What to Expect the First Time You Leave Your Baby With a Babysitter

Isn’t separation anxiety supposed to affect the baby? I think I had it worse than she did.

Friday was D-day for us. Two days ago was sitter’s first day, but I had stayed nearby the entire time. On Friday, finally, I said “bye-bye” and went down the block for a first: a baby-less lunch with Park Buddy.

What do you think we talked about?

Our babies, of course.

That is, I gasped out some…short… sobbing…sentences while Buddy reassured me that I’d done everything right and that if anything happened, we were only three minutes away. One of these days, my mentor in parenting is going to realize that she’s getting the short end of this friendship. We always talk about me. Sigh.

Here’s How The Day Began…

Boobaby, the babysitter, and I all went to the playground as part of the normal morning routine. I stuck around for a while, letting The Sitter do the playing. Then I went over, told Boobaby I was leaving, that I would be back soon, that I loved her and that she should have a great time playing with The Sitter.

Then I left.

Boo said “Bye-Bye” at first, but then seemed to realize what was happening: she ran over to the playground gate and started shaking it as I walked away. I smiled and waved and said “Good-bye, I’ll be back soon,” while Boo just WAILED.

Do you know that sucking feeling in your chest you get on days that change your life? The day you graduated from school, maybe, or your wedding day or something? Walking down the street with my baby crying behind me, I felt that feeling, and it hit me hard.

Down the block at the cafe, I grabbed onto a telephone pole, both to steady myself and keep myself from dashing back up the street. Not five minutes later, another mom came down the block heading home and reported that Boo had stopped crying within a few minutes, once the One-Eyed Guitar Guy had started playing. That cheered me up, although I was a little bummed that my daughter got over my absence with the help of only a musical pirate.

So Park Buddy arrived and performed the aforementioned consolation. An hour later we went back up to the playground to find Boobaby directing The Sitter all around the playground, happily commanding what she clearly saw as her new plaything.

I breathed, finally, and only then realized how long I’d been clenching my jaw and upper back. Yike.

In a possible effort to help some poor future schmoes who find themselves having to navigate the treacherous waters of the first babysitter day, here’s a recap:

Things We Did Right

  1. Picked a sitter we trust but whom our daughter doesn’t really know. Boo’s already familiar with family members, so having them sit wouldn’t be much of a test.
  2. Chose a familiar setting with lots of distractions: Boo’s favorite playground.
  3. Told Boo I was leaving, that I’d be back, and said good-bye. This seems like a no-brainer to me, but a lot of folks apparently try to “sneak” out when the baby’s with a sitter.
  4. Didn’t go far; one call and I could have been back in three minutes.
  5. Had spies. This was accidental — I just happen to know a lot of folks at the playground who kept an eye out — but if I were to do it again, I would plan it that way.
  6. Didn’t let Boo see me crying.

Just for the record, there was one really dumb decision we made about babysitting: we waited a really long time. Boo is 17+ months old now, and just had her first true babysitting experience — “True” in the sense that we used a paid person whom Boo did not know. I realize that this was a luxury few can afford, but even if you can, don’t do it. Get babysitters early and fairly often, even if you don’t “have” to. Boo had enough confidence in me that she didn’t break down for more than a few minutes, but we got really lucky.

Finally, some might wonder why, after 17 months, we pushed to get babysitting started this week. Anyone care to hazard a guess? (I’ll give you a hint: it’s got a scar and an owl…)