Thursday, July 17, 2008

B is for Babysitters...

I've heard many first-time parents say that they would never hire a babysitter. There are some pretty scary stories out there about babysitters from you-know-where and horrible things that they did to the kids. Sad, very sad. But, don't lose hope friends: there are good babysitters out there! I have had the priveledge of employing some.

First off, if you really think that you can never trust another person to watch your child, then you might be in for a long, exhausting journey. My own husband, when we were newer parents, also said that he didn't ever want anyone watching our kids, unless it was someone from our immediate families. But hey, people move, get jobs, retire, maybe move again. We had the convenience of living near immediate family for only a year or two. Even if family is right there, there may indeed come a time when you need to go somewhere and a family member is not available.

We, though we are loving parents, need a break from our children some times--and that's okay. I say that you may be in for a long exhausting journey because, "You can't draw water from an empty well"--we need time to refuel ourselves. I am a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn't mean I stay at home ALL the time :) !!

*Married people--take your spouse out WITHOUT the kids. Regularly. I've seen marriages fail because the husband and wife simply stopped dating, maybe some because they were too scared to hire a babysitter.

*Single parents--you need time away from the kids as well, take it!

Don't go overboard people and neglect the kids and leave them in daycare longer than your common sense tells you. Just FYI.

Okay, okay. This blog is getting too long. My tips for finding and hiring good sitters are these:

1. Get referrals from good friends who are themselves parents!

2. Take the time to interview your sitters. Some questions you may want to ask:
a. Why do you like babysitting?
b. How much experience do you have?
c. What special training have you had that better assists you in your babysitting?
d. What kinds of games/activities do you like to do with the children you babysit?
e. Can you change a diaper?
f. (Most importantly) What is your rate?
*If you are worried about the answers given or, more importantly, how they were given, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and move on to someone else.

3. Try a sitter out, while you're at home! Maybe you've got a project to do around the house, but you don't want your kids in the way. Have the babysitter there to tend the children and keep them out of your hair. The kids don't have to know that you didn't go anywhere, because than they might just keep bugging you.

4. With teenage babysitters, if possible, pick them up from their houses. I find this is the perfect time to explain the gameplan for the night, "dinner is in the oven, feed the kids at 6pm, no more tv for them tonight, etc..." Also, it gives you an opportunity to meet his/her parents to see if they know and care that their child is babysitting for you.

5. Write down the gameplan--what things to be done and the times they should take place. If you make it too detailed they might be inclined to ignore the list or skim it. Some people are strong audio-learners, make sure you explain the gameplan. Some are better at visual-learning, a reason you write everything down. Either way--it's good for them to have everything written down, like a checklist.

6. Have your cell-phone number(s) written down in more than one location and show them to the sitter. Also a good idea to have the number for the poison control center and the number of a good neighbor/friend/family that lives close by. We have our cell-phone numbers on the home phone's speed dial.

7. Walk the babysitter through the house and show them where everything that's relevant to their job is. If you can, make meal prep time as minimal as possible for them--you hired a babysitter not a chef, remember? Other helps might be to have pajamas already layed out, as well as other things from your child's nighttime ritual (favorite book, blanket, stuffed animal, etc....)

8. Get feedback from the sitter on how they thought the night went.

9. (*Really important)---Get feedback from your kids on how they thought the night went.

10. Consider forming a babysitting co-op with good friends--a great way to save money!

I hope that your "Adventures in Babysitting" are smooth-sailing. Like I mentioned before, there are some great babysitters out there. Be careful and confident and you will find them!

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