Tips for Hiring a Babysitter: Part 1

Babysitter Checklist

For the first few years of my kids lives, hiring a sitter was a pretty simple decision for an over-protective mom like me.  It was a no brainer–hire your child’s favorite teachers.   The teachers knew my child, my child knew them and I was positive they knew how to care for my tiny little baby and follow all my precise and maybe quirky requests (they were used to doing that all week after all).  We paid for this knowledge and expertise and for many years, although it was terribly expensive to go out, it was worth it (and still is for many reasons).

Flash forward to a time when my kids are walking, talking and out of cribs.  We started finding we needed more “fire watching” as my sister calls it than actual babysitting time.  Meaning our sitters would come around 6:00, feed our kids dinner (that I prepared), maybe play a game or two, watch a little TV and then put our fairly easy kids down at 8:00 and get paid to “watch for fires” until midnight or so.  No more burping or diaper changes or constant back pats to sleep, just having fun with pretty self sufficient kids.  All for the small fee of $90.00-$100.00 a night (plus the cost of dinner, perhaps parking, Red Sox tickets or movie tickets, etc…).  Going out became a $200-$300.00 a night luxury.  In addition to the sheer expense, our teacher network was growing smaller as their lives changed.  We needed to expand our babysitter list and fast.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered I had high expectations particularly because I wanted affordable sitters who could drive.  The last thing I needed to worry about was squeezing in picking up a sitter, especially during the work week when it was hard enough finishing up the day and picking the kids up from child care.  Plus, nothing puts a damper on a good night out than coming home and having one parent drive the sitter home while the other parent cleans the kitchen which is what I found to be the standard with younger sitters.  I also wanted sitters who would tidy up after the kids went to bed and would communicate with us on how the night went.  Our younger sitters rarely even put a dish in the dishwasher or picked up a toy.  They were also often heading towards the door before you could even ask how the kids did.

I made lots of mistakes as the employer of new sitters (all high school age and of legal driving age).  On one occasion, I asked a sitter if she knew how to put on a diaper to which she said with confidence “yes”.  The next morning however, I discovered the diaper was on backwards and the sheets were soaking wet.  Ooops, guess I should have just demonstrated how to do this.  On another occasion during the interview stage I asked the sitter if she drove to which she replied “yes”.  The first time she babysat, to my surprise, her mom dropped her off.  Only then did I learn I needed to drive her home because while she drove, she didn’t have a car.

Another memorable sitter incident happened when we came home only to find the sitter put our kids to bed at 7:00, because “they were tired”.  Seriously?  My kids have never gone down before 8:00 and even then they usually don’t fall asleep until later than that.  It was a great morning the next day when my kids were up at 5:30 raring to go and we were still exhausted from a night out with friends.

Then there was the time I forgot to ask the sitter what she charges, only to learn at the end of the night she charges $20.00 per hour.  Had we have known that, we probably wouldn’t have stayed for the extra innings at the Red Sox game.  Frankly, we wouldn’t have used her at all since our kids were awake for 2 of the 6 hours.  $120.00 is a lot for 2 hours of interaction and 4 hours of “fire watching”.

One morning after using a particular sitter, we were watching TV with our kids while laying in bed.  At the time the DVR’s weren’t linked between rooms.  Our kids had asked for a movie they had previously watched with us so I went to the recent rentals list on DVR to pull up Winnie the Pooh or some other child movie.  The last thing rented was a Victoria Secret Bikini Model show.  Really?  Why on earth would this show up on our bedroom DVR, especially when my husband was as horrified (although now intrigued) as I was.  We never did find out, but we also never used that sitter again (since it was one of many questionable incidents).

We’ve had some interesting experiences with babysitters but now seem to be in a good place. We still have a few sitters (mostly teachers) who my kids are THRILLED to see and we’ve just expanded our repertoire and added in another high school student…so far so good!

Visit the blog next week when I share my tips for things to consider when hiring a new sitter.  If you have any tips, share them now.  I may even feature your tip next week!

Today is Jumpstart‘s annual Read For The Record day! All Bright Horizons classrooms will be reading this years book, ‘Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad,’ by David Soman and Jacky Davis. Don’t forget to pledge to read!

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