Skip Nav
An Open Letter to Anyone Whose Parents Are Getting Divorced
This Dad's Viral Disney Photo Captures How Magical Coparenting Can Be
Even If You Think You've Read Every Open Letter to Mom-Shamers, This One Is Too Important to Skip

Welcome to My Summer Nightmare: Tweens Home Alone

Welcome to My Summer Nightmare: Tweens Home Alone

At one point or other, you knew it was going to happen. Your 12-year-old daughter has launched a babysitting career of her own in the neighborhood and now insists: "Mom I'm old enough to stay home alone." (She's referring to the 40-plus hours during which you are at work and she's on summer break.)

The drill starts with the insistence that "I'm too old for a babysitter," and goes something like this: "But mom, all my friend's moms let them stay at home." Or, "Mom: nothing bad is going to happen while you are at work, I'm just going to have (fill in the name/my best friend) over to watch TV."

It's at this moment that your attempt to orchestrate a full summer's schedule for her of babysitters, camps, and swimming lessons via Excel spreadsheet, is totally shot.


I know, I've been down this road three times, enough to learn that my instinct to hire an off-duty Navy SEAL for a stealth drop-in mission, to make sure the kids were okay (i.e. not throwing parties), were right on.

Where is Mrs. Doubtfire?

Summers suck for the working mom, especially when you're leaving tweens and teens back at the ranch with idle time on their hands. While you slog away at work, your kids are popping pizzas in the oven and forgetting they are there, or welcoming friends through the front door and unleashing the dog to roam the neighborhood.

Where is Mrs. Doubtfire when you need her?

The list of potential disasters goes on and on. I know this firsthand because I've experienced just about all of these calls while at work:

"Mom the smoke alarm just went off?"

"Hi Mom, I locked myself out of the front door and Emily (the toddler your older daughter is watching) is taking her nap inside."

"Mom, how do you make macaroni and cheese (with the metal pan) in the microwave?"

And that's just the tween stage, don't even get me started about life with a high school or college-aged teen home alone during the summer. My 18-year-old daughter tells me that the new pastime is "Grill and Chill Parties:" daytime BBQ bashes teens stage while moms are at work. Last summer it was garage beer pong. (Substitute ping pong paddles for shots of Corona.)

So what's a working mom to do? One of my co-workers came up with a clever way to get around the "babysitter" issue: she dubbed the teen-aged babysitter who watched her tween son "his summer concierge," explaining that "He's here to help drive you to baseball practice or else you would have to walk. He's here to serve you."

Luckily for her, her son bought it. I've never been so lucky.

Many Circle of Moms members say they too don't know what to do with tweens while they're at work. Sherri M. says she tried to leave her 12-year-old step-son alone during the day and thought he was going to be safe because "he's taken the first aid courses." She also says, "You know when the dog's away, the cats will play."

Biting the Bullet

As I've learned, and Circle of Moms member like Ana R. point out, "at some point you have to leave them home alone." You just have to bite the bullet. It's one of those "letting go" moments we all despise.

But Ana suggests a trial period: "You might try leaving work to go see what is happening in your home. Surprise visits to see what is going on are a great idea. I randomly sent neighbors or relatives over to my house to make sure my son was not causing trouble."

Hmmm, maybe that back-up team of Navy SEALS is not such a bad idea after all.

Do you leave your tweens home alone?

Image Source: Carole via Flickr/CreativeCommons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
MsDee69200 MsDee69200 5 years
I trust my 13 year old daughter to stay home for a few hours alone, but not to watch her 7 yo brother. Now if I had a quick errand to run and they didn't want to go, I don't mind that. They know: doors locked, no phone, no cooking.
AnneBlanscet AnneBlanscet 6 years
My eleven and eight year old will be staying home alone for about an hour after school next year. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make! There are a lot of things you can do to prepare yourself and your children. My daughter has taken a babysitting course and I will be getting her CPR/First Aid certified next month. The local Childrens Protective Services has a checklist for making sure your child is prepared. We also have the benefit of living in a wonderful planned community and are four houses down from the office and the ladies there have graciously agreed to look out for the kids. It would be wonderful if I never had to leave my kids home alone for any length of time but that is not realisitc. I think that if you prepare your child, raise them well, and make surprise visits then everything will be ok.
tammyclyne tammyclyne 6 years
this is a really hard decision to make. My son was 12 when he stayed home alone for the first time. He had to prove to me he was ready. And, I have really great neighbors who look out for him. He has to keep the door dead locked at all times. No anwsering the door. stays in th house. He is just now starting to do a "little" cooking. It's been almost a year, and I still don't like it, but I am a single mom and this is what I have to do. He knows and follows the rules and I trust him.
BrandiLaw BrandiLaw 6 years
there are 16-18 yr olds that live around me home alone and/or watching their younger siblings for the work terrifies me when my kids get to this age. I hope and pray my oldest and younger depending on the stage, will not be that irresposible and just plain stupid. one was actually riding on the roof of a which point i asked him how old he was and had to haev the whiole "you should know better b/c ANYBODY should" talk (he was 18 btw and watching his 8-12 yr old siblings). Seriously, I cringe.
ConnieRobertsHuth ConnieRobertsHuth 6 years
In AZ, it's legal to leave a 12 yo home alone. I love my tween, but she's just not responsible enough to be left to her own devices; however, she's perfectly content to be left under her 14 yo brother's not-consistently-watchful eye. (I say that, but I would trust him completely.) If she gets bored at home, we're within walking distance of our local tween/teen center.
dru86147 dru86147 6 years
is it even legal to leave a 12 year old hom alone?
bobbicopeland bobbicopeland 6 years
Boys and Girls club if ya got one... they are open early and late...pretty inexpensive too.
CoMMember13630920498622 CoMMember13630920498622 6 years
Great article... Really feels good to know that all us Moms are on the same page as far as our kids are concerned.
LisaS71601 LisaS71601 6 years
How about camp for the tweens? Works well for us!
Mom Leaves Sarcastic Note For Babysitter
Video of Steve Bannon on Bill Maher
Types of Childcare Moms Should Have
20 Baby Keepsakes Moms Hold Onto
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds