I recently had to let our babysitter go. It wasn’t so much a firing as it was a promise to myself to never call her again after my daughter, age five, told me that the babysitter took long naps on the couch between breaks to give my daughter dinner and put her to bed. I was told the TV was on the entire time, which isn’t the worst babysitting sin in the world, and isn’t as bad as napping through most of a four-hour job.
That’s a great thing about young children (that parents are thankful for!), but babysitters should be wary—kids tell the truth. They might try a little lie when angling to a cookie that they shouldn’t have, but ask them what happened while you were out, and they’re likely to tell you the truth. So out went the old babysitter and in stayed the second one we had lined up over a year ago. I was reminded of a way to ensure you always have a babysitter when you need one: Have a backup. My wife and I did that soon after hiring the first one, to cover our bases.
Here are some methods we used in hiring a babysitter, and some lessons learned along the way to ensure that our next backup babysitter doesn’t fall asleep on the job or break any other cardinal rule of the craft.
Ask Everyone You Trust
Ask your preschool, friends, family, church or anyone else who has spent time with your child for recommendations. We asked around our neighborhood and answered a flier from an entrepreneurial young girl.
Interview the Sitter in Your Home
But only after doing a phone interview to see if it’s the right fit. If possible, get the sitter’s parent to join them in the interview. Observe how they interact with your child, and if everyone agrees, leave for 20 minutes and have them watch your child. You’ll also want to know what kinds of emergency training they’ve received.
You may feel more comfortable doing this before the in-person interview, or before letting them alone with your child. Either way, ask other customers how things went. Have they worked with children the same age as yours? How do they get a baby to sleep?
Trust Your Instincts
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t leave your child alone with the person.
I always ask my daughter the next morning how things went with the babysitter and what they did. One idea to check in during an appointment is to have a neighbor pop in and see if the kids are acting up and ask if the sitter needs anything. Or you could get a nanny cam to videotape what’s going on. Another way to ensure you’re hiring a good babysitter is to offer good pay. You can get what you pay for in babysitting, and older, more responsible babysitters want more money than teens. Pay of $10 per hour is a bargain. Or, there’s always grandma.