The longer I worked in Vivian's *new* office, the more I came to like Elizabeth. Of all the new people, she was by far the most similar to me -- even compared to the girls in my own age group. We just... clicked. Sometimes these things can't be explained.
Elizabeth lived in the same area of the city as me, and she had two children, aged 6 and 10. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I am good with kids. I love them, they love me - it just works. Vivian had seen this first hand when she brought her own children into the office. It wasn't long before she was suggesting to Elizabeth that Elizabeth might like to use me as a babysitter one or two evenings a week, you know, since we lived so near each other. Before the words were even all the way out of her mouth, Elizabeth was nodding her head in agreement. It seemed a natural progression to our working relationship.
When I told my mom later that day she was adamantly against the idea. "Jane," she said, "Obviously you're not a mom so you can't completely get this, but women are crazy about their babysitters." She tried to impress upon me that women become possessive of the babysitters that their children adore. She had seen it on the playground when she was raising my sister and me. And, if we're being completely honest, maybe she was one of the crazy women herself. Actually, forget maybe. She definitely was one.
But I had an easy solution to this problem! I would make sure Vivian knew that I still cared about her children as well as Elizabeth's. I would babysit for both of them. This was easier said than done: Elizabeth lived in the city, but Vivian lived out in the suburbs -- not nearly as convenient a commute. But still, I was willing to do it, and Vivian was eager to have me spend time with her children. I carefully arranged with her a date during the week when I would drive all the way out to the boonies and spend an afternoon looking after her kids.
And so I did. I borrowed my mom's car, plugged her address into my GPS, and drove an hour out of my way to pick her children up from school and make them dinner. Granted, I DO love spending time with children, and her children are awesome. So this wasn't necessarily the most horrendous chore in the world. In fact, Vivian's daughter reminded me a bit of myself as a preteen, and I had fun talking to her about her adorable boy problems, and friend problems, and general drama. And the rest of the afternoon was spent watching her and her brother show me tricks on their trampoline, helping with homework, and figuring out what the heck to make for dinner.
Vivian came home from her tennis lesson around 8 o'clock that night -- not late, especially for a babysitting gig, but I did still have to drive home. I let her know I should probably be getting along soon-ish, if she didn't mind. She looked at her watch and said, "Oh! Yes! Of course, we don't want you to get home too late." Then she turned to her kids, "Jillian! Ben! Did you thank Jane for visiting? Please say thank you to Jane for coming all the way out here and visiting you!" They both mumbled their "thank yous" in that 'someone else is making me do it' awkward way. I smiled encouragingly at them and then turned expectantly to Vivian.
"Well," She said, "I better go take a shower! Thank you again for visiting, Jane! Can you see yourself out?"
"What??? OH! Yes, yes of course. Anytime guys! Thanks!" I tried to sound absolutely as neutral as possible, and not at all surprised, while I grabbed my coat and made my way to my car.
Once I was seated behind the wheel, I sat still for a moment, a little stunned, and then I started laughing. What a fool I am! I had just babysat for free! FOR FREE!!! Even now, I still don't know how I could have handled that situation better. Obviously I wasn't about to say what I wanted to say: "Wait!! What about, uh... compensation for my hours of labor?" I couldn't do it just like that, to her face, in front of her kids. But. On the other hand. Oh my God! Who doesn't pay her babysitter?!
Maybe it was my own fault, I reasoned with myself as I drove home. I hadn't solidified an hourly wage with her beforehand. I hadn't been 100% clear with her that I considered this a job, and that I wouldn't normally drive an hour out of my way simply to "hang out" with children half my age.
But it was also becoming increasingly clear that, with Vivian, money was going to be a bit of an issue. After all, I HAD been, in my eyes, VERY blunt and aggressive in my attempt to get paid for my internship -- almost awkwardly so -- and yet I was still waiting on my first paycheck.