My name is Carolyn and I sometimes use an overnight babysitter.
There, I said it. Are you judging me right now?
Maybe you think I'm neglectful, maybe you're a little jealous and wish you could do it too, or maybe you think it's an individual decision for me and my family – in which case, you are a magical unicorn and we should definitely be friends.
I discovered recently that the choice to hire a babysitter to stay with our kids for a few days at a time is one that can illicit quite a passionate response from some corners.
"I could never do that," one friend intimated recently, when I told her my partner and I were going away to celebrate our anniversary in blissful, child-free peace. "But good for you, I mean, if you're comfortable."
Good for me, indeed – I could really do with the break.
And sure, I'm comfortable. Why wouldn't I be?
Let's take a look at the facts:
1. My children will be cared for, for the entire weekend, by someone whose primary job it is to care for children.
2. My children have met this woman before, and they adore her.
3. Our babysitter is better qualified to care for kids than I am – she has a blue card, first aid qualifications, she's studying psychology at university, and she's been nannying for years. My only qualification is that I squeezed children out of my body and they just let me walk out of the hospital with them.
And, look, children are delightful, and parenting is the greatest (albeit underpaid) job in the world — most of the time — but aren't we always banging on about how we need to fill our cups first before we can give to others?
This is one thing I know about kids: they do not care about filling my cup. They only want to talk about cups if theirs is empty and they need help filling it with something sugary. It's not that they're bad people, it's just that kids are inherently egocentric. It's how they survive.
So I fill my own damn cup.
You know what fills it best? A peaceful weekend away with my delightful partner, with nobody demanding that we fix the internet, or telling me about a crime their brother just committed, or sharing their stream of consciousness thoughts about why ponies might be undercover unicorns with collapsible horns.
Sure, if we had family around who could help, we'd ask them. But we don't. It's all very well to say it takes a village to raise a child if you are living in the centre of that bustling village.
But for those of us whose villages are spread far and wide, well, sometimes we need to rent-a-villager.
The fact that we paid our babysitter didn't alter our children's experience of her. She watched movies with them, took them to the local markets for breakfast, sent them off to sport and play dates, played games, and had singalongs in the kitchen while my son played his guitar – and she miraculously made sure everyone showered, brushed their teeth and took any required medication.
And all the while she kept us updated on how the children were doing, just enough to allay any concerns but not so much that she was intruding on our time away.
If you ask me, that's money well spent. We came back from two nights away as fresh as if we'd been in the Bahamas for a fortnight, our children were at least as happy and healthy as when we left (if not more), and we have now increased the size of our village.
And I refuse to feel bad about that.