When I traded my backpack for business cards and parked myself in a cubicle rather than in those wonderfully comfortable lecture hall seats, I gave up something else, too... the smiling, squishy, sticky face of a baby, the precociousness of a preschooler, and sometimes the demonic tendencies of some that leave me wondering why their heads aren't spinning and they aren't spitting green goo. I gave up having a career or job that involved kids. Those who know me know that I started babysitting at age 13, did my homework on the couches of many a family while their kiddos slept, and kept myself out from behind a service counter of a McD's by selling my patience and nose-wiping abilities to the highest bidder. OK, that last part makes me sound like a pimp but I've led sing-alongs, Simon Says games, and taught two year olds to tap their toes in anticipation of the parental glee that comes from what is often no more than the "organized chaos" of a Tutu Tots class. Now I work among adults (which I love) and books (which I often love more) but at the end of the day, the end of the week, I choose to take off my heels, get on my knees, and sing Twinkle Twinkle.
Yep, at 25 yrs old, I still moonlight as a babysitter. The story of how babysitting and nannying relates to how I came to New York the way I did is long but to make it short: I was moving to New York. I needed a part-time job to tide me over while I searched for others. I also needed a place to live. A contact at a publishing house put me in contact with a friend who has a grassroots sitting service, and she also had a room to sublet for a month. One mom lobbied for me, I packed my bags, got on the plane, and started kid duty all over again in a brand new city. If anyone has ever seen The Nanny Diaries, that was my first two months in New York (minus the awesome live-in digs and the hot guy upstairs). I pushed strollers down the streets of Manhattan, went to Gymboree, perfected the juggling act that is feeding a baby and oneself at the same time, was the only white girl in a sea of sweet African nannies, and pocketed my cash at the end of the week. Now, despite my dream come true, I often surrender my weekends and weeknights to the lure of the sitting job. Afterall, this California girl has to have money for cross-country plane rides, right? The nose and butt wipes pay for the moving expenses, the happy hours, and the ritzy NY lifestyle I lead (yeah, right).
This weekend I had four, count 'em four, babysitting jobs. It just kind of evolved that way and once I had two, I figured if I was going to sacrifice my weekend, I might as well sacrifice the entire thing. The perfect job starts and ends with a sleeping baby. I arrive, kid is already asleep, I read or watch Showtime On Demand, sometimes surf the net and then leave a few Jeffersons wealthier. There is the occassional job that takes me back to my new New York days on those teeny tiny Manhattan playgrounds. Take the case of the two James' today. James #1 (about a year and a half old) and I went out for pizza and then up to a park on the Upper East Side by the East River. We marvelled and screamed over all the dogs, practiced saying the word "boat" and generally had a romping good time. About two hours later and twenty blocks south, James #2 (about the same age, actually) and I enjoyed the wonderful cinematic masterpiece that is Bee Movie (it is actually pretty cute) after which he instructed me on how one is to be properly put to bed at 5:30 pm, monosyllabically grunting at me to turn on the light, turn on the sound machine, sit in the chair, read this book (no not that one!) This. One. Hey, if you want to put yourself to bed, be my guest. Luckily, Mom and Dad came home at about six so I relinquished the prematurely begun bedtime duty and hopped on the crosstown bus.
Do I feel like I lost my weekend? Kind of. But there will be another and instead I will choose to go out with friends or on a date with someone who has all of his permanent teeth. Someday I am going to have to stop sitting but with my salary what it is, that day is a ways off. Until then, some weekends I'll just have to party with the pre (and I mean PRE) school crowd.
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