The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Babysitters
Dear Babysitter, it’s me. The mom.
This is the season when you see roughly five billion local moms in your area looking for babysitters. They’re desperate for summer help to shuttle kids between camps, help out in the afternoons, or truly buddy up with their children for a summer of swimming, imagination, and fun. While there are a lot of moms looking, there are also a lot of kids home from college for the summer, high school students looking for extra cash, and even local babysitting Facebook pages or apps to compete with. How do you stand out? Let me give you a few tips.
I talked with my mom friends about what we look for in a sitter and what sends up red flags. Are all the do’s and don’ts fair? Maybe not, but you’re watching the most important people in our lives, so while we’re desperate, we’re also choosy.
1. Don’t be obsessed with your phone. I appreciate that you see my texts and get back to me, but if I notice you posting frequently to social media accounts when you’re on the clock with my kid, it’s going to bug me. I’m paying you for face-to-face time with my kiddo, so put down the phone and help them make up a fun adventure or build a fort in the living room.
2. Do be on time. I don’t need you to arrive 15 minutes early (in fact, please don’t!), but I do except that you’ll be there at the time we agreed upon. I understand traffic happens, so call me if you’re going to be more than five minutes late.
3. Don’t be afraid to be firm. Just because I like sitters who are kind and fun doesn’t mean I want you to be miserable while you’re here. I’ll go over the house rules before I leave, and you should help the kids mind them. Boundaries are good for everyone, and sticking to them helps the kids have more fun, not less, and it means you don’t leave exhausted and frustrated
4. Do know I check your social media profiles. If I see you smoking, dressing wildly inappropriately, or drinking underage, I’m not going to hire you. Even if you do none of those things around my children, it shows me that you think they’re positive things to post to the world, and those aren’t messages I want around impressionable ears.
5. Don’t be afraid to make messes. I don’t want to come home to an indoor tornado, but if there’s a little craft paper on the floor, wet swimsuits in the laundry from a sprinkler extravaganza, or a full dirty dishwasher from baking cookies, I consider that a sign of a great afternoon.
6. Do tidy up. One way to set yourself apart and have parents clamoring to have you back is to clean up before we get home, especially if it’s a night gig. (Psst! I’ll tip you extra!) If you’re sitting mid-afternoon and everyone is awake, then just do your best not to destroy the house. I know how hard it is to clean when they’re playing, and I’d rather have happy, tired kids than a spotless home.
7. Don’t share secrets. You’re in our home and likely to hear things from our kids. If you hear something that you think should be kept private, please keep it to yourself or discuss it with me if it’s something of concern. I’m thinking of you as an extension of myself, so please don’t betray that.
8. Do dress appropriately. While you may dress more nicely the first time we meet, know that I fully expect you to show up on hot summer days in shorts and a t-shirt ready to have messy fun with my kids. We’ve got church clothes and play clothes over here, and I would expect you would as well.
9. Don’t forget references. If we’ve only met online, offer up a name or two of families you’ve helped in the past. I’ll reach out to get an idea of your time with them, so choose wisely.
10. Do follow through. Unless you’re sick, I don’t expect you to cancel, especially not last minute. If you do cancel without a good reason, I likely won’t call you again as I’ll assume you’re not really interested in the gig. However, if you are sick, please cancel! Just give me as much notice as you can. I’d much rather have a night in than a week of the stomach bug making it through the house.
11. Don’t be afraid to fill me in. This babysitter-mom relationship requires teamwork. I promise I won’t keep you 30 minutes past my arrival time home, but please take a minute or two (I’ll pay you for your time!) to give me the report on what you did, how everyone behaved, and if there were any difficult moments during the day. It gives me a chance to break things down with my kids afterward. I don’t want to miss the chance to hear about how you made a volcano out of the laundry pile because I didn’t know about it!
12. Do eat! If you’re making a meal for the kids or prepping a snack, of course you should make enough for yourself. If I’ve left food for everyone, you should also assume you can eat as well. And if the kids have gone to bed, the fridge is fair game unless I’ve told you specifically I’m saving something for a special occasion. It seems obvious, but don’t drink any alcohol from my house, ever, but especially when you’re in charge of my children.
13. Don’t post pictures of my children. Unless you’ve checked in with me and I’ve given the okay, please refrain from sharing pictures of my kids on Snapchat, Instagram Stories or any of your social media sites. While I may overshare on mine, I don’t know your friends or who is following and prefer they not see my children.
14. Do check with me on screen time. It may be that it’s movie night, or that the kids get a set amount of time for screens each day, or it may be that they’ve already watched a show before you got here and I need everyone outside. Either way, if I forget to tell you the plan, then shoot me a text and ask if it’s ok to take a 30-minute YouTube break.
15. Don’t call or text me nonstop. If there is an emergency, do everything you can to hunt me down. If you want to tell me the baby is still crying in her crib and you put her down 5 minutes before, I’ll leave it to you to figure out the next step. While I certainly want periodic check-ins or even a cute picture of the fun you’re having with my children, texting me question after question (unless completely valid or to confirm something important) shows me that things may not be under control.
16. Do be fun. I want the kids to push me out the door when you get here. The last thing I want is for you to be the bad guy. I’m ok with popcorn on the couch, an extra story at bedtime, or a special snack after nap. If disciplinary issues crop up, you can handle them or tell the kids that you’ll let me address them later. But don’t feel bad about giving them an extra Popsicle on a hot day. You’ll be their hero.
17. Don’t invite friends over. If you’re cleared it with me and someone I know may be coming over to help you then we’re fine. However, inviting over boyfriends or people I’ve never met (even if they’re amazing individuals) is not. Remember, I’ve investigated and researched you and feel comfortable with you. I don’t know your friends and while they may be well intended others may not.
Love you. Thank you. Please don’t leave us.