Yes, there will come a time when you will need a babysitter. It may seem hard to fathom (why would you ever leave your little angels?), but it’s true. Perhaps it’s a necessity like a doctor’s appointment or the 2 p.m. matinee, but the fact remains — you need a babysitter.
Take a deep breath, and don’t be terrified; there are ways to find your own personal Mary Poppins. Asking the right questions is key (as is knowing what some babysitters do when you’re gone). Having this crucial intel can help you find someone who doesn’t take advantage of the situation.
In general, err on the side of caution; have a short phone interview or in-person conversation (with the kids there) to see how everyone gets along. It may seem old fashioned, but ask for references. Several online babysitting agencies make their applicants go through a background check; you could hire through one of these to know what your sitter’s history is. Hiring someone who is CPR certified may also come in handy. Be sure to know if your sitter has a medical condition (like frequent seizures) that could possibly put your child in danger. It seems like a lot, but these are your kids we are talking about!
If you are trusting someone with your children, you should know as much as you can about them in order to find a good fit for your family. Here are six things to keep an eye out for, but more importantly, how to find someone you’ll feel completely comfortable leaving your kids with.
Social media can be a great asset for a babysitter (hello Pinterest), but it can also pull their attention away from watching your kids. How is your caretaker supposed to be taking care of your child if Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are more of a priority?
Be candid about how your sitter uses social media. Ask to keep cell phones and other gadgets out of site while the kids are awake, and to not post photos of your children online without your permission.
2. Party at your place
It can be unnerving enough having someone in your house to watch your kids, let alone their boyfriend, friends and siblings too. There’s no way that your child will be first priority when your babysitter is focused on having a night in with friends.
Don’t be afraid to come off as controlling when you ask that no one is to come over while you are away. Your sitter may be wonderful, but there’s no way of knowing that their friends are. Maybe asking a neighbor to keep an eye out for a potential party is a good option if you are feeling wary.
3. Extra toppings — on the house!
Just because you’ve left some “just in case” cash on the counter doesn’t give permission for a babysitting free for all; and having the parents gone doesn’t mean rules go out the window. It’s not unreasonable to ask a babysitter to put kids down at a regular bedtime, keep a schedule and have something other than ice cream and cake for dinner.
Knowing exactly what amount of cash you’ve left behind and asking for receipts for purchased items can help avoid some financial mishaps. To make sure their night in goes as planned, leave a list out or a schedule to keep everyone on the same page.
4. “But my dad says … ”
When parents are home, the little rug-rats know that they aren’t the boss … but when a babysitter is over? Kids may think that things have changed. Even if your child knows that they aren’t allowed to eat on the couch, does your sitter?
It seems exhaustive, but making a list of house rules can help avoid some unnecessary drama when you come home. If your sitter knows what’s to be expected, she can firmly answer “No” if kids try to bend the rules.
5. Tonight’s season finale
Yes, the kids may be sleeping, but it’s still not a great time to catch the season finale of a not-so-PG TV show. It’s hard to know who is watching from the top of the stairs, or learning a new “vocabulary” word or two while the season finale is streaming.
As a parent, don’t just toss out “Use the TV and computer if you’d like” offer, unless you mean it. Suggest that your sitter brings a book to read until you get home if you’re not so sure what sort of thing your kids might be exposed to.
This can be kind of major (like forgetting to pick someone up from soccer practice) or a minor mishap (skipping important things like naps and snacks). Of course, negligence can be even more serious; signs of child abuse should be handled immediately … but hopefully these questions and getting a background check can prevent that from happening.
Of course, you and your sitter should trust each other, but there may be times where your child can tell you more than your babysitter does. If your child seems to be excessively tired, hungry or generally unkempt when you return home, it’s time to find a new sitter.
If you do your research, you can avoid the worry that comes with having a babysitter over. Try having a little “test run” period, where you are only gone for 30 minutes or so, and then spend the rest of the afternoon talking with your sitter and playing with the kids. And don’t forget to follow your gut; if you don’t feel good about something, your motherly instinct is kicking in. But doing your research can help you find someone truly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Emily is a graduate of Brigham Young University and loving her adventures in Salt Lake City, as well as those abroad. Read more about her travels, tastings, and musings at ercummings.blogspot.com