funny how quickly the walls break down when someone joins you in your home: She’s seen Alex and me half asleep, with messy hair, without makeup, worrying, laughing, even crying. Since I work from home in our teeny apartment, we’re around each other so much; it’s such an intimate relationship. It’s hard to imagine ever not having her in our lives!

(By the way, years ago, I read a fascinating book called Searching for Mary Poppins, which features a collection of mothers’ essays about the complex relationship between mothers and nannies. I’d highly recommend it.)

I’m so curious: Have you babysat before? If you’re a mom, do you like your babysitters? Where did you find them? Have you ever had not-so-great babysitting experience? I would love to hear…

(Naudia giving Toby his very first massage. She kept saying, “He’s found his utopia!”:)

P.S. More about motherhood, pregnancy and babies.

  1. I am really glad !! WOW, what a nice site and helpful shared to baby sitters.
    baby sitters

  2. Jo, this was such a refreshing post to read.

    I had my son in my second to last year of college. Very different situation. Before he came about, I paid my college expenses by routinely babysitting for a family with two toddlers.

    The family was very warm, welcoming, and open about everything and two years went by with me as their sitter. I love their kids dearly and we maintained contact.

    The mom (fifteen years my senior) decided to have her third when I was three months along. I mentioned the pregnancy at six months. They were delighted and maintained the same openness. The invitations to come back to work for them still flow in.

    I also worked as a full-time sitter for their sister-in-law after they recommended me, when I was just doing weekends for them. She was a stay-at-home working mom. Completely different dynamic. Our sons were mere days apart, and it was a nightmare from day one of sitting. Our sons didn’t get along, and the age gap with babies the same age was awful.

    In short, I decided having a baby drew the line between working as a full time sitter and staying at home.

    For a bit, I hired a sitter when I decided it was time to get a real job. It’s very difficult maintaining the right dynamic with someone who’s in the home.

    What you’ve got for your son is gold! I’m so glad you found good people to be in your home.

  3. Hello! This is a first time read for me, and this post really resonated with me. I am in my 20’s, without children and am at strange period between teen babysitter and parent. I have always considered myself to be a very good sitter, and am glad to get some insight from a parental perspective. I hope that as I continue to sit for a few long-term families, they feel close to me as you do to Naudia. I love their kids very much!

  4. Oh Joanna!
    I’ll be leaving my 13 mth. old at a daycare in about a week & I’m excited for the new experiences she’ll have with having kids around her & getting into a stable routine. However, I’m also nervous because it will be the first time being on her own with out her family around or me knowing what’s going on. Up until now, her dad has been watching her & we’ve had our ups & downs re: that situation, but mostly, it’s been ok. We decided to put her in a daycare because he began to work & we were juggling her all over the place. The daycare we’re putting her in is a Montessori daycare, so I’m excited to see how independent she becomes. It’s hard, but the comfort of knowing they’re in good hands feels good, but you have support & love. :)

    p.s. I also wanted to add I also have the books “Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late” & “First Words”. :)

  5. this is such an interesting post to me since we’re still at “no day-care/nanny” situation with (almost) 11 months old roo.

    we decided to take an advantage of our flexible schedule (i work for myself and my hubby teaches at design school) and divvy up our week in two. He takes half and I take another half.

    It has been working for us so far and we enjoy witnessing her grow everyday… but I know someday “the time” has to come and we have to let her go in our own way.

    until then….


  6. I was a part time nanny for two families. I loved one family and loathed the other. I think it is really important when you look for a nanny that you make sure you both have the same ideals and thoughts on raising children as it can cause so much conflict.

    I was so unhappy with the family where we had differing ideas on raising kids. The hardest part for me was that I believe kids need consistency so I would always back up the methods of the parents but it was so depressing! Like having to discourage the 6 year old from entering the talent show because his parents thought he would embarass himself. Or forbidding him from wearing the “hippy” tie die shirt he made himself. So if you have those sorts of ideals then make sure your nanny feels the same way!

    With my second family we agreed on all the fundamentals and I always felt that the family backed me up, which is the number one complaint nannies seem to have. So as long as you agree on the basic principles of raising kids and follow up on discipline enforced you should be in nanny heaven, both of you!

  7. I babysat for children from under one year old through 10 years old during the decade or so I was a sitter. I formed bonds with many of the kids I watched, and can still remember them several decades later. I don’t have children myself, but I do know how difficult it was for my very close friend to leave her five month old son (my “nephew”) at home with a sitter when her maternity leave was over. You are very lucky to have found Naudia, and she was just as lucky to have found Toby and his parents. The photo of her reading to Toby shows how much she loves him, and he looks so content. Wonderful!

