Finding a sitter that you and your kids adore can be a daunting task. In a world that is growing more and more distrustful by the hour, how do you find someone that will love and care for your kids like you do?
My husband and I were in a really hard place a few years ago. We had just moved and left all our reliable and amazing friends and sitters behind. Both of my parents still worked full time and my sisters worked and were in school. My son was almost 2 and we knew we needed to start having regular date nights again, but how do you do that when you don’t know anyone and the people you do know are usually busy?
I will be the first to admit that Ryan and I have pretty high expectations for our sitters, but that is always met with compensation to match. In the search for a great sitter, I decided to treat it like a job interview. I mean, these girls were potentially going to watch my most prized possession! Knowing that this was going to be a long-term deal, I slipped back into manager mode and put an ad up on care.com.
Here’s the criteria that I wanted:
- Must have your own transportation (I’m not okay with them needing to take the bus, parents dropping them off or needing to take them home).
- Must live within 20 minutes of my house (If we got home late, I didn’t want them having to drive a long time to get home)
- Must love dogs (not kidding, my dog is my third child)
- Must have references
- Must be willing to undergo an in-person and working interview
So. Many. Responses.
Overwhelmingly so. It was easy to weed out the ones that just responded without even reading the ad, the ones that wanted more than I was willing to pay, or were too far away.
Steps to find a trustworthy sitter
1. Determine your needs.
How many kids do you have? Do you need them to be able to cook dinner? Do they need their own transportation? What age range are you comfortable with them being? Are they experienced in watching multiple kids? What are you willing to pay?
We were super upfront with our sitters and even said if they were willing to pick up and clean a bit, we were willing to pay them extra – as long as the care of our kids didn’t suffer for it.
2. Ask your friends for a referral or post an ad
Before you reach out to strangers on the internet, ask your neighbors or friends if they have someone they would recommend. This is how we found our second/back-up sitter after we moved last Summer and she’s amazing.
Out of 13 responses, I outright rejected 8 and sent requests to interview the other 5. Would you believe that 2 of the girls didn’t even respond to the interview request? I set up interviews for the other three at Starbucks, two of them were awesome and I immediately had a good feeling about them – one even brought a resume with references!
Momma’s – this is the most important step. After you put your ad together and before you call that name your friend gave you, determine the questions you’re going to ask. Do they meet your baseline criteria? Do they have experience? Can they provide references? And when you call those references – tell them to speak plainly. I had a mom do this for me and it saved me from getting a girl that looked great on paper but wasn’t all she lived up to once hired.
4. Interview again!
Interview in person – with or without your kid. I skipped the phone interview and went straight to in person and then a working interview at a nearby park. It totally worked and helped me get a real feel for who I was bringing into my home. Also – the park aspect helped keep a potential non-hire away from my home. I didn’t want someone to become vengeful and then know where we lived.
Both girls did great at the park. They played, got my son out of his shell and really interacted with him – and I was able to see everything from a nearby bench. I asked them both how they felt (because this is a two-way street), did they have any questions or concerns? Were they okay on the agreed amount of pay? Our house is another 3 miles away from here, is that a concern or problem? Do you require cash or is venmo okay?
5. Go On a Date!
Not with the babysitter… with your SO! Get the sitter’s availability, set up the date! Go out! Even if it’s just for a quick meal around the corner – get out of the house. Give the sitter your cell and whatever information they need to have a successful time with your kids.
Here’s where the bottle is that’s already made, here’s how you need to heat it up, here are the diapers, here’s their PJ’s and favorite book. Did your kids eat beforehand? Do they need to be fed? When is bedtime? What does the bedtime routine look like?
I typed out a schedule and put our cell numbers, and my neighbor’s info at the bottom (just in case). I also gave them our wifi password and access to Netflix. Because if my kids are in bed by 7:30 and we’re not home until 10:30, I want to make sure they have something to do!
6. Lastly, and most importantly, TRUST YOUR GUT.
Never hire someone you don’t have a good feeling about. The person may look great on paper, smile, and say all the right things – but if you don’t get a good vibe, don’t ignore that. But also, don’t let that voice of fear and dread keep you from hiring someone and trusting them. There’s a difference between someone being untrustworthy and you not trusting people.
Remember that you’re not obligated to bring someone back into your home just because they watched your kids once. If you come home and your house is a mess and the kids wake up with wet beds or are thirsty – something went wrong.
Momma’s let me tell you – this system worked for us. While one of the girls is no longer able to babysit due to life changes, the other has been with us for 5 years. She watched my daughter when she was just 6 weeks old and was still able to watch our kids after we moved. This girl walked with us as my mother in law struggled with cancer and then later passed away. She watched the kids while we were at the hospital, and then during the funeral. When I tell you that she’s become like a little sister to us, and an aunt to my kids, I mean it. The extra time I spent in the vetting process was totally worth it.
Finding a sitter for your kids is scary, but it could also be the beginning of a really great relationship with someone that becomes part of your family. There are a few great babysitting apps and websites out there – so if your friends and family are coming up dry for availability or recommendations, give the apps a try. With proper vetting, you could just stumble upon someone wonderful for your family!