The women in my family are amazing. Especially my mother. She’s one of the most sacrificial women I know. I know everyone says this about their mom. But seriously, my mom is sacrificial and amazing and giving when even I’m thinking, “Mom…stop.” If I tell her to, she’ll respond with, “you’ll understand when you have kids!”
Well, because of her example and the other women in my family, SERVING each other is second nature. Nobody groans about watching kids. In fact, grandmothers and mothers beg to watch the kids. Tias will offer without blinking an eye. We serve in many other ways. Borrowing money, MOVING without complaining. This is absolutely a culture thing, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my culture. I take great pride in being born into a family where you can say “I’m moving to an apartment on the 3rd floor” and even if everyone lives an hour and a half away, they respond with, “let us know what day, we’ll make sure you get moved.”
One of the biggest things I learned early on, and a huge reason I fell in love with the Lord was a draw about having this new family. Just because I fell in love with Jesus I suddenly had all these new brothers and sisters. I had a new family, how cool is that?
Even though I was coming to church in Austin for a few years before actually moving here, the actual move really was a huge culture shock to me. To be perfectly honest, it’s had it’s toll. When I was living in North Carolina, I was not concerned about this issue because everyone in my church was my age and no one had kids. It was a non-issue. Moving to Austin, and seeing churches go YEARS with having to “deal” with never being able to find childcare is so incredibly heart-breaking to me. It literally fumes me that it’s a problem. I pray for grace with this, too, but it is hard.
Let’s Fix This
Just because you have kids, this doesn’t give you an “out” to watching your FAMILY’s kids. Here are some things you can do to start fixing this insane issue:
1. Be Persistent. A lot of times, I hear, “Well, I asked so-and-so and they just always seem busy so I didn’t want to ask again.” Stop making assumptions! Keep asking your small group. THIS is what they are here for. They are here to BE FAMILY. This means we serve each other.
2. Start a Babysitting Club. You and 3-4 other people can swap date nights AND “sleepover” parties for the kids. This will not only encourage date nights, but will also strengthen your little community (FAMILY).
3. Communicate. If you are literally struggling, confess your feelings to your small group and/or especially your discipleship group. This is a REAL problem. Ask for prayer. Let those tears shed. People need to SEE this is a huge problem.
4. Do Something. Another line I hear all the time: “I wish I would have babysat more when I was single.” Again, just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t “trade” with your married friends and serve in this way. If your child is in childcare at church, you need to serve in that area. I’m literally not going to explain why you need to, I think it’s obvious.
It’s frustrating to hear a bunch of people talk about how big of a problem this is but no one does anything about it. Everyone is just waiting for everyone else to step up. Encourage everyone to JOIN YOU in “stepping up.”
Babysitters aren’t trained in some special course. There aren’t qualifications for serving your family. There are no excuses.
Single & Childless People:
1. Oh my goodness. Oh. My. Goodness. SERVE. You will regret the day you have children (if that happens) and think back to all the people you avoided when they asked for your help. You will be met with tears when your child’s teeth are coming in and NOTHING is consoling them, and you’re running on 3 hours of sleep, and you think back to everyone you knew who was struggling. Even if kids aren’t in your future…your time is not your own. This is not your life. This “busy life” doesn’t belong to you. If your time is “busy” and filled with self-glorifying things, you need to rearrange your life.
2. You don’t need to be “called” to childcare. God did not put it on my heart to serve children. I didn’t get this push from God to serve kids. This is simply ingrained in me because my family was an amazing example and groomed me to believe that if you’re family…you bend over backwards to help them. Over-spiritualizing something when there is an immediate need in the church is so dangerous. If your church family suddenly all went broke except for you, wouldn’t you bring them food and necessities? It’s an immediate need, and you have the resources, so it’s common sense. Seeing an immediate need and ignoring it because “you just don’t want to” should be examined. Maybe you’re a tall lanky guy with a creepy mustache and that’s your reservation about watching children….that’s understandable. But if your thoughts are, “those kids are too hyper for me” or “I won’t be good at it” then you should either talk to the parents about it, or examine whether or not this can change. Immediate needs need to be met immediately.
