Before we moved to our current location, our nearest family members lived about 2 hours away, so we did not have family to watch our kids. After Jock turned a year old and I had been with him every single day, I decided that I needed a few days where I took some time to get some things done around the house and outdoors. I started searching for a babysitter that would come over and play with him while I got some work done.
Soon after, I started asking some of the people from church and my neighborhood for recommendations for babysitters. Over the two years that I tried to use babysitters, I had three good experiences, but predominantly I had really negative experiences. I probably tried 6 to 8 girls. Sometimes, I gave them chances. Sometimes they babysat 3 or more times before their true colors came out, and I realized they were unfit.
I want to note that most of the girls who babysat for me worked in church nurseries, one was the daughter of a pastor, one drove her mom’s minivan, and a lot of them majored in education at our local university. These characteristics made the recommenders and I even more confident in the babysitters from the beginning, but I soon learned not to form an opinion until after the job. Don’t judge a book or a babysitter by its cover!
Usually, I worked on chores inside and outside the house while the babysitter watched Jock, and a year later, Jock and Luke. Every once in a while, I left for an appointment, but the girls never stayed with the kids longer than 3 or 4 hours.
To be fair to the acquaintances I got the recommendations from, they usually left to work while the babysitters watched the kids, whereas I was usually in and out to observe what was going on.
Sometimes I informed the recommender of our experience with the babysitter and sometimes not. It depended on my level of comfort with the person.
I seriously began to wonder if I needed to lower my expectations. Should I just pay $10 an hour to keep my kid safe and alive? That’s all I should expect? No. My child’s time is more important to me than that!
Without a doubt, I have really high expectations, and I can always find something that isn’t quite right. I can’t even meet my own expectations of raising children, so I tried not to nit-pick. The reasons I stopped using the babysitters were for types of incidents as I have listed below:
- I left Jock with a babysitter while I went to do I forgot what, and I was gone probably around 2.5 hours. The babysitter had instructions on how to feed Jock the plate that I made and left in the frig, and I told her what time to feed him. When I returned home, I looked in the frig for something and the plate was still in there. I went to the playroom where I could hear Jock, and the babysitter was laying on the bean bag reading her phone. It was 2:00 p.m. 2 hours after he was supposed to eat. I asked her why she didn’t feed him, and she goes, “Oh what time is it?” This was on the 3rd or 4th babysit.
- I had a babysitter that was coming at the time Jock was napping. She got to study or whatever she chose to do and then watch him after he woke. On one occasion I opened the door to let her in, and Jock was right behind me. When she saw Jock, she said, “Aww man! Jock, you’re up. You’re not sleeping.” and sighed. I should have told her to leave on the spot.
- One time I came in the house from working in the yard, the babysitter and Jock came out of the playroom and met me in the kitchen. Just then, it was time for her to go. After she left, I went into the playroom later that day. Lord have mercy. It looked a tornado had gone through there. I couldn’t even believe Jock could do that much damage.
I had a roll of art paper that was attached to an easel, and the paper was strung about 10 feet out. It was wrinkled and torn. Jock colored on the toys and walls with marker. Tubs of toys were dumped and the toys scattered across the room. I actually videoed the room to send it to my family for entertainment and disbelief. I almost sent it to the girl’s parents. Till this day, I still swear she had to have taken a nap.
- Not to mention, one girl couldn’t seem to remember Jock’s name.
- Consider, in all of my babysitting hiring experiences, only ONCE did the babysitter arrive on time, and it was right on time. Every other time they were late by 5 minutes or more.
- A lot of the time, the girls did not dress in attire that was appropriate for playing with a kid. Beforehand, I always told them my kids love to play outside, and they are very active. Please dress for this. It didn’t help.
- After several babysitters left, Jock told me that they watched TV the whole time. I always left directions about the use of the TV, and it was never to watch it the whole time. He also told me they let him watch stuff on their cell phones. I give above average pay, and I ask the babysitter to be active and play.
- I find it inappropriate for sitters to wear really low cut shirts to babysit. My kids should not have “breastfeeding flashbacks” when the babysitter shows up. To illustrate, some showed up with breast boiling out of the top of their shirt. The list could go on!
Live and Learn
I resolved that the lack of communication about expectations could be the cause of the Babysitter Dilemma. I took too much for granted about what the babysitters knew.
Eventually, these experiences led me to create a guide with 50 discussion topics to have with people I’m considering to hire to watch my kids. To be sure, I thought it would help the girls to know exactly what it was I was expecting. I also printed a copy and made notes for myself to remember what to explain to them.
I added to, edited, researched, and took input from my fave mommy friends over the course of 2+ years! This guide is priceless where time and brain are concerned.
I make time at the beginning of the first babysitting session to go over the guide with the babysitter to discuss what needs discussing, and I address any questions they have. It clears up 99% of the issues.
Notably, the sitters seem amused and surprised while I go over the notes with them, so this leads me to believe babysitters are not used to parents giving them thorough instructions.
As I became more seasoned with getting babysitters, I found that the more open the communication, the better everything goes. It all boils down to the communication of expectations.
Indeed, the babysitter needs to feel trusted and respected. You can tell her what she does well, so she feels confident. In addition, I also found it is best not to treat the babysitter like your friend. In other words, just keep it professional!
Call To Babysitter Action
Don’t take anything for granted. Do not expect that the babysitter has ESP about your family. If it comes to mind, say it!
Clearly, we have got to be particular about who we leave our kids with. Just because a girl is cute, spunky, valedictorian, President of the youth group at church, Christian, recommended by the mayor’s wife, whatever, it doesn’t mean I/we automatically trust leaving our kids with her. Hopefully, my experiences lead you to agree.
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Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours! Remember to have fun, laugh and give God the glory! I love you! SS