Sitter Savvy

How to Hire a Babysitter

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How to hire—and manage—a babysitter

By Nest Staff

Every parent reaches a certain point when, well, they just need to get away from the kids. Enter the paradox: we don’t want to be around our kids for the night, but they are the most precious part of our lives and we can’t trust them with just anyone.

We’ve all heard the horror stories—insert blown-up microwave or concussion. Especially for first-timers, hiring and managing a sitter can be akin to the uncharted territory of trimming those tiny fingernails for the first time. Here are a few tips for hiring and managing a sitter.

Hiring Tips

Don’t wait until the last minute. Gather names and meet potential sitters as you come across them. Don’t let desperation be a deciding factor.

Borrow sitters from your friends. But don’t be offended if not all fellow parents want to share their sitters. A good sitter is a precious commodity.

Network. Ask around at your church, yoga class, school or elsewhere. Hiring the child of a friend or acquaintance is typically safer and more reliable than hiring a stranger, plus you might be privy to other benefits, like help with the transportation responsibilities.

Hire a pro. Local daycare providers often hire out their free time, too. Hiring a licensed child care provider comes with many built-in benefits, including First Aid and CPR training, at least some experience and a certain degree of accountability.

And, finally, trust your gut. Like with so many other decisions in parenthood, who you leave your kids with is a personal decision. Trust your instincts.

Managing Tips

Don’t assume that your basic expectations are everyone else’s. Make a mental list of your minimum expectations (aside from keeping the children safe) ahead of time and communicate them clearly. Maybe those include: no screen time, reasonable bedtime hour, front door locked after dark, and at least a minimal effort at picking up whatever disaster area has ensued.

Make a greatest hits list for the fridge. List children’s full names, insurance company, parent’s cell numbers, emergency number, house address, and allergies. Even bedtimes can all be very helpful info for the sitter.

Have the sitter come early. Sure, you pay a little more to spend 20 minutes at home while the sitter is there, but the opportunity to communicate and observe can be invaluable. While finishing up getting ready, listen to how the sitter talks to your kids, see how s/he engages them in activities, provide clear expectations about your whereabouts and return time, and give the opportunity for the sitter to ask you questions. This allows for the children to hear this information, too, which can make them feel comforted and empowered.

Later, get feedback from your kids. Kids notice, remember, and will usually tell you all sorts of things you could never learn without a nanny cam, like that the sitter was texting on her phone all night, fed them nothing but candy or let them watch YouTube videos.

Expect and allow for a little mayhem. So the kids stay up a little late, eat a few extra cookies, make “stew” from your shampoo, conditioner and hand cream. Aside from keeping the kids alive, a sitter also should make the kids happy—and your mini-vacation away also should be a little fun time for your kids.

If the kids are delighted and everything else seems in order, consider your sitter hire a success!

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