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How To Survive Without Ever Hiring a Babysitter

Photograph by Twenty20

Inside my head is a revolving door of nightmares of all the horrible things that could possibly befall my daughter. I worry someone will snatch her from the back seat of my car while we are idling in a parking lot. I worry that someone will sneak into my house through the back door, creep up the stairs, and snatch her from her crib while she's napping. I worry that, while we are hanging out on our front lawn, a passing jogger will suddenly veer off toward Em, snatch her, and make a run for it.

I wonder how quickly I will be able to react.

I wonder what the chances are of me being able to tackle such a person.

I wonder what the chances are of me suddenly turning into Liam Neeson if placed into such a situation.

Obviously, I watch too many crime procedurals.

And because I am so neurotic, I am also afraid to hire a babysitter, or to leave my daughter at day care. After all, if someone is going to endanger my daughter with their incompetence, I want it to be me.

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I made it through the entire first year of my daughter's life without using a babysitter or a day care center or even a mother's helper. And all of this while also kicking ass as a work-at-home mom. How did I do it?

I exploited the desires of relied upon the kindness of family members. I have a younger brother who does not want children. My husband has two sisters who are not yet married. Our parents' only chance of enjoying the glories of grandparenthood lies with our daughter. Naturally, all the times my husband and I have been out without the baby were only made possible by their generosity.

I stuck Em in her Rock n' Play. Craved a shower? I stuck Em in her Rock n' Play. Needed to pump? I stuck Em in her Rock n' Play. Had to cook dinner? I stuck Em in her Rock n' Play and then attempted to amuse her by dancing around the kitchen to songs with inappropriate lyrics while waving a knife in the air. I only stopped sticking Em in her Rock n' Play when it became clear she could no longer fit into it, as her feet were dangling off the end.

I stuck Em in her Bumbo. As Em graduated from the Rock n' Play, the Bumbo conveniently came into our lives. I relied upon it especially when drying my hair or, again, cooking dinner. If I handed her a measuring cup while she was suctioned into the seat, I could pretend she was helping me.

I stuck Em in her Jumperoo. For a time, Emily's two favorite things in the world were standing and bouncing. And so I didn't feel guilty sticking her in her Jumperoo, because it brought her so much joy and strengthened her legs. Though I did feel guilty when I allowed her to bounce for so long that she passed out in its bucket seat.

I recently went out to the bar with a friend of mine and admitted to her that I was afraid of hiring a babysitter.

I got my shit together and set up a routine and stuck to it like nobody's business. My first six or so months as a new mother, I bumbled around in complete chaos. I was following Em's cues, and they were all over the map. Plus she was cluster feeding, which was the worst thing ever in the world. This period of our lives together eventually calmed down and I began to notice patterns in her sleeping and eating habits, and I eventually set up a schedule involving three naps and three meals and a solid bedtime routine. This allows me to enjoy my time with her more when she's awake and write like the wind when she's asleep. And if anyone messes with our schedule, they are dead to me.

I left Em with the cats. Okay. I didn't really leave Em with the cats. In fact, two of them are so terrified of Em, they won't let her anywhere near them. But our third cat is so chill about having a baby in the house. I think maybe they're BFFs.

I plunked Em down on the floor and left her to her own devices. Which can have varying rates of success. Sometimes, she will amuse herself for large swaths of time, banging on her drum or on her Baby Einstein piano or making out with one of her dolls. Sometimes, she will try to eat cat hair or cat food or carpet fibers, and I will have to lunge toward her as she chokes and she'll give me a smug look that makes it clear that this was her plan all along: my unbridled attention. And sometimes, she will hand me the same doughnut-shaped toy over and over and over again for 30 minutes straight just so I will spin it on the hardwood for her so she can shriek with joy.

I became (even more of) a recluse. Goodbye yoga. Goodbye bars. Goodbye shopping. Goodbye cars. Goodbye artisan pizza at Dough. Goodbye to every Broadway show. Goodbye every lit event. Hello long days of discontent.

I embraced my husband's choice to switch jobs and work from home full-time. I recently called my primary care physician and asked her if she could call in a prescription for antidepressants. It would be my first time taking them in about five years, which should give you an idea of how desperate I was feeling. When my doctor asked about certain changes in my life, I admitted that Michael was now working from home. "Oh how awful!" was her immediate response. Well. It definitely has its pros and cons. One of the pros: increased flexibility.

I had a nervous breakdown. See the aforementioned antidepressants. This work-at-home mom thing is hard, yo.

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I recently went out to the bar with a friend of mine and admitted to her that I was afraid of hiring a babysitter. She told me that, in all her years of motherhood (her oldest is in high school by this point), she has never used a babysitter. My mind was blown.

And I also felt a little bit better about my own brand of crazy.

Still, when my brother got married this past weekend, I had to finally bite the bullet. Em was invited... but she was also the only baby who was invited, which made me feel somewhat awkward and guilty.

So we brought Em to the ceremony. We fed her lunch at the cocktail hour. And then Michael brought her back home (a mere five minutes away) so that our completely trustworthy neighbors could watch her.

And I didn't even ask them to send proof of life photos every hour on the hour.

And they didn't sell her off to the highest creepy bidder.

And we all survived.

You guys. This parenthood thing. It constantly pushes you to grow in new and uncomfortable ways. Am I right?

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