Need to Know…Babysitters

by Michal Levison on August 19, 2014

I have had an incredible amount of babysitters over the last five and a half years. If you have been following along with me for a while, you know that I do a particular brand of parental math in which I chose babysitters over shrinks. If you’re confused, please read Mommy Math.

Before we even had child #1, Zack and I agreed to several tenets of parenthood. The most important one (for our relationship and sanity) was that we would continue to go out on dates and work on our relationship. Since it takes a village and we didn’t really have a (free) village to rely on for our needs, we began our very extensive Babysitters’ Club. At first, we only got our sitters from SitterCity.com because the site does background checks on everyone and we interviewed each candidate, etc. We made sure to have a roster of 3-4 sitters so that we would be able to find someone (pretty much) whenever we needed coverage.

Soon, we graduated to word of mouth referrals. Our list grew. We eventually found a terrific sitter (go, Ariel!) who enlisted a whole group of her friends and began a whole new chapter of the Babysitters’ Club. She was an incredible resource and we loved her and her friends.

From the moment we bought our house and knew we were heading out of the city, I began the search for a new group of sitters. I have been extremely fortunate to have found wonderful sitters who care for our girls. We found sitters through our school, through the girls’ camp, through a Moms’ Facebook page for our town…

What I’m trying to say is, I have had my fair share of babysitters! Here is what I can say to any mom who has kids who babysit or to babysitters who want to score points with the families who employ them.

What makes a great babysitter?

1) You’re active. You engage my kids, you play games, you run around. Trust me, this isn’t a giant demand. My kids go to sleep relatively early. Usually that means you’re playing for about an hour out of the total amount of time you’re babysitting. Plopping them down in front of the TV is not winning any points.

2) I can trust you. You’re not bringing friends over to hang out and party, making out on my couch, or taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon (I have no problem with sitters going to sleep if they’re babysitting past midnight). I want to feel confident that no shenanigans are taking place in my house, around my kids. I catch you doing something stupid, you’re not getting a call back. And, please be honest – if something broke, just let me know. If my kid did something bad, let me know! I want to have open lines of communications, whether the subject is positive or negative. It makes me trust you more when you are up front.

3) You’re available and you show up on time. Obviously, it’s important for you to actually be available to babysit for you to become a regular sitter. Let a parent know when you’re generally free for babysitting. That way, they know when to call you. Once you take a job, show up on time. There are plenty of times when I book a sitter with some leeway. But, there are plenty of times when I need a sitter to show up on the dot because I need to hurry out the door. Punctuality is a big bonus. Always err on the side of caution. No one ever got mad because a sitter showed up early. Trust me, it earns you bonus points!

4) You’re helpful. I don’t expect anyone to clean my house for me. However, I have some sitters who leave the place filthier and messier than when I left. I have some who clean up after my kids (and themselves), tidy up and even do my dishes! Take the extra step to be helpful and you will be rewarded. I usually pay those amazing sitters 30% more per hour just because it is heavenly to come home when they’re in charge.

I generally round up at the end of the night when I pay a great sitter. I like to show my appreciation.

We have been really lucky and most of our sitters have worked for us for years. We always need new ones because life happens! Girls move, go off to college, get new jobs, etc. But I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have found really wonderful, reliable and sweet babysitters whom our girls just adore. Of course, when the girls are excited to have a particular sitter come, you know she is terrific. These smiles are the proof in the puddin’!

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