One of the classic comedy plots, most often seen in cartoons. A babysitter is left in charge of an infant (who, despite being so young, turns out to be incredibly mobile). As soon as the infant's parents are off-stage, the babysitter begins a gauntlet of pain and anguish of which, somehow, the infant is the ultimate cause.
There are some common variations. The baby may wander away from the home, with the babysitter giving chase. In others, the baby itself turns the home into an obstacle course of doom using the furnishings, appliances, water pipes, electrical outlets, and pretty much everything else in the house. Or it is possible that the baby is unusual in some way, and thus is physical dangerous, and will inadvertantly (or not so inadvertently) hurt the babysitter in the course of "playing". Regardless, in the end grievous bodily harm comes to the babysitter (and quite often the home itself is wrecked)... but the baby itself is safe and sound, and utterly unhurt.
When the parents — who frankly should be locked up for negligence — return home, they are either totally unaware that anything untoward has happened, or chastise the babysitter for something trivial, like tracking mud on the carpet, not knowing that he's suffered massive Amusing Injuries keeping their child safe.
A version of the story (below) goes right back to ancient Welsh folklore - making this trope Older Than Print.
Note that the "babysitter" need not be an actual babysitter, nor the "infant" an actual infant. This trope works any time a supposedly responsible individual is left in charge of an innocent, and ends up paying for it physically.
Compare No Sympathy, Escort Mission.
Babysitter from Hell is the inversion of this trope, but this trope sometimes comes into play as a karmic punishment.
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Anime and Manga
Galaxy Angel, season 3, episode 14: The Angel-tai are turned into children due to Lost Technology disguised as candy, and the Twin Stars must play the babysitters. The danger here, though, comes less from wandering into danger and more from Ranpha and Forte's frankly sadistic tendencies.
Ash's Pikachu from Pokémon became this sometimes when little Togepi wandered off. Misty actually did notice something dangerous the egg was doing and managed to rescue it from being killed a couple times, though.
It also happened once with Pachirisu and Happiny.
A similar incident happened to Pika in the Pokémon Special manga. Here, the role of baby was taken by Kitty, Yellow's recently caught Caterpie who Yellow told Pika to look after while she went on a quick errand. Kitty then decided to follow a drifting leaf from one danger to another, much to Pika's horror.
A second flashback in One Piece introduces the reader to Curly Dadan, Luffy and Ace's foster mother. Forced into taking care of the brothers under threat of imprisonment for her banditry by Garp, she wonders whether or not jail time would be worse than putting up with the D children.
Alice Sakaguchi is this to Rin Kobayashi briefly in the beginning of Please Save My Earth, but Rin turned out to be . . . well, a different kind of special than Alice expected.
Happens to Detective Conan in a filler episode, when Conan's stuck taking care of a two-year-old boy named Santa whose mother Shigeko is one of Kogoro's clients. And then Shigeko is kidnapped... And in the end, it turns out that Santa's real name is Haruka... and that she's a little girl.
The DCU comic book Elseworlds 80 Page Giant was pulled from the shelves for "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter", a Badly Battered Babysitter sequence in which a baby Clark Kent survives various cartoonish hazards, including accidentally microwaving himself, thanks to his invulnerability. The story was later reprinted in Bizarro Comics.
It was also pulled for other things, like the implication that the Kents hired the babysitter so they could have a quiet night together. Also played with a bit at the end where the Kents get home, see the wrecked house, and compliment Letitia and ask if she's available next week. Another thing that irked the censors was a scene where little Clark gets himself a drink of milk straight from the udders of a cow.
Speaking of The DCU, this showed up in Young Justice a couple of times: once when Wonder Girl and Arrowette babysat a child who was hypnotized by a children's video into attempting to kill them, and again when the young and old superheroes switched ages, forcing the now-adult sidekicks to babysit their now-child mentors. During the midst of the latter situation, Wonder Girl even mentions the former one, lamenting how she'd promised never to babysit again afterward.
A variation happens in Spirou and Fantasio: Panade ŕ Champignac, the two heroes are the battered babysitters of the grown-up Zorglub, who suffers from amnesia and acts like an 8-month-old baby.
