Need to get away for a night? Don’t have family in the area available to help watch the kiddos? Hiring a babysitter may be your best (or only option).
Whether the babysitter you use is a local teen or an adult friend, there is protocol parents need to know when handing over the reins of care to someone else.
Houston Moms recently touched on the situation that took Reddit and mothers by storm. A regular babysitter for an oft-truant mother was at her wits’ end when the mom was late yet again. Several hours late. And she refused to answer the sitter’s concerned phone calls.
The sitter got to the point where she felt that calling the police was her own option.
This whole disaster of an experience, one that ended with children being woken up by the police and escorted into police custody, could have been avoided.
Here are some best practices for hiring a babysitter for your children.
Say What You Mean
Communication is key. Always. In all relationships, even business relationships. When you hire a sitter, make sure that you say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say you’ll be home at 11, do your very best to be on time, or communicate when you’re delayed!
Out of respect for the person caring for your children, you owe it to him or her to value their time and energy. Don’t make a habit of missing the time mark.
Sitters also have to communicate their boundaries and expectations with parents. Not willing to care for the family dog while you’re sitting? Say that!
I’ve had a sitter request that I keep my dogs in my bedroom while I’m gone because she was afraid of them. Because she communicated with me, I was able to best accommodate her needs! And all was well!
The Reddit Babysitter confirmed return time with the mother who hired her, and the mom disregarded her request. Wrong? Absolutely. But the sitter definitely allowed a pattern to be established of her time being taken for granted.
When a sitter communicates a boundary or concern, do what you can to respect that. Being late every now and then happens, but parents desperately need to avoid that problem and sitters desperately need to nip it in the bud before it becomes an issue.
Treat Babysitters Like Family
Some of the sitters who have cared for my sons have become like family to us. They’ve been there for us, have bonded with the boys and have been sounding boards for us. We loved them and they truly loved us as a family.
Return the love!
Include your sitters in the fun when they come to sit for you. Doing a movie night? Ask them for movie suggestions and include them in the voting process. Set a place for them at the table and have them join in for dinner. Offer rides home if necessary or allow them to share stories about their day if they want.
The love, respect and care should go both ways if you truly want your sitter to enjoy working with you.
When hiring a babysitter, one other way to treat them like you care is to PAY THEM WELL! All love sweet gestures and inclusion only go so far. Make sure you’re compensating your sitters competitively and fairly. Gas prices are insane, college tuition is pricey, and, as always, time is money.
Having open discussions about the pay rates of your sitters and making sure to pay them with their preferred method ensures a solid parent-sitter relationship.
Emergencies happen more than we like to think. Just like getting your affairs in order, having a will and life insurance, you don’t really want to think about the worst happening, but you know you need to be prepared.
Don’t let your sitter become the Reddit Babysitter!
If your sitter can’t get ahold of you, for whatever reason, you need to have backups. Never leave a sitter without an emergency contact list. Ever. EVER!
If, God forbid, something happens to you or your children while you’re out, who can your sitter contact to help them, look after your children and make sure everything is ok? Contacts like grandparents, neighbors and close family friends are incredibly helpful.
Before you leave, it’s best to leave instructions about how to handle an emergency situation. Clear instructions about where to go in case of an emergency, (head next door, Grandma will come over if…, press this button on the alarm) and information about food allergies and medicines need to be discussed, and printed directions are even better.
A situation as simple as “my phone died” or “we didn’t have service” can become incredibly stressful for a babysitter, so make sure there are others they know what to do and who to reach out to for support.
Take it Easy
Look, mistakes happen. Sometimes, something gets broken in the house while your sitter is on watch. Sometimes, you’re running late. Sometimes, the toddler sneaks snacks out of the pantry when you specifically told the sitters keep him out of the kitchen.
It happens. You can’t plan for absolutely everything.
When hiring a babysitter, finding ways to prepare your them for the ways of your home and having open, respectful communication can help you avoid many issues.
Respect and love your babysitters.
They’re pretty amazing when you want nothing more in life than to tiptoe out the door for a date night!