Finding the perfect babysitter is impossible; no one is perfect. Fortunately, there are some amazing babysitters out there who will make your kids look forward to you leaving the house and who will make it possible for you to spend time away from the kids without worrying or feeling flutters of nervousness. At the end of the day, the person with whom you leave your kids has to be someone you are all comfortable with; you have to be comfortable with him or her with your kids and your kids have to be comfortable with him or her as well. Find the perfect babysitter is easy for some and not-so-easy for others. It can be intimidating, scary and fearful searching for someone to trust with the most important people in your life, but you have to trust your instinct, know what to look for and suck it up. You and the kids both need a break from one another every so often (trust me, as the mother of four I know this with certainty). Finding the perfect babysitter is possible, and I have some tips for dos and don’ts that will help you in this journey.
Do Ask Family First
There is nothing wrong with asking grandma and grandpa to babysit their grandkids. In fact, most grandparents love this and live for moments such as these. My husband and I have two babysitters we use when we have no other choice, but our first choice is our parents because they love our kids and always want to spend time with them. And because they are family, we have so much trust. And the kids love it; even if they’re a bit sugared up when we get home. Unless you have a reason for not asking your family, don’t let guilt stop you. Which leads me to the next step…
….Don’t Feel Guilty Asking Family
So many parents feel guilty asking their own parents to babysit. They feel this for a reason I just don’t know. Maybe their parents make them feel guilty, I don’t know. However, my motto is this; if a grandparent does not want to watch the kids, they’ll say so. And no one has to feel guilty. As long as you don’t assume that they will want to watch them every single time you ask, everyone is good to go.
Do Hire Someone with Experience
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not a given. It’s great to hire someone with experience because you can trust that person to have more of a clue what to do when things go wrong. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t hire someone (a niece or nephew or friend’s teen) who hasn’t much experience babysitting because you trust him or her and want to give them a chance.
Do Ask for References
You are not rude or out of line asking someone for references. No one will give them a job without a list of references, and you shouldn’t trust your kids with someone who doesn’t have references. If you hire a friend’s teen, you have them as a reference. But if you are hiring a stranger, call those references. Do not forget, do not delay. This could be the most important thing you do for your kids.
Do Hire Someone with a License
A driver’s license is a must when it comes to sitters. It might not seem like a big deal, but we can assure you that the last thing you want to do is be responsible for driving someone around before and after your plans. Especially if your plans include having a glass of wine; and then driving home your sitter. You don’t want to do this, you don’t want to be responsible for this, and you don’t want to do this if it means coming home from a work event and having to wake up the kids to take the sitter home.
Do a Background Check
Just do it. Don’t make us tell you twice. You have no idea who people are, and you have no idea what that means for your kids. Go ahead and make sure that you are doing what’s best for your family. Do the background check.
Don’t Make Your First Outing a Long One
Go ahead and use your new babysitter for the first time for a short period of time. This gives your kids the chance to get to know him or her and it gives you a chance to run some quick errands and not worry about your kids. You’ll have a much better idea if you love your sitter once you get home and get to talk to your kids about him or her.
Don’t Settle for Anyone
If you’re not 100% certain in the people available to watch your kids, don’t settle. You should never settle for someone as a caregiver. Keep looking. There is someone out there who is wonderful and perfect for your family, and your kids’ safety and your own peace of mind are never things that warrant settling for anything less than perfection.
Don’t Ignore Your Instincts
Trust your gut. You probably heard this your entire life, and you’ve probably done this more than once. Don’t stop now; trust your gut when it comes to finding a babysitter for your kids. If you find someone who looks absolutely perfect on paper and has a flawless resume and references and you still don’t feel that something is quite right, go with that. You might always wonder if you made a mistake, but you certainly do not want to know for certain after your children are hurt that you made a mistake.
Don’t Forget to Discuss the Rules
It should go without saying, but it needs to be said. Some parents forget to discuss the rules with their sitters. You might assume that they know you don’t want them to have their own friends over, but what about phone time? What about food? What about activities around the house? What about outside playtime, bedtime and television time? If you have rules in your home, discuss them with your babysitter and with your kids. It’s better that you are all on the same page before you hire someone so that there are no surprises.
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images