Barring a romantic date with Dr. McDreamy, this has got to be the ultimate mommy fantasy: sixteen Vandy girls stand before me, all clamoring to watch my kids while I go out on the town. Lucky for me, I’m wide awake.
“My name is Mary Alice!” one of the girls says, stepping forward and addressing me, along with the other six moms who’ve shown up to meet them. “I’m an early education major and I! Love! Children! I’ve been a counselor at Camp Costsalot in North Carolina for the past seven years! I’m CPR certified! I’m vice president of Gamma Bananarama sorority! I tutor underprivileged children three times a week! I have five brothers and sisters and I’ve helped take care of them my whole entire life!”
Holy shit. I can’t help but grin back at her, imagining the golden afternoons Mary Alice is destined to spend with my two little ones, taking them on walks to the playground, reading them books and singing them songs. Sighing contentedly, I almost forget the $100 charge on my credit card that gained me admittance to this Mommy Mixer.
One look at the idyllic mother-and-child photographs on the Mommy Mixer website ( www.mommymixer.com) makes it clear that this is an event for those moms who favor smocked rompers for their little boys and can use the term “kiddie couture” without laughing. Described as an “exclusive mixer that allow[s] moms and sitters to spend one hour networking in high-end boutiques and hip locations around town,” the Mommy Mixer business launched in Austin, Texas, in 2003 and has grown to include 20 cities across the country. The Nashville event is being held at Boutique Bella on West End, where Mommy Mixer attendees get a 10 percent discount on all merchandise. Glancing at the price tags, though, I quickly determine that I’d need an 80 percent discount to afford any of these duds.
Of course, I’m in the minority. Most of the other moms milling about appear to have been spat from the same Stepford-by-way-of-Franklin factory. Each is a nattily dressed, well-coiffed blonde, and if the babysitters seem anxious to impress, the moms are equally eager to win the girls’ admiration.
“Flannery and Sarah Parker are 6 and 4,” one mom says brightly. “They are both involved in so many activities, really, I’m embarrassed about it. I need help getting them to everything.”
“Hyde and Tallulah attend Snootford Academy,” says another, or at least, that’s how I heard it. “We live in Franklin, but it’s really not far. Really, it’s not. Just a short walk from Vanderbilt, really.”
The next mom outdoes us all, somehow managing to mention her membership on a prestigious board and the size of her house along with the names and ages of her children. “I mean, it’s not like my house is even that big,” she says modestly as she relates a story about discovering her last babysitter doing god-knows-what in her attic. “It’s only 4,000 square feet.” She finishes with a triumphant smile on her face.
Suddenly, it’s my turn. “Well, I’m a writer, so my schedule is very flexible,” I begin hesitantly. With no McMansion to reference, I have to step up my game. “My kids are incredibly well behaved!” I gush. “They’re very laid-back and they never cry. Seriously!” I glance at the other moms, who look none too pleased. Score.
After the introductions are made, we mingle. I make a point to meet each potential babysitter personally, wishing I had the breezy confidence of the mom I overhear chatting up a child psychology major across a counter full of designer jeans. “I do have a pool,” I overhear her say, as if she knows her statement will seal the deal. “And? It’s heated.”
Truthfully, the only thing that makes this mixer worth my while is The Babysitter Book, a binder distributed to all the moms in attendance. It contains the résumés, availability schedules and contact numbers of 24 Vanderbilt coeds and, lest my friends out there think I’m going to share the wealth with them, forget about it. Before I could even get my hands on a copy, I had to sign a form promising not to divulge the girls’ information to anyone.
I used my first Vandy sitter a few nights ago, and, while I spent way too much time cleaning the house before her arrival (I may be poor, but I’m proud) and had to pay her double the rate of my usual sitters (who also happen to be my stepdaughters), I have to admit it felt damn good having two dozen potential babysitters at my fingertips. I’m just not sure it felt 100 dollars good. I mean, is this really what it takes to find a non-axe-murdering sitter in a town where moms jealously guard their babysitter lists as though they also contain the name of that diet doctor who prescribes whatever you want?
Thank God I don’t have to find out.
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