I am the youngest of twelve kids. At any given time, my parents had five to seven kids under the age of ten. My mom was a full-time mom and insurance agent. My dad was a full-time sleeper/drinker and (barely) part-time insurance man. Babysitters were only inevitable. My mom needed to work and my dad needed to party, so my parents looked to a babysitting agency to help them find quality people to keep an eye on us while they were busy.
Watching five kids at once for the same price as watching one kid wasn't anyone's ideal babysitting job. They may as well just open a daycare. For that reason, all the primo caretakers passed on watching my siblings. Even the subpar ones, who would probably just watch tv the whole time, knew they'd be better off without a paycheck than having to watch so many children. What was left was a rotating door of women who seemed like ex-cons or were well on their way to becoming ex-cons. My mom, desperate to keep us all fed, accepted whatever the agency sent her way.
Most of these sitters would invite their boyfriends over and yell. This was the most of mild behaviors in which they were engaged. These were easy to turn a blind eye to. Others were drunk or on drugs and would try to party with my older brothers and sisters. One woman just left in the middle of day without telling my mom who came home to a houseful of wild children. Another woman would discuss attacking her boyfriend with my siblings and ask for their input.
By the time I came around, my mom had given up on the babysitting agency since there was a wealth of teenagers to watch us younger kids. My brothers and sisters were not much better than the babysitters, but at least they were free. They would routinely forget about their charges and leave in the middle of their shifts. Since they were just kids themselves, they had every right to be the worst babysitters in the world.
The only time sitters were necessary at that point were those hours when the teenagers were at school, my mom was at work, and my dad was sleeping. Finding steady sitters to watch the one to two small kids in the house was much easier and they were much better quality than the others.
My babysitters was with us since I was a baby. She would come every morning when my mom left and leave as soon as the junior and high schooler kids were home. I loved this sitter. She became a part-time mom to me and I would often contemplate running away from home to live with her. I thought she understood me better than my mom.
That's not to say, however, that she was a flawless sitter. There were things my mom was dismayed to find out when I was older, specifically an incident that happened when I was in Kindergarten.
One day, I decided I didn't want to go to school and told my sitter as much. To my surprise, she told me I didn't have to go to school. She said she'd take me on an adventure. Next thing I knew, I was in Tijuana buying chiclets and eating chips in a restaurant. I was having a much better time than if I went to school until she asked me to try her beer.
"If you drink it now, you won't drink it when you're older," she told me.
I knew what beer was and I knew that I wasn't supposed to touch it. I wanted to maintain my "good girl" status. Drinking beer would demote me from that elevation for sure. She encouraged me a couple more times before my lip began to quiver. Then she gave up. I decided that skipping school wasn't as much fun as I thought it was. (Later, in High School, I would revise this idea. I decided that ditching school was the most amazing thing ever).
We went back to Chula Vista and I didn't tell my mom where we had gone. I knew that she wouldn't have been happy. I didn't want to get in trouble.
I still loved that sitter with all my heart after that, but I realized that day that she wasn't a mom stand-in. My mom would've never asked me to drink the beer. She, also, wouldn't have let me ditch school. My mom, also, was there every day and loved me unconditionally. No other person could take her place. And, despite all the nefarious characters watching us, we made it to adulthood relatively unscathed.