If you’re old enough to remember the 1987 comedy “Adventures in Babysitting,” then you might have a kid or five who needs watching. But when it comes babysitting, flat tires and mafia run-ins are bad. Safe, boring and uneventful evenings are good.
A babysitter is one of the most important people you will ever employ. He or she is entrusted with the care and safety of what’s most precious to you. So of course you want to do everything you can to help your sitter succeed. Here are a few important things to keep in mind before you ever utter the words “I’ll be home by 10.”
1. Negotiate up front
Babysitting is one of the few jobs where pay is rarely discussed beforehand, and expectations tend to focus mostly on what frozen pizza to make for dinner. When you arrange a job with a potential sitter, talk specifically about pay, rules and activities you consider appropriate. It’s great to ask “What do you typically charge?” or to say “I pay ‘X’ per hour, is that OK?” Give a realistic window of how long you will be away, and do your best to stick to it.
2. Prep before you leave
Before you leave, it’s critical to make sure your house is safe and (hopefully) clean. Prepare formula or bottles, leave out diapers, pajamas, tooth brushes, etc. If possible, suggest an “exit” activity such as coloring or modeling clay that your sitter can do with the children as you depart.
3. Have a 15-minute transition time
When you’re paying by the hour, it’s tempting to dash out the door as quickly as possible. But make sure to allow enough time to go over specifics with your babysitter. Show her how to lock up the house, where the kids’ rooms are located, and how to get to emergency items such as flashlights and the fire extinguisher.
4. Write down specifics
Even a great sitter can be overwhelmed by the “information dump” that occurs as parents are leaving. Put your routine in writing where you sitter can reference it later. Include information about bedtime routines, allergies, and anything else that might help him. If you are going to be more than a couple minutes away from home, provide him with contact information for someone who could come over quickly in an emergency.
5. End with an interview
Follow up with your babysitter when you come home to find out how the evening went. Ask specific questions about when the children went to bed, what they ate, how they treated each other and the sitter, and if there were any problems. Then, make sure to pay your sitter well and thank him or her!