Drinking while babysitting

“I’m not letting the Jones take care of my son anymore,” Stacey told me while we watched our kids get filthy from head to toe. We were sipping iced tea in her backyard as the Taz and her son, the Menace, took turns digging holes near the playset, trying to find buried treasure or reach China – whichever came first. So far, they were only coming up with earthworms, which they were hucking at each other. It was sweltering hot, the proof in the sweat on my brow. And I couldn’t help wishing that the iced tea were something more along the lines of a frosty cold Mojito, or any kind of cocktail that would add a little tropical flair to the shadeless backyard with more dirt piles than grass. Don’t get me wrong, the iced tea was good. But it just wasn’t cutting it in this 90-degree weather.

“Why not?” I asked her, taking another sip of the tea.

“Well, the other night when Steve and I went out on our date night, we left the Menace with the Jones. We picked him up around 11pm, and I noticed some wine glasses on the counter. I asked Lisa about them, and she said that she and Terry always enjoy a glass or two with dinner.” She looked at me categorically as if she had just proven her point, and I immediately felt guilty about the cocktail fantasy I just imbibed in my mind.

“Were they drunk?” I asked.

“No, she was fine. But I just don’t think it’s appropriate for them to drink alcohol when they are watching someone else’s child.”

I’m not a heavy drinker, mostly due to the fact that one glass of wine can have me singing showtunes one minute and then needing a nap in the next. So my alcohol intake involves maybe one drink a month, and usually only at social events. And I’m not averse to drinking around my kids, mainly because I am such a light drinker. But I had never given much thought to drinking when watching someone else’s child, or drinking on the part of someone who was watching my kids. I mean, if they were getting plowed or going to be driving my kids, I would definitely have a problem. But a glass of wine while staying at home?

What do you think? Is it ok to enjoy a drink if you are watching someone else’s child? And how would you feel if someone was drinking while your kid was in their care?


10 thoughts on “Drinking while babysitting

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  1. You know…that’s a really tough question. I mean, I grew up with parents that had wine with dinner every night. In the society my mom grew up in, it was just what civilized people did. She didn’t get wasted or anything…wine was just a part of her evening meal. My dad…well…he was a different story. Though, the wine he had with dinner wasn’t exactly his first drink…

    I wouldn’t for a second doubt that someone with my mom’s drinking habits would be fully able to be responsible enough to have her evening glass of wine and be absolutely capable of childcare. But where does one draw the line? People who DO have problems tend to not see them, or downplay them, so one can’t always trust that ‘one or two glasses’ is not really 3 or more glasses…and let’s be honest…ANY alcohol consumption slows reaction time a little.

    I think that it probably comes down to a number of variables…how well you know the other people, what your personal values are regarding alcohol, what the children/family are doing together (hanging out playing indoors or in the backyard, probably more okay…car trip to an event across town or, I don’t know…going swimming…a little less so), and so forth. All in all, I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

  2. When I was growing up, some parents would give the baby sitter beer, even if they were under age, just to make sure they stayed put.

    While that is wrong, it points to the extreme on the other side. Because not allowing your kids to be baby sat by parents who have a glass of wine with dinner is pretty extreme.

    And as a parent, if those are your beliefs, then shouldn’t you have made that judgement call BEFORE you decided to allow their kid to be babysat?

    Not only does the look mom bad in this case, she comes across as pretty ungrateful. If her values didn’t jive with the babysitters’, she should have never allowed the situation to happen.

  3. I guess if you never drink in front of your children, you can make this a requirement of your babysitter. Otherwise, you’re just being hypocritical.

  4. The big problem I see is if there is an emergency and they need to drive an automobile to get to an emergency room or the like. Is it safe to have them driving after a couple of belts? Is a DUI the next problem for your babysitter? And what happens if they do get busted for DUI with your kids? That opens a whole other can of worms. They go to jail and your kids could end up in child protective services. What a mess that would be.

  5. The Truth, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    Dave, the OP states that she had never really thought about it until faced with the reality of the situation.

  6. If someone is a drunk you’re not likely to leave your kids with them anyway, especially if they are prone to bad judgement as well. Though Truth’s scenario is theoretically possible, it’s not altogether likely, unless the child has a medical situation no one knows about, or you haven’t babyproofed your home and the crawler swallows a stray lego. If you’re watching someone’s child, it’s not the time to party-hearty, of course, but I see nothing wrong with a glass of wine or two. I believe it’s a question of judgement which, if you know the person in question and trust them, rests largely with you.

  7. I agree with D-Mack, your personal alcohol consumption policies seem relevant. On the other hand, if I am paying someone to babysit my children, I consider them ‘ on the job’ and wouldn’t be too impressed with their drinking while caring for my kids.

  8. If you hire a babysitter, and pay her to watch your children, there is a normal expectation that they will not drink while “on the job.” The lady in your story however, let her child stay with adult friends of hers, during their normal family evening – and I doubt they were paid. In these circumstances, it is unreasonable to expect that the family will alter their normal routine, like responsibly drinking a couple of glasses of wine over dinner – while your child is hanging out at their house. Of course, if you think that there is any reason to be concerned about their behavior and how it will impact your child – you should not ask them to take care of your kid. Or if you just have a zero tolerance for alcohol, then I would suggest you find friends who are similarly minded. If a friend asked me to accomodate them by having their child stay at my house and made it mandatory that I could not have a glass of wine with dinner, I would politely let them know that they should find another option that would suit them better……

  9. While this situation happened before the Petaluma incident, that situation definitely came to mind as I was relaying the story here. But in this scenario, we’re talking about a glass or two of wine with dinner, whereas the Petaluma mother got absolutely wasted on Tequila.

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