Life in the ‘burbs: babysitter poker?

Without naming any names, I have to say that I find it highly amusing that the latest here in the suburbs is what I’ll call babysitter poker, though it’s mostly all about bluffing more than anything else.
The situation came to my attention because we’re desperate for a babysitter for an upcoming evening and all of our usual babysitters are unavailable. Ugh, what to do? My thought was to simply ask the neighbors for a recommendation, someone that they’ve worked with who might be available that evening.
Nope. That’s not how it works…

Apparently, there’s no greater treasure in modern America than a reliable and trustworthy babysitter. So in fact, neighbors don’t share their babysitters and won’t even name ’em.
Somehow this makes me think of the possessiveness of some people in the early stages of a relationship, where they’re insanely jealous and won’t let their new partner talk with anyone who might be construed as a threat. Waiters, colleagues, friends, everyone has to be a second fiddle to the new relationship.
So I’m trying to figure out the worst case scenario here. I suppose that the real danger is that we would try a new babysitter out for this one night, love her, have the kids love her, and then ask her to keep babysitting for us, leaving our neighbor in the lurch when they want to use her as a babysitter.
But isn’t there some sort of loyalty that a babysitter and a family establish when they work together for a period of time? We tend to have standing dates and book additional times at least a week or two in advance. Wouldn’t that mitigate things?
Anyway, maybe I just don’t get it because I’m not directly involved in planning our social calendar. Nonetheless, it just seems weird that even though we all like each other quite a bit in our neighborhood, there’s still an ongoing game of babysitter poker going on, with each family playing their cards oh so close to their chest.
Have you experienced anything similar?

10 comments on “Life in the ‘burbs: babysitter poker?

  1. Heh, yeah, you pretty well described it. I was part of a mother’s group for playgroups, and the one thing that they would not discuss was the names of their babysitters. Asking about that got elliptical answers at best. Personally, I was happy to give out the name of the one person (teenage daughter of a friend) that I had as a babysitter, but apparently, that made me weird. I eventually found a hourly day care service that DD loved and that takes good care of her for the few times a year that we need a sitter.

  2. When I was using baby sitters, I would ask friends for names and get them, and I would freely give them, too. We didn’t go out too much, so I didn’t feel I could hoard names, although I can’t say I sometimes didn’t have the pinch, “would all her time get taken up now?”
    I guess in our community, or at least in my circle of friends, this issue wasn’t really a problem. We live in a rural, though lively, town, and many of us don’t really go out a whole lot in the evening. I think if I were still living in Washington, DC, though, it would be a different story – that’s a pretty competitive place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if names were withheld.
    But if you are having trouble getting babysitters, here are some suggestions.
    If you know some teenage girls, that’s really the best place to start to get names. If a baby sitter couldn’t work for me one night, I would ask her for names of friends who just might be available. I got a lot of names that way.
    Plus, if you ask moms of teens for suggestions, especially if their girls don’t like to babysit, you can get names that way too.
    Also, call your local middle and high schools – sometimes they have names they pass along, or most likely, they may pass your name to a teacher who has a list of girls. Girl Scout troops, too, could be a good resource, as could 4-H, or other organizations like that.
    Also, check out parents whose children don’t need babysitters anymore and see if they can suggest names if their former sitters to you.
    Also, don’t hesitate to call someone if you think she may be too old and may not be doing this anymore. It’s true, the older a babysitter gets, the less inclined they are to do this work – they start getting dates – but sometimes they have younger friends or sisters who do it. I got one sitter that way.
    Music and art teachers also may have names they can give you.
    Even in my community I sometimes had to forgo an evening out because I just couldn’t get anyone. (Of course, it didn’t help that I sometimes tried to be spontaneous and call people several hours before I needed someone.) But I bet you can come up with a list of names with some digging.

  3. It seems as though a lot of people are very tight lipped about their babysitter’s identity. I was actually lucky enough to get a real live name of a potential babysitter a few weeks ago. My husband is a music graduate student and he had a big concert I wanted to attend. It was a big deal because we don’t leave the children very often, especially with people we don’t know. So I fought off my maternal hesitation and called the girl, had a nice conversation with her and decided to take the chance and book her. I had been looking forward to this concert all year!! As a grad student’s wife (feels a lot like a single mother sometimes), I really needed a night out without children. SHE NEVER SHOWED UP!! I had even confirmed with her the night before. I was disappointed beyond words, but somehow wondered if I should be thankful that someone so irresponsible and inconsiderate might have actually cared for my children for several hours. Now I’m at a real loss of what to do. I’ve just got to find someone reliable. It’s very difficult to do apparently, which is why so many people are so stingy with the info, I guess!

  4. Wow! I never thought that there was such a thing as “babysitting Poker”! I think it is funny how people are. To not share with your fellow neighbors in fear of (loosing out on something?) I see this as a lack mentality – that there is a limited amount of “stuff” in the universe and if I give it away or share than that makes less for me. I would gladly share babysitting names as I would rather see the world as an unlimited source of “stuff”. It is a much more fun and loving way to be 🙂
    If you have little ones at home check out:

  5. Wow, what a scary group of “friends” y’all have. I would never dream of this, and neither would my friends and friendly neighbors.
    Any chance that those folks who don’t share babysitter names have offered to watch your kids themselves? I didn’t think so.

  6. I have heard about the challenges of finding and keeping a babysitter from many parents. Word of mouth travels fast and keeping a good sitter that your children love can be a challenge. That is the reason I started babysitting service. Below are good tips for holding onto a good babysitter:
    1. Pay the babysitter well.
    2. Be up front about expectations.
    3. Try to get home at the time you said you would. If you must be late, call your babysitter and let them know.
    4. Put food and drink out for the babysitter and tell them that it is for them.

  7. You know the funny is that I played it the other way…I freely gave out my babysitters’ info to a few neighbors without knowing them well, and recently the girls reported to me that they had to walk home at 3 am because the parents were too drunk to drive them in their own admittedly wise judgment.
    I was horrified…I had thought about keeping them to myself for awhile just to reserve their services for myself, but felt a little selfish…plus I hardly leave my son enough to justify not referencing them. At the same time, I felt like the neighbors abused my trust in them by doing something so foolish and risky to a 14 yr old and her 16 yr old sister. I immediately got on the phone and told them what for, and told the girls that they needed to a)tell their mom what happened and b) NEVER accept a ride from them, sober or not and c) call me if their mom allowed them to babysit for these people again so I could make sure they went home safely.
    I will never lend their names and info lightly again, which might across as selfish, but I have to think of these girls as well, yk?

  8. I find this post rather amusing…Because I was the PERFECT babysitter and didn’t know it! My sister and brother were born when I was 10 and 12 years old…and presto I was an instant babysitter for my parents… I remember carrying my sister on my hip when I was twelve to the corner store, changing diapers, feeding..yep I did it all! So when I would babysit for others I never quite understood why people always said that I seemed much older than 13. Now I get it! I have not found a good babysitter yet..most kids don’t even know how to hold a baby let alone change their diaper…Man! If only I had known then what I know now! I would have charged 10$/hour instead of 5$/hour! You’d better hope the babysitters don’t see this post!

  9. No, we’re already quite conscious of babysitter inflation, where we parents are on the wrong end of that supply/demand curve. When my girls are old enough to babysit, we’ll have a whole different economics… 🙂

  10. We just held a Slow Family babysitting class and had 27 kids between the ages of 10 and 15 sign up. We were blown away by their interest and desire and knowledge of babies and toddlers and by their love of being with them. We love knowing that a whole new wave of Babysitters can now hit the streets here in Austin, TX. A little young yet – but not for long.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *