When you babysit and the kids are asleep

Black and white picture of Mom hugging young teenage daughter.

You’re almost ready to start babysitting! You’ve worked with your best friend for two summers on the Kid Kit Shoeboxes, and they are filled with all sorts of comforting, imagination-sparking, thoughtful things.

And I feel really good knowing that the American Red Cross certification course will teach you a lot of important skills. But there’s one more that I want you to bring to every single caregiving job you agree to take, and that is this.

Respect their house.

Dirty dishes lying around? Find the Ajax and get to scrubbing.

Dust and dander on the floor? Bet they have a broom and dustpan.

Used towels and dampened mats from bath time? Gather and place them in the laundry room.

Fluff the pillows, fold the blankets and put away the toys.

Then and only then collapse onto the sofa and flick on the television set.

When you’re married with babies of your own – if that’s the path you choose – darling girl, then you will understand.

I babysat most every Friday and Saturday night of high school (yes, I know, it’s hard not to be intimidated by the epic social life your mother clearly had going on).

There were families I couldn’t wait to sit for again, and the ones where my inner monologue was something along the lines of “House is gross. Kids are wild. But I’m low on cash, so here goes, ‘Of course, Mrs. (Name Changed to Protect the Frazzled). I’d love to babysit for you this weekend!’”

Odds are you will eventually find yourself sitting at a house like this too. Help that family out by setting your judgment aside and doing what you can to leave the place better than you found it.

I remember being so impressed by the sitters we used when you were little who did this – and let me just tell you, that level of care and going the extra mile is not a given.

We’ve come home to a peanut butter jar still open with the knife stuck in it, top nowhere to be found. Among other, grosser things – Iike an unflushed, used tampon in our master bathroom toilet (never, ever use their master bathroom; that should go without saying but apparently not all mamas teach their daughters this).

Back to doing more than the bare minimum of what is expected when you babysit, and why it matters.

When you are already a frayed around the edges mommy, who can barely afford a date night out but you manage to nip and tuck the monthly budget just enough to allow for one, and then you come home to find the kitchen clean, the clutter organized and the (quiet) house generally free of daily living chaos, it is the greatest gift.

Those are the sitters I would always invite back, and I had no problem paying them top dollar.

There is a flip side to this, of course. You are there to take care of the children, not to be anybody’s housekeeper. Never confuse that.

Understand the importance of practicing The Golden Rule in someone else’s home, but realize that even this has its limits.

And if their house is chronically gross, or you just get a weird vibe, or the kids are spoiled, stubborn little hellions who jump out of the tub and run around naked laughing maniacally, refusing to put on their pajamas (not that this ever happened when I was babysitting), call me.

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