Just a list of the most common questions I’ve gotten from parents with regards to babysitting.
How can I find a good babysitter?
The easiest way to find a good babysitter is to ask friends with kids for recommendations.
Sure, there are babysitting apps and online services you can use nowadays.
I’m personally a little nervous about them, looking at both sides of the equation. I wouldn’t want a stranger from online babysitting my kids. And as a babysitter (and a 100lb female), I’m also very uncomfortable with the idea of going to a stranger’s house to watch their kids supposedly.
If you don’t have parent friends, you can ask for recommendations. Are you part of a church? Some churches even have bulletin boards where you can post a request.
A homeschool group? Ask around, or request an advertisement in a groupwide email.
A daycare? The daycare I worked at started a sign-up sheet for teachers to let parents know who was available for babysitting. You can always ask your child’s teachers or ask the director for recommendations.
What should I look for in a babysitter?
This is solely up to you as a parent, as different parents have different qualities that they deem more important.
Here are a few qualities I would personally urge you to consider when looking at babysitters.
1 – Intelligence
People often do babysitting without a college degree since it doesn’t require any specific qualifications. That being said, if you are looking for someone who will be spending time regularly with your children, it’s essential to hire someone on the smarter side.
First of all, they should be able to make good decisions regarding your children. That includes emergency situations, discipline, and teaching.
Secondly, if they are spending regular amounts of time with your children, they will become one of your children’s role models. Your child will be learning things like vocabulary, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence from watching them. You want someone who can set a good example.
2 – Flexibility
The obvious reason for this is scheduling. Babysitting isn’t usually a 9-5 job. It may involve odd hours, weekends, evenings, etc.
But I’m thinking a little bit beyond just flexibility in schedule. How willing are they to integrate your values into their babysitting? Do they have a set way of doing things for every family they babysit? Or do they take your parenting into account?
For instance, I like to ask parents what rules I should expect the children to follow, how they do discipline, what kind of a routine the children are used to, etc.
If your potential babysitter isn’t willing to be consistent with your parenting, you may need to consider finding someone else.
3 – Work Ethic
This may be hard to determine from an interview, but you can glean some clues. If you require references, those can also be a wealth of information.
Is this the kind of person who is going to sit on their phone all day instead of watching the kids? Are they just going to plop your children in front of the TV?
Raising kids is a lot of work. You know this. That’s what you’re paying someone else to do while you’re away.
Now, if this is a quick date night babysitting, where the babysitter arrives, feeds the kids dinner, watches a movie with them, and puts them to bed…
But if this is daytime babysitting, there are a few more things to find out. Will they take the kids outside? Will they read to them? Will they play a board game? How often will diapers get changed?
Now everyone has some activities they don’t really like. For me, it’s pretend play. For some reason, I can’t stand to pretend play with kids. So I organize our schedule with half an hour of independent playtime in between activities that I do with the kids, such as crafts and games.
It’s a little unreasonable to expect a grown adult to play with your kids ALL day long. That’s not what adults are made for. But are they just sitting on their phone ignoring your kids? You are paying them to keep them safe and happy, right?
Try to get a good read on a potential babysitter’s work ethic when determining your family’s childcare needs.
4 – Character
This is the most important quality to look for in a potential babysitter. Will they set a good moral example for your children?
Are they kind? Polite? Playful? Gentle? Firm?
Are they slobbish? Lazy? Disinterested? Careless?
Those are qualities to look for. It may be obvious that you don’t want a mean babysitter or someone who is abusive or cruel towards your children. But what about someone who is a pushover?
Consider the kind of character you want a potential babysitter to have, and determine how well the candidates match up.
What questions should I ask a potential babysitter?
Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I take a strong stance against paranoid parenting. That being said, I also believe it’s important to know the character of those with strong influence over your young children.
Here are some questions to help you get to know a potential babysitter better and determine if they are the right fit for your family.
1 – What experience do you have with your children? What ages?
Now, just because they haven’t watched a 9-month-old before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them. It just means you may need to do some additional training (think bottle warmer, sound machine, diapers, etc.). It’s nice to have an idea of how much they know and how comfortable they will be watching your children.
2 – What is important to you?
How well do their values line up with their values?
Do they value education? Religion? Physical fitness?
Do they value friendship? Family? Nature?
Again, this shouldn’t necessarily be a make or break (unless they say drugs, alcohol, and rock n’ roll… then you should send them packing). It gives you insight into their value system, which your children will pick up on, whether they intend it or not.
Sometimes, it can even be good to hire someone with slightly different – but equally noble – values than yours, because that gives the children exposure to different ideas.
For instance, you may be all about family time and reading, but you struggle to eat healthily and maintain an exercise routine. Setting your kids up with a babysitter who can model healthy eating and regular fitness might help round out your children’s values.
3 – What other responsibilities do you currently have?
You want to know how much of a priority your family will be, and this question also gives you some quick insight into other aspects of their life.
Are they in school? Will you have to work around a student schedule?
Do they have another job or another family they babysit for? How does that affect their ability to work for your family?
Do they have kids of their own? A spouse? An ailing parent?
This question can also help you tap into their work ethic.
Should I hire a male babysitter?
This question is kind of a hot button in today’s society, in multiple areas of childcare. Many traditional families are alarmed by the idea of a man caring for someone else’s children. But with the push for gender equality, especially in the workplace, daycares are specifically trying to hire men these days.
I know plenty of men who work in the daycare system, church nurseries, and babysitters. My husband babysat for other families in his church as a teenager. So did his brother.
