Babysitters and swimsuits (it’s not what you think!)
“I need to find a babysitter” In my book, that statement stirs up feelings almost as bad as how I feel about swimsuit shopping (with a lot more stress attached)! Think about it. The dread that comes with trying on swimsuits and seeing yourself in the store dressing room mirror. It can be miserable!
Why is finding a babysitter similar? I get that same sense of dread when I start looking for a babysitter. When I’m searching for a babysitter, I’m looking for someone in whom I can entrust the lives of my children. I’m talking about caring for the 3 most precious things in my life.
How do you get started? Can you be sure that you have found someone you can trust? How do you find just the perfect person?
Thankfully for you, I have gone through this process many times! We have loved each of our sitters. And to a varying degree, they have even become part of our family.
Because I have been through this so much, I can help make the process easier for you! Here are the ins and outs – your all-in-one guide to finding that perfect sitter.
Where to start – figure out what you want in a babysitter
What are your expectations?
First of all, what do you want out of a sitter? I have found over the years that my expectations were different from other moms’ expectations. And my expectations have changed over the years and with the increasing ages of my kids.
Here are a few expectations that I’ve heard from moms I know:
- clean their house
- laundry for members of the family
- help with kids’ homework
- help make their grocery list
- prep for dinner
- bring activities to keep their kids occupied
- take their kids to appointments (dr and dentist appts)
- and more!
My personal expectations for a babysitter are to help with what needs to get done while they are on duty. All this is done with the focus being on the kids and their safety. I want the kids to be the main focus for our babysitters.
To that end, here is what I ask of our sitters:
- Watch the kids and help them with what needs to get done (homework, supervise that the kids’ chores get done, etc)
- Please leave the house as clean as they found it, if not better. I don’t ask them to clean it up if it’s a disaster, but I don’t want to come home to a disaster if I just cleaned, either.
- Light meal prep if they have the kids at meal time and I don’t have anything prepared (ex: heating up leftover or making mac and cheese).
What kind of time or long term commitment are you looking for?
Do you need a certain number of hours a week? Are you needing ongoing help or help for the summer or the school year? Do you need specific times of the day or days of the week?
The more specific you can get with your wants/needs, the easier it will be to find your ideal fit.
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What age range are you looking for?
When my kids were really little, I was adamant about wanting a college student to watch them. Having been a babysitter myself, I just knew that having someone with more experience and (hopefully) better able to juggle the needs of 3 small kids at once was a must for us.
We did try a high school student once, and I was not thrilled with the experience. Although now that my kids are older and more self-sufficient, I would be fine with a responsible high school student.
Here are some age factors things to consider:
- High school students may or may not have their own transportation – this means that you may have to help transport them to or from your house.
- Students in high school have less experience both as babysitters and in life
- High school students are often focused on other activities (etc, school-related, extracurricular, getting into college related) and may not have availability that fits your needs
- College students tend to have more available time
- Students in college tend to have a little more experience and maturity, allowing them to handle unexpected situations
- College students may be more likely to have their own transportation, making coordination to get them to and from the job easier.
* These are by no means the only factors to think about, simply the most common that I have dealt with.
* Keep in mind, also, that these points to consider are not true of every high school or college age student.
Do you expect them to have certain certifications?
I personally decided that I wasn’t going to require my sitters be CPR or First Aid certified. I tended to ultimately pick sitters with those trainings, but it wasn’t because they had those certifications that I picked them.
Where to look to find a babysitter
- Personal recommendations – does your friend have a sitter he/she loves?
- Organizations you trust – consider child care workers that your kids love from day care, the gym child care room, preschool aids, camp counselors or even after school program assistants.
- Pro Tip: As a bonus for you, these organizations often do background checks and require trainings such as infant and child CPR (be sure to verify with the organization instead of assuming)
- College job boards – I have found several sitters this way and have been VERY happy with this method! One really great example of a board that I used for this purpose is the Colorado State University Job Posting Board. Check your local college, university, or community college for the options they offer.
- Sitter websites and agencies (ex: Care.com) – these sites connect parents with sitters and give you the ability to browse online profiles. Many of them also do background checks. Some sites to check out: Care.com, SitterCity, Babysitters4Hire, and Seekingsitters.
How to figure out if they’d be a good sitter
Ok, you now have a list of potential babysitters. What next?
Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask them tons of questions. You are potentially leaving your children with this person! It’s much better to be cautious than to fly through an interview and miss any potential red flags. If you need help figuring out what to ask, grab our interview questions to help out!
I had a harder time asking for references than I did asking 3 pages worth of interview questions! I felt like I was making someone prove themselves to me, which made me uncomfortable.
Then I realized…I was asking someone to prove themselves to me and it was crucial for me to do that. If I am going to entrust my children’s lives and safety with someone, I need to know as completely as possible that I could trust them.
I asked for 3 references from each potential sitter. Then I took the time to call them and listen to what they had to say.
Check certifications for completion and currency
If you have decided that you want your babysitter to be CPR, First Aid or otherwise certified, take the time to ask for and receive proof that those certifications have been completed and are current.
Are they on time?
Think about it, if they start off an interview by being late, chances are that, if hired, they will be chronically late. In my world, I am counting on the sitter being on time so I can get where I need to be on time.
Being late could also be a sign of lack of interest in the job.
How do they interact with your child(ren)?
I always interview potential sitters when my kids are around. While it would be much easier for me to focus my attention on the person I’m interviewing if the kids were gone, I feel much more comfortable in my choice when I see them interact with my kids.
I have even done a “shadow session” where they come back for a couple of hours to shadow me and see how the household works. When we do this, we pay the potential sitter for this time at either the regular hourly wage or about 75% of that hourly wage.
I think this shadow session is great for letting everyone feel each other out. The potential sitter gets to see if it seems like your family is a good fit for her/him. You get to check out whether you think the potential sitter is a good fit for your family. Do the kids seem relaxed around her/him? Does the potential sitter interact well with the kids and keep them engaged?
Trust your mom instinct here!
Trusting someone with your children isn’t a decision you can make lightly. With this in mind, expect to devote quite a few hours to the search. Knowing that your kids are healthy, happy and safe will be the reward for your time and dedication to the process. And your piece of mind in your final choice will thank you too!
Comment below: what is your favorite method for finding a sitter?
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Debbie P says
This was a great article. I don’t know what I’d do if I was a mom today instead of 25-30 years ago.