Thank you, Babysitter, for giving us a night out!
Last weekend marked a critical milestone in my journey as parent: hiring a babysitter. The epic search for the right sitter, which I detailed in my last post, culminated last weekend, and for the first time in months, my husband and I had a night out alone.
We are pretty sure we found the perfect babysitter. She’s a young graduate student with plenty of child care experience and a glowing reference. We found her through an ad we placed on Craigslist, and made sure to have her over for an interview (and then a follow up phone interview because I forgot to ask her any relevant babysitter questions.)
But mainly, she seemed to get it. Something about her made me feel comfortable. When she came over for our evening out, she asked all the right questions and seemed to completely understand our routine. OK, yes, I understand our routine is pretty much the standard toddler nighttime gig – would you expect any less from me? – but as I detailed the particulars, I could tell she knew what she was doing.
Our boy was being shy and crabby. Our dog fell in love with her and wouldn’t leave her alone. She took it all in stride and was immediately on the floor stacking blocks and petting the demanding dog (did I mention she’s a pit bull and Babysitter Extraordinaire didn’t bat an eye at the breed?).
Even though it would be only about an hour before my kid went down for the night, I wrote out a list. Again, surprised? I showed her the bottle warmer and diapers, the books and rocking chair, the video monitor. My husband explained how to turn on the television using the multitude of remotes. I wrote down our phone numbers and urged her to call for any reason.
It was a choreographed scene played out by every parent in the history of parenting. And it was our turn. I felt like someone else, like a grown-up version of myself, or even someone I don’t even know, doing what parents do. But it was me and we are parents. I never was a teenage babysitter, but I knew the gig, and it felt like the tables were turned. I felt old. But kind of in a good way, an inevitable way. It was one of those parenting scenes I had surprisingly never played out over and over in my head, but that felt both natural and out-of-body.
As we said good-bye to our boy, he turned from his spot on the floor and looked at us with a look that said, “Wait, what? You’re leaving me here with her? Are you sure? You know this woman, and it’s OK?” He was surprised, a little scared-looking, but then was quickly distracted back to the blocks.
The dinner was perfect. I had a Groupon for Sascha’s 527 Café in Mount Vernon that was weeks away from expiring. We sat at a tiny two-person table and did not even ask for a high chair. I was wearing a dress that didn’t have food or snot on it and heels. Heels!
I ordered a glass of Tempranillo, my husband a Knob Creek on the rocks. We split a salty delicious fried green tomato salad, and for an entrée I ordered the cumin scented lamb strip loin; him, duck two ways – exclusively dishes you need molars to eat. We lingered over dessert before heading up the street for a beer at the Brewer’s Art. As we left I didn’t have to sweep Cheerios off the floor.
Unlike the first few times out of the house without the baby, the conversation this time wasn’t dominated by talk of the little guy. We had normal, uninterrupted adult conversations and it was fabulous.
We even took a moment to recognize the time together as just the two of us – the unit we were before the baby and the unit we will always be at the foundation of our family. You can’t easily have that reflection at home surrounded by toddler toys and dirty dishes. We felt like ourselves, together and separately, and it was nice.
There was only one moment during dinner that we checked the baby crib webcam. Yes, we have a webcam set up, and yes we can access it from the Internet. And yes, I understand that sounds insane. But at 7:50 p.m. I couldn’t help myself and just wanted to make sure he was sleeping soundly. Of course he was. What did I really expect?
When we got home the magical amazing babysitter had straightened the downstairs and washed the dirty bottles and sippy cups left near the sink. She said the baby went down without a peep, the dog had snuggled with her on the couch, and all was right with the world.
“This was a huge for us,” my husband told her after handing over $40. He was right, in many ways. I felt like we had been through a rite of passage as parents, and as grown ups and as a married couple. We had opened a door to a freedom – albeit a costly one – we had desperately needed.
Sara Michael is a first-time mom with Type A tendencies. She likes rules, makes lists, and follows plans. That all seemed to work out fine until she had a baby. Now she balances her need for order and answers with the desire to enjoy the unpredictable journey she is on with her 2-year-old son (and a second on the way). Her day job? She is a writer and editorial director at a health care media company where she manages content for an online publication. Her journalism background started in daily newspapers, covering health, science and government. Follow her on Twitter @sara_the_writer.