Apr 24 2017

Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

There is a serious shortage of acceptable babysitters.

We used to have four of them: they answer to Grandma, Papa, Granny, and Papaw. Then we moved to a land far, far away, and ever since then it’s just been…us. For everything.

It’s not that we don’t need the help. In fact, sometimes it feels like we really, really need the help.

I would like to write — or speak — a complete sentence without someone yelling for help from the bathroom. I would like to stay in bed when I have a 101-degree fever instead of figuring out how to entertain two small people while simultaneously trying to avoid them so they do not also catch the plague. I would like to one day have a meal with my husband that does not involve high chairs, coloring books, and frantically cutting chicken into teeny tiny bites before someone implodes.

Even though my children are the very hearts of my soul, once in a while a girl kinda just wants to go on a date. That sort of thing requires a babysitter, but here’s the hard truth: the thought of leaving my children with a stranger has always made me break out into a cold sweat.


Quite possibly the most accurate meme ever.

We held out for almost two full years. TWO. YEARS. But finally, a couple months ago, I signed up for a popular nannying/babysitting site and published a “Seeking Help” post.

I tried to ignore my niggling reservations. Some of the most phenomenal women I know have nannied (here’s looking at you, Olivia, Kristin, Jenna, and Kim) — there had to be someone out there for us. How difficult could the process be?

Sort of impossible, as it turns out.

Fifty-four people replied to our posting. FIFTY-FOUR! So…many…choices! I opened each email hoping that I would feel utterly compelled to interview everyone. I wanted to be drowning in interviews.

But too many things were bafflingly wrong.

I’m sure you are a wonderful person. I bet you have parents who love you and pets who count on you and plants that you always remember to water. And your wonderful-ness is what makes this such a shame, because girl (and the occasional guy): that application of yours isn’t doing you any favors.

Maybe it kind of sucks that you’re asked to upload a picture at all — not every job encourages a headshot along with a résumé — but this particular babysitting site does.

Let’s be clear: I don’t really care what you look like. I’m not actively looking for a flawlessly symmetrical face or people who only part their hair to one side. It’s the photo choices that are head-scratchingly cringeworthy.

I’d never post the real pictures here, but I can re-create the most common fails for your viewing confusion.*

*All photos are based on actual applications we received. To be considered eligible for this parody, at least THREE DIFFERENT APPLICANTS had to submit a photo of that type.

Melissa Bowers with Snapchat filter

Perplexing Picture Choice #1: With a Filter…In Bed. (Yes. Seriously.)
Look, Snapchat filters are the bomb. They do my makeup WAY better than I can, my skin always looks glowier than freshly-bathed baby buttocks, and they make for some perfect Facebook profile pics. But this is a job application, not your boyfriend’s inbox, and I’m just not sure about this. You are literally UNDER THE SHEETS. Did you take that sultry-tastic picture specifically for this potential new — erhm — position, or was it actually the best pre-existing option on your phone? I’m only human, and this makes me question your decision-making skills. Also, have Jude and Gavin and Ben and Ethan and Arnold taught us nothing? (P.S. Hi babe, I totally trust you.) Thanks for applying, but please stay out of my house.


puppy in a box babysitter

Perplexing Picture Choice #2: An Animal
There’s no way to be sure, but I feel like that’s not you. Your puppy is probably perfectly responsible, though. And also super cute. All right fine, call me.


woman standing far away in a forest of trees melissa bowers

Perplexing Picture Choice #3: Far Far Away
Wow, that’s some pretty neat scenery. Love the whole forest thing. (Also popular: you on a boat surrounded by a vast expanse of water; a from-behind, almost-profile shot of you in the distance, gazing at something; or your minuscule silhouette against a sunset.) Man, lots of trees out there, and some grass, and sunny skies, and…WAIT! It’s a PERSON! Maybe she can be our babysitter! Let me send up a flare.


