Remember being a babysitter? And now, you’re hiring babysitters. Oh, how the roles have shifted, right? We asked Scarlet from the Family Focus blog to talk about the expectations she places on sitters, coming from being a sitter herself. How does she find the right fit for her family?
I remember my first babysitting job. I was 12 years old (a kid myself!). The parents just wanted to go out for dinner and I thought to myself, I can do this – easy. And when the parents left, I had a moment of panic: I was alone with two kids!
But it went by super quickly. The kids and I got busy coloring and playing pretend games. I was surprised how quickly it went before the parents got home. It was the perfect gig: I had fun and got paid.
The jobs kept getting better. And so did I. I developed a close relationship with each kid and loved hearing them get excited when I arrived. Sometimes I had to come up with games or activities to keep it moving along but most of the time, the kids knew what they wanted to do and whether it was hide and seek in the dark or pretending to be their pet, I obliged. (Ruff! Ruff!)
Besides the pay – (I got $5 an hour!) – not much has changed in terms of the high expectations I place on sitters now that I’m a mom of two.
Today, I hire babysitters to get work done over school breaks, run errands or go out with my husband.
My ideal babysitter? Someone who devotes herself completely to playing with the kids and having fun (while making sure my kids are safe, of course!). And I think there’s a difference between the Type-A "planned activity" sitter and someone who just enjoys being with kids. Both are great but the right fit depends on your kids. In other words, if my kids have been happily busy building blocks and having books read to them, I'm a happy camper. No need to go above-and-beyond. But I certainly know families where the kids do better with lots of planned activities. Bottom line: If the sitter is anxious, watching the clock or checking her phone, the kids feel the tension. The main thing is finding someone who makes my kids enjoy my time away too.
Here's how I scope out the best fit:
- Prepare a list of interview questions to ask the candidate so that you don't forget them – and take notes. If you're comparing people, you won't want to mix them up in your head.
- During the interview, ask questions to help you determine the candidate's experience level. From my time spent as a sitter (and a mom), I’ll ask about activities they like to play and how they make "sitter time" special for the kids.
- Ask for examples of how they've been patient with children in the past, how they've taught a child something, how they've navigated a tricky situation (like a kid who won't eat dinner!), and how they have handled an emergency.
- Ask WWYD Qs. This means, what would you do if... the doorbell rang, if my daughter fell and hit her head, if she won't go to bed. Go through different scenarios that might happen and see if you like how each thinks on her feet.
- Share information about your children with the candidate to see how they react. Any allergies, special needs or routines should be discussed so that you can make sure your caregiver is comfortable with what you expect.
- Chat openly about your children and see if she can relate to them. I love finding someone I think will have a great connection with my kids – who they might see as a role model.
- Check references and run a background check. Even when getting a reference from a friend, I'll still ask that friend a bunch of questions about the candidate. Then it's important to check the person's personal history online (Google her!) and through a more professional background check.
If anything, the expectations on babysitters has only increased in the past 20 or so years – which is probably why they get paid more, too! But my bottom line is to look for someone who is personable and engaging and to always trust my gut feeling.
Do you think the babysitting job has changed over the years? And how do you find the right fit for your family?
What do you think?