We don’t get out much, us mums. But when we do, it’s in December. Cards at the ready – you’re about to play babysitting bingo!
Christmas throws upon us the heady mix of more social occasions than the rest of the year put together, and the organisational nightmare of arranging childcare so we can attend. You are pitted against the other parents in the town in pursuit of a babysitter not only for one night, but potentially several. School occasions see you competing for sitters against your own classmates, from a pool of often common childcarers. Your fourth favourite girl at your child’s old nursery now seems like a golden option.
December = Diary-Gate
Throw into the mix your work / husband’s work parties and you’re in Diary-Gate. Whose occasion is more worthy? If you’re the one expected to babysit that night, is your event eligible for engaging a sitter? Like most people, we end up negotiating madly and in the end our social scene in December is dictated by babysitter availability, not personal preference.
I’d rather disclose my bra size than my babysitter’s number
If there’s a secret you keep closer to your chest, I should like to know it. It’s all very well in, say, March, to succumb to another mum’s plight and give out a reliable babysitter’s number. But come December and you’re both going to the same class drinks, you will rue that day, mark my words. Rue it. I’d rather offer to babysit myself than give up my premium sitter, whom I have wooed over months and bamboozled into somehow liking my children enough to enter the evening with enthusiasm.
If I were to help a friend in need by sharing a top sitter’s number, I would have to privately enforce an embargo, whereby I should always get first refusal. All this is laughable, of course. Market forces are at work here as in every other sphere, and she with the most generous hourly rate and the handsomest plate of biscuits shall win the prize. Loyalty counts for nothing in the face of M&S’s chocolate biscuit selection box.
Christmas Day – the calm before the babysitting storm
At least when the big day dawns, there are no babysitting dilemmas to be overcome. Roast potato rows – how many is enough? – yes. Present palavers – yes. But no baby-sitting bust-ups. But after a few days of Quality Street-induced inertia, we seek to rise again, like the social phoenix from the ashes. For it is time to see in the New Year. It is time to nail down the prize.
The most elusive of all things – the New Years’ Eve babysitter
This is someone whom I’ve yet to meet. Every NYE since I’ve had children has been spent in with a curry, my husband and, occasionally, other parents who’ve put the kids to bed upstairs. Which has been lovely. Good job, as the cost and gamesmanship of obtaining a NYE sitter is pretty much beyond me. I have semi-secured one on a couple of occasions, only to be let down with some spurious flu or family-related excuse and 12 hours’ notice. But by that time, I am battle-weary. I’m quite happy to give up the chase and stay in for the next eleven months.
Happy Christmas Countdown!
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