The holiday season means parties, gifts, decorations and constant fun for children, but for the parents who have to provide all those activities, it means squeezing even more into an already packed schedule. Some families have no choice but to hire help in the way of babysitters during this time of year. In many cases, not for fun stuff like parties, but to get everything done.
Since sitters and money are both in high demand between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, parents of multiples have to be creative in using their time and their caregivers during the holidays.
Saturdays in December are premium nights for holiday parties, so sitters need to be lined up early. “I line up my sitters the minute I know the date and give them a reminder call a week ahead of time,” says Lisa Cranwell-Bruce of Atlanta, mother of four children including 3-year-old twins. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case a sitter cancels.
While you’re searching for holiday sitters, don’t forget New Year’s Eve. You may not be thinking about next year during Thanksgiving or early December, but the other families competing for your babysitters are. By the first day of December, most regular sitters have a job for that busy last night of the year.
Hours of shopping
Babysitting isn’t just for parents’ nights out, but for shopping as well. Sara Adler of Boca Raton, Florida, uses a “mother’s morning out” program to care for her twins, Emily and Alexander, while she does last-minute Hanukkah shopping or food preparation.
“You feel like it’s: On your mark! Get set! Go! Let’s see how much I can get done in three hours,” laughs Sara. Even if the hours are short, these programs usually provide activities and fun for children while mom or dad checks a few things off the gift list.
Kay Allison, of Barrington, Illinois, has been fortunate enough to have family members come and care for her 3 ½-year-old twin girls, Kate and Lucy. Still, Kay found that to get all her shopping done, she had to get child-care help. “I think with multiples you really need someone older than 21 when they are younger,” Kay advises. For that reason, Kay hires sitters whose regular job involves working with preschoolers.
Season for sleepovers
If you are fortunate enough to have family living nearby, you should consider having the kids spend the night away from home, either separately or together. One of the advantages of having children spend the night away is that parents can get several things done at once. The parents might use the opportunity to go out in the evening, then get up and get some shopping done the next day. Without the kids at home, parents don’t have to leave the presents in the car until bedtime, risking accidental discovery.
Even after you have finished shopping and partying, there are still plenty of activities around the house that must be done. How is it possible to assemble the latest complicated toy with the threat of children waking in each time you hit the hammer? Sometimes it’s best to have the house to yourself, even if it’s just to complete the holiday baking without having to stop and fix a peanut butter sandwich.
If family isn’t available and funds are running low, a reciprocal agreement with another family may be your best choice: We’ll take yours if you’ll take ours. This works best close to the actual holiday so that everything is home from the stores and ready to wrap.
Recruit help from family or neighbors One problem for large families is that the use of extended family members as babysitters might not be possible. It’s not easy to handle so many children alone. As an inexpensive solution for this problem, families might try hiring a mature preteen to help the grandparents care for the children.
If the youngster hasn’t started babysitting by herself yet, she’ll get a lot of experience while being supervised by an adult, and she won’t charge nearly what a teenager with a driver’s license may. The grandparents will be spared some of the more physical aspects of caring for your children—lifting into cribs and high chairs, for example. These same preteens can be an excellent help for you while you’re trying to accomplish those last-minute items at home.
There may be a mom in your neighborhood who would love to send her 10 and 12-year-olds over to your house. That way the mother will get some time alone, while her kids will entertain your multiples. In return, you get some free help and an opportunity to sneak off and wrap last-minute packages.
Nancy A. Moeller of Atlanta, Georgia is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a mother of triplet boys.