I knocked on the door and waited to see what the family on the other side would be like. I was greeted by a man who briskly told me to come in – no “Hello, how are you today?” or “So glad you were able to come this morning.” As I surveyed the house, I was shocked at how messy and disorganized it was. It took the father at least 30 minutes to finish what he was doing and round everyone up to come downstairs and meet me for my interview. There seemed to be no consideration for my time. Finally, the parents threw a series of questions at me. I felt as if I was being interrogated, rather than interviewed. When the questions ended, the parents simply said, “Okay thanks. We will call you by the end of the week and let you know what we think. Bye.” No time was included for me to ask questions. They didn’t bother to ask what I expected from them, whether I sensed that I could build a rapport with their children or if I even thought I’d want the job. This is a surprisingly common mistake made by families when conducting interviews of potential babysitters. What most parents don’t seem to realize is that while they’re judging and analyzing us, we are doing the same to you – and we may not like what we see.
To ensure that you can continue to enjoy those nights out without the children, here are a few tips to get yourself a great reliable sitter — and even harder, keep her. – Shannon Rasmussen
Do not treat this like an interrogation! Instead, in addition to your own questions, ask your potential sitter what made past “clients” good or bad for them. Ask her about her interests too - if she is an indoor person and your kids love the outdoors, this won’t be a good match. Also make sure that you are both on the same page in terms of expectations of success on the job.
You Get What You Pay For
Money is perhaps the most awkward topic for babysitters to raise when starting work for a new family. We don’t want to ask for too much because we fear not getting the job, but we don’t want to sell ourselves short either. Despite what some parents may think, we do not come over to watch your children just for fun. While it’s crucial that your babysitter and your children enjoy each other, this is our job - and it’s not easy. It’s important to pay fairly and competitively - but only if your sitter deserves it. I know plenty of teens who think babysitting is a great way for them to sit around and get paid. Many others, however, are like me: we’re babysitters because we love working with children, but love alone won’t pay the bills.
To Trust Her Or Not To Trust Her?
- Not entrusting your babysitter enough. While a friend of mine was caring for two ten-year-old twin girls, one of the girls went into a strange seizure. It turns out that the girls had a slight history of seizures. The parents thought they didn’t need to inform my friend about this, because medicine usually controlled it. It’s important to tell the babysitter about anything this extreme or anything that has even a small likelihood of happening.
- Entrusting too much to the babysitter. No matter how good the sitter, he or she cannot replace the parent. One story that made the rounds of my friends was that of parents who left their daughter home with a sitter when she had a 103-degree fever. Luckily, the sitter was competent and knew what to do in an emergency, but a sitter DOES NOT replace a parent.
After you’ve bagged that perfect babysitter, the deal is not closed yet. We usually take the first week or two on the job to feel out what your family is like and how well we get along with your children. During these initial weeks especially, show her that you consider her part of your family. If she feels like she could easily be replaced by someone else, she won’t be loyal to you. The best families for whom I have worked always made me feel welcome and wanted in their home, which made it a pleasant working environment. I enjoy forming a relationship with the moms and dads just as much as with the kids. When you have a good relationship with your babysitter, it not only makes the relationship more enjoyable but also helps avoid potential problems. If I don’t feel comfortable enough with the parents to discuss issues I’m experiencing with their children, stress will accumulate and contribute to other problems down the road - often leading to a sitter/parent “divorce.” I worked for several families who would take the time to sit down with me and discuss how the job was going; depending on the age of the children, we often would discuss disciplinary issues with them as well, so I was seen as a team with the parents.
Partners and Allies
The best babysitters and nannies are partners in raising your children. However, it’s also important to give good babysitters some space. The children need to know that the babysitter is in charge when they are on duty. They won’t get that message if you are always telling her what to do. Treat your sitter like she is responsible and your kids will take the cue.
Find That Happy Medium (Relationship)
Parents also need to be careful to preserve a professional relationship even while they are being friendly with a sitter. For instance, it’s good to invite the sitter to the children’s birthday parties and to show an interest her studies, but it would be going too far to share your marital difficulties, invite her to confide about escapades with boyfriends or have a drink together. Babysitting is a job, and you both need to keep a measure of distance with each other to allow unbiased judgment when needed.
These are just a few of the stories that illustrate “the good, the bad and the ugly” of babysitting - as seen through the eyes of your caregiver. When I tell these stories, parents always listen in awe, thinking they would never do that : But the fact is, most parents do something similar or equally problematic; they just aren’t aware of it.