Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things Your Babysitter Wish You Knew

When I started looking for a sitter for our 3-month-old, I was thankful that I had spent a few years as a nanny and babysitter. I knew what it was like to be on their side of the interview and knew what I could realistically expect as far as their abilities went. Then I realized perhaps not every parent was a babysitter at some point in their lives and therefore may not understand what it’s like to be a sitter and watch someone else’s kids for a living. So I went to social media to ask sitters and nannies for things they wished the parents knew.

Here’s some of the best:
·      They are only one person
o   If you and your spouse can’t find the time to watch the baby, make dinner, and clean the house, you shouldn’t expect the sitter to be able to either. “Babysitting” is not code for “cheap housekeeping.” It’s one thing to ask them to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, but asking them to clean out the garage is a little much! (Yes, that actually happened to one sitter).  
·      You don’t have to pay them the exact amount down to the penny
o   If your sitter is there for 2 hours and 37 minutes and makes $10 an hour, you do not have to give them $26.16. But rounding up to $27 would be preferable to rounding down! (84 cents won’t break you, but it will flatter your sitter!)
·      Let your sitter know what they can and can’t do once the kids are asleep.
o   I always felt uncomfortable just “making myself at home” so usually sat there awkwardly doing nothing. Tell them they can watch tv (and if there’s a parental code, give it to them so they aren’t stuck watching Bubble Guppies all night) or leave a couple of magazines out on the counter for them.
·      Do tell them what your kids can and can’t eat, but don’t expect them to cook a gourmet meal from scratch
o   A friend once had parents leave her a detailed recipe to make a meal from scratch for the kids. Not every sitter can cook well. It’s much easier to leave leftovers for them to warm up or just have them make a quick sandwich.  
·      Sitters appreciate punctuality just as much as you
o   You expect them to show up at 5:00, and they expect you to come home at 9:00. If you’re going to be late – call. It’s no fun sitting in someone else’s house wondering where the parents are and having them show up an hour late. But on the flip side, if you tell them you’ll be home at 10:00, don’t show up an hour early. They may have been planning on making a certain amount of money that night, and losing out on that hour’s pay can really hurt. (So if you are going to come home early, let them know in advance or at least pay them for that time anyway).
·      Be organized and informative
o   Make sure to provide your sitter with your contact info and any emergency numbers as well. And it’s always nice to give them the wifi password so they can use it while the kids are sleeping. Letting them know what any noises or gesture your baby makes mean or what little quirks your child has can be helpful. And please, tell your sitter when your baby had a rough night, or when your little one is suddenly starting to fuss during diaper changes. It’s never nice to get surprises like a baby that screams all day and you don’t know it’s because he’s over-tired.
·      Set your sitter up for success
o   Your sitter wants to succeed – they want your kids to like them just like you want your kids to like them! So don’t give them an exorbitant amount of rules to follow or too many things to accomplish. Don’t set them up to fail by leaving them a list of 50 rules and a long recipe to a meal made from scratch for the kids’ lunch. Just let them relax and have fun with the kids – if they’re stressing out about your too-detailed list and high expectations, they won’t have as much fun with your children (which is the main reason you hired them, right?)

In the end, you hired your babysitter to watch your kids – and to have fun with them. Having them do a thousand other things is going to take away from their time with your munchkins. Just let them do their job and you both will be happier.

Note Feb 04 2016: This post was originally published online at Family Culture Magazine, but it seems to no longer be active. I previously had only a snippet here on my blog, but because the link to the full article was defunct, you can now read the whole thing right here at Prego to Legos!
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