The time has finally come: schedules have aligned, finances have allowed, and your children are finally at the age where you feel comfortable to leave them with someone new.
It’s time to go out on your own and to leave the kids with a babysitter for the first time.
Exciting? Yes! Nerve-wracking and somewhat anxiety-inducing? You bet.
In this article, we are going to cover ALL of the bases when it comes to what to look for when hiring a babysitter, how to make sure they are equipped for success, and how to prepare your children to be left with a babysitter for the first time.
Let’s get into it!
What is babysitting?
Okay, I realize that this question might seem obvious, but some significant things need to be clarified when it comes to this.
There is a difference between a “babysitter” and a “daycare provider”.
A daycare provider is someone who cares for your child on a weekly schedule, for extended periods of time. These providers typically have background checks, references, early childhood education, first aid, and more. These providers are often well known in their communities and are receive business based solely on their reputations. A daycare giver is a professional, who is an expert in his/her field.
A babysitter is not quite so formal. Babysitters are typically utilized for an irregular time period (ex. 5 hours on a Friday night), for casual outings instead of regular schedules. Babysitting is a common first job for teenagers, typically starting around the age of 12 or 13. Sometimes, babysitters are equipped with certifications, but not always. Babysitters often receive their business through personal connections, like family and friends. Babysitters are not typically considered professionals.
Why is this important?
It can be easy to settle for a babysitter who is underqualified, underaged, and inexpensive. After all, it will only be for a couple of hours, right?
Anytime you leave your child in the care of another person, even if it’s for a short time, you need to ensure that the person is trustable and qualified. It is truly the only way to keep your child as safe as possible.
Accidents happen in an instant, so it is crucial to make sure the babysitter that you hire meets your qualifications.
What should I look for when hiring a babysitter?
Depending on the age of your children and their specific needs, this may vary on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, here is a list of things to look for when hiring a babysitter:
- Some sort of babysitting certification.
Whether it is received through the Red Cross, their school, or a community course, having this certification will ensure that your babysitter of choice has been exposed to the basic standards of safe childcare.
- First aid certification.
Like I mentioned earlier, accidents happen in seconds, and sometimes that means that there is no time to call 911 or seek external help. If your babysitter has First Aid training, you can trust that in the case of a medical emergency, they will at least be able to hold down the fort until you or a professional can help.
- Driver’s License
Whether or not this is important depends on you. Are you willing to pick up and drop off your babysitter at their house before and after your night out? If not, a sitter with a license is a must.
Are you comfortable having a first-time babysitter caring for your kids? If not, there should be no problem with your sitter getting a few references to share with you. If they are not able to get references for you, that might be a red flag.
- Someone good with pets
Is your pet like a child to you? Be sure to select a sitter who is not afraid of your pet, and who doesn’t mind doing small tasks to care for your furball, too.
- Someone authoritative
Some children see a new authority figure as a great opportunity to push limits and test boundaries. Your sitter must have the skills to set boundaries and be an authority figure in the home. This can be challenging if you were to hire a 14-year-old to babysit your 9 and 10-year-old… the respect dynamic might be uncomfortable/ difficult to attain. Consider the age of your sitter in relation to the age of your children.
- Someone kind
This is probably obvious, but I figure the last point needed to be followed up with this one. When sorting through your candidates, remember that qualifications ultimately mean nothing if your children refuse to be left alone with the sitter. Look for qualities of patience, fairness, and playfulness!
What should I discuss with my babysitter before hiring?
Hooray! If you’ve reached this point, you’ve found at least one candidate who has met all of your qualifications. Now what?
Remember, just as much as you need a great babysitter, your babysitter is looking to work with a great family who is kind and communicative with them. Here are some things you should clarify before officially hiring your new sitter!
- House Rules
Is it okay to watch TV during dinner? Do you mind if one of the kids stays in his room the entire time? When is bedtime?
Layout your house rules right from the beginning. If you don’t, there’s a chance you could forget to share them or miss the opportunity to answer any questions that your sitter may have in regards to them.
As much as you may want to trust your children to “deliver the message”, it is your responsibility as the parent to do so.
Babysitters are self-employed entrepreneurs! That means they will all charge a little bit differently. Respectfully ask your babysitter what they charge hourly, and then negotiate where necessary. Discuss how you will be paying and when, for example:
“I will e-transfer you $30 after I get home tonight.”
“Here is 15$ cash to cover the next 2 hours I’m gone.”
Have this conversation before the sitter arrives. No one likes the awkward shuffle around getting paid at the end of the night.
No one wants to start work without knowing when their shift is going to end, no matter how much they love their job! Be clear about when you want your sitter to start, and what time they will be done. Then, most importantly, honor what you have told your sitter. Their time is just as valuable as yours.
- Opportunities to Earn Extra Money
Suggest extra tasks for the babysitter to complete for some extra cash. Task ideas could include vacuuming, washing windows, organizing a shelf, or taking the dog on a walk.
What essentials should I leave with the babysitter?
You’ve established that your sitter is the right match for your family. Now it is time to set them up for success, but leaving them with all the essentials they’ll need for a smooth evening:
- List of Emergency Numbers
- Local police and fire department
- Poison control
- Emergency contacts
- Parent’s phone numbers
- List of Allergies
- Even though you are preparing and providing the food, let the babysitter know if any of your children have allergies.
- Meals and Snacks
- This is not the time to introduce new foods to your children. Leave them with some of their classic safe foods, to encourage them to eat well and keep their moods regulated.
The Reality of Babysitters
How to Prepare Your Kids For a New Babysitter
Of course, you know your child better than anyone else. If you have a go-with-the-flow, laid-back child, you may feel comfortable skipping this step completely. If you’re anything like me, your kids are sensitive and often uncomfortable with new people.
- Have a short visit with the new sitter before the day that your child will be left with them. This will make it so that on the day off, the sitter is a familiar face instead of a stranger.
- Be open with your child about when you will be leaving and for how long. “Sneaking” out of the house when the time comes will only cause damage and make the next time even worse.
- Give them a way to contact you. Leave your child with their own copy of your phone number and let them know that you are available to talk if they need. The first time you go out, you may receive several calls, but rest assured that the more experienced your child becomes with being babysat, the fewer calls you will receive.
- Talk about the babysitter fondly. Even if you don’t think your child is listening, don’t complain or speak negatively about them. Hearing your confidence in the new babysitter’s kindness and capability will increase your child’s confidence too!
Ideally, you will only have to do a thorough search for a great babysitter a couple of times in your kids’ childhood. As tedious as it may feel for a 3-hour outing, remember that it is always worth it to be able to feel confident in your child’s safety and security.