If you get along well with family members, and they live close, and they want to babysit your kids, that's awesome. For the rest of us, read on.
Yes, it sucks when you have nobody who will babysit your kids lovingly for free or at a moment's notice. But there are many many benefits to having a paid babysitter, that make up for the fact that you have to pay them (I will address this concern in a bit). Also, not having a babysitter is often a tremendous issue in couples counseling. The guy says, "I want to do date night," and the woman replies, "But we don't have a sitter." And the guy says, "Get one online," and the woman shrieks, "THOSE PEOPLE ARE ALL CRAZY MASS MURDERERS." And I interject, "Here is an individual therapy referral for the anxiety that is NOT HELPING YOUR MARRIAGE OR PARENTING." (Note: I myself didn't do date night after Levi's birth till he was 15 months old, so I get you. But we did get sitters for date mornings, and he did have a sitter three times a week for me to go to work. So, do what you can, but it's likely that you need a break sometimes, even from the most adorable baby in the world.)
Here are the top five reasons to get a paid sitter and not wait around for your mother-in-law to offer:
1. You can tell the sitter exactly what to do.
If you want her to feed your kid an 8 ounce bottle, she will. She won't say, "well, it didn't seem like she was hungry" or "It seemed like she was hungry still so I defrosted another 8 oz of breastmilk that now you'll have to throw out because she took one sip." And you know this would happen with many parents and in-laws.
2. You can get the exact day and time that you want.
If you get a few sitters' info, you will never be in the position that your date night has to be on a Tuesday because that's when your relative could do it. And at 11am. Till 12.
3. You don't need to talk endlessly after arriving home.
You're in, you ask how it went, you pay her, it's over. Up to bed you go, without a long conversation that is taking away your precious sleep time. Or sex time, if it's a blue moon.
4. No drama.
You never say to your sitter, "Please put her down at 7pm" and then your sitter says, "I think that's too early," and you say, "Well, that's her bedtime," and your sitter says, "It wasn't your bedtime when you were that age," and you say, "I thought you said you would just respect my choices with my kid" and your sitter says "Well, I raised three kids myself so I think I know about bedtimes" and then you get into a huge fight and all your siblings get involved and next year you book a trip for Thanksgiving to the goddamn Bahamas instead of going to your mom's house.
5. Safety first
Whose mom knows CPR? Who knows it themselves? I mean, I took the course too, but am I confident? Not really. You can find a sitter who knows CPR, how to use an Epi-Pen, knows First Aid, whatever you need, and they likely took the course on it more recently than you, if you took it at all, and I'm betting all your relatives haven't.
(Oh, another translation of "safety first" is you're unlikely to murder your sitter no matter what she does, whereas in the first example of a relative defrosting breastmilk for no reason, that is an actual possibility.)
Now, you say, but it's $10-$12 for a sitter times 3-4 hours for a date night, what about that? Not all of us all wealthy like you, Dr. Psych Mom, with your 2006 Dodge Caravan and house with vinyl siding in a suburb of Maryland! So I say, from where I recline here in a tub of gold dust and caviar: Here are some ways to make up that $30-$48.
1. Eat dinner with the kids first and go out just for a drink or dessert. Saves you money and calories!
3. Don't get yourself anything from Starbucks any week that you're getting a sitter. Also, do you need whatever extra crap you grabbed at Giant because you were hungry when shopping? No. Put it back. And you certainly don't need anything from Zappos or Zulily. (Yes, I see what you do on your work computer.) A few times of catching yourself spending wastefully makes back at least the majority of what you're going to spend on the sitter.
4. Sell some crap in your house on Ebay and Craigslist and make a babysitter fund while simultaneously feeling smug about organizing your life and making your home look less like Hoarders.
I recommend Sittercity, where we have found college students, nurses, EMT's, teachers, and all manner of people more suited to spend time with my kids than I am. And until we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Can Write a Babysitter Ad in 5 Minutes Flat. With The First Kid There Were Multiple Drafts.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Pre-order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.