How to Avoid Babysitter Nightmares-Four Tips for a Positive Sitter Selection
Baby sitter 'No Entering Zones'
When parents decide to go out for an evening they want to know that their precious ones are left safe behind in the hands of competent care. However, usually that care may come in the form of a teenage babysitter. When my children were young that is who I would employ to help out-a neighborhood teen or the daughter of a friend…someone familiar to my children whose parents and family background I knew.
Usually, there were few bumps along the way. But, once in a while a major glitch would show up which made me immediately put the brakes on ever employing that person again. Here are two stories of my experiences with bad babysitters.
The first occurred while I was living in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you aren’t aware of how gorgeous this area is, or how rural, then be sure to check out Cardelean’s hubs on the topic. Links are included here for your convenience.
My first husband was a ‘Yooper’, the term used to designate a person born and raised in the Upper Peninsula. One year we settled into a little home with lots of yard. It was a bit on the outskirts of town so there was plenty of room for his garden. A young teen lived across the street and when we became a bit familiar with her I had her stay with me a few afternoons so the children could get to know her.
After the initial test period of leaving for short shopping trips, I finally left them with Sandra for an evening out. When I returned the house was a bit sloppy, but I disregarded this. After all, my toddlers were tucked into their beds sleeping and I could tell that they had a good snack.
It wasn’t until the next morning when I reached for my birth control pills that I discovered someone had tampered with them. My oldest daughter was very articulate at four and informed me that yes, Sandra had her friends over and there were even boys in the house-a cardinal rule that I stood firm on.
I immediately walked over to her home to discuss the situation with her and she confessed that she had a party while we were out, but assured me it was not her that took the pills…it must have been one of her friends.
Wow! It was my first ‘in your face’ awareness of how stupid teenagers can be! I looked at this girl in amazement and shook my head. “Look Sandra,” I began my lecture, “whether it was you or your friend let me explain that birth control doesn’t work by taking one pill to avoid pregnancy.”
I went on to explain that she needed to inform her ‘friend’ that this birth control was an ineffective way to avoid a pregnancy and oh, by the way, “I won’t need your services in the future.”
Sitter Common Sense
My girls were in elementary school when the next ‘bad sitter’ incident occurred. By this time I had divorced my husband, had moved back to my hometown and had just graduated from nursing school. My long awaited dream job came to fruition that June and I was ready to embark on the career I had worked so hard to achieve.
While in nursing school I met a fellow nursing student who had a teenaged daughter. Since Pat and I hit it off so well I had great confidence in her daughter’s sitting ability. Needless to say, this girl did not have a lick of sense that her mother had and, much later in time, had some very real issues of adapting to a life of maturity and responsibility.
One afternoon, after I finished my shift, I came home to find the doors wide open, the water in the bathroom sink running at full blast and no one in sight. I was appalled at the irresponsibility that was shown. I cleaned up the mess and carried the laundry to the basement to wash. Again, my jaw dropped to find that the water had seeped through the floor boards onto my laundry table and soaked all of the clothes I had folded the night before. Oh, I was furious.
Again, a few words to Annette, a thorough explanation to her mother, who was more than understanding, and the employment of this particular girl ended. I’m sure we all have horror stories of the worse sitters we have come across in our day, so here are a few tips to help you avoid those problems.
Staying alert and focused
Below are two examples of a babysitting scenario. In the first scene, this child decided to help himself to a kitchen (butter) knife and the family's future dinner: the butternut squash. When questioned by his mother on her return from her afternoon out he said he wanted to "carve the squash" like they had carved the pumpkins.
Right idea, but wrong circumstance. As adorable or funny as this may appear it could have turned into a horrible cutting accident and a trip to the emergency room.
In the second scene, this three year old is being taught a lesson in accountability as his mother told him, "you made the mess, you clean it up" and held him to it. As we can tell by the photo he was not a happy fellow.
Had the sitter been more on top of things he could have enjoyed a pleasant afternoon when mom returned without mom being upset with the mess she faced when she came home from her enjoyable afternoon out.
Additional visual examples of sitter situations
Selecting a babysitter
Tip #1-have the sitter meet with and ‘play’ with your child for a few hours while you are at home. This way you are able to observe how she interacts with him, how confident she handles situations and questions he has, and the overall maturity and ease of the sitter, before you are actually out of view.
Tip #2-talk with your children, if they are old enough, to get the real scoop of what happened while you were away. Usually, they are willing to spill the beans if the subject is approached with a casual, nonchalance and you do not overreact when they give out ‘appalling’ information.
Tip #3-when working with an agency and you have an infant, set up a Nanny cam if you feel more at ease with letting a stranger take care of your baby. Personally, I would not be handing my baby over to a complete stranger-but, that is just my own opinion.
Tip #4-Pay well for good care. If you are satisfied with the work your sitter does, reward them well. It pays off double-your kids are happy, you are too, because you can leave knowing they are with someone competent, and the sitter will be sure to leave her calendar open for jobs from you. It’s a win-win-win situation.