Friday, September 12, 2014

Child Friendly

When expecting parents get all dewy and glowing about the impending arrival of their miracle baby, I bet no one gives a second thought to what will happen if they need to take a break and do something normal that doesn’t involve nappy changes. There’s always the vague notion of grandparents on babysitting duties, but I’m certain no one thinks about what happens if they suddenly decide to go on a week-long boat cruise to Penang.
            “What, both sets of grandparents are going on this cruise?” Saffy asked last week.
            Sharyn moaned into her bowl of ice-kachang. “Yah, lor! My parents and my husband’s parents are best friends! Alamak, how like that?” she sobbed as she shoveled a big spoon of luridly coloured ice and radioactive yellow corn into her mouth.
            “So who’s going to look after your kids?”
            “Why you think I am so upset?” Sharyn sniffled. Saffy suddenly detected an underlying tone to the question.
            “Oh, no!” she said instantly. “No, no, no! I am not babysitting your kids!”
            “Pleee-ase!” Sharyn begged. “Just for one day!”
            “Absolutely, not!” Saffy said firmly. “I don't like children!”
            “Choy! Don’t talk like that, ok? Anyway, how you know you doan like children?
            “Because if I did, I would have had my own by now, wouldn’t I?”
            “Not if nobody ask you to ma-lly them!” Sharyn pointed out owlishly.
            “Keep it up, Sharyn!” Saffy threatened. “You’re already on very thin ice!”
            “Yah, this ice kachang not very good, leh! Next time, doan come back!”
            Saffy sighed.
            Later that evening, over dinner at Chomp Chomp, Amanda said it was a good thing Saffy hadn’t crumbled under the pressure.
            “Can you imagine it?” she said, shuddering delicately as she pulled apart a grilled chicken wing. “The whole apartment would be messed up and the walls grubby with chocolate stained hand marks. They’ll be running around screaming and breaking things!”
            I pointed out that Sharyn’s children were almost teenagers.
            Amanda switched gears smoothly. “Well, in that case, they’ll be sitting around, all sullen and moody, playing loud music, and eating pizzas and stealing stuff!”
            “You’d think, wouldn’t you,” said Saffy, “that someone would have invented a professional babysitting service by now.”
            There was a brief moment of silence as our brains ticked and heads were cocked.
            Eventually, Amanda broke the silence. “What, you mean like…like a pet hotel, or something?”
            “Yeah, exactly like that!” Saffy said, slurping up a spoonful of bah kut teh. “If you’re going away, you just bring your kids to this centre and leave them there. They get fed, bathed and are kept entertained. Brought to school every day and collected and brought back to the centre. And when the parents come back, hand them right back, all safe and sound!”
            Amanda looked doubtful. “I’m not sure I would send my kid to that.”
            “Why not?” Saffy reached for a satay stick. “It would be a totally niche market! Imagine how much time and stress you’d save parents who want to go out for a dinner or a movie. Just call us whenever you need us. And there’s an app to show you how far away the nanny is! Discounts if you book ahead, and premiums for last minute babysitting jobs. Like a taxi!
“I am pretty sure people with kids would not just hand them over to some complete stranger for a week.”
Saffy sighed. “God, we trust our money, laundry, luggage and our lives to third parties, so why not our kids? Ooh, right there is my company tagline!”
            “But…” Amanda began. 
“Look,” Saffy went on, obliviously. “We trust a complete stranger to hurtle us up 30,000 ft into the air. We trust our hard earned cash to nameless people in a bank. Our expensive clothes to dodgy dry cleaners. We let whoever claims to be the plumber into the house and never do background security checks. We feed ourselves food grown in suspicious circumstances by people we don’t know, much less met. We trust our health in hotels to housekeeping staff whom we’ve not vetted. What’s a child minding service?”
“I’m telling you, this is a gold mine idea. But I’m too lazy to do anything about it! Can one of you set it up and just pay me a 50% dividend?”
“You’re crazy!”
By now, Saffy had put down her half-eaten satay stick and was staring into space. “Internet Sharing Economy Whizz Kid and Childcare Revolutionary,” she murmured. “That’s what they’re going to call me! When I make it to the Forbes 50 Richest, I’ll take you all on a round the world holiday!”
Sharyn says she wants to be a shareholder.


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