I’ve also babysat together with my husband before and heard of other couples who did the same.
There is nothing wrong with choosing to hire a male babysitter.
There are three main aspects to think about when considering the gender of your babysitter.
1 – Safety.
You may consider running a background check on a potential babysitter, as well as obtaining reliable references from them (if this is not someone you already know well).
It’s silly to assume that a man is choosing to babysit because he is some kind of sex offender or pedophile. It’s also silly to let a stranger into your house to have control over your children while you’re gone.
Use your good judgment, and don’t choose someone you aren’t comfortable with. Could you get to know them a little bit first? Maybe even consider having them over for supper and seeing how they interact with your children while you’re there.
That being said, there is a flip side as well. If you are concerned about your children’s safety, whether at home or out in public, having a man with them may actually keep them safer. A kidnapper or house robber will think twice about breaking into a house with a man inside.
2 – Ages of children
Let’s face it: Men tend to be better with older children than with babies. Women love to sit on the couch and snuggle an infant. Men find that boring.
If you have a baby, take that into account when looking for a babysitter.
Also, piggybacking off the safety aspect, if you have a pre-teen daughter and no other children, I would suggest hiring a female babysitter. Even if nothing ever happened (which it probably wouldn’t), it’s usually best to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
3 – Activity level
Here is where hiring a male babysitter can be a boon. If you have school-age children who are interested in sports or high activity horseplay, a guy can usually keep up with that kind of energy. They may also have more detailed knowledge of sports or outdoor games.
Should the babysitter come to my house, or should I bring my kids to their house?
Both are common, and the answer depends on what is most comfortable and convenient for everyone involved.
If you have an infant or young child, it might be best if the babysitter comes to your house since you would have everything they need there (diapers, wipes, extra clothes, crib, changing table, etc.).
However, if your babysitter has kids of her own, it might be better for you to drop your child off with her. My mother babysat two kids, along with my brother and me. She integrated them into our usual routines.
Discuss with potential babysitters what the best situation would be for everyone. Consider things such as proximity (is his/her house close to your workplace? how long would it take to drive?), suitability (are there parks or other child-friendly activities closer to one house or the other? Does the babysitter have a lot of breakables or other anti-child elements?), and convenience (how much stuff will you have to bring? Could they bring their child to your house instead?).
What is the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?
I’m told that in other places in the world, there is a more substantial difference. Nannies go through formal training and are hired through an agency.
Here in the States, however, the differences are primarily the length of employment and responsibilities.
A person may be considered a nanny rather than a babysitter if they:
– Work full days for you rather than just occasional evenings
– Work for you multiple days a week
– Perform additional duties such as taking kids to/from school or other activities
– Help out with cleaning or other chores
In the grand scheme of things here, it doesn’t make much difference what you call it. I personally use the terms interchangeably when referring to myself.
How much should I pay my babysitter?
This the question I get asked the most.
I covered this pretty well in last week’s post “How to be Your Babysitter’s Favourite Family, “so if you don’t mind, I’m totally just going to copy and paste with a little bit of editing.
Here is the formula for determining how much you should pay your babysitter:
– How many hours are you asking them to work? More hours = more pay.
– How many children are they watching? More children = more pay.
– What responsibilities are you expecting of them? More responsibilities = more pay.
Here is a general estimate for babysitting prices in the state of Michigan (as a point of reference, min. wage here is $7.25).
– Rural/small town: $8-10/hour
– City/suburb: $10-15/hour
When in doubt, $10/hour is pretty reasonable for basic babysitting.
If you have more kids, you’ll probably want to add about a dollar per kid.
If you are expecting them to do extra chores such as loading/unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, etc. you’ll need to add an extra dollar or two.
It’s also fair to consider how good of a job they did. Did they fulfill your requests? Did they go above and beyond? Is the house and disaster?
If you asked them to put the kids to bed at night and give the kitchen a quick clean, but you come home at 9:30 to the kids running laps and the kitchen a disaster while your babysitter’s chilling on the couch, it’s fair to dock the pay. They didn’t do the job you contracted them to do.
You may also want to keep in mind factors such as age and experience of the babysitter, duties, and requirements (do you want them to do some cleaning? does your child have special needs that have to be regularly attended to? does your babysitter need to cook a meal or are you ordering pizza?), and your own personal income (what can you afford?).
Don’t be afraid to negotiate a little if you feel the price is unfair or more than you can afford at the time. But be aware that some babysitters may choose to move on to a different family if you pay significantly less than everyone else.
Should I offer babysitter food?
If your babysitter is working for you during mealtime, it’s typically appropriate to provide them with a meal option. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
In turn, you can expect them to clear the table and put stuff away after the meal.
If you have a nanny situation, it’s okay to ask them to bring their own lunch as they would for any other regular job.
What responsibilities can I expect of my babysitter?
This depends entirely on what you communicate to them. At the most basic level, you should expect them to watch your kids and keep them safe.
Some parents like to provide activities and crafts for the babysitter to do with the children. The level of involvement may vary from family to family, as children and babysitters have different personalities and needs.
Older children tend to be more independent and may choose to play on their own or with a sibling. An infant or a toddler will require more interaction and responsibility on the part of the babysitter.
If you are expecting your babysitter to help with chores, be sure, and communicate with them clearly. Let them know what you want them to do, where the cleaning materials are, and whether or not they are being compensated for their efforts.
I try to keep the house in at least the same condition it was in when I came, but if I cannot find your cleaning materials or don’t know how to use your dishwasher, I would rather err on the side of caution. As always, communication is key.