May 25, 2018
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Baby sitters are nothing like they used to be

Erin Donovan
By Erin Donovan, Special to the BDN

The thing I remember most clearly about moving from New York City to Maine was the learning curve that came with baby sitters. Most of the women I had worked alongside in New York had the privilege of an in-home nanny. Given the extreme and unpredictable hours that come with big city careers, a nanny was the more prudent choice over day care.

I had the unbelievable luck of scoring a dear family friend to care for our children while I was at work. I had all the benefits of a nanny — accountability, experience and foreign language — combined with the love that only someone like family can show toward things that spend all day screaming and exercising bodily functions. The other virtue she held above the rest was her age. She was old. You wouldn’t have known she was old since she could probably bench-press my body, and her forehead displayed smoother skin than most half her age, but she was an old woman.

Moving to Maine meant leaving behind that level of care. Leaving behind a woman who spent more years caring for babies than I’d spent living at all. It meant dealing with a subset of humans more mysterious than a galloping herd of unicorns. More capricious than the wind. More unpredictable than a swift moving virus.


At first I couldn’t imagine entrusting my three gems to humans who regularly crash their cars and speak in acronyms. I learned, however, after a bruising first winter spent barely leaving the house that my mental well-being was going to depend on them. Now that I’ve lived here three years, I’ve likely called and sampled every species of female between the ages of 15 and 18. A select few were triumphs, while a bunch were triumphant failures. Most fell somewhere in between the spectrum of “having to call 911” and “forgetting to call 911 because you were too busy texting someone else.

Dealing with teenagers as baby sitters inevitably forces you to recall your own teenage baby-sitting years. You reflect upon the ways the gig was different then. The parents were different then. The kids were different then. Mostly, though, you think about the ways teenagers were different then…

Reasons I cancelled a baby-sitting job when I was a teenager:

— In surgery

Reasons my baby sitters cancel:

— Mental health day

— Boyfriend needs a mental health day

— The vernal equinox

— Forgot they were going to Beijing

— The SATs are in seven weeks

— Weather forecast calls for .000032 inches of snow

— Prom is in four months

— Finale of “Gossip Girl”

— Victory Over Japan Day

— Tiffanee (who they never ever ever ever see) is coming into town

— Exceeded their text messaging plan

— Tired from shopping and forgetting to eat all day


— “Hunger Games” premieres

— “Hunger Games” is still playing

— “Hunger Games” is available for rental

Things I brought with me as a teenage baby sitter:

— The number to Poison Control

Things my baby sitters bring:

— Ipod

— Ipad

— Headphones

— The password to my wireless network

— Cosmo

— Nail polish

— Sushi

— Tiffanee (who they never ever ever ever see)

Things I said I’d never do as a teenage baby sitter:

— Shake the baby

— Steal the valuables

Things my baby sitters say they will never do:

— Dishes

— Cooking

— Fold laundry

— Watch Disney movies

— Accept jobs without Tiffanee (who they never ever ever ever see)

— Bake foods with gluten

Forms of payment I accepted as a teenage baby sitter:

— Travelers checks

— Canadian quarters

— Thin Mints

— Advice about not getting pregnant

— An upper respiratory infection

— Leftover pizza

— Rides home

— Not telling my mother that I fell asleep on the couch

Forms of payment my baby sitters accept:

— Cash with tip


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