My husband graduated from his master's degree program last week (CUE THE CHOIRS OF ANGELS) and because the ceremony took place on a Thursday night, finding a babysitter was a little more difficult than usual. I'm lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents, two aunts and several babysitters in my Rolodex, but none of them were available - the ones who didn't have a final to study for and weren't on a cruise (!) just couldn't come up to our place on a weeknight, not during rush hour traffic. LAME.
I had a friend volunteer to babysit earlier in the week, but I turned her down. I was sure I could find someone, and besides, I was sure the last thing my friend wanted to do after taking care of HER kids all day was take care of MINE. I could manage! Until it turned out that I really couldn't find anyone and I really couldn't NOT go to the ceremony and I had to call her up and say, "So, uh, remember when you said you'd watch the kids Thursday night?"
Thank goodness she was still available. And because she's much nicer than me, the kids had a great time and I THINK she didn't totally regret volunteering to watch them. Not that she would tell me of course, but I THINK it went okay. And I was SO grateful.
As a rule, I try not to use my friends for babysitting purposes. It'd be different if I didn't have any family in town and couldn't afford an occasional babysitter, but I do and I can and to ask a friend to help me out feels like a super huge deal. I know that all of them would happily watch my kids, for whatever reason, but it still feels like a big ask and I'd rather not risk our friendship by gratuitous exposure to my pair of monkeys.
See, I'M a tiny bit afraid of THEIR kids. Not because they're little beasts or anything (those would be mine), no, it's more like I only know what to do with MY kids. Theirs? Uhhhh... Let's see, I've made cookies and drawn pictures and helped with puzzles, the regular stuff. But I still get a little nervous. What if they sob the minute their mom leaves and NEVER STOP? I am not good with soothing kids! Oh, the Rhetorical Possibilities with which to freak myself out. Then again, when I HAVE watched my friends' kids, it's never a big deal. I've watched a playroom full of giddy preschoolers and I've sat on a quiet couch in the dark while a baby who wasn't mine slept peacefully in the next room. I'm thrilled to help out my friends. It makes me feel a little less guilty about all the help I have!
I've been thinking about stepping up and watching other people's kids a little more lately. Jack is getting to an age (or is he already there?!) where we could have a friend over SANS PARENT. I know! I can hardly wrap my brain around the thought. A world of playdates where the kids are banished to the playroom and I am not talking to the other mom in the living room. INTERESTING. But I have other friends doing this and they say it's awesome - the kids entertain each other and you just stay out of the way. So I've been toying with that idea a bit. I also have friends who have no family nearby and have only left their kids overnight one time. One! Single! Time! As grandparent sleepovers are something we do on a near monthly basis, I'd love to give my friends the same treat and have their kiddos come spend the night with mine. We're close friends, the kids have known each other since day one, I think it could totally work.
I know lots of other moms swap kids to make part-time work schedules happen or to give each other date nights. I'm lucky enough to have a group of friends with kids who get along great with mine, where the kids are familiar with all the moms, and the moms all trust each other. So if you're reading, Friends Of Me, I am open for kid watching! I want this to be a more... normal occurence in our lives, not just a one-time emergency OMG-you-saved-my-life sort of thing. And I'm sure this is old hat to YOU, o faithful readers. What kind of kid swapping set up do you have in your circle of friends?