Yesterday you were promised tips on how to pick the (almost) perfect babysitter. Because, as explained in THAT POST, what you don’t want, what NO MOTHER wants, is the perfect babysitter. Almost perfect will do nicely, thank you.
Now that we’ve gotten that fact firmly established, what you’ll want to do is come up with a list of names of potential babysitters. This is easily done. Simply ask moms you know, like, and trust. You’ll see such moms at the supermarket, in the park, and wherever else moms are likely to be found.
Once you’ve got a list of at least five names, you’ll have something to work with. You may want to find a few babysitters you feel good about, in case one is not available. So don’t pare down your list too much. Do, however, establish some criteria for what you feel are the basic qualifications you want to see in a caregiver for your children. Jot down whatever comes to mind. Maybe it’s: “experienced at giving baths to very young infants,” or perhaps, “knows how to prepare basic meals from scratch.”
Next, turn this wish-list into a checklist in descending order of importance. With that done, you’re ready to interview your babysitter candidates. You may be fine with doing this over the phone, if the references are very good. Ideally, however, you’ll want the babysitter to do a trial run, in your home, with your kids, while you are there.
Some things to keep in mind:
Evaluate The Sitter’s References
Getting a reference for a sitter is reassuring, because they tell you the sitter is safe choice. But there’s more to it than that, you want to think about what you have in common with the sitter’s references. Are your families alike in any way? Different? Are the kids the same ages as your own? Are the sitter’s responsibilities for that reference comparable to the tasks you’ll expect her to perform in your own home? Think about what you’ll want the sitter to do: dinner dishes, homework help, crafts—in short, will it be an easy transition for the sitter to come to your home after sitting for the children of your acquaintance (the sitter’s reference)?
The interview questions you ask the sitter will depend in large measure on your family dynamic and priorities. If you need a sitter every Wednesday afternoon and she has hockey practice at that hour, that’s a strike one. You get the idea.
You may want to ask the sitter, “What would you do if my child choked on a piece of food?” or “What would you say are some of the things a babysitter needs to know about playground safety,” or “Are you generally a punctual person?” or perhaps, “Can you cook?”
Just getting the sitter talking, without giving her the third degree with questions should also give you some idea of the sitter’s personality and character, and this is an important factor. You want the sitter to be a good fit with your family. You want your kids to like her. Get her talking and then ask her to tell her funniest babysitting story ever. If you fall in love with her, you can be sure your kids will, too.
Does your child struggle with math homework? Why not find a student math wiz who can tutor your child while watching him? Is your child having a difficult time learning to ride a bike? See if the sitter is cool with using sitting time to get your kid up to scratch on a two-wheeler. In addition to standing in when you’re not home, a sitter can serve as a solution for your child, especially if the sitter has a particular strength. You’ll be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak—maximizing your buck by getting a tutor plus sitter rolled into one. You may want to offer a bit more money to a sitter who provides a specific service in relation to your child.
Good With Kids
All the skills and knowledge will do you any darned good if your kids don’t like her. That’s why it’s pretty important to introduce the sitter to your children and see how they respond to each other. Some people have a knack with kids, others don’t. Can she discipline them without being scary? Do they connect with her? You’ll soon know from watching her interact with your kids if the sitter candidate will be a fun and likable option.
Go With Your Instincts
The sitter may sound ideal on paper. But there’s just something about her. Something WRONG. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. Thank her for her time and DON’T CALL HER. Never discount parental instincts which tend to be very accurate. First of all, even if you’re completely off-base, you won’t feel good about leaving your children with her. Second of all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you’ve found a number of babysitters that seem like good options, the more the merrier—if one has a date, call a different one. Are you going away for the weekend? It can be good to have two sitters at once (alternatively, they can spell each other, taking turns). This way, you can also give your children more leeway and call the sitter of their choice, first. That way, everyone is happy. Which is just the way you like it.