X-23 is assigned the task of watching after the Richards kids. Said kids open a temporal window and unleash a dragon. It gets complicated from there.
In Astérix and Son, the titular Doorstop Baby, once tanked up on Magic Potion, becomes more than a match for any would-be babysitter, tossing people around like rattlers. When a Roman legionary disguised as a rattler pedlar offers to watch the baby...
Asterix: Do you think we ought to take the risk, Obelix?
One story of the Facing The Future Series involves this when Danny and Sam are turned into five year olds and Tucker and the rest of the Fentons must deal with their ghost powered mischief. According to Jazz, Danny was like this the first time he was five years old.
In Trunk's New Look the titular character takes on this role when babysitting Goten and his younger self. This eventually results in him ending up in his mother's Playboy Bunny outfit. Suffice to say after all of that he never takes a babysitting job again.
Her frantic calls to Mrs. Parr, and the ease/eagerness with which she handed the kid off to a complete stranger that belatedly identified himself as the replacement sitter, tied into the main plot as well.
In the movie Baby's Day Out, the titular baby is kidnapped, escapes from his three abductors, and makes his way safely through a very busy day in which the kidnappers take such a beating that their eventual arrest is a relief to them, since it puts them well away from the baby.
Adventures in Babysitting is made of tweaks to this trope. The babysitter has to go out to the big scary City, dragging her (multiple) charges along, and they get into truly ridiculous amounts of trouble, but always manage to escape more or less unharmed.
Abbott and Costello often had to deal with the repellent Stinky, played by Joe Besser of Three Stooges fame. The fact that Stinky was almost as big as Costello and usually dressed up like Little Lord Fauntleroy only made the whole thing even more ridiculous.
In the Hulk Hogan film Mr. Nanny, Hulk's character Sean Armstrong is made the bodyguard of businessman's son and daughter, who have made a habit of chasing off nannies hired by their loving-but-too-busy-with-work father with outrageous- and possibly deadly- pranks. when we first see them they've caused their current nanny's hair to burn by rigging her hairdryer, and somehow caused the one before that to break her arm. According to Corrine the cook, the number of nannies they've sent packing goes into the dozens. Of course, Armstrong takes their first traps in stride before telling them that enough is enough, because HE'S. NOT. LEAVING. This ironically wins their respect.
Folklore and Mythology
Older Than Print: In the Welsh Mythology cycle, The Mabinogion, Prince Llewellyn the Great goes out, returning to discover his baby son's cradle overturned, the baby missing, and the guard dog Gelert with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn drew his sword and killed Gelert, who let out a final dying yelp. The he heard the baby's cries and discovered it was unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attacked the child. Gelert had killed it, and the blood had been the wolf's — and his own, from wounds received in the child's defense.
Good Dog, Carl and its sequels feature a Rottweiler who is, in each book, left to take care of the baby. Subverted in that Carl often assists the baby - such as when he gives baby a boost to crawl into the laundry chute (there was a full basket of soft laundry at the bottom), or takes baby out to go window shopping and meet Santa.
Several Jeeves and Wooster stories revolve around Bertie being asked to keep an eye on or take care of someone, generally by Aunt Agatha. The people he's asked to watch always turn out to be utterly irresponsible and impossible to control. Similarly, in "Episode of the Dog McIntosh" he has to look after Aunt Agatha's dog, in what turns out to be "a guardianship fraught with peril".
"The Ransom of Red Chief", a short story by O. Henry, features two kidnappers in the Depression-era South abducting the son of a wealthy man. By the end of the tale, the kidnappers wind up paying the father a ransom in order to get the kid out of their hair.
A very dark version in the novel Let's Go Play At the Adams by Mendal Johnson. A young woman babysits a family of teenagers. They tie her to a bed and things go downhill from there. Some elements are based on the Sylvia Likens case.
Live Action TV
Married... with Children: Desperate for concert ticket money, Bud rents Kelly out as a babysitter. During the evening, she's tied to a chair, peed on, and threatened with scalping. (They even threaten to lynch her, but she escapes that, somehow.)
