In my 3.5 blessed years of being a parent, I have never hired a babysitter.
Like many women I know, some of you reading this will be shaking your head, perplexed at this fact while reminiscing at all the fantastic date nights you have had.
Others will be vigorously nodding in agreement wondering why in the world anyone would leave their kids with a complete stranger.
Since my eldest daughter Sienna was born, I became the type of woman I despised most growing up - a helicopter Mum. Unfortunately, I have regularly demonstrated this in many irrational ways during the early years of my daughter’s life.
No one, but no one, could drive the Pram
Before Sienna was born, my mother always told me that one of her greatest excitements about being a grandparent was to take that stroller around town looking too fly to be a grandmother. Of course, while I was pregnant, I was excited for her too. But alas, it wasn’t to be. The minute that child was born the pram’s handles belonged to my trusty hands only. And whenever there was so much as a sneaky little attempt at taking over the driving duties, my mother’s hands were swiftly, and dramatically flicked off.
I changed hairdressers, to down the road.
Not only did I say sayonara to my long serving, trusty hairdresser that made my frizzy hair shine and sing, but I migrated to one with a horrible reputation who happened to have the prime location of being 20 metres away from my house. Who needs shiny hair when my baby is screaming for Mamma and Mamma only? I even made my husband take a little stroll back and forth while in the hairdresser so I could see all was well. Needless to say, my healthy caramel blonde became a bleached, over toned mess.
My husband was the only one that could look after my child
As we were living away from home, family always had to visit from interstate to see us. This would mean we would have them for an intense three or four days until they would be off for another month or two. This led me to irrationally think that as my child did not have them around consistently enough, she would not be comfortable with them if she woke and I was not there. Looking back, I am pretty sure a cuddle and bottle of expressed breast milk from a loved one would have sufficed for my 3 month old.
A big fat NO to public toys, public shopping centre rides, public high chairs etc.
I was the parent that held on to her wriggly 8 month old at the doctors surgery while she was desperate to get out of my grip to play with that old disease infested wooden toy with the other child that had the cough that resembled the bark of a German Shepherd. Unfortunately, another parent once called me out on this and said “I think she wants to play with the toys” to which I replied “Oh no, I don’t want any other kids to catch what she has”. Yeah, right.
I am pleased to announce Sienna finally got her first shopping centre ride at 2.5 years old. But all handles were thoroughly disinfected first.
Anti- Bacterial lotion/liquid/wipes became my best friend
While I still carry with me a bottle of Dettol, and the benches/floors all through my house are regularly disinfected, my fear of germs was excessive to the point where the opposite of what I was aiming for happened to my daughter - she was sick all the time. I have since learnt that a bit of exposure to germs can be a good thing, and while I write this my one year old has just found a food scrap from outside and has put it in her mouth. Sigh.
I enrolled my daughter in day care but took her out after 4 visits
The drawback of never being in one place for a long period is you have to be constantly meeting new people, simply to have company, for yourself and your children. Often this can feel a little unnatural, as many of my greatest friendships have developed in sometimes strange and unusual ways. So at 2.5 years old, being in a new place, I could tell my daughter needed some extra stimulation that did not involve playing with her mother, yet again. So I took her to a lovely day care where she would hopefully spend one regular morning a week playing without me, and have the time of her life. It was not to be. She screamed blue murder every time she spotted that big entry gate after her first visit, and after the 4th, I gave in and took her out. No persevering for this Mamma, if my child ain’t happy, neither am I!
Which leads me back to the great babysitter debate ...
Obviously being the wife of a sportsman, the majority of women I meet are also partners of sportsmen. They are usually in the same position as I am - away from home and without family or friends in close proximity. In my experience with these women, I have often been part of the minority, in which I was happier - or more comfortable - staying at home with my child for events, games, or even just simply drinks out with other couples in the team rather than hire a babysitter.
To be clear, I make absolutely no judgement for these women or their parenting choices as I am well aware there are many fantastic, responsible and honest babysitters and carers out there that make an excellent and fulfilling living looking after children. I know through speaking with other mothers that often it is the moments of sanity away from their kids that make them better parents, and I totally get this. I have lost numerous brain cells and I am sure quite a bit of hair being a full time mum around the clock for the last 3.5 years.
And I hope they don’t judge me for my choices. We are all parents, and no style is wrong or right.
My inspiration for writing this came after I went to the Newcastle Jets Awards Night as my husband’s date. It was the first time we had such a night out together in 3.5 years.
The first awards night I went to as a parent was in early 2010 where my 6 month old came along in her pram and we left at 8.30pm. I missed my husband receiving two awards that night. The previous one I went to was in 2012 and I had my Mum at home while my daughter was sleeping - until she woke up at 9.30pm screaming for me, so off I went home to save the day.
This time around we are living in driving proximity from Sydney - where our family lives - and I arranged for my mother-in-law to make the trek for babysitting duties. And for the first time, perhaps armed with a good mixture of maturity and experience, I felt absolutely comfortable leaving my girls without having my hands sweating all over my champagne glass.
I got my hair done, got all dressed up and I am pretty sure my husband had a cute little twinkle in his eye as we left the house holding hands.
Granted, it wasn’t a hired babysitter, but it was still a huge mental and emotional step for me as a mum.
And it’s one that I will be taking more often now that I have my family nearby - and after seeing that little twinkle in my husband’s eye.
Kat and Zenon Caravella on the red carpet at the Newcastle Jets Awards night. Follow Kat on Twitter @katcaravella.