3. Kids are psycho. Get over it for a few hours. It saddens me when parents feel bad about their child crying when they leave, or when they’re so embarrassed because their child was crazy disobedient. Yes, I’ll report back to you how the night went, but it honestly has NO effect on me. I can easily deal with these situations…You can too. If you’re watching a kid for a few hours, you can most certainly love them despite their insane behavior. If the child is a menace…pray for the freaking parent!
4. Stop your judgement. I’m disgusted when someone won’t watch someone’s kids because they don’t agree with the parenting style. I personally wouldn’t give my child cow’s milk and I WILL let them experience McDonalds…but I certainly will never use that as an excuse not to serve them if the parent raises their child in a way I THINK I wouldn’t raise my kid. Every time I’d cry to my mom and dad about how it wasn’t fair they wouldn’t let me do something and they’d respond with, “You’ll understand when you’re our age” – I say the same to you. You’ll understand when you have kids.
How to Treat Your Babysitters
I started getting burnt out with babysitting when people in my church started asking for help, but I hadn’t ever hung out with the person. I knew they probably just got a “referral” about me “always babysitting” but it’s a bummer to be known as the “church babysitter.” This is NOT the reputation I wanted, so I put my foot down and said I would no longer babysit for anyone outside of my small group unless it was a “paid” opportunity I had time for. I was also frustrated every time someone said, “You need to start saying no” – How about you and other people start saying “yes?”
So, treat your babysitters like people. The people that were absolutely best at this were Nate and Melissa Navarro. Even though I wasn’t in their city group, they always made it a point to invite me into their life. They invited me to neighborhood outings, or big dinners. They made a point to. They also always sparked conversation when they got home, even when it was late. Not mindless conversation, but legit, good conversation. Loving your babysitters translates into joyful serving for them. I never felt like a “babysitter” with them, and a lot of people could learn from that.
Invite the babysitter to the kids parties. Personally, I’m hurt when I’m not invited and other adults were (when I’m a “regular” babysitter for the family). Just because I don’t have a kid, does not mean I don’t want to celebrate your child. We love your children and seeing a couple of days later that there was a moment when your child was being celebrated by everyone just says “oh, I guess I am just a babysitter.” And again, I understand it’s not meant to be hurtful. You assume a childless person wouldn’t enjoy a kids party. But we’re not going for the candy bags, we want to go because we love your child.
Ask them ahead of time if they’ve eaten! Or, just have food ready. A lot of times I babysit during dinner time (for me), so there have been many nights when I don’t eat because this wasn’t thought through. Nate and Kristen Vasquez are pros, and make it a point to always make sure there is dinner for me. It’s really nice and very much appreciated.
Give them warnings, but stop feeling guilty. It’s not wise to have (especially a new) babysitter watch your child when they’re sick, or inconsolable because of something like colic, fever, or teething. This can lead to a very frustrated babysitter that I think puts your baby/child in a very unsafe situation (shaken baby, neglect). Even the sweetest people can be pushed to their limits as I’m sure you know. However, stop apologizing because your child has to cry themselves to sleep. This is perfectly normal behavior, and as long as you give your sitter a FULL warning and ASK if they’re okay with this – you should be fine! Let them know the amount of time the child can cry before going back in the room, and just give them a step by step about how to deal with putting them down. But when you do not give a warning, I personally will become concerned very quickly. If you don’t tell me it takes 15 minutes for your child to sooth themselves, I am panicking after 5 minutes. Don’t feel bad that we have to hear a child cry in a normal situation though.
I’m praying for a future where families aren’t “tied down” because they don’t want to move away from Grandma for fear of never having childcare.
I’m praying for a future when you only have to serve the Kids area at church on Sundays like twice a year because ALL of the parents of the kids in childcare serve, and everyone else is so willing.
I’m praying for a future when Christians stop using the words “brothers and sisters” loosely and start realizing that’s what we actually are.