I’ve been babysitting for three years, and I love it. I was even considering doing a gap year between high school and university and spending this year being an au pair in America, but I was too excited for university to defer for a year. In my time babysitting, I’ve learned many things, some conventional (like how to change a baby), and others not. Here are just eight things I’ve learnt from being a babysitter:
1. Kids Make The Best Exercise Trainers
When one of the kids I babysit for was four or five months old, one day she just would not stop crying – she was incredibly overtired but would not go to sleep. She cried for about two and a half hours straight, and at this point, I was pretty new to looking after babies and started getting worried she would start struggling to breathe from all the wailing and turn blue (pretty sure there was a Grey’s Anatomy episode where that happened, so you can see that I had medical advice on my side). I eventually found that walking around the house and singing with her was the only thing that would lessen her crying, so I got on the treadmill – and walked on the treadmill for the next three hours, whilst singing “It’s A Hard Knock Life” (from the musical Annie, the only song that for some reason soothed her) for fear that as soon as I got off the treadmill she would wake up and start crying all over again.
Yes, I let myself be controlled by a baby. It was like some twisted version of The Biggest Loser, where instead of some crazy strict exercise instructor yelling at you as you crawled through a pit of mud, there was a baby who let out the most heartbreaking cry every time you a) stopped singing or b) stepped off the treadmill.
2. Babysitting in Real Life is Completely Different To How The Babysitter’s Club Make it Out To Be
Um, excuse me, Ann M. Martin, I have a bone to pick with you. You gave me some great ideas for babysitting, but no where in your books did you explain that babies cry, or what to do when a five-year-old throws a fit about not winning Mario Kart, or what to say when a child asks you how babies are made, or the fact that strollers are not light and it’s almost impossible to get them down stairs when you’re on your own and a child is sleeping in it. Or maybe you did, and it’s just in the ten books of your series that I don’t have.
3. Kids See The World In A Completely Different Way To Adults
There’s a church across the road from my house, and one of the kids I babysit for (the same girl in number one, but she’s now three) is convinced it’s Cinderella’s castle. It’s the cutest thing ever, and every time I look after her she insists on going to the (very real) mailbox next to the “castle” and putting “letters to Cinderella” inside it (pieces of paper with purple scribble on it). I’m not sure the postman appreciates getting those “letters,” but it sure is cute and makes her happy. I’ve started writing her letters back from “Cinderella” and every time she sees me she says, “I got a letter and a sticker from Cinderella!”
4. “I Don’t Know” Is Not An Acceptable Answer
“I don’t know” is not acceptable. I once said “I don’t know” to an answer to a question to a five-year-old, and he gave me the strangest look, which was like, “Um, first of all, why do you not know the answer to my obviously simple question, and secondly, why tell me you don’t know when you could just Google it first and avoid this look?”
5. I Have No Idea How To Go To The Bathroom With a Stroller
More specifically, a baby in a stroller that you need to push at the same time as going to the bathroom in order to keep the baby asleep?
I still haven’t completely worked this one out. My bathrooms at home are fine because they’re big, and I can push the stroller back and forth with my foot. But public restrooms? Especially ones which are really tight spaces and have cubicles which don’t fit the stroller and allow a closed door at the same time? How does that work?
6. People Will Almost Always Assume I’m The Teenage Mother Instead of The Babysitter
When I’m babysitting kids three or under and take them for a walk in their stroller, anyone who stops and talks to us will almost always assume I’m the child’s mother. In my three years of babysitting, I’ve only ever been asked if I was the sister of the child once, the mother at least fifty times, and the babysitter never. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it’s always weird to realize that people are quicker to assume I’m the mother rather than the babysitter.
7. Peppa Pig Has a Hypnotizing Effect on children.
What is it about Peppa? Is it her vaguely British accent? The fact that she’s a talking pig? The fact that she’s a British talking pig wearing clothes? I don’t know what it is, but if she just happens to be on TV, kids stare at the screen, gob smacked, like they’ve never seen anything as cool as that in their lives.
8. Kids Have This Way of Making You Feel Like You’re The Most Important Person in The World
They really do. It’s the way they look at you like you’re the coolest person ever, the way they run into your arms when they see you, and the way they insist on holding your hand all the time.