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March 4, 2021
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News + Views

The Awkward Stew: You and Your Babysitter at 1 a.m.

By Renee Dale

Your Saturday night babysitter is not some rube. She knows what’s what. She’s not a kid from up the street that raids your fridge and eats raw cookie dough standing in front of it, then watches basic cable and pretends she isn’t in R.E.M. sleep when you come home. You’re not paying this kid 8 bucks an hour and cold pizza, and frankly neither are we. Because she’s not a kid at all. Kids don’t have jobs anymore. They have important stuff to do! Most likely, your weekend sitter is a grown woman with some kind of daytime career, and possibly has a husband who uses beard oil. They have a cat. And Shinola bikes with leather Renee Photo Frontsaddlebags. (No offense directed at the many talented mannies out there, but I say “she” because, well, let’s be honest. Also, I still feel conflicted about those Energetic Dude Sitters. I’m sorry, Dude Sitters.)

Your babysitter is smart and well dressed and cooler than you are. She’s wearing important glasses and even explained to you what Warby Parker is. You feel a little self-conscious about your outfit when you sense her innocently appraising you. She arrives with her laptop and claims to know very little about “working” your big television and collection of remotes. When she mentions this to us, we’re amazed, as our On Demand and Recorded Primetime Show library is comprehensive. Hello? Top of the Lake? The Newsroom? Netflix Original House of Cards?! No? Anyway, your sitter probably lives in your neighborhood, but you will still offer to arrange and pay for an Arecibo car home at the end of the night. And she will accept.

If you’re like us, you cannot believe how expensive this whole endeavor is. If you’re like us, you might wonder if you should take some extra work doing nighttime babysitting, because it seems like kind of a nice deal. But mostly, as you fumble for your keys and attempt to glide back into your house at the end of the evening, you will endure the childlike embarrassment you used to feel when you’d return home as teenager to find your mother sitting there, sober as a stone, and well equipped in the bluish television flicker to gauge your altered state. Your babysitter isn’t judging you though. She probably eats in the same precious restaurants and waits like a fool for the same tiny, cramped tables as you do. After all, she likes bottarga too! I mean, why wouldn’t she?

At the conclusion of our evenings, there’s a whiff of dread about this encounter, the one in which we try to appear as if we haven’t had as much wine as we’ve had while she’s been sitting there with ALL OF THE LIGHTS ON tweeting or pinning on her Pinterest boards, and suddenly we’re face to face. It’s so very bright in here. Her on the couch, us standing over her holding a bundle of cash, asking so how were the kidsh in a slurrified string of upspeak where we accidentally talk over one another. If you’re like us, when this excruciating scene unfolds, you feel guilty, even though you are basically a serviceable, loving parent. You think, why do we abandon our small children and go out to overpay for silly dinners and multiple half carafes!? Who needs this humiliation? If you’re like us, slivers of your fraudulence as a grown-up may play peek-a-boo right there in front of your kids’ caregiver. It’s a pretty awful way to conclude a fun night out, the anticipation of a 1 a.m. babysitter interlude looming like a colonoscopy. But look, you must go out! You deserve it.

Obviously it would be ill advised to level the playing field by having your sitter consume stiff specialty cocktails and eat locally-sourced, no-room-saved-for-dessert, shared-plate meals while you’re out. So here’s some tips that we think have limited our exposure and made for less cringe-worthy farewells. Or at least…a few things that may get your responsible, topknot-wearing sitter, the one moonlighting from her small-batch toothpaste business, OUT of your house more quickly so that you can take off your tight pants and go to bed.

  1. Ask her BEFORE you leave if she’d like you to call her a taxi when you’re on your way back home. That way, you can return and she can leave immediately. Otherwise you’ll have to call the car and then wait together, the three of you, and make inane conversation. The awkward stew congeals here, and it’s in this risky period where you will profoundly embarrass yourself.
  2. Decide before you re-enter the home which of you is going to do the talking. This is key. If you leave this to chance, you and your partner will both blab diarrheically and end up in a weird, we’re trying to act natural thing that will make you look desperate. One of you converses and the other hands her the pile of money she has extracted from you so that she could curate her Tumblr for three hours while your children slept in their bunk beds.
  3. If you’re a male parent, do NOT take off your shoes or belt or any other article of clothing while she’s still there, even if you ignored Step 1 and are now suspended in a waiting-for-a-cab Purgatory. This is something she might describe later to her husband and her cat as “gross.”
  4. Consider acknowledging how flammable you are. She might appreciate this! Or she might just feel sorry for your children. Either way, she said she’s available next weekend, and you’ve triumphed over other local parents in the arms race to book and overpay this coveted sitter before they got the chance to do so. Well played, Type A’s. Well played.

(Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge, our essential caregivers, E, C, and M, do NOT, at press time, have Shinola bicycles or financial interests in small-batch toothpaste concerns.)


Renee Dale is a writer living in (where else?) Brooklyn. She and her fiance and their four kids live in a narrow, tilting “house” in Cobble Hill. Or is it Carroll Gardens? When Renee isn’t writing, she’s engaged in various museum and natural history pursuits and can often be found lurking the Hall of African Mammals. In this column, she will bring her anthropological talents to bear, covering everything from parenting to local news to whatever else bursts forth in our Brooklyn life and times.  
Read last week’s column, Brady Bunch Brooklyn.

She tweets @ReneeMDale

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