When Finding A Babysitter Feels Like Online Dating
The breakup happens, as many often do, over the phone. “I need to concentrate on me,” she says, explaining her decision to leave. “I can’t do this anymore.” I’m heartbroken that my kids’ regular babysitter, who we have had for over a year, is suddenly leaving us. It stings, but I know I have to move on, and find someone new.
I create a job posting on a popular sitter search websites, and I’m hopeful. That is, until I realize how much searching for a new babysitter online starts to feel eerily similar to online dating. And – as in my days of online dating – how difficult it is to not favor those people with the more “attractive” looking profile pics (regardless of whether they’re suited for me).
I admit, I have a “type” when it comes to my babysitters (and it applies to both male and female sitters): Creatives, performers and actors. This demographic tends to be good looking, and they also tend to leave as soon as they get a better job or opportunity. “Eights or above,” my husband’s friends joke, when referring to our cache of good-looking babysitters.
But even the applicants seem to be confused about how to go about the online thing. Based on their profile photos, I begin to wonder if the younger generation is simply unable to comprehend self-promoting online without imbuing sexual overtones. As I scroll through my Inbox of would-be Mary Poppinses, I’m faced with “sexy selfie” after sexy selfie. One young lady’s pouty lips and half-closed eyes, accompany a profile in which she’s describes herself as a “young, vibrant student, looking for a regular source of income!” (Maybe she landed on the wrong kind of website, I wonder?). Yet another applicant has exclusively featured her cleavage as her profile pic – no neck or face – perhaps to show her “nurturing” side. Every other applicant in my inbox is either giving me Duck Face, Bedroom Eyes, or Cleavage Shot.
After what feels like endless scrolling, I have to stop and ask myself: Am I searching for a loving caregiver to watch my children, or a hot date or sidepiece for my husband? I focus back to my task, and message a few prospects who have more “work appropriate” profile photos, and who look good professionally on paper, too.
But then I find that the interviews feel like the kind of dates you have with someone you meet online. I meet with a cute young actress and we spend two hours at a café, talking about our favorite authors, social justice, and our writing. I decide to have her do a trial day with our family, but once the glow of our meeting is gone, start to have second thoughts. I realize how little we discussed her babysitting experience during our meeting. When I ask for current references, she gives me a strange excuse as to why she can’t share them. I later find out she suffered a nervous breakdown a mere three weeks ago. No surprise here: People aren’t always what they appear to be online.
My next interview is a total “meet cute”. I’ve given her the address to the Starbucks, but apparently she’s at a different Starbucks a few blocks away. We spend the next half hour running past each other on the street before we finally connect. She’s an all-American cheerleader type – all long blonde hair and a figure that would amuse the neighborhood dads. I buy her tea, and she doesn’t meet my eyes the whole time we talk. It’s awkward. “I’ll text you,” I lie, when we say goodbye.
And, as it also often happens with online dating, some people are complete duds – or worse, felons! A pretty brunette who messages me about how much she loves kids “and dogs!” (she is very adamant about her love of dogs), suddenly starts following my Instagram. I decide to do some spying too, but a quick Google reveals her mug shot and several arrests.
My experience with the would-be Criminal Babysitter cools me off the sitter website for a while. I get a few recommendations from online mom groups, but I can’t will myself to contact any of them without a photo.
Of course, once past the pleasant exterior, I look for all the other qualities a person must have before I allow them to look after my brood. But I also wonder what wonderful people I may be missing during my search, because of my focus on attractiveness. It’s the same thing I used to ask myself when I exclusively responded to the good looking guys who messaged me online, rarely giving the “nice guys” (who had less than stellar pictures) a chance.
The Swipe Right mentality – the tendency to make a snap judgment about someone or something based on looks alone – extends to nearly everything I look for online, from clothes, to yoga studios, to, I guess, caregivers. I think that has something to do with the fact that searching for most things online that have visual components, feels a little bit like shopping. How can all that liking and swiping that we do everyday, as we take in digital information on apps, and on social media – not trickle down into how we assess other things we perceive as “commodities”?
“Give me the Bearded Lady,” says one mom friend. “I don’t need a hot young nanny walking around my house in front of my partner.” Maybe one day, I’ll join her camp, and hire a School Marm type to watch the kids. In the meantime, I’m working on my sitter bias as I continue to search for The One (FYI open to any leads.) I’m still seeking “eights or above” – but doing my best to use that to describe the caliber of applicant, and not simply how they look on their profile pic.
This piece was originally published on Mother Mag, but was removed because of "too much backlash".
Image: "Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead" (1991). Image may be subject to copyright.