  8. Hello Joanna,
    this post is speaking to me in a very strong way. I am in the process of searching for theperfect nanny for my 3 months old baby girl Margaux. we actually saw someone yesterday, but it wasn’t love at first sight, i mean she seems nice enough and warm and has eperience but i guess i’m just not ready yet. and it’s so difficult here in Paris to find someone good, there is a real shortage of professionnals.
    my heart is heavy at the idea of leaving my baby all day and not see her only a little in the morning and evening, plus weekends of course.
    i need to go back to work at the end of the month, so it will have to be settled soon.
    anyway thank you very much for this blog, i enjoy reading it a lot and your Toby is adorable.
    i just set up a little tumblr with pics of our new family, maybe you’ll enjoy them.


  9. This summer I am au pairing for a family in France with two kids aged 2 and 4 and I can totally understand where you are coming from. From my point of view having to build up trust with the kids and the parents is the biggest task and once you get past that its all go. The children love me and I love them back. I now cant imagine my life without them! Thanks for this post it made me really appreciate what I am doing.

  10. I am 21 and I simply adore babysitting! I currently babysit for a myriad of different precious families, but there are three little munchins in particular, of whom I have a special fondness. Their mother used to babysit me, and it is so sweet to now be watching her children. They always want to hear stories from when I was a child, or stories I invent about the adventurous Pitusa and Petrikio. We play in “narnia” every time I come to visit, and we go on oh so many adventures. I’ve been to their star wars birthday parties, I play dress up with them, I sing them songs to sleep, I kiss their tears away and take them on picnics, in which we pretend we’re eating on a ship out at sea. They can’t say my name properly so they call me Andarina (or Susan…from narnia). I absolutely adore them, and they make me so excited to have children of my own one day. They are just the tonic I need from studies and often complicated adulthood. I think one of the reasons I love them so much is I can freely express the innocent childish giddiness that still resides within the deep crevices of my heart. Toby seems like a darling dear little soul…I wish I could meet him, I think we’d be great friends.

  11. So sweet! I cried reading this…! Thanks for sharing.

  12. I was an au pair in France for 3 months and the hardest thing I found was that the lack of discipline from the parents to the children meant that I couldn’t really do anything but watch them. I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything to them growing up because they wouldn’t even listen to their parents let alone me. I really wished that the parents would step in when the kids misbehaved, but I think they were too afraid of the kids “hating them”. Just like in the Nanny Diaries, a babysitter or nanny would love to become a part of a child’s life, but there has to be a good base of parenting if they’re going to have any impact.

  13. Anonymous says...


    What a lovely comment.
    You brought tears to my eyes.

    Lisa M

  14. I met a family almost four years ago through a recommendation when they were looking for a sitter. We instantly connected, the mom even gave me a hug after my first time sitting for them. The oldest is now 13 and can watch her two younger siblings, but the mom and I still regularly meet for coffee or lunch. The kids call me Auntie Gracie, and I refer to the parents as my other mother and other father. Its a sweet deal :)

  15. I have had three nanny jobs and all have been incredible. My favorite person in the world is the mom of the first family that I was a nanny for. Who’d have thought she’d become my best friend and wed hang out all the time? Being in someone’s home like that builds wonderful relationships and I am so grateful for my fantastic experiences.

  16. Hey Joanna (and other mothers!),

    I am 26 years old and have been working as some form of ‘babysitter’ for 14 years now! I started babysitting when I was 12 and then followed that up with jobs as a camp counselor, daycare employee, tutor and nanny (both live in and not). I specialize in families with kids (and sometimes parents) who have developmental or emotional disorders, so I have definitely had some pretty wild experiences on the job. Please don’t worry about your babysitter seeing you without makeup/in your pajamas/with the house a mess/in tears. Your a mom! We don’t expect you to be perfect! As long as you love your kids, we will never judge what you or your house look like. We work with your kids, and we know how hard it is.

    I can totally relate to the nannies out there feeling crappy about the class standards. I graduated from college tree years ago and chose to continue working with kids rather than getting a ‘real’ job. I have NEVER regretted my choice, but I still am questioned almost daily by my parents/their friends/my friends and peers about when I’m going to get a ‘real’ career. Please, please treat your nanny or babysitter like the professional that they are. Try to remember that they are parenting your child while you, the parent are not there. I promise if you love and respect your sitter, and treat her like an extension of your family who you VALUE, she will love and care for your children just as much as you do.

