Me: We'll be home at 5:30 then we have a babysitter coming at 6 and we're going on a date.
Joey: A date? Is that allowed?
Me: Heck yes it's allowed and we're really good at it.
Trent and I have been been on two dates in the past five days. Though that is for sure more frequent than our norm and involved a little extra dateness for our anniversary, it's still indicative of the fact that date nights are something we value and prioritize. We got in this habit before becoming parents, when youth ministry was our baby, and the habit has stuck.
Here is my message to you: Hire a dang babysitter and go on a dang date.
Potential excuses that I intend to crush or at the very least explain away so you can't use them anymore:
"Babysitters are expensive."
When we embarked on this parenting voyage, I conducted a thorough, exhaustive and possibly annoying poll of various parents and young folks who babysit to determine what a valid going rate is in our city. I was assured that $10 an hour for two small kids was plenty, so that's what we pay, though I often round up and throw in extra because it's what I have in my wallet at the time and up the ante majorly if the sitter is caring for a sick child. How long does it take to eat dinner out? Two hours? That's a mere twenty bucks to shove into a teenager's eager hand.
"But paying for a babysitter plus paying for dinner out gets way too expensive."
Then go to Wendy's. Total date cost is now at about $32. The point is not to eat a gourmet meal. The point is to get away for a hot second from the small humans living in your house.
"Babysitters are hard to find."
Ahem...do you attend a church? Do you have coworkers with teenagers? Do you have friends your age fighting baby fever that need a dose of birth control via taking care of someone else's kids for an evening? Grandparents nearby? If you have none of those things, check out Care.com and go from there to find some candidates and interview them. You're not allowed to say babysitters are hard to find if you haven't even looked. For our foster care situation, our babysitters have to be over age 16, have a background check, get FBI fingerprinting done and be adult, child and infant CPR certified. That's a tall order and yet we have four approved babysitters in our pocket that we found. Because we asked. (And we paid for all that stuff they had to do.) My experience, especially with teenagers or college students, is that they need money. For some, babysitting is their one and only wobbly source of income. They need you as much as you need them.
"But my child might freak out if I leave them."
They'll get over it. Our kids freak out most times we leave them. Heck, one time they freaked out just from seeing the babysitter's vehicle drive up in front of our house. But they calm down and, gasp, survive.
"But that's not fair to the babysitter to leave them with an upset child."
Last time I checked you were paying them dollars. Sometimes earning dollars is hard work.
"Nobody can care for my child as well as me."
We bypassed this one. When our two kids were plunked in our house, we didn't know what the heck we were doing and realized full well that some seventeen year old young lady with babysitting experience would likely know more about parenting these little strangers than we did. I think that has actually benefited us, even as we have better learned what the heck we're doing. While acknowledging that parenting is no joke, we also realize that it isn't rocket science to keep a couple toddlers alive and happy for a couple hours. It can be done just fine by someone other than yourself. Maybe they get to eat too many goldfish crackers. Maybe their hair doesn't get combed out just so during bath time. Maybe the pajamas they end up in that night aren't what you would have picked out. But you know what? It's ok. If you want to start small, go on a late afternoon date that ends with dinner, then get home in time to do bedtime routine. That's an easy first step for your kids and a babysitter to tackle. But please venture at some point into letting the sitter put them to bed because it's so nice to return home, hand over some dollars, and just go to bed yourself. The good news is the more you use a babysitter, the better they know your kids and their routine and the less you have to wonder if they are floundering from lack of instruction you failed to provide. Hint: they're probably doing just fine.
So, I want you to repeat the following phrase ten times before you go to bed tonight: "I will hire a dang babysitter." Or at least initiate the search. You may be surprised what good relationships it yields with caregivers willing to love on your kids. Do it for yourself, your partner, your sanity and your relationship. For real. Do it.