Top Advice For Hiring a Full-Time Babysitter
Hiring in-home childcare seems like the best way to ensure top-notch care, but how do you make sure you’re getting the best?
Whether you’re returning to work shortly after giving birth or a few years later, childcare is something most parents need to consider at some point. Hiring an in-home babysitter, whether it’s your home or theirs, seems like the best way to make sure our children are in the best, most comfortable hands. Unlike daycare centers, though, a babysitter (or a nanny) doesn’t necessarily need any special training or qualifications. So how do you make sure you’re getting the best possible care for your child?
There are a few things you can do that will help you feel at ease and confident in your choice. Try the following pieces of advice to find the perfect caregiver for your child.
Ask about experience
Hiring a college or high school student can be a good way to save some money, particularly if you only need part-time care. The same can also apply to hiring someone who is retired.
But if your college or high school applicant has no siblings and has never taken care of children before, you may find yourself incredibly frustrated as they try to learn on the job. It can also create confusion for your toddler or preschooler as they try to understand why the rules seem to keep changing on them.
A retired person may have experience with children, perhaps through raising their own. But this experience may not match up with what you envision for your children.
Ask about their experience with children, specifically covering:
· How many children (estimated) have they cared for?
· When was the last time they cared for a child?
· In what capacity did they care for children (i.e., babysitting for an hour or two, full-time nanny, working in a daycare center, etc.)
Discuss pay rate and what is paid
When it comes to your kids, you get what you pay for is certainly true. While you don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg to get quality childcare, you also can’t expect to pay pennies on the dollar. In asking someone to be a babysitter, you are asking them to be responsible for your child’s life. That deserves fair compensation.
Before you start interviewing candidates, go over your budget and determine what you can and are willing to pay for childcare. If possible, have a little flexibility here so that you can negotiate if you have an ideal candidate who wants a little more.
Once you’ve discussed the pay rate, next up is whether they’re salary or hourly. If you pay them salary, you’ll be paying the same amount every week, regardless of the hours they work (up to a certain point). If you pay them hourly, you may pay them different amounts each week based on the hours they’ve worked. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Hourly may be better if you only need someone part-time, but salary can also be a good way to ensure that your part-time sitter is available for more hours if you need them.
If you decide on hourly, go over what is paid and unpaid time. For example, if your children are napping, you still expect the babysitter to be available in case they wake up, so that would be paid time. If your kids are in school, paid time may be a couple of hours before school, a couple of hours after school, and any hours during the school day that a child is at home sick, but it won’t include all the hours of a school day. Be particularly clear on this information to avoid confusion later.
It also doesn’t hurt to discuss how your sitter should calculate their hours. Do you want them to calculate to the minute, round to the nearest five minutes, or something else? Get on the same page with this as well to avoid problems down the road.
Do a background check
It’s up to you at what point in the interviewing/hiring process you do this, but I recommend doing a background check before you introduce potential candidates to your child. What are you looking for in a background check? I suggest looking at the following:
· Criminal record (to ensure there are no crimes involving children or that conflict strongly with your values)
· Credit (to ensure there aren’t vast amounts of debt that might make a dishonest person steal from you)
· Family and friends (to confirm they aren’t close with anyone with a criminal record involving children)
· Anything else that shows up and stands out to you
Of course, the results of a background check can be mistaken. If you have a candidate that you really love and the background check throws up a red flag or two, take the time to allow them to explain before you cross them off the list. The only exception to this would be if they have a criminal record involving children — there’s no reason to take chances with your child’s safety.
Make sure that you ask for any aliases or former names that your candidate may have used to ensure you get a complete background check.
If your child misbehaves, do you want the babysitter to discipline or bring it to you? If you want them to discipline, what do you consider appropriate? Do you want them to actively play with your child or simply be present and keep them alive? What about learning — do you want the babysitter to help them learn to read, write, help with homework, etc.?
Before you even begin looking, carefully consider your expectations of this role. Write down notes to ensure you don’t forget anything. Then go over those expectations with your candidates. Be clear and don’t back down. If a candidate disagrees with what you expect, they’re not right for your family.
