Who thinks that a great babysitter is worth their weight in gold?? But it can be tough to find a local babysitter who is easy to trust and rely on. Read on to learn where to find babysitters in your area, how to keep a good one and train one who isn’t quite perfect! Finding and keeping a babysitter doesn’t have to be rocket science, but sometimes it takes a little work.
After returning from our trip to Scotland last month, (and after every trip we go on as a couple) the most common question we got from new neighbors and friends is: “Who watches your kids??”
Admittedly, it is less than easy finding a reliable babysitter regardless of the circumstances, not to mention for a 10 day vacation and least of all for EIGHT children. Thankfully, we’ve relied on the same (wonderful, magical) sitter for the past 7-8 years and she really is the only reason I’ve survived some of my craziest phases of motherhood!
We actually met our amazing babysitter at church and had her start watching our kids for short periods of time when she was around 12. That was about 8 years ago, which means that at the time, we only had 3 kids and they were all 5 and under. This was a great starting point for a young girl to learn diaper changing, making easy meals and cleaning up and we got the chance to train her along the way. The key was that we were looking for a long-term sitter who would always value working for us and who we knew we could always trust.
Finding the perfect babysitter
I realize that finding someone who you trust enough to just let in your house can be scary! I’ve learned over the years that the best places to find great babysitters are among friends and neighbors who we already love and admire. For us, that means that church congregations are always a great place to find people, and I’ve also advertised at the local community college’s LDS Institute building (this is where our church holds religious classes for college age young adults). Knowing that most of these kids were raised with the same set of morals that we have was comforting and helped me feel a little bit better about leaving my kids alone.
If you don’t happen to belong to a church congregation or you can’t seem to find any willing babysitters in your area, you can move on to looking on Craigslist, Care.com or other community and job sites. Admittedly, this is a bit scarier, but there are safety precautions you can follow to protect yourself and your family.
First of all, I would ALWAYS ask for several letters of recommendation. This is an easy way to weed out potential trouble!
I also love the idea of meeting in a public place where the potential sitter can interact with your children (like a park or library) and you can sit back and watch how things go. You can even hire potential sitters as a “mother’s helper” and leave them in charge while you’re busy in another part of the house. This is an easy way to give the sitter a bit of independence and to test out their babysitting skills without immediately leaving your children in the care of a stranger.
In the end, there are also tons of home camera options out there (I like the look of this one – and it’s under $30!) to ensure that your children stay protected when you’re away. I’m not comfortable with recording someone without their knowledge (and I’m sure the legal ramifications are iffy), but by casually mentioning to the babysitter that the house has security cameras, you can ensure that she stays on her best behavior. You can even phrase it in such a way that she feels like they’re for her protection instead of for spying!
Keeping the perfect babysitter
Once you find the perfect babysitter, however, it can often be equally difficult to KEEP her around. Especially once word gets out that you have one of these coveted people on your payroll. We’ve ensured that our babysitter keeps returning (and stays happy) via the following steps:
- We’ve asked her to carve out a specific time for our family every week (or every month or whenever your budget allows). For years, our sitter knew that Friday nights were when Luke and I went on dates and if she left that night available for us, she’d always have a job! It was glorious knowing that we always had a sitter lined up for date night without any last minute scrambling.
- We set up certain expectations and reminded her of them regularly. Our babysitter has naturally learned and adjusted to our family’s rules and dynamics but if there was ever a conflict, we’ve kindly reminded her of why we have certain rules or why we expect her to clean up after dinner, etc. Maintaining an open dialogue can feel awkward at first but after all, you’re the employer and you reserve the right to make your expectations known.
- Above all, be open about money! This can feel really weird and be a struggle for lots of parents; after all, how can you put a price on caring for your children? I always try to pay a rate that is appropriate for the sitter’s age, maturity level, work ethic, ability to get another job and the local minimum wage. For example, I will always pay a 16 year old significantly more than a 12 year old since the older girl could potentially get a job somewhere else (and chances are good she can drive to my house which is always a bonus!). The 12 year old pretty much has no other employment options other than babysitting so I don’t feel badly paying her less. I would also expect a lot more work and responsibility out of the 16 year old.I’ve seen this topic raised on a variety of social media platforms where people confess to paying upwards of $25 an hour for a sitter (where were these people when I was a teenage babysitter??) which I think it fairly ridiculous. But then again, if you’re living in Manhattan and your only option is a professional adult woman to watch your 4 children, that might be the most affordable rate out there. Do your research, ask friends and neighbors and then give your sitter the best, fairest wage you feel comfortable with.
- Lastly, treat her like family! If a sitter feels like she has an open dialogue with us, she enjoys our kids and she feels loyal to us, then she will continue to come back for job after job and maybe even year after year. I admit, our particular brand of amazing babysitter might be pretty rare, but I know that there are lots of stellar young kids out there who are eager to help families out and gain work experience in the process.Good luck finding your perfect sitter!
Photos by Christie Knight Photography