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Hiring a sitter can be seriously stressful for working parents who need full- or part-time childcare. Follow these steps to find someone who will (hopefully) become a crucial part of your squad.
There’s no such thing as too many questions
You can never learn enough about the person caring for your kids, so don’t worry about coming off as intrusive. Make a list in advance of what’s most important to your family. You don’t have to interrogate her like she’s on Law & Order, but be on the lookout for red flags. A casual convo about hobbies can give you insight into her personality. Don’t forget to ask about important things like her own kids, volunteering, college classes or other jobs that could interfere with her schedule. You want to feel confident your sitter will be around when you need her most throughout the year.
Discuss the big issues up front
When you start to feel comfortable with the person or sense a connection, BAM! It’s time for those awkward nitty-gritty questions: How much will she get paid? How much vacation and sick time will she get? What’s the summer schedule? Is overtime ever an option? If it’s not, you need to make sure your sitter never exceeds her hours. If you go on vacation, will she still be paid? Is she expected to clean? Drive? Will she get paid extra for either? Make all these things clear from the start to avoid issues down the road.
Show them the REAL family
Don’t just trot the kids out for a brief meet and greet. If you like him, have him come over for a few hours at night to see your family dynamic in all its chaotic glory. If you have pets and he’s not keen on animals, let him meet Fido at the interview. It’s better to find out his feelings about dogs now before the kids get too attached.
Don’t underestimate an older babysitter
She might have raised her own kids already, meaning she won’t have to rush home to tend to her young family’s needs. Not to mention, experience and wisdom go a long way. And there’s even a chance your older caregiver will still run circles around you and your little ones.
Location, location, location
Hire someone who’s familiar with your town and can drive. Your baby will get older and into after-school activities before you know it. Your sitter will need to navigate your community for playdates and practices. If she lives close by, that’s a bonus—it eliminates potential problems like public transportation, rush hour traffic and weather delays.
Hire a sitter who respects and reflects your parenting style so you can tag team homework, science projects and playdates with far fewer temper tantrums. If your parenting strategies are too different, he might not be the right fit. That said, you also need to accept the fact that no one will ever replace you. Some things will be done differently in your absence, but everyone will survive.
Talk to her previous employers
Before you have her carting the kids around, talk to her previous employers to get a sense of her work ethic. If you’re on a tight schedule, you don’t want someone who’s constantly late. If she’s very rigid about her routine and you’re more go with the flow, that might not jive. If you expect your house to be kept tidy and she’s known for being super fun but also super messy, that’s an issue you’ll want to seriously think about before hiring her.
Cope with feelings of jealousy
You may not be there to see or hear all of the monumental “firsts,” but once a good relationship’s established and your sitter feels like part of the family, it won’t matter as much that he was the person seeing them. Take advantage of technology and have him FaceTime you during those sweet moments.
Pick your battles…but don’t be afraid to be the boss
Learn to bend a bit when it comes to things like lunch, afternoon snacks or nap times. You don’t want them snacking on junk food or McDonald’s every single day, but an occasional treat won’t matter in the long run. If she’s constantly disobeying the house rules, you’ll need to have a serious talk.
Plan for the long haul
If you score your very own Mary Poppins, the kids may not be ready to part with her after she was an integral part of their lives for so long. Because in the end, a great sitter will always feel like a part of the family.
Lori Price is a freelance writer based in Sparta.