What to do about a babysitter who appears to be having a mental breakdown/serious depressive episode?
posted by Scattercat to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So a while back we used a few professional babysitting sites - background checks and whatnot included - to locate a sitter for the one day when both of us work. Our sitter worked out fine at first, but lately (the past two weeks, at least) she's been acting... off.
1) She seems spacey and distant, taking up to five minutes to, for example, walk inside once we open the door to greet her. She wanders pretty aimlessly while inside, too. If I had to guess, I'd have said she was sedated.
2) She mumbles a lot and says things that don't make much sense, randomly coming out with phrases like, "How can I ameliorate the situation?" or "I just want to do better. Maybe I can go to community college."
3) She doesn't seem to hear what we say. For example, today, my wife told her several times that the baby was sleeping in his room, but right before my wife left, the babysitter went wide-eyed and said, "Where's [the baby]!?" As though he'd been there and disappeared or something.
4) Weird reactions. when I spoke with her, she seemed to be responding to remarks other than the ones I made. For instance, she said a phrase in French and, when I said, "Ah, I don't speak French. We had a choice in high school and I went with Spanish 'cause it's easier," she reared back and said, "Why does it have to be offensive? If it's a choice. Why does it automatically offend someone if I speak French?" (Note: She is not French and actually I previously had no idea she knew any French at all.)
5) As near as I can tell, she had some kind of panic attack while sitting tonight and decided that our apartment was haunted or possessed or something. My wife got a weird voicemail in which the sitter said she heard "knocking" and asked if she could "take the baby for a walk." When I got home, she tried to tell me something about hearing sounds and "echoing voices." (We live in an apartment; knocking noises and echoing voices are par for the course, and I can't think how she wouldn't have heard such things before.) She seemed very embarrassed and wasn't able to express herself clearly. (See above RE: random remarks, mumbling, bizarre non-sequiturs.)
6) The thing that has freaked out my wife is that, when the sitter was leaving, the baby started shouting (just making noise, as babies will), and the sitter said something about how the baby wanted to come with her. When my wife opened her laptop, she saw that the sitter (who is allowed to use it to browse the internet if she wants) was apparently watching a slideshow of our picture collection of the baby. (And an image of Patrick Stewart from the Internet, oddly.)
From previous conversations, the best I can guess is that something unpleasant is happening in her life with reference to her children (10-14 in age) and her ex-husband. She's mentioned several times about how she "misses her children" but insists that she's "fine... physically" when asked about it. I suspect an issue with custody is at stake and she's having a major depressive episode as a result, since some of the symptoms seem to fit.
So the question is this:
What do we do? My wife wants to call the police "just in case." I feel like that's kind of pointless and/or overkill, since the police can't do anything about someone acting spacey and she hasn't done anything overtly threatening.
We don't know any of her relatives' names or how to contact them, which would be my first preference. Obviously, we're not keeping her in our employ at this point, but presumably she'd go back to the websites and apply for more sitting jobs, and if she's this erratic, something unfortunate might happen. I suggested just e-mailing the sites in question, but my wife, again, thinks that we'd need a police report so they will "take us seriously."
Should I call the police? Is this a thing they do? Does one need to have it "on the record" so as to have a faster response in the event that the sitter starts lurking around our apartment complex or something equally tabloid-y?