It can be a daunting task to find a great babysitter. Am I right? As if leaving your precious child with a stranger isn’t scary enough, there’s also the stressful task of knowing the proper amount to pay the sitter. I once made the mistake of asking an 18-year-old sitter who said she really wanted to come and babysit my boys what her rate for four children was by text, and she responded with $40/hr (!!)
To which I had to first restrain myself from calling and asking her these questions:
1) ARE YOU MARY POPPINS?
2) WILL THEY KNOW FIVE LANGUAGES BY THE TIME I RETURN?
3) ARE YOU CPR CERTIFIED AS WELL AS A TRAINED CHEF?
4) A BLACK BELT IN MARTIAL ARTS?
5) AND A PEDIATRICIAN ON THE SIDE?
But I did not. Instead, I deleted my text that said, “That sounds outrageous and entitled. My friends would all watch each other’s kids if we made that much an hour,” and sent one that said, “Alright. We cannot afford you. And I’m not sure any of my friends could either.”
And that was that.
Luckily, her response was a rare one. And we have been blessed with several sitters WHO love our children like their own.
How to Find a Great Babysitter
Through my many adventures to find a great babysitter, I have discovered several methods for developing a strong relationship with a sitter.
1. Ask your friends for their favorite sitter. Then ask your sitter about their friends.
You must have a good sitter before you can have a good relationship. I always start by asking my friends who their favorite sitter is. And IF they are willing to share, I promise not to share that name with everyone. After all, “Thou shalt not share a favorite sitter name without permission” because this is the first and most important sitter commandment, especially if you ever want to get a sitter recommendation again. Then, once I have a sitter at my house, I ask her what friends she recommends. And snag their numbers then. Pairs of sisters (an older and a younger one) are always a great idea, too. Because then you end up with two sitters — often close to the price of one – attending to your children.
2. Tell the sitter your rate instead of asking their rate.
Now it comes to pay. Instead of giving the sitter a chance to say some outrageous rate (which they may just be saying because they think you might pay it), tell them what you pay per hour BEFORE they come to your house. If they are unwilling to babysit for that, you know they are not the sitter for you. By setting the rate you can afford, you are not feeling obligated to pay more money than you feel comfortable with or more than you could sustain regularly. All parents do not pay the same rates, nor do all sitters expect the same amount. So get that settled before a problem arises—like the one mentioned above.
3. Have no shame in the camera game.
If you have cameras in the home, feel no shame about using them to look after your sitter. But let them know. Two of my sitters have told me they were never informed there were cameras at the home they were babysitting. And then had parents just suddenly talk to them through the cameras. Scary! The double advantage of mentioning it first is that you can offer assistance when they need it, AND they know they are being watched, so they are more likely to give their all! (And if you don’t want to spend the money on a fancy security system, there’s no harm in having a fake camera up.)
4. Set your expectations and tip if they go above!
Do not assume your sitters know the rules of your house. So be clear. (I have had more than one sitter leave the lights on in my nursery after putting my baby to bed because I assumed they would know to turn it off, but they did not.) Go over everything and encourage them to text with any questions. Also, use this meeting to encourage them to be off their phone when playing with the kids. Nowadays, sitters don’t often consider that parents wouldn’t want them on their phone the whole time. If you want them to pick up after the kids are in bed or have your kids pick up, ask for that, too. If they know what is expected, they will rise to it! Then give them a tip if you can tell they went above and beyond.
5. Talk with them before they leave.
It’s basic human nature that babysitters who feel you care about them are also more likely to be invested in your children. So, I use the time after I get home to chat with my sitters and ask them about their lives once I check in about my children’s behavior. They may skirt around conversation, and I don’t force it. But often, I realize they are willing to sit and talk for a long time. I cannot tell you how many sitters have sent me sweet messages due to these post-babysitting talks. I think this is because they feel they are not just the babysitter but also someone we have chosen to come into the home.
As holidays and anniversaries approach, work on setting the foundations to find a great babysitter and build that relationship with someone you can continuously call upon and comfortably trust!