This is your child. A sitter is there to help you raise your child when you physically need to be elsewhere, but as a rule, they don’t have any real say in how your child is raised. You set the tone, the expectations, and the rules.
There is one exception to this, and that is if you are asking family to help out. If you’re asking your mother or mother-in-law to act as your babysitter, you may have to be willing to bend slightly. Because this is also your child’s grandmother, the lines are a little blurred. In this case, it’s best to be clear on which of your expectations are non-negotiable and which things you’re willing to bend on.
Introduce your child to the most likely candidate(s)
You don’t want to introduce your child to every person you interview. But when you do narrow your candidates down to a final few, you do want to make sure that they interact well with your kids — and that your kids like them.
This should go beyond a simple exchange of names and brief conversation. Ideally, schedule each candidate to spend 3–4 hours with your child. Try to plan it for a time when your child will go through a range of situations, such as being hungry, needing a nap, wanting to play, etc. This not only allows you to see how the candidate reacts to these situations, but also how your child behaves with the person in them.
While you want the potential babysitter to take the lead during this time, you should remain present. This is still someone you don’t know and have yet to hire, and the point of this introduction is to make sure that the way your possible sitter interacts with your child is the way you want them to interact.
It should go without saying, but if your candidate refuses to do this introduction, you should automatically strike them from your list of possibilities. Any good nanny or babysitter will have no problem allowing you to observe how they interact with your child.
Ease into it
Once you’ve chosen someone to hire, if you can, try to ease into it slowly. Start by having the babysitter be there while you’re still home to observe and step in if needed. Then step back and allow the sitter to work while you’re around but not observing. Move on to leaving them for a couple of hours while you go grocery shopping or to the gym.
If your kid has never been left alone with a babysitter, this will not only ease your mind that things are fine but also help your child feel more comfortable. This will cut down on any meltdowns that might result in the sitter interrupting you at work once you go back to work full-time.
Another benefit to this is any questions that arise that you didn’t think to answer can be addressed before you’re in the middle of a meeting or knee-deep in a project.
Provide written notes
Food or medicine allergies? Lactose intolerant? Slow to wake or struggles to sleep? Homework done before play time or vice versa? You know all there is to know about your kids, but your new babysitter doesn’t yet. Rather than relying on memory, offer written notes on the important stuff.
What’s important? Allergies and other health conditions, of course. But beyond that, it’s whatever you as the parent deem important. Reminders of unusual rules and contact information for both parents and for doctors should also be included.
It can also be things that may not be important but would be helpful to know. That your child doesn’t like to wake up or that they have nightmares may be useful information for the sitter so she can adapt her method of waking or putting them to bed. It might also include any tips you have for bedtime or morning routines, favorites (foods, toys, music, etc.), or the steps you’re taking to potty train.
Remember it’s a partnership
While you are the parent, and the sitter is your employee, it’s important to remember that the job here is raising your children to be healthy, happy, and whole. This is a partnership between you and the babysitter.
This means your sitter needs your support. Just as your child needs to know that you and your spouse or co-parent are a united front, the same goes for the sitter. Your child needs to know that you will not overrule the sitter just because the child complains or you disagreed with what the sitter did.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should just let the babysitter make all the decisions. If you disagree with a decision they made, you should absolutely say something. But you should do this out of your child’s hearing. If you do it where your child can hear, you undermine the sitter’s authority and this will lead to bigger problems in the future.
Exceptions to this would be if the sitter does something that has life or death consequences or is so significant that you intend to terminate employment as a result.
Hiring childcare is a big decision
When you hire a nanny or babysitter, you are turning your child’s health and well-being over to them when you aren’t there. It’s a big decision and it can be an intimidating one, too. You should take your time, be thorough, and trust your instincts.
It’s also important to pay attention to your child as you transition to having a sitter. If they begin acting out, behaving dramatically differently, or expressing a desire to not be with the new babysitter, it could simply be an adjustment period or it could be an indication of something more. By staying aware, you can figure it out and resolve it much more quickly and easily.
If you’ve hired a nanny or babysitter before, what are your best tips?