“Just Get a Babysitter” — And Other Unhelpful Tips for Overwhelmed Parents
Date nights are not going to solve the lack of systemic support for parents and other caregivers
It’s Saturday night, and I’m frantically scurrying around the kitchen. I’ve just spattered myself with neon powdered cheese, which was in the process of dissolving into butter and milk.
My evening plans consist of nothing more than burgers and a movie with a man who has seen me in all forms of dress (and undress), and who thinks I look sexy in a hoodie. But we’re venturing out in the world without the children, and that is always a Big Deal. It calls for a shirt that is not in the weekly laundry rotation, and if time permits, maybe even a few swipes of mascara. Dangly earrings, perhaps, if I’m feeling really frisky.
The 15 minutes before the babysitter arrives are always a blur. Somewhere in there is a heavily processed and hastily consumed dinner for the kids. A last-ditch attempt to make the bathroom not gross. A wet rag passed over the jewels of urine that consistently glisten off the toilet seat and its surrounding environs. A violent scouring of the sink basin to remove encrusted toothpaste entrails and other unidentified substances.
The hasty bathroom scrubbing is followed by a jog around the house in search of other grossness. Errant snacks under chairs, mildewed towels hunched in corners, a vaguely sticky something smeared across the coffee table.
It’s not that I feel the need to impress the 15-year-old that my partner is currently picking up. I’m not vacuuming or mopping or dusting, for Pete’s sake. I’m just de-grossifying. When I was an adolescent, I babysat at a house that was reliably gross. The kind of house where you’re afraid to sit down and you’d rather hold it than use the bathroom. I don’t want our house to be that house.
My partner arrives with the babysitter, and my son is clinging to my leg asking why we have to go, and I’m going over all the reminders about bedtimes and after-dinner snack guidelines and screen time rules and logins and Internet passwords. My mouth and voice form the words: “Please feel free to call or text if you have any questions.”