I was inspired to write this post after a wide variety of baby-sitting experiences. I have been babysitting for twenty years (since I was 11!) and am still doing it.
I consider myself to be a reliable, hardworking and flexible child care provider. However, I am at a time in my life where I am willing to put up with less and less from parents.
Here are some things that make jobs awesome that you might want to consider doing if you adore your babysitter and want to keep him/her around.
1. Plan in advance.
I cannot stress this enough. If you need a sitter, solidly book them as soon as possible. I think the hardest thing for me is when something is tentatively scheduled but not officially on my calendar, and then people make the assumption that since we've talked about it, I have reserved that time.
Good sitters have incredibly busy schedules, so make sure you let them know that you are serious about booking them, and then give them a solid time so that they can plan their day around it.
If at all possible, try not to change the time on them - they have lives too, and it WILL affect their other commitments.
For example: Someone books me two weeks in advance. They tell me to be there at 6pm. I agree. I am hanging out with friends all day, and then leave my friends at 4:30 on the dot to go home, get ready and leave. Then the person who booked me asks if I can come at 7:00pm instead. That's a dead hour for me now - an hour I could've used to extend my well-deserved leisure time.
Things happen, but if you do this, it is appreciated if you pay for the hour you just disrupted. It is no fun to have things changed up on you, especially when you have commitments, traffic, commute times, etc to factor in.
2. Feed your sitter well.
This is not required, but it is GREATLY appreciated. It's hard going to a house and having nothing to eat. I often try to bring my own food with me, but sometimes I am just busy and don't get to it.
My favorite families offer to get me take out and ask what I want. Again, not required but completely appreciated.
A family I used to sit for in my early twenties always got me a nice little salad from the deli. I sat for them every damn weekend, and I didn't even like their kid that much. But they appreciated me and made it worth my while to go over there.
3. Trust their judgment.
I assume that people hire me because I have lots of childcare expertise. My job is to honor the parent, but when the parent doesn't honor my capabilities and experience, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
A check in here and there from the parents during their night out is fine, but a play by play of the night via phone or text leaves me feeling like I may be an idiot, even though I know I am not.
4. Let them know when you will be back as close to the time as you can.
It's hard when someone says "Hey! We'll be back at eleven!" and you tell your boyfriend you will meet them at a bar at 11:30 and buy him drinks with all your babysitting money and then the people you're sitting for don't come home until 1:00am.
It's nice when people text and say "Hey, can we stay out a couple more hours?" but at the same time, what am I going to say, no? This puts me in an awkward position if I had plans after. I know I can always say no, but it feels funny.
It's also awkward when someone tells you that they will be out until 2am and then comes home at 11pm. This means you're making at LEAST $45 less than you were planning on - and realistically, a lot of sitters rely on that money. We wouldn't be giving up our evenings and weekends to be making that money if we didn't.
My preference? I love it when before parents leave they say "Do you need us home at a specific time?" This gives me the opening to say "Yeah, I'm going to go get raging drunk with my boyfriend after (or something like that)" or just "Well, you said that you were planning on being home around ten, so I had planned on going out with Dave around 11." If I don't have plans I just say "Nope, I'm all yours tonight! Just keep me updated on when you'll be home."
Once I had a family tell me they'd be home at 11pm and they came home at 3am - and I had a 7am flight to catch the next morning. Not fun.
5. If you cancel, try to send a little something via PayPal or tack on a little extra money the next time around.
Again, a lot of times I depend on the money and plan my day around the job. Once I had an appointment that was thirty minutes north of my home. I had an afternoon appointment in the same area, that ended at 3:00pm, and ended up hanging out in the town until the job at six, only to be canceled on at 5:00pm. That sucked.
6. Provide a blanket and pillows.
I'm often tired when I sit, so being able to take a nap after the kids are asleep if I need to is amazing. Even if I'm not needing a nap, I often get cold. Everyone runs at a different temperature, so it's hard when someone's house is cold and I don't have anything to cover up with.
7. Step one: write down WiFipassword. Step two: tape it to fridge next to the words "WiFi Password." Step three: tell your sitter that the WiFi password is on the fridge.
8. As often as possible, round up on pay. Especially if they drove over 15 minutes to get there. Especially if you like them and want the to come back. Especially if you negotiated down significantly on their hourly rate initially.
9. If at all possible, have your kids watch a movie while the sitter is there. Again, not required, but it makes the night SO much easier. It's hard to be "on" all day - having a movie can give us some much-needed mental downtime.
10. Be nice. Treat your sitter like a person. Ask about their lives and then listen to the response for 45 seconds. If you don't like or trust them, don't hire them again.
Almost every family I have sat for over the years has been absolutely wonderful. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions - no need to follow each one. They are just things that make my busy life feel so much better.