Parents have two options when it comes to their social life: drag the kids along for the ride, or leave them behind with someone they trust. Our family is constantly on the go, and while some of our outings accommodate a toddler’s presence, others do not. Trial and error has shown me that there are great babysitting experiences and not so great experiences. My work on the front end of leaving our home with a sitter in charge has a drastic effect on the outcome! I have learned to be bold about certain things to help our sitter understand how we want our time away to go on the home front.
Here are 4 Secrets That Will Set Your Babysitter Up for Success:
1. Be Clear About Expectations
Be very clear about your expectations while you are out. What activities do you expect to be done? Is anything off-limits tonight? Is it bath night? Will your children need to be fed? Will the toys need to be picked up before bedtime? Will the sitter put the kids to bed or should they be up when you return home?
To narrow down the list, take time to think through what you expect to be done when you get home. Returning home to a sink full of dishes and toys everywhere brings my date night mood to a screeching halt! Are the things you would like for someone else to accomplish realistic for that person? Consider the experience of your sitter, and evaluate if your expectations are too much to ask of that person.
When it comes to what your child will do, leave some options and be sure to discuss any restrictions you would like honored. If your 10-year-old is not allowed to watch a certain movie, make that clear to your sitter. My sister and I were practically con artists when a sitter came over and I still remember the things we convinced our sitters to let us do that our parents would NEVER have allowed (jumping on Mom’s nice couches was a favorite, as well as eating dinner in the living room with white carpeting and pouring ice water on a showering sister!). Any specific safety concerns (playing outside alone, swimming in the kiddie pool) should be detailed before you leave the house. I am a compulsive list maker, so my sitters chuckle at the notes at the kitchen table for them. Once they’re done chuckling, I then review my list with them before we leave.
2. Discuss Payment
This one gets tricky. I remember being asked as a 13-year-old what my rate was. The very question mortified me. What if I gave a number way above what they had budgeted? What if I was underselling myself and could have earned an extra $20? To avoid this awkwardness, I ask these two questions up front: “What is the worst you have ever been paid?” and “What is the best you have ever been paid?” This helps me decide on an amount somewhere in between, so I will not offend the person caring for my sweet baby.
Once you have your range, consider if some “bonus pay” should be included for that time period. For instance, we are last-minute people. If I text a sitter Friday morning for a Friday night job, I pay her better than I would have had I asked her a week in advance. She changed her plans at the last minute for me and I would want to be paid for such an inconvenience, so I compensate well. Also, consider that holiday pay should be more than non-holiday pay. If you want a sitter on New Year’s Eve you will be paying more than you would have paid on December 29.
Once you have decided on the amount you will pay, communicate that number or hourly rate up front. This gives your potential sitters the options of bartering if they believe they deserve more money, or they can decline, with no questions asked. If they decide that amount of money is not worth their time, they can turn down the job without anyone feeling awkward. My goal whenever money is involved is to avoid awkwardness—especially when it involves, as babysitting often does, a fifteen-year-old!
3. Explain Your Policy on Car Seats
Nothing churns my stomach more than thinking about a student toting my child around on our 55-mile per hour country roads. There are reckless drivers out at any given time, pushing the speed limit and posing a threat to my baby. While I certainly know I can put my trust in the Lord and recognize that He is in control more than I am, that does not mean I should not strive to educate. If my sitter has the car seat in her vehicle, I always install it and take a few minutes to show her how to properly buckle my child in. Statistics tells us that 70% of car seats are not installed properly, so if I can take ten minutes to decrease this statistic and help keep my child safe, that ten minutes is well worth it!
4. Talk About Meals
If you are going to be gone over a meal time, I find it helpful to leave options for your sitter. Find out your sitter’s comfort level in the kitchen so you’ll know if a microwave meal, a simple stovetop meal, or ordering pizza will be the best option. I also strive to leave a few special snacks because we always want to make our son’s time with a sitter an exciting and special time that he looks forward to. He knows he will get ice cream or popcorn (not everyday treats in our home) each time we leave him with someone else, so he is less upset about us leaving!
5. Have a Serious Conversation About Social Media
If you have strong feelings about your children on social media, you WILL need to address this with your sitter up front. Be clear on what will be done with the goofy selfies taken with your little ones. We do not use our son’s full name on social media, so that is something I always talk about with our sitters. We also have a strong aversion to SnapChat, so we ask anyone who watches our child to not use our son’s picture on that app. If you have any strict social media rules that you follow, have a conversation with your sitter about your expectations in this area. If you are hiring anyone under age thirty for this task, the odds are overwhelming that your sitter will take a picture with your kiddo and you should be clear on what will be done with that picture and any personal information before it enters the social media realm.
I am ready for a date night with my husband now, how about you?
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