Melissa Bowers in car

Perplexing Picture Choice #4: The Car Selfie
Almost HALF of our applicants used a picture of them behind the wheel, all strapped in and everything. What is going on? Aren’t you supposed to be driving? Here’s hoping you were just really bored at a stop light (even though we’ve all seen videos that prove many people do this WHILE THE VEHICLE IS IN MOTION *face palm*). Thank God that car seat is empty, because DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.
*TRUE FACT: Statistically, 99.9999999999999% of humans have taken a selfie in a car. This is according to a super credible and definitely real study conducted somewhere near you. Anyway, I never understood the phenomenon until I did this parody…and now I think I get it. The lighting! The solitude! The freeing ability to hide all manner of sins behind massive sunglasses! The next time life calls for a selfie, this might be my new go-to. BUT I WILL BE PARKED.


Perplexing Picture Choice #5: The Mug Shot
Please don’t hurt my children.
Speaking of facial symmetry, I recently learned (from this photo) that apparently my nostrils are two different sizes. #themoreyouknow. (And this is why we <3 Snapchat filters.)

I didn’t ACTUALLY reject people based on photos alone, of course. There were a few other factors at play.

Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but probably not. I’d like to think I’m just a human, standing in front of another human, asking her to proofread.
misspelled babysitter applicationIt’s not that I need you to teach my kids quantum physics. Honest. But when your application says, “hey seen youre posting, i hope ur still lookin 4 help,” my brain explodes and I can’t help but wonder if your intelligence quotient will influence your common sense while caring for my children.

Sentences that read like poorly worded tweets do not prove you’re at the top of your game.

To be fair, I started my first regular babysitting gig when I was eleven years old — I watched my dance teacher’s toddler a couple times a month, always in the evenings for a few hours at a time.

And I ask you now: WHAT was everybody thinking? I was eleven. I had no idea what in blazes I was doing.

Maybe it was just a different time back then, when sixth graders were fantastically responsible and could be trusted to keep 3-year-olds alive indefinitely, but I’m pretty sure I would have been worthless in a crisis. I didn’t know CPR. I couldn’t have taken on a burglar. What did I even feed that child for dinner? Cereal?

Sorry, preteens, but at the absolute minimum you have to be able to drive yourself to my house. High school diploma preferred.

People have lives of their own, no matter what the job. As a teacher, I always got a kick out of running into my bewildered students outside of school (“Wait…what are you doing? You grocery shop?!”), or the occasional parent who was genuinely confused about why I wasn’t available after 7 PM.

Nannies and babysitters are no different, and I would never expect someone to be at our family’s beck and call — if you can’t babysit this week, or the next, or the next, that’s cool. I’ll stay in. I’m used to it.

But flexibility does play a role in the scheduling process. If you can’t do anything but alternating Thursdays from 10:45 until noon, I have a feeling this might not work out.

Of the 54 applicants, there were a handful we were totally excited to interview. I arranged meet-and-greets and tried to keep everything super low-key. Within the first few minutes, though, it became apparent that several candidates weren’t all that interested in the whole “child” part of childcare.

I know interviews can be stressful. I know you are speaking to an unfamiliar person in an unfamiliar location, and I’m well acquainted with anxiety and discomfort and awkwardness — I live it every day for much more irrational reasons. But for just two minutes, I was hoping to see you pay attention to my children. Naturally, no one will ever find them as enthralling as I do — but when the baby brings you his favorite toy, I need you to at least pretend to be interested, instead of raising your eyebrows listlessly and murmuring, “Mmm-hmm.”

Maybe I’m too picky. Maybe I should just hand them over to the very first person who asks. Maybe my expectations really are unreasonably high, my Mama Bear Factor much too grizzly — but these are my children. I don’t leave them often, and when I do, I’m going to need to feel comfortable. I need to know they’re safe. I’m not hiring someone to sweep the porch or pull a weed — I’m hiring someone to be with my babies when I am not, and it has to be the right person, and it’s one of the most important positions I could possibly fill.

After a lot of research and a few additional interviews, we were finally fortunate enough to meet two wonderful, nurturing people. They are warm and reliable and trustworthy, and they seem like the right fit for our family, and that can only mean one thing:

Mama’s going OUT, you guys. Catch you in a couple hours.

About Melissa

Melissa Bowers is a high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. Her days used to be filled with great works analyses and discussions of intricate film and literary techniques, but they are now consumed by two spirited children and the desperate urge to write ALL THE THINGS -- which generally occurs a paragraph at a time whenever the kids happen to nap. Since moving to California, her work has been published by Writer's Digest and The Writer, and her articles are regularly featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and others.

