The babysitter conundrum

Ah, the babysitter, that coveted being that you can trust with your kids, that will play with them, feed them, care for them, and keep them alive long enough for you to sneak in a date night here and there, or get to a spin class or do those errands that take 1.5 hours when you are alone, but at least 4 hours when the kids are with you. For some of us the babysitter is a family member. Grandma and Grandpa or the aunties and uncles. But what happens when no family is around to help out? When you live far away from your family or caring for your kids regularly is a bit much for the grandparents?

Besides our family members, my kids have had three babysitters. One is the teenage daughter of my former La Leche League leader and has known my kids since they were teeny tiny and has loved them ever since, one is a wonderful woman that I met at a Modern Mama babysitter mixer and has been our regular day-time sitter for the past 18 months and the third is a new girl that also sits for one of my best friends.

The problem is that two of them are heading back to school in the fall and our regular sitter had the nerve to go off and get married and is starting a family of her own (Sheesh!). So I am now without a regular sitter for any or all of the above reasons that I would need one!

And being as we just moved into a new neighbourhood, I have been keeping my eyes open and ears to the ground for any leads close by. It just so happens that our immediate neighbours across the alley are a lovely family with two teenage boys (14 and 16) and my first thought moving in was, "I wonder if either of them would want to babysit for us?".

I am bringing this up, because the topic of babysitters came up today with the kids while out for a family walk. Little C asked me if our new babysitter was going to be a boy. Up to now and before we moved, I had not really contemplated the idea, mainly because we did not have any boys of the babysitting age around us or available and I already had the best sitters around!

One of my kids favourite story books is a Fancy Nancy one called, "Fancy Nancy & the Sensational Babysitter".  In it Nancy is anxiously awaiting her new babysitter 'Alex' and is bitterly disappointed when HE shows up! In the end Alex turns out to be quite good at this babysitting thing and Nancy gives him a big thumbs up and hopes he comes again soon. The concept of a boy being a babysitter is not a big deal to my children.

But it seems that for others, this is not the case. Tonight just before dinner, I posed this question on both Twitter and Facebook.

"Have you or would you hire a teenage boy to babysit your kids?"

The responses have ranged from a straight up "Hell, no!" to "I have, I do and I would gladly sing his praises. He's an excellent kid and is a fabulous sitter for my 2 year old daughter!".  A few have said that they wouldn't want to 'take the risk' with a boy sitter.  Most comments say that yes, they would and that choosing a sitter is about knowing the person, regardless of gender. A lot of comments have been about fabulous memories of the boy babysitters people had as kids and the common thread is that they often tend to play more with kids than the girls do.

But the two comments that have stood out the most for me are from my friend Farren and from the husband of another friend.

Farren said, "We limit boys and men as nurturers simply by entertaining this idea. Trust people, not genders."

And Doug said, "...Boundaries are defined not only by what they contain, but by what's outside them. It's not about the teenage boy, it's about those who question the teenage boy... and why. It all comes down to individual trust, and I don't see what gender has to do with that."

While the majority of the comments have been that yes, most would or have had a boy babysitter, the ones that won't even consider it an option because of the potential risk that is perceived when a teenage boy is alone with kids and left to his own devices are the ones that are burning a hole in my gut tonight.

I can understand the need to protect our children from any and all potential harm, but what I can't understand is the blatant sexism and prejudice that exists in our world. Yes, there are bad men out there and they do some very bad things {trust me people, THIS I know}, but to paint all boys with a blatant "never gonna happen" paintbrush, just doesn't sit well with me. My 17-year old nephew is a huge kid, he is 6'2" already, has a deep man's voice and is a guy's guy. He is also the most gentle and patient kid I have ever seen. He is an amazing big brother to his 2.5 year old sister and a super fun cousin for my little ones. That someone would think that because he is a boy, this makes him any less caring or potentially more 'dangerous' than say, his 14-year old sister, makes me shake my head.

These boys are the future fathers of our world and like Farren says, why would we want to limit their potential for nurturing? Why not give them a chance to care for small people, to learn these life skills and be better MEN for it? How many of us are married to men who never spent much time with kids before they had their own? Why would we want to perpetuate this cycle?  How can we even start to contemplate a world in which we are all equal when we can't even see a teenage girl and a teenage boy as having equal merit as a babysitter?

I have a lot of questions tonight and not a lot of answers. Doug's comment has me thinking and thinking. About the boundaries that we put up around our children and ourselves. About what we are trying to contain (innocence? theirs? ours?) and what we are trying to keep out. About my own prejudices and fears and from that {not yet talked about} place from which they stem...

The reality is, that I am still in need of a few good babysitters for my roster. If the boys across the alley are game, are good kids (as I suspect they are) and have some basic babysitting skills (IE, can make a mean PB&J sandwich, know a few things about LEGO building and can muddle through a tea party), then I'm pretty sure I am too.

Wish me luck!



What about you? Would you or have you had a boy babysitter care for your kids? Why or why not?


This is Post 25 of the 31 Days of Summer Blog Challenge

There are some good ones today from my co-bloggers, please check them out.

Zita at The Dulock Diaries.

Meaghan at MagzD Life

April at This Mom’s Got Something to Say

Aramelle at One Wheeler’s World

 Jessica at 2plus2X2

and Liam at In the Now