Leaving Baby with a sitter for the first time can be daunting no matter how old they are when you do it. You can prepare, and help to reassure yourself by making sure the person you choose is exactly the right one for the job! This process should all be done before you actually need a sitter. That way when the need arises you already have a person (or two!) in mind.
To start the search, ask friends or neighbors with children of their own for recommendations. Online networks are also helpful for finding sitters in your area. Don’t feel pressured to use someone just because they were recommended by someone you know. Not every sitter will be a good fit for every family, even if they’re great for other people and their families.
It’s helpful to think through which qualifications are important for your family before you start speaking to sitters. Many qualified sitters are certified in CPR and First Aid, and sitters who are should be able to provide you with documents as proof. You can also request references from applicants. Following up with each one will both give you a better picture of your potential sitter’s level of experience and help you verify their trustworthiness. Once you have good leads, set up interviews. All sitters should be met with in person so you can observe their personality, and should include some time for them to meet Baby – after all, they are the one who will be spending the most time with this person!
The interview gives you the chance to observe the sitter with your toddler with you there to supervise the whole time. How does Baby react to the sitter? Does anything seem strange or make you feel uncomfortable? If Baby is speaking already you’ll be able to ask their opinion after the candidate leaves.
If you’re not sure, you can always hire a potential sitter for an “observation” session. An observation session is a short meetup where the sitter is paid to play with your toddler while you observe for part of the time, and are partially absent (go do some work in another room). This can be a nice way to “practice” what a real babysitting session would be like for everyone involved. If you have concerns after this rehearsal, you are under no obligation to hire the sitter again. Trust your instincts and Baby’s.
Your neighbor’s fourteen year old daughter may be trying to break into the babysitting market, but if you have an infant or very young child, hiring a more experienced sitter is generally best – for both your child and the sitter. Your sitter should demonstrate good communication skills, be on time, be interested in your child, and be capable of listening to you and following your instructions . If they seem distracted, disorganized or overwhelmed they are probably not a good fit.
Discuss rates ahead of time. Current rates may range from $10 to $15 an hour depending on age, experience level, the standards in your area, and the duties involved (more than one child or caring for pets may incur higher prices). Research rates in your area by asking friends or checking in with other local parents online. Depending on the time your sitter works, you should also plan on providing food and some sort of transportation home, or extra money for those things.
Preparing for the big night
Have your sitter arrive early so you can review information, and also have a written copy of all of your instructions for them on hand. Include emergency numbers, allergies, medications and house rules. Show them how to use the door locks, where the fire extinguisher and circuit breaker are located, and any important appliances or equipment they will be using. Do a walk through of a bedtime routine if possible, and include any important mealtime information.
Once you find a sitter you like don’t stop your search! It’s useful to have several sitters that your family likes and whom you trust. That way if you have an urgent need in the future and your regular sitter is not available, you have a back up.
The most important thing is for you and your family to feel safe and happy with your choice of sitters. When you find a great sitter – hang onto them! If someone isn’t a good fit, don’t feel pressure to use them again. It all comes down to what’s best for your family.