Glee : Quinn and Puck babysit and end up tied to a chair with a skipping rope. They turn it around, though.
Paige Fox of Foxtrot has suffered mild versions of this, but most of the time it's her own fault. Once she fell asleep because she was working herself too hard on babysitting jobs, and the girl she was supposed to be watching cut up her new dress with her mother's scissors (As Paige says herself, it could have been much worse). Another time she fed a toddler a huge piece of chocolate cake right before bedtime, and hilarity ensued when she began quite literally bouncing off the walls.
Her brother Peter, on the other hand, has actually suffered serious injury dog-sitting an extremely small dog with extremely sharp teeth and a Napoleon Complex.
Very averted in Calvin and Hobbes, where Rosayln comes close to a Babysitter from Hell at times, being one of the few people Calvin is truly afraid of. First, every time the parents hire Rosalyn to watch over Calvin, he's always the one to get lectured (at the very least) for the pranks he pulls on her. He once tried to run away, and didn't get very far before she brought him back. Rosalyn can generally take what he dishes out and come down hard on him for it. Second, she commands princely sums (even getting advances) as she's the only one who will put up with Calvin. Third, the parents are all too aware of Calvin's antics themselves, so Rosalyn never has to worry about not being believed. Lastly, in Rosalyn's final appearance, she and Calvin make peace with each other after bonding over a game of Calvinball.
Although, one strip suggested that the reason Rosalyn is willing to babysit Calvin is because every other babysitter who his parents have hired have fallen victim to this Trope.
Done with a twist in the "Close To Home" books by John Mcpherson. A babysitter, after a hellish evening with her charges, (which ended in a wrecked house), states to the child's parents that not only will she never babysit for them again, but it will cost them an extra $100 just for her to keep her mouth shut and not tell other sitters to avoid them.*
Although not babysitting, two SNES video games follow the same plot - Rocko's Modern Life: Spunky's Dangerous Day and Eek! The Cat both centered around the title (playable) character ensuring the safety of the individual they're watching over (a dog for the former, his large girlfriend and an old lady for the latter)
One level of Earthworm Jim has the titular Jim protecting Peter Puppy from danger, mostly by whipping him over obstacles. If Peter ever gets hit, it causes him to mutate into a horrifying monster which proceeds to beat the crud out of Jim for his failure and drag him backwards through the stage.
The platform game Sleepwalker had the player controlling a hapless dog tasked with stopping his master from waking up as he sleepwalked all over the city.
A parody of this occurs in the Stinkoman 20X6, in which the hopelessly naive 1-Up wanders into "The Lava Zone" to look for a kidnapped Pan-Pan. Stinkoman doesn't care until he realizes 1-Up took his "Power Crunch," at which point he must follow and protect 1-Up to ensure he gets his item back.
Any gamer only wishes that the punishment of most Escort Missions was directed at the player, rather than the typically dumb-as-rocks escortee.
Yoshi's Island has a multicolored tribe of Yoshis ferrying Baby Mario through the whole game, and rather ridiculous obstacles. (You think they could just leave the baby with someone at home and go clear the way on their own?)
Or maybe have all eight Yoshis travel together rather than pass the baby like a relay baton?
There is one episode where at the end Tom and Jerry are arrested for kidnapping. Though it at least seems at the end that they might get off, since the interrogating officer notices the baby wandering off again. There was also another where it ends with the baby mischievously winking at the camera, suggesting he does it on purpose. During both of those cartoons, the babysitter spends the entire time talking on the phone and sees the moment Tom puts the baby back on his crib. She then hits Tom or throw him out of the house, thinking he was harassing or harming the baby.
The Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot cartoons from Warner Brothers had a gruff but softhearted bulldog protecting an oblivious kitten.
The Up-Standing Sitter has Daffy Duck as one of these.
"Life is bitter for I am a sitter and put little kiddies to bed. While I tuck the sheet around their feet, they're busy slappin' my head. They throw their trains and rattle my brains; my head is full of dents. No wonder I'm sour; goes on by the hour! And each hour I earn fifty cents."
Inspector Gadget's niece's dog, Brain, was always doing the leg work and getting the worst of the situations Gadget got into on cases. Gadget himself was not aware of this in the least.
