Nervous Mommy Seeks Advice

I am about to enter a new phase in my parenting. I am on the hunt for a babysitter. Because we live only five minutes from my parents' home and maybe twenty minutes from my in-laws', we usually just call them up when we need to get away from these monkeys! But in order to get out more often without wearing out our parents, I'm in the business of looking for the occasional sitter.

My mother-in-law recently mentioned that she knows the mother of a sixteen year-old girl that lives around the corner from us. "This girl enjoys babysitting," declared my mother-in-law. I think that was a hint, don't you?

I am not real crazy about a teenager being in charge of my three, very close-in-age boys, so I've put it off for a month or ten. But the time has come. I need to venture out and entrust my angels to someone soon.

I have some questions to throw out to you, the parents who are screaming at me, "Get over it already. Get a sitter and get out of the house!" When I call this girl, what do I say? "Um, hi, I'm the mom of three boys who might wear you out in thirty minutes. Would you like to come play for say two hours?"

No, but here are some genuine questions that I would appreciate your more experienced answers:

  1. I plan to ask her to come visit all 5 of us before asking her to actually babysit. What do I offer to pay for this visit?
  2. I plan to ask her for references. Is that being paranoid? I mean, I know I'm being paranoid, but how normal is it to ask for references?
  3. What do you pay for sitters these days?
  4. What else do I need to know?

I babysat when I was young. In fact, I began sitting at the age of ten years old, which is crazy to think about now! But I was a darn good sitter, if I do say so myself. I played with the kids, fed them well, followed their routine, cleaned up our messes, etc. I enjoyed it. So why am I so nervous about this from the parents' end? Because they're my kids!


Jodie said...

The half-time single mother has been through the finding a suitable sitter struggle. The first place I've looked is at church and at the school the kids go to. The girls that work in the after care at school have already been checked out and our kids know them - so it's easy to trust them. We've never been disappointed. The only bummer is that they're usually a bit older (15-19) and leave for college and stuff. How dare they! We also used our new neighbor when we first moved in. She was just 11 and Keira was 8 months old - we LOVE her! She's so responsible, had taken the baby class, and her mother was right next door if anything happened. 4 Years later she's still babysitting for us. Really, when you meet with a sitter, you'll just know - you can see immediately how they interact with the kids and you and you'll just know. You should always ask if they've taken the babysitting course . . . most hospitals offer this. It's important because they learn CPR and all kinds of other fun stuff about babysitting.

1. The Visit - I've offerred to pay them their going rate and all have refused. The visit is great. You get to see how they interact with the kids and how the kids feel about them. And don't discount what you see in your kids - kids have an amazing sense of character for other people. Kind of like dogs :-)

2. References - definitely not paranoid. If you're their first "job" - you'll have to go with your instincts. I mean, someone has to give them the first shot, right? And you'll know if this is someone you'll want to leave your kids with.

3. I pay $6/hour for both of the neighbor girls, and $8/hour for the older girls that drive to my house. Gas is spendy these days! When they visit, have an amount in mind. Then ask what they charge. The only answer I've ever gotten was "Whatever you want to pay me. It doesn't matter." But be ready in case they give you an amount and you're not willing to pay that much.

4. Make the babysitter rules clear to them. No talking on the phone, no friends over while babysitting, they can/can't eat whatever, they can/can't watch TV after the kids are in bed. Whatever your rules are. I let Rachel have friends over with her - she's so trustworthy and the kids have so much fun with her. And, it's much easier to get a sitter on Friday night when they can have a friend over ;-)

5. Make your kids' rules clear to them. I've found the best way to make sure things go as planned is to sit the kids down on the couch and tell THEM the rules while babysitter is right there. That way, the kids know you're reminding THEM of the rules, but they also see that the sitter knows, too - so they can't get away with anything. And, there are diff. rules with a sitter than with mommy. Like, no popcorn with the sitter. Too easy to choke, so even though they get that with mommy, they do not ever when a sitter is there.

6. Coming home to safe and happy kids is much more important than coming home to a clean house. Some of my sitters make the kids clean up well, others don't. I'd rather come home to a messy house and know they played and had fun than come home to a clean house and not know what they did the entire time.

Whew - there's so much I could say about babysitters. I've always had them (Jason was 2 months old the first time he was left with a sitter) and have had only 2 that I've not asked back. Go with your instincts - mommy's always know best.

Amberly said...

I share your anxieties about leaving your three kids. I am very particular about who I leave our kids with and in the past two years, our main sitters have been grandparents and a 27 year old female friend. However, when my oldest two were small, I left them with a 16 year old. And I felt very comfortable doing so. We knew her family and she had two younger brothers and was used to helping with them. She is also one of those girls who has a very natural maternal instinct.

I think your idea of having this girl over with the family first is a great idea. And go with your gut feeling. If you have any doubts, keep looking. Good luck!

Margaret said...

make sure they are red cross first aid/cpr certified.

Rocks In My Dryer said...

Absolutely NOT paranoid to ask for references. I'd probably pay a 16 year old about $7-$8/an hour. I pay college girls $10. Which is why I don't hire sitters very often...