We have all heard that having a regular date night is an important part of keeping the spark alive. But for many of us, leaving the kids behind with a sitter can be the greatest challenge in developing a date night as part of the weekly routine. Here are a couple tips for minimizing the stress of having a babysitter for an evening out:
1. Make a comprehensive babysitting manual in advance. I found it really helpful to make a manual that my babysitters could read in my absence, rather than scratching out notes as each babysitter came. I typed out a manual on my computer that I can even email to the babysitters, but I also keep it printed in a folder that I pull out every time a sitter comes. It includes every single detail I can think of that a sitter might need; everything from my kids’ schedule to where relevant items are located in the house. It also has all of my contact information, including the numbers for an emergency contact and my doctor. Being able to refer the babysitter to the manual is such an easy way to solve what can sometimes be an awkward and frantic transition. It took a little extra time on the front-end but having it done means getting out of the house with much more ease.
2. Make copies of your child’s insurance card, along with a release form. This is another thing that I keep in the babysitting folder along with the manual. Hopefully, it will never be needed, but I always felt good knowing that if there is an emergency, my babysitter has my insurance info as well as a release form that gives her permission to seek treatment for my child in my absence.
3. Have the babysitter come about a half hour before leaving the house. This is helpful on two fronts. One: it allows you to have a couple child-free minutes to get ready for your date. But it is also a good way to make sure that you have time to answer any of the babysitter’s questions. This is particularly true with a new sitter, who might need a tour of the house and a little more time for you to answer questions.
4. Explain your plans for the evening to your kids well before the babysitter arrives. The last thing you want to do is ambush your kids with the news that they are having a sitter as the sitter walks through the door. I have found that it’s best to tell my kids much earlier in the day, so that by the time the babysitter has arrived, they have processed that information.
5. While it’s nice to have the sitter there for a bit so that you can get ready, when it’s finally time to leave . . . leave quickly. I have found that the transition is much better if I’m not lingering. Typically, when my babysitter comes, I retreat to my room to get ready, and once I’m ready, I give the kids a quick kiss and head out the door. This helps minimize any attempts at keeping me home, and also lets the kids know that there isn’t any question about my leaving.
6. Get your babysitter on the same page with the house rules. Maybe I have exceptionally naughty children, but I think it is a universal experience that kids tend to test out new adults. It’s important that your babysitter understand the house rules. If candy is off limits in the evenings, let them know. Similarly, make sure to explain your screen time policy to your babysitter. If you don’t want the children watching television or playing on the computer all evening, be sure to let her know. Personally, I tends to ask the sitters that the children not have any screen time in my absence. Hate to say it, but I’m not paying a sitter to sit around while the kids watch a movie. That’s my job! Heh.
7. Keep bedtime consistent. Again, with the testing of the rules . . . I have many times come home to discover that my children were still awake because the babysitter did not enforce bedtime. This can pose a problem in the morning, especially when kids are grumpy as they had off to school. Make sure your sitter knows exactly what time you would like the children put to bed, and also make sure she understands your boundaries in terms of getting up, asking for more water, and other attempts at eluding bedtime.
And, probably the most important tip:
6. Leave the guilt at home. Regular date nights are important for a relationship, and they can also be beneficial to children. It is nice for kids to see you making your relationship and your time a priority. Kids need to know that the world does not revolve around them, and that you have a life full of your own interests and passions. But more than that, it’s important for you to get away, and to let your brain be free from the constant multitasking that is motherhood . . . at least for a few hours.
How are you doing with getting out of the house? Do you have a hard time leaving your kids with a sitter? Have any tips to make the experience less stressful?
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