10 comments on “Babysitters, This Is Why You Didn’t Get an Interview

  1. I sooo get the uneasiness of leaving your kids with total strangers. I’m in the same boat. No family anywhere near us. I had an excellent one, granted a high schooler who was referred by a friend, but she was great for over a year. Then, we returned home one night to find her 4 friends and apparently had just missed her mom!! (Because as she told me, her mom was bored at home). I’m like…what!?! I’ve never seen high schoolers run so fast. I’ve yet to use anyone since and we are in the process of moving anyways, but believe me, our next state I will be interviewing and setting rules like a crazy person!

    • Whaaa?! Amy, I hope you check back here at some point, because I really need to hear the rest of this story (what did you say when you walked in? Did she realize she was in trouble? Was she immediately fired or was there a warning?).

      Good luck with your move!

      • Yeah, my husband and I literally had our jaws on the floor. 5 teenage girls all over our living room. Not to mention every light on outside and 3 cars in our driveway. I’ve never seen her talk so fast trying to explain herself and by the time I went to put my shoes away (partly to try to form some words) to have her explain why she thought that was a good idea, they were gone, including her. I still think to this day she doesn’t think it was a big deal.
        What still to this day bugs me is the fact her mom was over with all her friends and her mom thought it was totally fine. I would never think to enter my daughter’s clients house and sit for an hour or two without their permission!
        My oldest (8) gave us most of them story the next day and how they were on their kindles most of the time (not allowed) and she didn’t really interact with them at all, he helped his brother and sister.
        I was livid after hearing from my oldest and have never contacted her again. I let my friend know what happened and she was equally as mad. A million thoughts kept running they my head the following week; were they in our bedroom? Did they drink any of our alcohol, go thru our pantry, was anyone else there? Who helped my kids in bed? Did they see my kids change? (According to my oldest it was just her at bedtime upstairs, but still…my mind went crazy with thoughts)
        I haven’t tried to use her again, we used to pay her pretty well and I just don’t want to give her any more money, especially when my oldest said he was scared and hid in the office for awhile because he didn’t know the people in his house. So, I’m thinking we’ll be making sure he knows our cell numbers (as he should anyways) and to call if anything like that ever happens again!
        I just don’t think I could ever trust her again 🙁

        • I was totally shaking my head as I read this, but two things were kind of amazing: 1) It was an extra bad decision to do that when the kids are old enough to report back, and 2) I cracked up when I read that she just disappeared while you were putting away shoes (without pay, I assume?). Hilarious. But also frustrating. Oh my goodness.

          • Yep, I’m loving that I have kids old enough to report back! That is a bonus to them getting older 🙂 She took the money…I left it on the counter (without thinking) and I guess she assumed that I left it for her. I was so confused as to where she went that I didn’t realize it was gone until about 30 minutes after she left. At least it was half of what I had planned to give her originally. I laugh about it now… what else can you do at this point?!

  2. This cracks me up. I was also babysitting at 11 and 12!!! What the heck?!?! I literally could have done absolutely nothing in an emergency except probably call 911. I remember being in charge of, at a minimum, 5 neighborhood kids at a time. Craziness!!!!!

  3. We moved to West Detroit in 1951 and my folks were one of the older neighbors. My brother was 9 and I was 11. There were many young children in the neighborhood. I began babysitting within a short time. My pay was $1 an evening. I played with the kids, read stories and gave them treats. If there were dishes to be washed I washed them. We only had a couple of TV programs at that time so my parents didn’t have to worry about what I was watching (once the children were tucked into bed). The one thing I had going for me, in case of emergency was that my parents lived either across the street, next door or a few houses away. OH, on New Year’s Eve I made $5.

  4. I don’t think you are too picky when hiring from a website, except for the age thing (the younger they are, the more interested in the kids they are. Older kids just want them to go to bed so they can a) do their homework or b) play with their phone). I have four kids for whom we used to have lots of sitters, I also live in Southern California, and my three now-teen daughters all babysit. However, I would have never hired from a website. All our babysitters came from church or from personal recommendations. When you have lived here longer and have more connections, it will be easier I think.

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