I’ll be the first to tell you, Scott and I are picky when it comes to the people that care for our children when we are away.  The dynamics and requirements for a babysitter with one child are vastly different when you have five.  Nevertheless, I thought I’d share a few things we do when choosing a sitter.

HDYDI:  FINDING A BABYSITTER (AND KEEPING HER/HIM!)

1.  When we had Will, Scott and I were also serving as volunteer youth ministers at our parish.  Talk about built-in babysitters for Will!  We not only knew these kids very well, but we knew their parents, their after-school activities, their friends and their beliefs.  I suppose that’s my first piece of advice.  Know your sitter’s parents.  Very well.

2.  We do a little informal background check in that we ask ourselves a few questions.  How responsible is your sitter?  Is she/he interested in being around kids?  Do they engage your children when they’re around, or just spend time texting on the phone?  Do they kids get excited when they find out a certain sitter is coming over?  Are the “reports” from the kids positive the next morning?  Does the sitter follow your rules and expectations?  One of our sitters braids the girls’ hair (love) and she acts out their bedtime stories while she reads them (love x2).  Another always colors with them, and another plays dress-up.  Look for all the extra things they do with your children, that will tell you who you need to hire.

3.  Sometimes, we’ll do an informal get together when either we’re around or we’re only gone for a short while.  A test drive, so to speak.  We had one sitter who was sound asleep on the couch when we arrived home and later, we found out she fed our kids ice cream (10 minutes before bed!) when we specifically asked her not to.  The kids loved her, but we never had her back.  If she can’t follow the “no ice cream” rule, what else did she disregard?  I wasn’t willing to find out.

4.  We have a rule that if our sitter doesn’t drive, then whatever their gender dictates if it’s Scott or I that transport the sitter between houses.  I stick with the girls and Scott sticks with the guys.  We never want them to feel uncomfortable and it is just is a good rule to practice.

5.  We typically do their baths (unless it’s a family member watching them).  No matter how much I love them, I just don’t think having a sitter bathe your children is appropriate.  At least it’s not for us.  Many times, we’ve bathed our children and then had the sitter feed them dinner, brush teeth, read books, say prayers and put them to bed.  In all, after the first hour, our sitters usually have it pretty easy.  But…

6.  I always pay them more than I calculate is the going rate.  I babysat and I know they have plenty of other opportunities to make money.  Watching our kids should be fun, but it should also pay well.  We obviously pay more than most because I’m asking them to watch five children.  I do, however, pay even more when all the kids are awake.  Because I KNOW how much work that can be!

7.  Even though we completely trust our sitters, I always log off our computers and set the password block.  I don’t really want them on the computer while they’re at our house.  And, I ask that they don’t answer the door or the phone.  Now that almost every sitter texts, we communicate that way during the evening if they need us.

8.  If they’re new, we point out the location of the first aid kits, fire extinguisher, my oldest (who can answer any question – HA!) and our cheat sheet on the fridge.  It’s a laminated piece of paper that has our home address, cell numbers, time we’ll arrive back and any special instructions.  Hey, if they need to call 911, the sitter needs to know your address!  We can simply wipe off the information and use it again the next time.  My goodness, that paper has been on my fridge for over a decade!

9.  Recently, we’ve started letting Will have the reins.  We’ve left him for 30-minute stretches, or less, just to give him a chance to exercise some independence with some specific jobs/responsibilities while we’re gone.  To date, we’ve only left him with either a sleeping Luke or an awake John Paul.  And in those cases, it’s been for less than 10 minutes.  So far, he hasn’t burned the house down.  Perhaps in 2-3 years, we can officially turn over the job to him in most cases.  We shall see.  Oh, and we will definitely pay him!

10.  Don’t be afraid to hire a male babysitter.  In fact, one of our kids’ most favorite sitter is Ryan, the guy.  We also have Ryan, the girl 🙂  He is phenomenal with our children and the boys especially love him.

11.  Finally, when you find a winner, never share their number with your friends!  Kidding, sort of.

If you have anything to share, post it in the comments.  I’d love to hear it.

7 Comments

  1. Kathleen on March 5, 2012 at 6:51 am

    These guidelines are great. I do have a nightmare story to share….I had gotten a sitter as a recommendation from a friend of a friend. I only needed her for an hour, from 7-8 pm. When I got home at 8pm she already had them in bed because she didn’t want to miss the beginning of American Idol (she admitted this). She had her feet up on the coffee table, arms stretched behind her head ( mid-drift showing…..yuck!) and didn’t move her eyes from the TV while I was standing over her waiting for her to get up. I thought I might have to call the police to get this person to leave. To date, this was my worst parenting decision ever….and my kids remind me all the time.

  2. Molly on March 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Working for a college, in a college town has its definite advantages. We have one student who picks up the kids each day at 3 p.m. from school, she does their “homework” (if pre-k has any :)), but their homework consists of coloring, shapes, reading, etc. They love it and she has a routine. We always run into breaks, which we have a back-up plan with another student who lives down the street (she’s from Monmouth) and alternatively she always has a back-up, her twin sister. I think it’s a lot of chaos for the kids, but they absoultely love their babysitters. ALL OF THEM. Lucas will tell me if something happens because we’ve had conversations about needing to know what they like and dislike; it is as much their decision as it is ours. But, my one piece of advice that I’ve relied on is my faculty-friends who are completely engaged with their students to recommend sitters for me (bonus: they love my kids, so they only send the best!). I haven’t tried a male yet, I need to do that for Lucas. My best sitter (my assistants daughter) would bring her finace and Lucas loved having Drew around. Ok, I’m done with my book…I could go on and on!

  3. Kimberly on March 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    The best sitter we’ve ever had, hands down is the second oldest girl from a homeschooling family of 7. So we were pretty confident she would be great, especially since she was used to watching 5 younger siblings. Plus, being homeschooled, her schedule was very flexible. If we couldn’t get her, the next oldest girl was usually available. And…they’ve never called us with a problem. Not once. Maybe once to ask where the bandaids were for a tiny paper cut. But that’s it. So my advice to finding a great sitter? Find a homeschooling family of at least half a dozen kids, and get the oldest to babysit. 🙂 And…I don’t give out their phone number…we want this family all to ourselves. 😉

  4. Bea on March 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I agree with the no bathing rule. We also have dinner ready or delivered- for everyone- the sitter needs to eat too. Our cheat sheet on the fridge also has a packet for emergencies that have all the kids’ pertinent information- name, birthday, allergies, birth/medical history, conditions, medications, surgeries, physicians, insurance information. All that goes out of my head in an emergency- much less if family, friends or a sitter were watching them! We also have the neighbors on alert that we’re going out so they know to keep an eye out & the sitter can feel that they have back-up in case of an emergency.

    Our cheat for the times you can’t get a sitter- having a junior sitter (those not quite ready to handle 2 kids + a baby AWAKE) come watch them once they’re asleep or exchanging sitting with another family. The best is exchanging babysitting with another family, once the kids are asleep! No cost and whichever parent is watching the kids sleeping gets quiet time to get things done without the distractions of home.

  5. Dianna on March 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Fantastic post! I’m bookmarking this one — because we need more date nights!!

  6. Billie on August 3, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I’m curious because I want to start doing it to: how much more than the going rate do you pay? Do you ask their rate and pay more or just hand them cash at the end of the night? Thanks!

    • Kathryn on August 3, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      I’ve always found that when you ask a rate, they reply “whatever you think is appropriate” so I no longer ask! If we’ve asked them to do more than the usual or they’ve gone above and beyond, then yes, I pay them more.

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