How to Find a Good Babysitter
The key to finding a good babysitter is know exactly what the term "good babysitter" means to you. After identifying the key qualities of what you want in a good babysitter, you'll be in a much stronger position to find someone that you like to watch your children. Of course, you'll have to locate applicants for the position using references, classified ads and sitter services. You'll also have to take the time to screen those applications and really ask them some hard questions about their skills, abilities and experience. But if you know what you're looking for, finding a good babysitter shouldn't be too hard at all.
People want different things in a babysitter. Your best friend might think it's critical that a babysitter have early childhood education experience and be willing to work on home work with your kids. In contrast, you might prefer to do that yourself and instead want someone who has a lot of willingness to play different creative games with your children. Here are some of the other things that you will want to ask yourself about what makes a "good babysitter" in your eyes. (Remember that there are no "right" or "wrong" answers to these questions. They're just a tool for figuring out what you want which is the first step in getting it.)
- How young is too young for a babysitter? Would you prefer that the babysitter be college age? An older woman?
- Does it matter to you if the babysitter is male or female? Be honest with yourself here. If it doesn't matter, great. But if you'd be uncomfortable with a male nanny, admit it to yourself up front and save on discomfort down the line.
- Does the babysitter need to be able to drive? If so, do you want proof of insurance? Will you want her to show you that she can appropriately use a car seat?
- What additional tasks (other than childcare) would you like your babysitter to do? Will she need to run errands? Make meals? Do house cleaning? Or is she just there to be hands-on with the kids?
- How do you feel about the babysitter's downtime? When the kids are asleep, what should the babysitter ideally be doing? Some parents think it's fine for sitters to use this time for their own homework or phone calls. Others don't.
- Do appearances matter? Is a pierced and tattooed nanny okay with you? If not, precisely what are your boundaries with appearance?
- What experience do you desire in a babysitter? How many references will you be checking? Must this experience be with kids the same age as yours or will any childcare experience suffice?
- Does religious affiliation matter to you? Will your babysitter be participating in any religious activities with your children?
- Does education play a role in your selection? Do you want a babysitter who has studied certain areas of education or childcare? Do you require First Aid and CPR certifications?
- Does your child have any special needs that require specific abilities or traits from your babysitter?
These questions are just a starting point for forming a clear picture of what you want from a babysitter. Sit down and address all of your concerns about leaving your child with another person. Figure out what qualities in a babysitter would mitigate those concerns. Work this out on paper so that you can see it clearly. Consider which areas are ones you'll compromise on and which are not. Discuss the details with your spouse or other people involved in childcare decisions. Finally, make a checklist with all of the information that you've put together. You can go through this checklist when interviewing applicants so that you can find the right person for the job.
Once you've created this checklist, you'll need to find those applicants. You should screen a fairly large pool of people in order to get a good selection. The best place to start looking is through references. Ask co-workers with older kids if they have a reliable babysitter they don't need as much these days. Ask old friends if they have college-age kids who might be interested in the job. Let everyone in your life know that you're looking for a babysitter and some good prospects should come around. If they don't, proceed to advertise online or in your local newspaper. Be appropriately cautious when doing so - don't give out identifying information and meet applicants in a public place without the children the first time you meet. Sitter services and classified listings of available babysitters are other options for finding a good babysitter.
Next comes the interview process. You should really take your time with this. It may sound like a hassle, but it's worth it if it results in finding the right person to care for your children. The interview should take place in three parts. First, you will meet the candidates on your own and ask all of the questions that you have. Let them tell you about their experience and the reason that they want to work with your kids. Ask them outright what they bring to the table. A knowledgeable and experienced babysitter will be able to answer that question with confidence. Go through your checklist and address important issues. Make notes to yourself so you can remember later what occurred. Include notes about whether or not you plan to follow up with this applicant.
The next interview will be with your spouse. If you are the sole parent, you may want to consider doing this step anyway but replacing the spouse with at rusted friend or family member. If your mom normally does your childcare and knows your kids inside and out, have her sit in on the next interview session. Re-interview all of the applicants that you thought were possibilities. This will allow you to further narrow the options down to a select few who might be good babysitters. The final interview will be when the applicants meet the child. Invite them over to just play and get to know your child. There probably won't be any additional questions to ask. You're just there to watch the interaction. You'll know from your gut reaction and your child's reactions whether or not you've found a good babysitter.