:: I have an affiliate account with Sittercity. They don’t pay me to write things, but I do get money from them whenever someone clicks on my link to set up a parent-looking-for-babysitting account. ::
Last year, we found an amazing babysitter. Our schedules meshed; our kid loved her. We had a harder time making our schedules work together this fall, because she’s a student and a mom, herself, but we finally worked it out! Everyone is thrilled that she’s back. Walt has a special happy “I’m ready to play so hard” look in his eyes when she comes over. And I get time to write!
How did we find her? Well, I took my own advice and used Sittercity.com to look for a sitter. Here are my tips for finding a babysitter as awesome as ours–
- Email about your schedules, needs, and basic expectations, first. If someone replied to your post in a sort of “apply for all the things!” spirit, but is really looking for 20 hours a week and, like us, you can afford about 6 hours, then it’s best to find that out before you spend any more time on her.
- Double check these things with a phone interview. Make sure she has transportation, is free at the times you need, and get to know her a little over the phone. At this point, you can start trusting your gut. If you get a weird vibe, put her at the bottom of the list. There’s really no need to be rational as a parent. Of course, I would never advocate going with “my gut says no!” for reasons that discriminate against race, or someone’s accent, or other things that have nothing to do with her (or his!) ability to care for you child. If you feel uncomfortable with someone who is not a pretty, young woman who looks like you, have a chat with yourself. If you’ve asked yourself why you don’t want to meet a potential sitter, and you’re satisfied that it’s just not a good fit, why spend the time and energy on an in-person interview? (Let her know when you do find someone, though. That’s just polite.)
- Meet in person, at your home, or wherever the child care will happen. This takes more energy than you’d think. The potential sitter is interviewing you, too, remember. She’s got to spend time in a stranger’s house, taking care of a stranger’s kid, so let’s hope that she wants this to be a good experience, too. My point is that it takes energy to meet someone new, and it can feel like a lot of pressure. But resist the temptation to be any family other than who you really are. At some point, she’s going to walk in on your chaos. It’s ok if she gets a sneak peek. I tidy up for my sitter, don’t get me wrong, but there have been days when she has seen me in the middle of a migraine, hair sticking up, eyes half open, dying for a shower.
- Make sure your child is there. I don’t recommend leaving the room, because you want to see how the two interact. But someone can be great in an interview with adults and seem a little stiff or bored around kids. It happens. When I was interviewing for babysitting jobs, it was important to me to get to know the tiny people, not just their parents. I would squat down to look them in the eyes on their level to introduce myself and say hi. I would sit on the floor, so that they could come to me when they were ready. I would give them time. I would usually talk to their parents before actively trying to engage them, so that they could see that their parents trusted me, a brand new tall person. You get the idea–I was thinking about the kids. It was obvious. Look for that.
- Ask your potential babysitter this question: “Say you’re feeling overwhelmed to the point of feeling angry, just like anyone who spends time with kids–there are frustrating moments for all of us!–what do you do, when that happens?” If she seems floored, go ahead and prompt with an example. “My kids are just like any kids, and they have their days where they just seem to want to break every safety rule. I get mad, because I’m just trying to keep them safe. I’m sure that’s happened to you, too! What did you do, last time that happened?” If she claims that she doesn’t get angry, but you really like her, ask about frustration. If she doesn’t even admit to getting frustrated, she’s lying. I don’t care why they lie–to impress you, to seem serene like Mary Poppins (who, by the way, got pretty mad a couple times) in order to get the job. I don’t like it. Honesty pretty darn important, when you’re leaving your child with someone. I have asked this question in every interview, since a great couple asked me that question, years ago. What did our current sitter say? “With my son, I tell him that I’m going to the bathroom or making coffee, or something that would be boring for him, so he won’t ask to come with me. I make sure he’s safe, obviously, and then I go in another room and let off steam, somehow. I just don’t think kids should have to deal with big, adult feelings. I can come back and explain that I feel frustrated when he doesn’t listen, but in the middle of it, it’s just better to leave the room.” <— extra points for the understanding that kids and adults feel emotion and think about life differently!
- To be perfectly honest, I hired our babysitter before she had met our son, because my husband had forgotten that she was coming and taken the child out. But here’s where my last tip comes in–agree on a contract of sorts, and include a trial period. PAY your sitter the same rate during the trial period, but just make sure everyone knows that during the first month or week or day, you might say “This isn’t going to work out.” We had scored a babysitter who was also a mom who was also studying to become an elementary school teacher, so I was pretty sure my kid would love her. He did. My husband thinks she’s awesome, too. We have fun chatting.
I’m so glad our babysitter is back! I think all these steps I mention really helped us get off to the kind of start that allowed for her to take a couple weeks to get used to her new, busier schedule. It’s also just really nice to hear our son’s belly laugh when he’s playing with her.