Babysitter guilt

Jon and I recently tackled the task of babysitting Jon’s nephew for the first time at our apartment. His nephew is a sweet, adorable, curious, and fun two year old. He’s also a two year old. His pastimes, then, include pulling things apart and putting them back together, riding in the elevator of our apartment, hiding behind things that don’t actually cover him up, playing with any sort of box/drawer/compartment that can be found, and asking What’s ___ doing? and What’s that? He's the cutest. His vocabulary is nothing short of adorable too because he’s at the age where he’s saying things that downright surprise you, albeit still with a serious “dialect” barrier. You’ll think you know what he’s capable of, at which point he’ll sort of knock your socks off with some recollection or word or memory or drawn parallel that you can’t believe he’s made. That part is the most fun.

But, there’s this sort of unspoken, or sometimes spoken, feeling among those of us who haven’t yet entered, or may never enter, babydom. At least I think so, anyway. We’re a bit elated when the baby’s desires happen to align with our own. Questions run rampant through our minds, “Should I be enjoying this game more than I am?” “Am I even good at this?” “Are we good at this?” “When is it OK to be done with the task of yelling “BEEEEANS!” out loud and lovingly pretending to die laughing afterward?” There’s this kind of shameful understanding that we’re a little relieved when the hours of babysitting come to a close. And there’s this sort of large exhale that occurs when the baby goes home and we’re back to being able to do whatever we want, without any guilt.

I think it’s okay to feel like this. I think I’m at least not alone in feeling this. I think it doesn’t mean you don’t absolutely adore the kids you’re babysitting, or that you wouldn’t want to do it over and over again.

It’s just so foreign to those of us without babies to have our thoughts, lives, and every-waking-moment dedicated to someone else. It’s actually amazing to me that a few hours of babysitting can make you realize just how much time goes into a baby. A few hours of living as a single adult is not the same few hours of being with a child. Suddenly it seems there’s more seconds packed into every minute and more minutes packed into every hour, and yet in the same breath, there’s not enough time for anything. Now I won’t even pretend to know what it’s like to be a mom or a dad of an infant or toddler or child or children. It’s beyond comprehension, as well as unfair and ignorant to do so. But I can speak from the other side, and I am quite moved by, affected by, and in awe of the babies, moms, and dads in the world.

I am beyond excited to hopefully venture into this new paradigm of living someday, but man, is it a scary thing, too. I can’t decide if the early exposure better prepares you, or if there’s no such thing as preparedness of any kind, and everything just changes when it’s your own life day in and day out and your own baby. For now, I’ll continue loving my pseudo-nephew, as well as my friends’ babies, but communicating to Jon with eyes that say to each other, “In due time...”


PS: Dinner with friends and a round-table discussion

My brother, Dylan, and I