Emily Wyckoff

Help! I need a babysitter…

My babysitter luck ran out last year. For seven years, I was literally flush with babysitters. I was the go-to person for my friends who were in need of childcare. Then, my regular sitters, a key few who had been with me for six or seven years, aged out, moved away, found real jobs, etc. and I was faced with three young kids, two jobs that needed to get done, a husband who lived out of town all week, pick- ups that needed to be coordinated with my youngest’s nap-time, occasional weeknight evenings out or weekend outings with my husband (remember him?) and no help.

I know many people are extremely lucky and have local family who babysit on a regular basis. In fact, this past weekend we were at a concert with friends who have a 3-year old son and 4-week old twins. That’s not a typo, yes, these adorable babies are 4 weeks old. Yet, there they were, at a concert, socializing with adults, no children in tow. How did they pull off this what I consider amazing feat? One of the grandmothers was babysitting. All three children. Overnight. Until the morning. My jaw dropped.

In any event, last spring when my luck ran out and I had emailed everyone I knew to see if they had any extra sitters to no avail, I went online to Craig’s List and answered some ads local college students had posted advertising babysitting services. Desperate, I quickly lined one girl up to babysit and I will admit it, I did not conduct my usual thorough interview process and reference check for this person. She was great with the kids, showed up on time, until one day, I got a call that she was leaving town and never returned again. This was when I had an event that I was planning in two weeks and had her lined up for about 20 hours per week. I learned my lesson the hard way, and regardless of my situation, will always perform a thorough interview, have a trial period prior to lining up regular days, and check at least 3 references.

I have since had many conversations with my friends who shared their experiences with me. Here are some suggestions they came up with:

Where to find a sitter:

1) Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.. If they don’t have any sitters in reserves they are willing to share, their trusted sitters might have a roommate, friend or cousin who is interested.

2) Local colleges are great resources. I have friends who have had luck posting a flyer in the education department of local colleges.

3) Your kids’ teachers – particularly pre-school – are often interested in picking up extra hours, or may have family members looking for extra money.

4) Craig’s List. I did have luck with Craig’s List this year – in a less frenzied state I posted an ad and received many responses. I interviewed 4 or 5 girls and ended up with a great regular sitter.

What to ask potential sitters:

 1) Have you babysat previously? If so, please describe your experience.

2) Have you received any specialized training (such as first aid/CPR, attended a babysitter course, or taken related school courses)?

3) Why do you enjoy working with children?

4) What activities will you plan with my kid(s) when I am gone? (Ask this question to determine whether the potential babysitter plans any games, crafts or child-friendly activities in your absence.)

5) What age children do you most enjoy? Least enjoy? Why? Which age group are you most comfortable/experienced with?

6) What will you do if the kids aren’t getting along (aka screaming and fighting)?

7) Do you know how to prepare a meal for kids (Don’t assume a person knows how to properly use an oven or microwave.)?

8.) What type of commitment will you provide me that you will honor our agreement to babysit and notcancel? (This question is particularly important if you are hiring a sitter for key holidays or busy times such as New Year’s Eve.)

9) What was your worst babystting experience, and why? (See how the candidate worked through the problem.)

10) Do you have a list of references? (If you have not already spoken with someone about the babysitter beforehand, be sure you call and talk with references before entrusting a person to care for your child.)

What to ask references:   

1) How well do you know Susie?
* In what capacity did she work for you?
* How long did she work for you?

2)  How would you describe her?
* What are her best qualities?
* What are her worst qualities?

3)  How did your kids like her?
* Was she always excited to see your kids?
* Did she have a routine when working with your kids?

* Is she flexible? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
* Is she mature? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
* Is she patient? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
* Is she timely? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
* Is she energetic? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)

4)  Did she drive your kids, do an overnight job for you or sit for a newborn?
* How did she do with these tasks?

5)  How much supervision did she need?
* How well did she follow direction?

6) Was she willing to clean up after herself on the job? (very important in my house!)

7) What areas could she improve in?

8.) Would you hire her again?
* Why did you stop working together?

9)  Is there anything else you would like to add?
* Can I contact you again if I have any more questions?

Do you have any babysitting advice (or nightmares) to share?


15 Responses to “Help! I need a babysitter…”

  1. Kadi says:

    I remember having the worst baby sitters in the world. It is nice to have one on hand but make sure the kids like her. Maybe if you really need to there is also family. After awhile mt parents relize no one was as good as family. So we would go to the grandparents. Yeah we got to cook and and get spoiled. I know i loved it!

  2. Alissa says:

    Hi, I’ve had great luck finding babysitters through local daycamps and churchgroups. (Although we are not very religious and consider attending church a twice a year event) these kids usually have a strong moral background and experience with younger children through sunday school classes.

  3. Someone once suggested to me that we do a babysitting swap-where one night I would watch a friend’s kids and another night she would watch mine. This might work well during the day, for instance one mom can pick up all of the kids after school and have them over for an hour or two and another day the other mom do the same. It gives you a few hours during the day to yourself and the kids get an extra play-date. As for the night sitting, I can only imagine this working if the kids all did a sleep over in one place or the other. I can’t imagine leaving my house one night to babysit someone else’s kids, but maybe someone thinks this would work for them.

