|Happy Birthday to me!|
This year for my birthday Eric planned a very cool evening out for the two of us. This involved a beautiful sunset horseback ride through Topanga Canyon and dinner at The Inn of the Seventh Ray afterwards. Honestly, we rarely go out without the kids, so this felt super special. I called…THE BABYSITTER. Until recently, we didn’t even have a babysitter to call. We’d used one here and there that we would steal from a friend, but for anything major, I would attempt to coordinate a visit from my parents so that they would watch the kids for us. This isn’t because I don’t trust people with our children, it’s mostly because we’re cheap, and babysitters are expensive. And that is not to imply that babysitters aren’t worth it, but I often have to ask myself if going to see whatever blockbuster is out in the movie theatre is worth paying someone $15/hr to watch my kids (that’s an extra $45 we just paid to see the latest Star Wars) is worth it, and I’ve often answered NOPE.
But recently, we met a lovely young lady named Lena who has all the qualities I look for in someone I would leave my children with. She’s energetic, she’s kind, she’s attentive, she's a great texter and responds quickly to my queries. Cylas loves her and Aaron doesn’t cry when she comes in the door, so…she’s THE ONE.
So off we went to ride magnificent beasts through the mountains surrounding Topanga. I wore a knitted poncho, jeans and boots and felt totally rustic and amazing. My horse’s name was Jesse and although he was not particularly agreeable to my wishes and ate many more snacks then I tried to allow him, we had a good time. We walked and trotted up and down the mountains. I opted (probably stupidly) not to wear a helmet because I am a (probably stupidly) confident equestrian (I mean, I attended horseback riding camp for not one but two summer sessions as a pre-teen) and I wanted to feel the wind in my hair when we galloped. And we galloped (or at least trotted) a lot. It was beautiful, fun and exciting…until an off leash dog ran out on the trail, my horse spooked and reared up and I fell off the horse and badly injured my arm.
|Jesse doesn't do photos|
When I graduated college (NOT THAT LONG AGO, DAMMIT! I’m very young!) I worked as a Nanny. I was an actress and writer so that seemed like a great job because it was somewhat flexible and left me free to audition, write and take classes etc, in a way that I thought a more serious 9-5 job would not. I was also a little scared and lazy and babysitting was fun and didn’t seem like a sad scary stress factory like the several assistant jobs I also applied for. I worked for a family in the East Village just blocks away from my apartment. When I started the job, the baby, Piper, had recently turned one and I figured it would be a great summer gig before I started working professionally as an actor. I worked for them for the next 6 years until I left NY for Los Angeles. The baby’s name was Piper (it still is, she’s just not a baby anymore) and a few years after I started working for them they had another baby, Sam, and I took care of that baby too. They were a great family to work for. They were interesting, laid back, kind and funny. They loved their kids and had a cool NY life. The dad worked in construction and design (I think?) and the mom had been an editor/film-maker but was taking a break to be a mom and be happy. I babysat to give her more time to be happy. She went to yoga, and ran errands. I remember later she started a master’s program but in those first few years, I babysat mostly to give her some time away. They went on date nights and sometimes a friend might even leave their kid with me too so they could all go out together. It was, honestly, a great job for me. I LOVED that kid (still do) and LOVED that second kid when he came along (still do) and my friends often accused me of being a little obsessed with them. Most of my stories involved some interaction with Piper. Piper was my confidant and my main hang. She was delightful, spirited and an old soul. Piper even gave relationship advice. I remember once telling her (she was probably 3.5 at the time) about a boy who wouldn’t hold my hand to navigate a crowd at a concert he’d invited me to. I was confused about whether or not he liked me. I mean, why had he invited me if he didn’t want hang out in any intimate way? She said simply “he does not love you now, but he will love you soon. And the next time you see him you should kiss him.” Great advice! (All though she wasn’t right. He never loved me. At least, not that I know of.) She was funny, and lively and she liked me and the family liked me and I felt good about myself when I was with her. I felt like I was doing something important. I was helping her parents live a good life and I was a good influence on their little people. Piper and Sam have both grown up to be wonderful young people and talented artists. Piper has a major instagram following for her photography and Sam is a skilled fine artist. That has everything to do with their talented, attentive and involved parents, great teachers and friends, and their awesome NY lifestyle but I also like to give myself a little credit as an early influencer.
|This is an actual/un-ironic polaroid!|
|Piper and I pre-digital #nofilter|
Lena doesn’t come every night any more. Far from it. But I have tried to give myself permission to call her when I need a night away. Cylas gets excited when he knows that Lena is coming over, and Aaron (who is not the most affectionate kid with people that aren’t…well…me) sits in her lap and goes to sleep without incident when she puts him to bed. So when the budget can swing it, I call Lena. In fact, she’s coming over tomorrow night so Eric and I can go out on a date night. Having a babysitter still feels like a luxury sometimes, but it isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity for happiness. I think that I really know that now.
|This should be a picture of Lena. but I don't have one. I better get on that.|
I think, before I worked as a nanny, and certainly before I had children of my own, I thought nannies were a bit bourgeois. I understood that when both parents worked, someone had to watch the kids, but I thought that when one parent stayed at home, they should just be with their kids ALL THE TIME. But now I understand that life is hard. Parenting is hard. Everyone, and I mean, everyone deserves a break. That doesn’t make you selfish, or spoiled or a bad mom. And if you don’t have family close by, or very very generous friends, then you have to pay someone to watch your children. And if you are lucky, then you will find someone to pay that loves your kids as I much as I loved the kids that I babysat. And I feel very lucky that our babysitter seems to love our kids a whole lot. And I feel extra lucky that she washes my dishes for me too.