So, I’m going to tell you something that is just crazy:
My kids had six different babysitters in a 1.5 week span.
Yes, this was crazy…but necessary.
I took a new job at the end of the summer, and orientations and training all took place over a two-week period of summer where I still had all three children at home. My husband could not take off work, and we do not live near any family. Our only option was to find sitters.
It all worked out. It usually does. After seeing so many babysitters come and go through our home, and after being a babysitter myself years before I had children of my own, I’ve come up with some things an A+ babysitter should do. Remember, you hired that person. They are working for you!
You want a babysitter who…
Takes over as soon as she walks through the door.
Oftentimes when a sitter arrives, I am still trying to put an earring in my ear or scratch out instructions on a notepad. Honestly, this is the moment where I’m thinking, “Is this all worth it because I am exhausted just trying to prepare for a sitter to take over, and I haven’t even walked out the door.” The best sitters we have had start working from the moment they walk through the door. I love it when this person takes the initiative (and clues from me!) to head to the backyard with the kids or into the playroom. This diverts their attention away from me leaving, allows them to get comfortable with the sitter, and it gives me time to wrap things up before running out the door. It is a win-win situation.
Is prepared by bringing activities to do.
They don’t need to be Mary Poppins, but it is so nice to see sitters walk through the door with a “bag of fun.” One of the sitters we had recently came with a paper sack full of board games. My daughter later told me they played some of them, and that is was fun. Another sitter we have had in the past brought over doodle pads and art supplies. When my husband and I came back home that evening our kids showed us their art gallery.
Doesn’t interrupt your time away.
If I’ve done my job by leaving enough instructions, my sitter shouldn’t have to contact me while I’m away unless a child is hurt and requires a doctor or hospital visit. One time I was away at a business dinner with my husband, and at one point I was out in front of the restaurant for 10-15 minutes trying to walk a sitter through turning on the television and DVD player. I understand that it takes a rocket scientist to operate all of the remotes, but it was not worth pulling me away from dinner. I do enjoy getting photos texted to me, however, of my kids doing fun things while I’m gone.
Goes above and beyond if times allows.
I will never forget when I was babysitting years ago, and my mom gave me this advice: “Do their dishes before you leave. Don’t leave their kitchen in a mess.” That advice has stuck with me, and I smile when I come home to a clean kitchen because it shows me that the sitter cares. I realize that this is not always possible, but if there are any extra special touches a sitter can make before they leave, it matters. In fact, I would be willing to bump up the payment for no dishes in the sink or food strewn across the island!
Is a mature and responsible human being.
Obviously. It’s always reassuring to hear that a sitter is CPR-certified and/or has taken a babysitting course. Click here for a link to check out local classes. You might even suggest your sitter look into taking these courses, especially if the sitter is younger and has a lot of babysitting in their future. Also, get recommendations from people you trust. You are leaving your babies in the care of somebody else, and you want to make sure that person knows what they are doing. Don’t forget to think outside the box, either. I recently got the name of a boy at our church whom I observed during a recent Vacation Bible School. This particular guy also works at church so I knew he had been vetted and is trusted enough that the church personnel hired him onto their staff. I don’t care if the sitter is a boy or a girl, as long as that person is mature and responsible. I also don’t mind if the person is in high school or college. I have had outstanding sitters who were in high school. In fact, these two sisters were our regular sitters for years. Again, the sitter simply has to make wise decisions concerning my children while I’m away.
I don’t expect perfection because I’m not perfect, and I’m the mom. I also don’t have such high expectations of the sitter that they can’t possibly meet them. I’m realistic and know that things might not go as planned. I’m a substitute teacher, so in many ways, babysitting is a lot like being a sub. You are filling in for the regular teacher, or in the case of babysitting, the parent. A sub will have a lesson plan, but plans might not go accordingly. At the end of the day, however, the substitute needs to care for the students and keep them safe. This is the same thing for a sitter: Does the babysitter care for my kids well? Does the babysitter keep them safe?