  4. Cathy says:

    We do a kid swap with friends of ours. We all have kids about the same age, so if my hubby and I are going out, we ask a friend to watch our kids and then when our friends need a night out, we watch their kids. It works out great and our kids keep each other busy so I actually can watch a little Rachael uninterrupted!! Not to mention we don’t pay each other. Bonus!!

  5. I realize that most parents are nervous about hiring a sitter from a service however, there are numerous services that are reputable and do careful background checks. My mother began her sitting service in 1990 and has thousands of pleased clients. A national sitting service that we have wanted to partner with is sittercity. Try online, get references and make sure that the sitters are versed in cpr, have had a background check and even put out a nanny cam. Your children are the most valuable “possession” you will ever be entrusted to care for, Please take every precaution and make sure they are safe and enjoy the experience of having a sitter! Thanks
    Mary Jean Ziska
    Assistant Director
    A Tender Loving Care Service
    A TLC Kindergarten Preparatory and Etiquette School

  6. I realize that most parents are nervous aout hiring a sitter form a service howeer, there are numerous services that are reputable and do careful backgournd checks. My mother began her sitting service in 1990 and has thousands of pleased clients. A nationsl sitting service that we have wanted to become partners is sittercity. Try online, get references and make sure that the sitters are verserd in CPR, have had an extensive background check and even put out a nanny cam. Your children are the most valuable “possession ” you will ever be untrusted to care for, Please take every precaustion and make sure thay are safe an enjoy the experience of having a sitter!
    Thanks!
    May Jean Ziska
    Assistant Director
    A Tender Loving Care Service
    A TLC Kindergarten Preparatory and Etiquette School

  7. Kimberly Davidson says:

    I also have three children. All girls who are ages 3, 20 months, and 6 months. I am 23 years old and my husband and I very seldom get to go anywhere. We have close relatives but no one wants to watch them. Other babysitters charge us $20 a child. Since we are on a tight budget we can’t afford to go many places without them. I don’t work because I have heart problems and take medication. Sometimes its really hard not to have a break every now and then!

  8. Christi says:

    This works both ways… I have a ton of experience in childcare. I started babysitting when I was 12. I was a regular sitter for a few families all through high school. During college I took a couple au pair jobs during the summers in upstate NY and Wisconsin. These were great experiences and helped me save up money. When I graduated from college, I decided to take an au pair job in Ireland. I was so excited about exploring the country and finding my roots, but the mother of the children turned out to be a total nightmare. For three months I felt like I was in prison. I found her through the greataupair.com website that I’ve had success with before, but I guess I should have found out more about her that what she told me.

  9. karen says:

    I have found my best babysitters at the playground. While there with my own children, I was able to watch young women with kids they were sitting or an older sibling to. I was able to evaluate how they interacted with those children not knowing that anyone was paying attention. If I was impressed I would eventually make my way to them and strile a conversation. I would ask him how they knew the children they were with and if they babysat. Folowing that I would ask if they were interested and arrange to meet with them and their parent where appropriate. I found 4 sitters this way and they were all wonderful. Good Luck!

  10. Evelyn says:

    Hello I am a babbysitter or Nanny for over 20 yrs it is hard to find someone you can trust with your children. I am now working with a 2 year old girl. I have had alot of children under my care for many of years Twins children with heart alliment. So good luck out there.
    Thank You
    Evelyn
    Carteret NJ

  11. Evelyn says:

    Hello I am a babysitter or Nanny for over 20 yrs it is hard to find someone you can trust with your children. I am now working with a 2 year old girl. I have had alot of children under my care for many of years Twins children with heart alliment. So good luck out there.
    Thank You
    Evelyn
    Carteret NJ

  12. Evelyn says:

    There is alot of Nanny sites on the computer you can find a Nanny. You just have to ask alot of questions.

    Evelyn
    Carteret NJ

  13. Debbie G. says:

    Hello,

    If you are looking for a special babysitter while on vacation, look no further. I can either watch your little one at your home or go along with you as a nanny. I have excellent references. I don’t smoke, drink, curse, etc…I’m also available for New Years Eve. I’m a regular Mary Poppins that will love your child / children as my own. Your child deserve to have fun & feel safe!

    Sincerely,
    Mimi

  14. Emma says:

    well i babysitted 4 a wedding and it was sssssooooooo much fun! i would love to do it again! but i don’t get to babysit very often cause my mom thinks that i am to young!

    Emma
    I Luv Joe Jonas!!!

  15. Sydney says:

    I have a ton of expirience when it comes to babysitting. I babysat when I turned 11, and all through highschool. I now have my own children, a 8 month old, a 2 year old, and a 5 year old. The difficult thing is finding a babysitter, who is actually up to standerds. Like not putting the kids to bed at 6 pm because they want to watch T.V. undisturbed. Or not just sit the kids in front of the T.V. or movie and go text. I like someone who will play with the kids, and who is mature, and well disiplined. When I was trying to find one, I had luck at a local mormon church. Some of the young women were interested and I interviewed 5 of them. They were all so great that I had a hard desision decideing. I finnaly settled on one, and she’s been great! She is great with the kids, and they are always so happy to see her, and she them. She has great moral backrounds, and she’s mature, well disiplined, and know’s how to handle kids. So go to a local church community and find someone. I can almost guareentee you that you’ll find someone great.

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