One of the many challenges of life with kids is finding time to do stuff for yourself or finding time to spend with your spouse without the kids around. Very important! But the caveat is, more often than not, finding a good babysitter that isn’t your mom or a close friend (because, let’s face it, they’re not always close by!). Putting your kids in someone else’s hands can be extremely stressful and nerve-wrecking, especially when that someone is a teenager who you don’t know that well and who probably knows next to nothing about child care. But with some patience, you can find people you trust. And when that happens, you’re set for weekly date nights or gatherings with friends!
Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past couple of years when hiring babysitters.
1. Ask for referrals.
This is the number one way to find a good babysitter. Look to your neighbors, nearby friends and family, acquaintances at the grocery store — you get the idea. By getting a list of potential sitters together, you’ll have a good starting point to finding someone you really like and trust.
2. Don’t be afraid to informally interview.
Once you have some names, don’t be afraid to call them up for a test run (I’ll get into that more next). When you first call them, have a few questions together, including:
- How old are you?
- How long have you been babysitting for?
- Do you have any first aid training?
- How many kids are you comfortable with sitting at once? What ages are you comfortable with?
Try to be casual with the interview and not too overbearing. You want to establish a good rapport with them — you can even joke around about being overprotective to break the ice.
3. Do a test run.
Once you have someone in mind and have talked to them on the phone, ask them over for a test run. This is where you just have to go out for an hour or so to run some errands but can’t take the kids with you. This gives you a chance to meet the person, evaluate your comfort level with them, and leave them with your kids for a very short time. Afterward, you can ask your kids for feedback (if they’re at an age where they can talk!) and have a better sense of if you want to move forward with them.
4. Make your home comfortable — and pay fairly.
After finding a good fit for you and your kids, be sure to provide them a comfortable environment. Leave snacks out and tell them they can help themselves to food in your fridge. Make extra portions of meals for them. And pay them a decent wage – $8 to $10 for one child, and an extra $2 per child after that. Also make sure they have a ride home at the end of the night. And teach your kids to respect their babysitter and to be on their best behaviour for them. Remember: The more comfortable you can make your home for the sitter, the more likely they are to work for you again.
5. Build a network.
Your regular sitter likely won’t be around forever. If they’re in high school, they’ll move onto other part-time jobs or leave town for university. So it’s best to build up a network of sitters so you have two or three you can count on. If your regular sitter isn’t available one night, ask if he/she has any friends (or maybe even a sibling) they can recommend. Keep lines of communication open with other friends and neighbours so you always have names on hand. Nothing’s worse than having a big event to attend and not being able to find a babysitter!