I’m The Babysitter, Not Your Secret Double Agent
When I first moved Brooklyn, I often babysat and nannied for many children who lived in relatively the same neighborhood. Although this was fantastic for my personal scheduling and walking to and from babysitting jobs, the close geography, and therefore social networks, left many mothers milking me for details on other families.
Childcare workers tend to see the interior of everything: marriages, new homes, parenting rules, parenting hypocrisies, and all those dirty dishes. But just because I know that your daughter’s best friend gets TV after dinner (and after bath and in the mornings before school) doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you.
It never ceases to amaze me how much mothers in tight knit parenting communities try and weasel details out of me just because I watch their son’s soccer teammate twice a week. Asking for updates on the living room construction is one thing. Polite inquiries about how so and so’s backyard patio is coming is definitely not digging. What I’m talking about is inquiries about time spent doing reading outside the classroom, if X’s mommy really does cook when she comes home from the office, and if it’s true that refined sugar really is banned in Y’s home.
One time I was watching a five-year-old girl after returning from watching her best friend a few blocks over. They were in the same class at the time and had the same homework assignments. When it came time to do reading for fun, the little girl asked me how much time her BFF spent reading that night.
“About 30 minutes,” I said without thinking, closing her workbooks.
“30 minutes?” her mother echoed from the kitchen, turning to face us. “But the required amount is 15.”
I could sense instantly that the BFF reading that extra 15 minutes more each night not only unnerved this mother, but was also somehow a personal attack. The only time I saw her eyes get that big was the evening she came home late and the kid was still awake. Immediately there came a slew of questions about if the BFF’s mommy read with her or if it was just me. Did her mommy lay out the books beforehand? Did she read for 30 minutes every night? Was she punished if she didn’t read for 30 minutes? Was TV used as a bargaining tactic?
Hell if I know. The child just happened to read for 30 minutes while I was there.
Then there was the time after leaving a single mother’s home and heading to some friends of hers a few subway stops that I was asked how said single mother was doing. She seemed fine to me. Perhaps a bit more snippy about me not getting the kid’s teeth brushed before she came home, but other than that, normal. Why did they ask?
Before I know it, both parents are alluding to her “failed marriage” and speculating as to whether she’ll marry again. Had she been out for dates? Did she come home late from time to time? Was she seeing anyone? Had she expressed any interest in dating?
Call her up and ask her for goodness sakes, or maybe check her Facebook. I’m just the babysitter. And just because I’m permitted into the intimate settings of people’s homes doesn’t mean I’ll go divulging details to gossipy parents.