I was having a bad day. We were living out of a duffel bag while the mortgage company dragged their feet and everything we owned sat inside a shipping container in front of the new house. We had no clean clothes. We had two kids. We had two dogs. We had nothing to do while we waited to close on the house. We left the dogs in the yard of a new acquaintance and went to see Shrek Forever After at the AMC theater in Grapevine. There were 6 other people in the entire theater of this KIDS’ MOVIE. My baby was cooing/laughing happily (and only occasionally). After a major debate with a vigilant usher, she escorted me and my baby to the hall. I complained to the manager, who had actually been in the theater, unbeknownst to me, and who hadn’t heard the baby whatsoever. He agreed that his usher had been out of line and gave me two passes to return another night. “Get a babysitter and just enjoy a movie with your husband on us,” he said. I burst into tears. We had just moved to a state where we knew NO ONE. We had no family around and THEY were the ones who used to watch our kids for date night. Was I ever going to have a date night again? (Yeah, it had been a long week. )
It didn’t take too much time in Flower Mound to realize there is a GREAT babysitting resource here: Mormon teenagers. I don’t know why there seem to be more Mormons in Flower Mound than other Dallas cities, but there are–about 6 congregations throughout the town. So, what makes Mormon babysitters so great? Realize that I’m about to speak in major generalities and read on:
- Experience: Mormons tend to have larger families than average, so your Mormon babysitter may have four younger siblings at home that they’ve babysat since they were 10. They know how to change a diaper, make a bottle, and not to leave kids unattended in the tub. It is likely that they’ve babysat for several families in their congregation as well. Another plus: Mormon girls between the ages of 12 and 18 attend a weeknight program that promotes goal-setting and personal development. Oftentimes, they have activities on CPR, first aid, and even babysitting.
- Quality of Care: Most of the Mormon babysitters I have used have not turned on the TV the entire time I’ve been gone. A couple have played the Wii with the kids. About half of them have brought “babysitting bags” with games for the kids to play, crafts for them to do, books, toys, etc., knowing that kids always prefer new stuff to their own stuff.
- Busy Bees: It seems like most of these girls have been trained to leave the house as clean or cleaner than they found it. Once the kids are in bed, they set to work. It is not unusual for me to come home and find that my babysitter has done the dishes or cleaned the playroom. I always pay a little extra for that.
- Economy: This week, I heard a Dallas radio DJ (I think it was Valentine in the morning) talking about trying to find a babysitter and asking callers for their advice. One caller said she charges $18 per hour. Factor that in your date night budget and you’re talking about a small fortune. The flyer I received from a CPR-certified, 13-year-old Mormon girl down the street said $5/hour for up to three kids including cleanup, simple meal preparation, getting the kids ready for bed, and “fun alternative activities to TV.” Sign me up. Pay a little more for an older girl who can drive herself to your house and handle a really young baby. My kids are 18 months and 4 years old, so the 13-year-old babysitters work great for us when we’re not going to be out past 10:00 or so. Just make sure their parents know when to expect them.
- No shenanigans: Here come the generalities. Mormons don’t drink, smoke, have premarital sex, dress immodestly, swear, watch R-rated movies, or bend easily in the face of peer pressure. The odds of teenage shenanigans happening while you’re gone (e.g. parties, raided liquor cabinet, boys coming over to make out) are extremely low.
- Availability: Mormons aren’t supposed to date until they are 16, so they probably don’t have anything better to do on a weekend, unless there’s a church dance. They will likely be available at least one weekend night, if not both. Plus, here in Flower Mound, there are probably at least 20 Mormon babysitters who live within 2 miles of your house.
So, you may ask, “How do I find one of these super sitters?” Good question. Luckily, it has an easy answer. The Mormons are nothing if not organized. Remember how I said that the teenagers are involved in a weeknight program? Each age group (12/13, 14/15, 16/17) has two leaders. Those two leaders spend every Tuesday or Wednesday night with these girls, so they know them pretty well. Plug your address into the Mormon meetinghouse finder. It will pop up the address of the nearest Mormon church along with the bishop’s name and phone number. If you call him, he will be able to direct you to the leaders for the young women, who can recommend the most responsible babysitters in their group. You could also just drop by the church and meet some of them. The service time will be listed on the meetinghouse pop-up. (That could work well, since the babysitter’s parents will probably want to meet you before letting their daughter come over.)
So, how do you find a babysitter when you move to Flower Mound? As the South Park writers would say, “The Mormons.”