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A love letter to my kids’ babysitter (You are missed.)

Oh, babysitters. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Well, for one, you’re always bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to hang out with our kids when we’re at our rope’s end because we were up with them 564 times — again! — the night before. But, of course, that isn’t the only thing we parents — whether we work full time, part time or stay at home — miss right now when everyone is social distancing and staying at home

We miss the glitter slime you make with our kids — something that, to be frank, is not an activity we’re particularly fond of. Really, we’d take a pass on almost anything involving glitter, so hats off to you for braving something so … proliferate. We miss the cookies and sweet treats you bake, both super-healthy (black bean brownies!) and super-creative (cookies made from leftover Halloween candy!). We miss the cute art projects you do with them and the quiet joy that comes from walking into a house and seeing adorable faces of concentration amidst a sea of construction paper, glue sticks and pipe cleaners. 

We miss the sweet photos you send throughout the day or when you find something on your phone that you forgot about and send it at a later date. We miss the after-school snacks you make and the after-school games you play. We miss the boundless energy you have with our kids that, to be honest, we as parents are just too tired to muster sometimes. 

We miss the tie-dyeing projects (tie-dyeing!). The trips to the pool and coffee shop and library and basically anywhere because kids think going places with their babysitter is fun. We miss the homework help (oh, god, the homework help!). We miss the potato stamping. The friendship bracelet-making. The dancing to fun songs both we and our kids wouldn’t have otherwise known about because — didn’t you know? — babysitters are way cooler than parents. 

But more than the fun projects and activities, we miss the expression on our kids’ faces when you walk in the door. Fun is here! Undivided attention coming through! A walking, talking incarnation of All the Things Mom and Dad Won’t Play With Us right here in our living room! And we miss the sweet relief we parents get — whether we’re going to work or out for a date night — knowing that our child is in the care of someone who loves and looks out for them as if they were one of their own. Don’t get us wrong, we love our kids’ grandparents and miss them dearly, too, but let’s be honest here, it’s essentially a grandparent’s job to spoil their grandkids and put their own spin on things. (“No ice cream after dinner? Oh, I forgot!”) We miss knowing that when our kids are with their sitter, the sitter is taking care of business like we would. 

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you: Finding the right babysitter is like striking gold. Not only do we all want someone who’s responsible, smart, kind, caring and loving, we want someone who jibes with our kids. So when we find that special person, having to say goodbye — in any capacity — is hard. But it’s particularly rough when it’s both wildly abrupt and we’re not sure when we’ll see them again. (It’s also hard when, you know, two parents are fortunate enough to be working from home … but have three rowdy kids within a stone’s throw of any and every Zoom call.)

Sure, we all miss normalcy right now, but for a lot of parents — and moreso, a lot of kids — babysitters, nannies and caregivers are normalcy. For some, they’re a smiling face they see every morning. For others, a standing Saturday night buddy who eats pizza with them, watches a movie and lovingly puts them to bed. They’re the person who always has time for a puzzle, a game of hide-and-seek, or a jump rope contest in the driveway because, when it comes down to it, the main thing they have to do when they’re with the kids … is be with the kids.

So, to all the sitters, nannies and parent helpers out there: Make no mistake about it. You are missed. Whether you’re part time, full time or something in between, family life is much better — and more glittery — with you in it.