There are countless articles and books dedicated to teaching kind folks (unlike myself) the art of saying, “No.” While I tend to have little problem saying “no,” I’ve discovered since having a full-time babysitter that saying “no” isn’t nearly as hard as telling your child’s daytime caregiver when she’s doing something you don’t approve of.
After two and a half months of putting my daughter in regular childcare, I’ve determined that no one can be the perfect babysitter. Everyone has their own parenting style and no one is going to have a style exactly like yours. As a result there are bound to be things you dislike about any and every caregiver you trust with your child.
Our sitter, for instance, has a personality type that doesn’t allow her to fit into a routine. She takes things as they come and lets the kids’ moods dictate how the day goes. Husband and I have had Little Miss in a routine since around 3 months (when she was old enough for it to really work). She wakes up in the morning, eats, plays, takes a nap two hours later, gets up, eats, plays, takes a nap two or two and a half hours later…etc. The routine is predictable and helps us keep track of when Little Miss needs to eat and nap. (Though now that she’s older and we’re more experienced we can see the signs of tiredness before we even look at the clock!)
Due to our babysitter’s inability to force herself into a routine, Little Miss often goes 4 hours without a nap, making her overtired by lunchtime. When I show up to feed her at noon (which happens every day), my daughter is either sleeping or has a hard time NOT falling asleep while eating. While this is not ideal, it is unavoidable, since some people’s personalities just don’t mesh well with regular routines. Little Miss also doesn’t seem to be unable to handle routine on the weekends when we have her, so her time with us and the routine we’ve worked hard to implement in her life remains, so far, unaffected.
About a month into our current childcare situation, I typed up a “typical” day for our daughter and gave it to the babysitter. I kindly explained that by adhering to her familiar routine, Little Miss might do better being separated from us all day. She was taking a long time to adjust to the new situation, and I thought perhaps routine would make the transition a bit easier to take, for all parties involved.
Our sitter accepted the paper, thanked me, and never once, to my knowledge, attempted to do it. Though this frustrated me, I didn’t push the matter because I understand that some people just have a hard time with schedules and routines and do better being spontaneous and rolling with the punches. They’re the “cross that bridge when we get there” kind of people, and you can’t force someone to go against their personality. Fortunately, our daughter adjusted after a month and a half, and now only rarely cries when I leave her, and usually keeps playing with her toys when I arrive to pick her up. She’s comfortable there now, and that makes everyone else more comfortable, too.
Beyond sticking to a routine, though, there are things that I feel very strongly about.
For instance, my daughter doesn’t drink juice. Her beverage of choice is breast milk, and we have a trainer sippy cup with some water in it for her when she wants to use it, which is rather infrequently (and when she does use it she tends to chew on the nipple more than drink anyway). When our sitter told me she’d mixed in some apple juice with her rice cereal one day I was surprised. Why would someone do that without asking the parents first? I politely informed her that we don’t give her juice and I would prefer that she mix only water or breast milk with the cereal in the future. She felt bad and I tried to make light of it; after all, it wouldn’t kill or even hurt our daughter to have juice that one time. It really wasn’t a huge deal.
Another day our sitter mentioned that she had given Little Miss some Cheerios, since she had seemed mad that the little boy was getting some but she wasn’t. Little Miss handled them well, and after that we knew she was ready for finger foods. But it bothered me that she hadn’t asked me before handing new food to my child. I knew I had to address the issue, but I was nervous. I didn’t want to make our sitter feel bad, but she needed to understand that WE are the parents, not her, and she isn’t authorized to make executive decisions about Little Miss’ diet.
With my heart pounding, I quietly asked her to please not give our daughter any food aside from the food we bring with her every morning without calling and asking permission first. I hate confrontation, and this was the epitome of it. The sitter completely understood and promised not to do it again. I assured her that now that we knew Little Miss could handle Cheerios they could be regular fare, but in the future, we’d just like to know what our daughter is eating before she puts it in her mouth.
The next time I needed to address something it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I’m not really sure what happened, but things came out of my mouth awkwardly and tactlessly and my attempt at correction was more rude than helpful.
Somehow I got the impression that the sitter had put Little Miss to bed with a bottle. We do NOT do that, and I am heartily against doing so. The bed is for sleeping. That is why there are no toys or bottles in Little Miss’ crib at home. Since I wasn’t 100 percent positive she had actually done it (a few offhand comments had led me to believe this was the case), I had to ask first if it was true. She admitted she had done it only once. Instead of nodding and asking her politely not to do it again, I said directly,
“DON’T…do that again.”
As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized it sounded very forward and abrupt, but I didn’t know how to fix it. I stumbled through an addition to that sentence, saying things like, “We don’t do that, I don’t like the idea of her falling asleep with a bottle in the crib,” etc. Then I left for work.
Later that morning I got a voicemail from the sitter saying she had been shocked by my response and between the lines I heard, “You really hurt my feelings and I felt as though you were very angry with me.” I knew I had to apologize, and had intended to, she just beat me to the phone call first.
I called her back and explained that I wasn’t sure why my initial reaction came out so rudely but that I was sincerely sorry I had expressed myself so tactlessly. She said that “please” and “thank you” worked well for her, and I said I completely understood and would be better in the future.
It was awkward, but it was a conversation that had to take place. Though I’m sure it wasn’t the last uncomfortable moment for us, it was a great learning experience, and I’m acquiring skills in handling confrontation and being tactful and courteous while doing so. Everything about babies seems to be a learning experience.