A very good friend of mine who has children, but who is enjoying their relatively self-sufficient ages, wrote this as an open letter to parents who have very young children and who don’t assume the level of responsibility she wishes they would. (That is, they like to drop their kids on her when they go out. She, being very kind and very generous with her time, has a hard time saying “No.”)
Note to anyone considering having children: THINK about it before you do it. Recognize the work it requires. You simply cannot get pregnant believing “the village” is going to help you raise your child with fresh-baked cookies and open arms. It’s not your parents’ job, your friends’ job, your neighbors’ job, or even your church’s job. They didn’t sign up for that.
To: Friends with Little Kids
From: Someone Who Would Rather Not Have Those Kinds of Friends Anymore
Since I do not have children young enough to need babysitting, I’d like to inform you that your requests for me to babysit are a pain in my ass. There are a few (very few) situations that I don’t mind helping you out, like in an emergency, but even then I am not happy about it. I am doing it because I care.
Never do I think, “Yes! I get to give up my peace and relaxation this weekend/evening/whatever to watch __________’s kids!”
What I really think, but I’m too nice to tell you, is, “Shit! I have to follow them around my non-childproofed home making sure they don’t break my things, stick them in weird places where I’ll never find them again, or choke on them. I have to feed them crackers in baggies that they’ll drop all over the floor (okay, the dog likes that) and let them drink juice out of sippy cups that don’t actually frigging keep the juice from spilling. My trash is going to smell like perfumed baby crap, and it’s enough to make me gag. And damn, I can’t watch cool stuff on TV tonight.”
I clean and vacuum before you arrive with your kids even though it seems like a stupid idea. I try not to think about pee on my toilet seat or germy little hands that aren’t washed properly spreading funk all over the doorknobs and walls. I get annoyed if I have to fix food that is different from what I normally make because little __________ won’t eat it, and I don’t care who you are or what time little ____________ is used to eating – we don’t eat dinner in my house at 5 pm.
Even if you tell your kids to be good, I assure you, they will be too loud for me. Unless they spend all their time reading, or working quietly on artwork (that doesn’t require my cleaning after them) or puzzles, I will consider their presence irritating. I will resent the fact that any of the little bit of “off time” that I have with my family is sabotaged by your little angel(s).
Friends with little kids, do your friends with older kids/without kids a favor: find yourselves some babysitters who are advertising for the JOB. Do what you have to in order to feel safe about it… interview, require references, training and background checks, but PLEASE, find several of these people before you need them. You could also find other parents with little kids who need babysitters to swap services with. If you don’t like those ideas, then don’t go out. You couldn’t pay me enough to want to watch your kids. Believe me – the only one who thinks they’re precious is you.