Taken to its logical conclusion in Gadget And The Gadgetinis. The sequel series, taking place two years after the first show, shows that Brain had a breakdown between shows and was moved to a riverside house. He's fine around Penny, and warms up to the robot sidekicks that took his place, but is terrified to see Gadget or even hear the word gadget.
This is the setup used by the "Buttons and Mindy" segments on Animaniacs, where they took an almost sadistic glee in torturing the poor dog.
In one episode, the Warners have met up with Elmyra and are trying to get rid of her. They do so by convincing her to follow Mindy. After the Warners stop him from automatically trying to interfere on Mindy's behalf, Buttons really enjoys seeing someone other than himself taking all the pain for a change.
This was taken Up to Eleven in a Halloween Episode where Buttons chased her into a zombie-infested graveyard (Mindy apparently knew what zombies were, but just didn't realize they were dangerous) ending in a Homage to Michael Jackson's Thriller. (Sort of a CMOA for Buttons.) At least this time, Buttons didn't get yelled at by Mindy's parents.
And in Wakko's Wish, he finally gets his reward: a pile of steaks.
Most of the shorts also tend to end with Buttons getting a big hug from Mindy, showing that while the girl's parents treat him like dirt, said girl really adores him. So his torment isn't entirely without its rewards.
However, there's an Animaniacs Buttons and Mindy comics story based on Richard Matheson's "Prey" (aka the "Amelia" segment of Trilogy of Terror). It doesn't end well. Good thing it's apparently non-canonical!
The babysitter isn't always an animal — the earliest variation on this theme is one of the old Fleischer Popeye cartoons, with either the titular sailor himself or Poopdeck Pappy sitting the errant babe. Many of the other examples on this page are probably homages to the Popeye cartoons.
This was probably a variation of the 1934 Popeye cartoon "A Dream Walking," in which Popeye and Bluto tried to protect a sleepwalking Olive Oyl from the dangers of a construction site.
Baby Shelby's mischief was even the plot (if House of Mouse could ever really be said to have plot) of one actual episode.
His nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie were introduced in a badly battered babysitter-type cartoon (his sister Dumbella leaving them in his care).
Another, older cartoon has Daisy Duck trying to protect her boyfriend from harm while he's sleep walking.
Donald himself had a long-suffering guardian angel who put up with all sorts of abuse from her devilish counterpart until she got fed up and a Curb-Stomp Battle ensued.
The Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Babyfier" had most of the characters, including Lilo's older sister, turn into babies, forcing Lilo to baby-sit.
Examples from Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: The booby baby in "Three Men and a Booby", Jeremy in "Bearing Up Baby", and Bink (and Tammy) in "Adventures in Squirrelsitting".
Timon & Pumbaa, in Timon and Pumbaa's Wild Adventures, spent an episode taking care of a eagle chick named Baby Earl. Baby Earl's mama had decided to nest right on the edge of a cliff, and Baby Earl himself decided he wanted to try "flying the coop"...literally. This was not helped by the fact that the only reason Timon and Pumbaa were stuck looking after the kid was because the mother caught them stealing food from her precious baby, and so forced them to watch him as punishment, with the condition that if "ONE. SINGLE. SCRATCH" was found on Baby Earl, that Timon would be crushed. And then there was the semi that randomly showed up...
In the episode, "Sitting Pretty Awful", Timon and Pumbaa babysit a set of human triplets. It starts out with the usual hijinks, such as Timon getting hit on the head by a bowling ball and throwing a lit match into a pile of dynamite while trying to keep the triplets safe, but towards the end of the episode, Timon injures himself in various ways on purpose to get them to laugh.
Happens to Marion in an episode of Bounty Hamster with a alien child who keeps randomly changing ages.
One episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Timmy chasing after magically powered fairy infant Poof. Including the obligatory construction girders.
An episode of Fievel's American Tails devoted an episode to this trope, where Fievel is forced to babysit his little sister Yasha, who then escapes and gets into trouble.
