“Babysitter Anxiety”: It totally sounds like the title of a bad (but good) Lifetime movie, right? And yes, by the way, I have probably watched too many of those flicks over the years, which perhaps doesn’t help alleviate the anxiety that builds in my stomach when I think of the idea of getting a babysitter for my son. Yet, at least for me, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, babysitter anxiety is real. I am not proud to have it, but I have inherently struggled with leaving my child with a sitter ever since he was born.
When I describe this anxiety to others, I try to emphasize that this is not so much separation anxiety; it is more of a fear of something bad happening since I won’t be there for my son. I know I might sound like I’m saying conflicting things, but I do believe time away from our children is very healthy for us as parents. Yet, for parents in the same boat as me, I believe what triggers the anxiety is the fear or concern that nobody will take care of our kids the way we would.
Undoubtedly, this topic will elicit some criticism. Some people are probably rolling their eyes right now, whereas others might relate to babysitter anxiety. One side of the fence expresses hesitation due to fear or cost or other factors, and the other side asks in exasperation, “What is wrong with you?! Babysitters are the best!” Sometimes we do things in life even though we know we should not, or, we don’t do things even know we should. For most of my son’s life thus far, I have steered away from getting a babysitter even though I know that’s probably not the right thing to do, but it felt like the right choice. Call me weird, call me crazy, or just call me maybe, but I can’t help it.
Here are just a few (thousand) of the thoughts that pop into my mind when I have considered getting a babysitter over the years: Are they going to play and engage with my son? Or what if they are just on their phone the whole time? What if they turn on the oven, stove or microwave (or all three!) and fall asleep? How much am I supposed to pay them? (And wait a minute, WHAT?! That much?!) Am I supposed to feed the babysitter, and if so, what food?! Are they trustworthy and not going to steal from the house? Why am I so weird?!
Hands down the safety of my child is always the number one concern, but logistics are a big part of the decision to get a babysitter as well. I looked at rates for babysitting services a few different times, and oh my gosh, eek! Whyyyyyyy?? Although I get it; we are entrusting them with our most precious gift(s) in life, so they are charging for such, but still…eek!
Before my parents or other family members get their feelings hurt, let me clarify that I would not have anxiety about leaving my son with them. It’s just that they are three hours away, so babysitting by them isn’t always an option. Yet, when they have done it, it was wonderful for everyone, including my baby boy! And I have awesome, reliable friends who I know would take care of my sweet boy for a few hours, but they are also extremely busy with their own kids, jobs, lives, etc., and I hate to impose on them.
I really feel happy and envious (in a good way) for my friends who have family nearby and can lean on them to help watch the kids; that proves so, SO valuable. It certainly must provide tremendous peace of mind…and save TONS of money! For those of us who do not have that luxury, we are left with some big decisions.
Another factor to consider: As parents juggling work and home and life in general, we run so hard throughout the week, it’s also not always desirable to be away from our kids, right? We want to enjoy time with them and make up for the blur of the days and weeks that go by, so getting a babysitter may also be out of the question for those of us suffering from guilt about being torn away from our kids at times. Baby steps…baby steps are good!
Ultimately, the first step is acknowledging the babysitter anxiety issue exists. Then for those of us who endure this anxiety, we have to ask ourselves, how we can come to terms with it? How can we overcome the anxiety and find balance? I think the bottom line is this: Do we need time for ourselves? Yes, absolutely! Do our kids benefit from learning and socializing apart from us? Yes, absolutely! Can it be a completely stress-free experience? Well, probably not, but it can still be a positive experience.
Just like any other challenges or anxiety-inducing factors, we have to take it one day at a time. We can do our research, save up some of our hard-earned money to treat ourselves, and know that our kids will be just fine. We don’t have to get a babysitter all the time, or ever, if that’s what we feel is best. Whatever we decide, we have to look at the big picture and remind ourselves that everything will be ok. Then repeat that: Everything will be ok.
Unless the babysitter forgets to turn off the stove or microwave. Then there might be some issues, but hey, let’s not think about that. Baby steps, right?!