I Made Friends With My Kid's Babysitter

I've heard from moms that being friends with the babysitter is a huge taboo, akin to a boss sleeping with his secretary. But I did it anyway.

Cece was different than any other sitter I'd hired. Rather than sit there checking her smartphone, she'd actually sit on the floor and play and talk with my daughter, whose eyes would light up as soon as she walked through the door. But what made Cece truly different was something else: I wanted to be her friend.

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At first, I had my qualms. For starters, I'd found her on Craigslist -- a sketchy place to mine for friends. I knew zippo about this woman or anyone who'd ever hired her. Probably the only reason I did give her a chance was that I'd be working at home anyway, where I could keep one ear cocked for anything fishy.

Another reservation I had with befriending Cece was that the whole point to hiring a babysitter was to get stuff done... yet I often found myself chatting with her over coffee while she showed me photos of her artwork and talked about her dreams of opening an art school for kids. It would be rude to just walk away while she was happily prattling about her hopes and dreams, right? Had we not been friends, it would have been so much easier to just hand her my daughter then go about my day.

Then Cece started showing up late. She chalked it up to problems with public transportation. My husband thought that was bullcrap. "She's late because she's Latin and Latins are always late," he said (he grew up in a Latin family so I didn't hold this blanket stereotyping against him). "And because you're too friendly with her. She's getting too comfortable."

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I could see his point. I could also see how if Cece and I weren't so chummy, it would have been easier to lay down the law and say she had to show up on time. Yet I never called Cece on her lateness, since friends just don't do that. And besides, I simply had nowhere urgent or important to go; I just needed time to finish various writing projects. So I let it slide.

Still, I had my limits. If Cece were more than a half hour late, I did dock her pay and explain why, or ask her to stay a half hour later to make up the difference. Yes, these conversations always made me feel like such a heel -- I'd never do this to a "pure" friend/non-employee. Yet she always accepted what I said with a smile and "no problem," which made me wonder: Was she being sunny because we were friends, or because I was her boss? It was impossible to tell.

I also worried that befriending the babysitter spoke poorly of my social skills as a new mom. I tried going to mommy meet-ups on occasion but never broke past the small talk and became good friends with any of them. Everywhere I looked, from playgrounds to sing-alongs, I saw moms bonding with moms. The only person I seemed to have any rapport with was my babysitter, whom I paid to keep my daughter company. Is that pathetic or what?

But at the end of the day, I decided to give in and throw caution to the wind because, well, I was a lonely new mom -- and the fact that Cece knew my daughter so well already made it easy to break past the idle chitchat and have a real conversation. So once the day was done, I handed my babysitter her payment, then invited her to stay for a glass of wine. After the slightest hesitation -- whether due to pleasant surprise or weighing the ramifications, I'll never know -- she accepted with a smile.

Things warmed up from there. At Christmas, we exchanged gifts -- she got me a necklace, I got her earrings. We had her and her fiancé over for dinner. Yet I often worried whether she felt these unpaid, "social" visits were obligatory or just good business. It also got awkward when Indy needed a diaper change or dinner. I tried to draw a clear distinction that Cece had "punched out" and these duties were now part of my own job description as a mom, but the clear lines between work and regular life often got messy -- and she often ended up holding the wipes.

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When our daughter turned 2, my husband and I decided she was ready for day care -- far cheaper than paying a babysitter by the hour. Breaking the news to Cece was hard and heartbreaking, much like dumping a guy you've been dating for years. But Cece said she understood. I wrote her a glowing recommendation on a local parenting site that got her a nanny job that paid far better than I could, which made me feel good about letting her go.

I also knew this would be the true test of the strength of our friendship: Once I was no longer forking over cash, would she still swing by and say hi? She sure did and still does to this day two years later -- which confirmed for me that she is truly one of the kindest, more genuine people I've met since my daughter's birth. When people like this cross your path, it doesn't matter if they're your babysitter, or your boss, or your Starbucks barista. They are rare and should be treasured and treated like the friends they truly are.

Are you friends with your babysitter?

 

Image © Beau Lark/Corbis

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