In Beetlejuice (the animated series), Lydia was babysitting someone, and money-grubbing Beej decides to copy this for a get-quick-rich scheme in the Netherworld (taking the concept of Baby sitting literally). He ends up calling Lydia for help when he realized it wasn't easy, and some how turned into a baby himself, leaving Lydia having to watch over three monstrous babies, baby Beej, and her own charge, and trying to not let them cause too much havoc.
Averted to amusing effect in Daria when the titular character gets a job babysitting a couple of kids. She expects them to be monsters, but they turn out to be brainwashed Stepford Smiler children.
Courage the Cowardly Dog is constantly putting himself in harm's way to protect his elderly and largely oblivious owners from danger. A full-fledged example of this takes place in "Little Muriel", where Muriel is inexplicably de-aged to about three years old by a tornado, and drives Courage up the wall before he finally decides to find a way to get her back to normal.
Between the Lions does this in the "Chicken Jane" animated sketches, where Chicken Jane saves her two young (and very ditzy) charges by writing words to them, just in time for them to act and to miss being harmed, only to get hit herself.
On The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins go after a lost baby when his carriage is knocked out of the zoo and into the streets. Kowalski even points out the inevitable construction site, although here it turns out to be a demolition site for a change.
This happens to Spot in the 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode, "Wild Chick Chase", when she's forced to babysit Peeps, a baby chick.
In the episode "Adventures in Rufus-Sitting", Kim watches Rufus while Ron and his parents go on vacation. Rufus ends up swallowing a microchip that is wanted by everyone, and three different villains come after him for it. After Rufus is kidnapped, Kim tracks him to France, where, ironically, Ron is vacationing, and has to save him from the hands of the Shego, Duff Killigan, and Monkey Fist, without letting Ron know.
In the beginning of the episode "Oh No! Yono!", Ron has to babysit his little sister, Hana. Hana proceeds to crawl on the walls and ceiling, and destroy the house. Then a couple nights later, Ron and Kim both babysit Hana, and the same thing happens, with Hana even climbing on top of the refrigerator and jumping off. Luckily, Ron catches her.
Subverted in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Suddenly Suzy". When Candace has to take care of her boyfriend's evil and sadistic sister Suzy, she's sure she's in for this... only for Suzy to explain that if Jeremy isn't there, she's off the clock. They proceed to bond.
However, Candace did end up being one in "Agent Doof".
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Fluttershy gets run ragged trying to look after the Cutie Mark Crusaders in "Stare Master", and Pinkie Pie struggles to keep up with the Cakes' newborn twins in "Baby Cakes". Spike also spends some time as a Badly Battered Petsitter in "Dragonshy," though the audience only witnesses the aftermath.
Spike gets another turn when he looks after all of the Mane Six's pets in "Just for Sidekicks". Like last time, Angel gives him hell.
The Simpsons Did It. Bart has actually abused so many babysitters that the family is effectively blacklisted by every one in Springfield (and one who is convinced to come back has post-traumatic flashbacks on seeing Bart and runs away screaming).
An incredibly weird variation occurs in The Powerpuff Girls. The girls are given a random babysitter who, by chance, is their Arch-Nemesis Mojo Jojo. The girls are deliberately the worst kids ever, even at one point getting Mojo run over by a car, and ultimately driving him completely insane.
Regular Show, In "Dead at Eight", Mordecai and Rigby has to babysit Death's kid, Thomas, or he will take Muscle Man's soul. Despite being a baby, Thomas is revealed to be 300-years-old and can talk and his parents are not aware of this.
Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen become this in Superman: The Animated Series, with the twist that they're watching a monkey, Titano. After keeping him for a week, an exhausted Lois presses Jimmy into service. Titano throws things (including the refrigerator) at him.
In the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode 'Two Plumbers and a Baby', King Koopa uses the Fountain of Youth to turn Princess Toadstool into a baby, and the Marios wear themselves out trying to keep the infant royal under control until they find a way to age her back to normal.
The Thundercats 2011 short "Butterfly Blues" is about Snarf watching Lion-O, until he gets distracted by a butterfly, leading to Snarf trying to get him back home.
On the SouthPark episode "Tssst!", Cartman takes down two reality-show nannies. One ends up in a straitjacket.