    I am very lucky with my current family who pays me well and on time, and I receive a bonus twice a year on both my birthday and Christmas. Both the girl I work with and her family are an integral part of my life; she is 14 and has bipolar disorder, mild aspergers and a developmental delay. I am with her 40-60 hours a week, and while I will be her ‘date’ to her 8th grade dance, she will be a junior bridesmaid in my wedding a few months later. (There will be 14 kids at my wedding from families I have formerly sat for and am still close with!) But I have also had the reverse experience and had to leave a full time nanny position in the past when an emotionally unstable single mother left me with her 3 kids and disappeared to Vegas for a weekend, refusing to pay me when she came home…

    As moms, you shouldn’t feel bad about needing or wanting a break. I assure you it will be easier and more effective for you to be a good parent if you aren’t over exhausted and stressed. In my experience, children who have been with a babysitter from an early age have an easier time making friends in preschool or on the playground because they have learned in dependance and the ability to communicate with people outside of their immediate family. It isn’t healthy for a mother and child to be each others only friend!

    So, moms, listen to all of these lovely babysitters! We have a lot of experience, we love your kids, and we are good at what we do. Take a break, take a nap, go on a date; we’ve got it for a little while.

  17. i’ve been babysitting for 18 years, and know that i’m knocking on 30’s door it’s still something i love to do. i’m always so honored when parents trust me with their children and as a newlywed looking to start a family in the next couple of years, i know i will panic leaving the babe with a sitter. even though i have sat for 50+ families over the years without incident, it will be hard to turn the tables! looks like you found a gem in naudia and that’s so important – toby looks so happy with her!

  18. Leslie says...

    Thank you for this post! I am a first-time mother and although my daughter is 5 months old, we still have not left her with a baby-sitter. I know it’s not healthy and that I need to learn to “let go” and trust others to take care of her, but it’s hard! I think it would be good for my husband and I to make this leap and find a baby-sitter who we like. One issue has been that I don’t have any leads on good caregivers, but this post has inspired me to find someone.

  19. Anonymous says...

    Joanna, I love this post as I do all of your mommy posts. We hired an amazing Russian nanny for our twins and like you, she has become part of our family and we can’t imagine life without her. I love your book suggestion, as I had struggled alot with leaving my kids with another woman at first as well. In fact, I’m buying it for my Kindle as we speak. I’m wondering, could you recommend more Mommy books. My boys are 10 months, so close to Toby’s age. Also, how about a post on Father’s Day gifts!?!

    Lisa M

  20. Alex says...

    Great post!

    I nannied for a family in my home town for almost 6 years. I can’t even begin to describe the closeness, complexity, and wonderfulness of the relationship I have with this family. I saw their daughter go from a shy little 6 year old to an outspoken, rambunctious pre-teen. There were some moments that made me want to never have children but I love her and her parents so dearly. Now that I am in graduate school in another state, I receive weekly phone calls from the family and they have very generously offered to host my wedding at their lake house.

    I babysat for several families throughout college and it’s so important to know that the parent’s trust you. Life can be miserable for a sitter and parent if there is any doubt in the relationship. I’ve enjoyed all of the families I’ve worked with but I definitely found that super special connection with one. I know they will be my family forever!

  21. I’m a nanny, I look after Rupert (3 1/2) and Flo (1 1/2) 3 days a week. I totally love them, and feel its a really huge thing to be taken into a family and trusted. I love my littles, and they love me too, but there’s never any confusion as to who is mummy, daddy and who is loved more! The other day Rupes told his friend (when he asked if I was Rupert’s mummy) “no. (turning to me) you’re not my mummy are you? you’re my eddie!”
    gorgeous moment of the week for sure :)

  22. I was a live-in nanny in Paris for a year and thought there were some really good times I found it difficult to remain in that much of close quarters with the family. I started to spend more and more time in my room because there was just NO differentiation between time off and working time. I was like the mom but without the as much love or respect.

    Part of it might have been that I worked as a preschool teacher for a year before that. I can’t get that attached to every kid I babysit, especially when they are out of control and crazy. I still work as a babysitter/nanny for about ten families but there’s only so much real love to go around. I enjoy it but get exhausted fairly quickly. Many parents have no idea how to train children and that is a nightmare for babysitters.

  23. I left my baby at day care when she was 2.5 months and I have to be back at work, I felt very sad and worried. Call and checked my baby sitter very single hours. Now She is 13 months and she enjoys the time at the day care, I also get used with the situation already. But I still think to be a stay at home mom and spend more time with my child(ren)someday.

  24. wew… you’ve been lucky to have a nice babysitter… ^^

  25. First of all: oh my goodness Toby is CUTE!!! That first photo of him just makes me want to squeeze his cheeks and make him giggle.

    Second of all: I was a nanny for the last year and a half for two little boys. I started before the second one was born and watched him until he was about a year and his brother was two. I was (and still am) absolutely enamored with the two of them. Originally just a post college job, I quickly formed a bond that still amazes me. Getting to watch them grow up and truly feeling like a part of the family was such an incredible experience. To this day I still attend birthday parties and outings, as well as the occasional stop by just because.

    Although stressful leaving for the first time (I can’t even imagine!!) I know from experience that having a nanny or babysitter just means there’s one other person out there who cares about your kids as much as you do.

  26. I cried reading this post. It is such a wonderful reflection on how amazing it can be to bring a nanny into your home. We have a wonderful nanny, Maria, who takes care of us all – but most importantly, loves and cares for our daughter as if she is the center of Maria’s world. It is a beautiful thing to have a person like this in your life – and your child’s life. We are lucky mamas!

  27. I babysat for a family for 10 years; I started at the ripe old age of 14, right after they had adopted a baby boy from Russia, and they already had one of their own. They were mutual friends of one of my mom’s friends, he a college professor and she a lawyer/professional Democrat. By the time I left them at 24, they had grown to 9 kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 2 parents, and a sorority of babysitters through the years.

    After their first Russian adoption, they adopted another baby from Russia, a 10-year-old boy from Russia and then took in 2 toddlers, sisters, into foster care. The sisters’ mother had twin boys, who we took home from the hospital, and then another baby girl a year later, who we also took home. I was a senior in high school by then, and spending many of my afternoons changing twin boy diapers, dodging flying formula puke, and learning how to cook. I learned invaluable life skills taking care of them (like what to do if you find out the dog swam halfway across the lake, the hamster ends up IN the mattress, what a 102 fever looks like, what one does at an autism play group, and that its ok to cry along with a 1 year old who cries for 60 minutes without stopping) and what’s more, I love them as much as anyone in my own family. They ARE my family; I grew up right along with them, and was a babysitter before most of them were born. They will always hold the dearest corner of my heart.

    And the parents–they called me the daughter they never had. She taught me to be a feminist and a better woman. He taught me to love learning, teaching, fishing and football. Growing up with a single mom who worked at least two jobs, got her masters and got breast cancer, having this extended family gave me a place in the world that I was constantly seeking. It wasn’t just that I took care of them, they took care of me as well. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

  28. I miss babysitting. When I was 13 or 14, it was always a thing that you called the teenage girl in your neighborhood for. I guess the recession threw more adults into the mix, because now it’s people with Early Childhood Education degrees who couldn’t find teaching jobs or people who have been a nanny for one family for years. I’m not old enough to have that experience, and I’ll never get it if people won’t hire me without it. I’m hoping that the town I’m moving to in June has families who understand that the college girl who lives next door can do a great job, too!

  29. sara, i’ve had that feeling sometimes, too! and judith, i know SO many people (including my very best friend) who have had fertility issues; my friend wrote a really beautiful guest post about it, which i’m going to share soon. it must be so hard to wait and see every month–and then be disappointed. xoxo

  30. donald trumps, don’t worry, just look through the blog! there are many people from different ethnicities! also, we have an indian side of our family. xo

  31. these are SUCH fascinating comments. lindsey, that is a really good point — sometimes we take forever to leave and i keep going in to say goodbye to toby — but after reading your post, i’m never going to do that again!!

  32. my boys are 6 1/2 and 3 and i still can’t leave them with anyone. yes, i am a bit of a nervous nelly but i also just can’t find anyone i trust. i suppose i could do a better job looking but i haven’t reached that point yet. this is all kind of ironic because i was a nanny for the same family for 7 years on and off. 17 years later we are all still very much dear friends(i get to play auntie) and i still have a huge soft spot in my heart for my long ago babies, who are both taller than me!

  33. I’ve been babysitting for a beautiful 2.5 year-old little girl once a week since she was about 2 months old, and it’s been so cool to watch her grow up. The only thing I always want to warn parents or parents-to-be about though is now that she’s in an intense “Mommy phase” where she’ll cry hysterically if she knows her mom is about to leave, her mom will take WAYYYYY too long to leave and it makes for a very uncomfortable, awkward situation for me as the babysitter. Once mom leaves, little girl is totally fine in 3 seconds, but drawing out hysterical 2-year-old crying for 10 minutes because you feel bad is a truly mean thing to do to your babysitter.

    Ok. I’m off my soapbox now.

  34. loved reading this…i work from home as well and have 2 kids- almost 2 yrs old and just 4 mon old. we have found the most amazing nanny and hopefully she never leaves us! it is so reassuring to be able to leave your kids with someone and know they are having a great time yet being well cared for at the same time. i would be lost without my nanny and like yours she has seen us at our best and worst around the house and has become a part of our family!