Babysitters Saved My Business: Here's How We Found Help When We Needed It Most
This is our story of how babysitters helped us save our business — and our sanity.
Originally, it was just the three of us: my boyfriend, my son and me. Then, two years ago, I gave birth to our daughter. A year after that, we welcomed another baby into our family...a 1,500-square-foot, 40-table baby that serves rustic food and wine.
Lots of wine.
And, just like a child, this new restaurant demanded all of the love and undivided attention that my boyfriend and I could possibly give it during that first month -- the period that makes or breaks a business in the food industry. It meant a lot of long days, a lot of late nights and a lot of dropping whatever we were doing to fill in or help out as needed.
Now, this would've been fine...if we didn't also have a tween son and infant daughter to care for, my consulting business to run and even our own relationship to maintain.
But we survived. And do you know how? One word: babysitters. (Well, babysitters and late-night Thai delivery.) Here's the game plan we used to find our fantastic lineup of caregivers who helped us when we needed it most:
Step 1: We Figured out What We Needed
Raising a family is beyond amazing. What isn't amazing, however, are all the time-sucking chores and tasks that need to be done just to keep your house clean for a day -- things like laundry and tidying that we literally didn't have time to do. But after a year of taking turns balancing chores, children, and business, it got to the point where we simply couldn't handle it all. We needed someone who could pull double duty for us so we could actually do what we needed to do -- and maintain our sanity.
We also needed someone who could work around our schedules. As I mentioned before, opening a restaurant -- and keeping it open -- means you're working crazy hours. And during the holidays, those days get even longer. So we needed to find someone who was flexible, and someone who we could count on to be available if we had to go to the restaurant last-minute.
Basically, we were looking for Supernanny...but we weren't sure we were going to be able to find her.
Step 2: We Kept Calm and Searched for Supernanny
We searched and searched, and eventually found the nanny of our dreams, right here on Care.com! Not only was she willing to help care for our daughter, but she was also willing to manage those tedious household duties we hated the most. I cannot tell you what a relief it was just knowing -- and trusting -- that someone else was fretting over nap times, onesie stains and toilet-paper refills.
Miraculously, our Supernanny was also willing and able to work around our crazy schedules, which was a HUGE win in and of itself. On Halloween night, for example, my boyfriend and I had to race off to the restaurant to host a champagne celebration that lasted until 1 am. Luckily, our nanny lived in the neighborhood and was happy to help us out. And although she may not have thought much of the request, it was a huge deal to us to have someone that trustworthy and dependable to help us when we needed it.
Step 3: We Got Babysitter Reinforcements. Lots of Them
Even though our Supernanny was, well, Supernanny, we also knew that we needed backup plans just in case. And, during the summer months, who's better suited for the job than fun, energetic college kids home from school? We ended up hiring a few babysitters to cover our bases, and they turned into huge lifesavers themselves. They took my son to the park when I was too tired from working all day and being at the restaurant 'till late at night. They took over tummy time management with the baby. When they were out on walks with the kids, they swung by the restaurant to say “Hello" to Daddy. They took over with one kid so I could be present and attentive to the other. They helped keep things happy and light at home when we were really focused on details no one outside of the food industry cares about.
Step 4: We Built in Time to Take Care of “Us," Too
My boyfriend and I quickly realized how desperately we needed some time away from work, from the restaurant and even from the kids. We needed a "date night." So, we made a rule that Wednesday nights were just for us. Once our kids were all settled -- our daughter tucked in for the night, my son off to spend time with his dad and our restaurant left in the capable hands of our staff -- we'd sneak off to someone else's restaurant or bar. We'd sit at the counter and delight in having someone else serve us. We'd eat burgers or share pasta, and sip something that wasn't on our own menu. We'd talk about the business of our businesses, and the business of our kids. The difference was that it was quiet, and only for us -- at least for an hour or two. These nights kept us connected and close in the midst of all the chaos that was swirling around us.
As we celebrate birthdays this year -- my son is now 12, our daughter is now 2 and our restaurant just hit the big 1 -- I know they mark much more than just a moment for our family. It's been a long and winding road -- one that was sometimes exhilarating, but often just scary. I don't know when or if it will get easier. But what I do know is that we couldn't have done any of it without the reliable, loving, flexible and trusted caregivers we found along the way who helped keep it all together. As they say, it really does “take a village."
Are you starting a new business and know you'll need a great nanny or tribe of sitters to make it happen? How have you creatively used caregivers to live your big career out?
Jessica Ashley is a content strategist and writer, founder of Single Mom Nation and the podcast Single Mom Nation Radio, and the director of communications of Ampersand Wine Bar. She is mom to a HIDDEN, Tae Kwon Do-ing, stand-up comic sixth grader and a toddler affectionately known as HIDDEN.