We Are Both Right

Outside Child Care? Thanks, but No Thanks

© Walt Disney Productions

© Walt Disney Productions

My mom ran a licensed day care out of our home. As a tween and teen I spent a lot of my weekends babysitting for neighbors and some of my parent’s friends. Both were incredibly positive experiences — I became great friends with many of my mom’s “kids” and was able to make quite a bit of cash while eating other people’s food and watching their television (after the little ones were asleep of course).

So why, in over the course of ten years have I only once hired a babysitter to watch my kids?

Because I’m a crazy person, that’s why.

Hiring an outside babysitter would allow me so much freedom — unencumbered errands, dates with my husband, heck I could even take a nap! It all sounds wonderful.

Still, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve never left the kids with anyone. My parents, my husband’s parents, my grandparents and my sister have both watched them on many occasions. And my friends and I help one another all the time. All three of my children have been cared for by people other than my husband and I. They’ve just always been folks that they know well.

I think part of it is our family situation. For the last ten years I’ve been a work-at-home mom. I take care of the kids, I give them what they need. And besides from my husband, their father, no one else can do it as well as I can, certainly not some 13-year-old with a cell phone and a penchant for potato chips. And from a practical standpoint, we’ve never needed to set foot into a day care center, although every time we pass one, my eldest son C. looks at them longingly. “Those look like such fun places,” he’ll sigh wistfully and I shake my head, thinking about all we’ve sacrificed (and gained) so I could stay at home with him and his siblings.

Part of it is the kids. When C. was small he had terrible infant eczema that required the application of various creams and ointments all over his body. My daughter A. still has eczema and a variety of food allergies. And S. is a toddler — a handful at best, a screaming, wild banshee at worst. It’s a lot for me to juggle and think about, much less a teen who has never had to do it before.

And certainly finances play a role too. I think the going rate in our area is somewhere  around $15 an hour for three kids. If I’m gone for four hours — five if T. and I treat ourselves to dinner and a movie — we are out $75 and we haven’t even looked at a menu or screened the previews yet. I could make some joke about how cheap I am, but $75 is a lot of money. I love my husband, but I’d rather order in Chinese food and watch the Mad Men season 1 DVD that we haven’t gotten around to yet.

Also, maybe I’m just crazy.

Who watches your kids when you need to go somewhere without them?