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Confessions Of A Governess: Nanny Nightmares, I Got Stuck Babysitting For Two Families In One Night

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Confessions of a Governess is a Mommyish series from the perspective of someone who gets paid to watch other people’s children. Moms, take a deep breath.

As a babysitter, I’ve always prided myself on being flexible. Families who are in need of childcare, even if not stated explicitly, often need someone who can put in an extra 30 minutes here and there if they get caught up. Whether it’s at work or on their daily commute or in the grocery store line, people — even parents — get delayed and families need the person watching their kids to be aware of that possibility. But as much as I’ve always been willing to stay an extra hour and push back my own plans to accommodate rushing mommies, I deserve a Best Babysitter Award on my resume for this one.

After picking up two little girls up from school, ages four and six, I felt my cell phone buzz in my purse. I remember asking both girls to pause at the street corner as I recognized the number of another mother I sometimes sit for on occasion. Normally, she texts or emails when arranging times for me to watch her infant son so when I saw that she was calling me directly, I knew that something was wrong. She answered breathlessly and said that she had a “terrible work crisis” followed by a doctor’s appointment and could I please relieve her husband of their seven-month-old.

The girls were jumping up and down in the rain puddles outside a brownstone and calling me to join them when I explained that I was already booked for the evening. But I recognized that helplessness in her voice and her tone suggested to me that I was her last resort. I quickly texted the girls’ parents who said that they had no problem with me collecting another baby and bringing him to their home.

Thirty minutes later, I’m waddling back to the girls’ home with the seven-month-old strapped to me in a Baby Bjorn as both girls sing a million questions about the baby. Was he my baby? Why did I have a baby and never tell them? What was his name? What did he eat? When did he sleep? Could they hold him?

Finally getting in the house, the girls raced upstairs and I surveyed their home for a prime spot to place the little one. I hadn’t been babysitting for this family back when the girls were babies, and their home suggested that it had indeed been awhile. Baby proofing had long since left this house, and every sharp edge and low end table proved that there was nowhere to safely put the baby down.

The living room, which was by far the safest, was instantly ruled out when  I was reminded of the two cats that the family owned. Perched up on the sofas, they eyed the baby with the type of interest reserved for most mice and small moving objects. I don’t know how much truth there is behind the cat-killing-infant-baby urban legend that I heard so much about as a kid. But I knew that between his mother’s breast milk in my purse and the way those kitties were watching him, it was not a risk I was willing to take as the sitter.

So, I didn’t put him down the entire night.

The schedule for the girls continued as usual with them doing their homework upstairs and me preparing dinner — all with a third little bundle attached to me. Between bath time and bed time, I ran up and down those stairs nearly a dozen times, his giggles indicating that at least one of us was having a good time. When I finally got the girls into bed which involved explaining the baby’s whole life story as well as that of his parents, I finally took him out of his sling and held him until he fell asleep; the “stair-athon” had successfully induced some kind of sleepiness.

When the parents of the girls came home, they recognized my exhausted face as mirroring that of their early parenting days — back when their second was just a baby. When the baby’s parents came to collect him, they thanked me profusely for having stepped in when they so sorely needed the help.

When I got home, I left the money that both families had given me on my nightstand and promptly passed out. When I woke up the next morning, I found that both families had given me an extra large tip.

(photo: larchmontdish.com)