One of the most nerve-wracking experiences a new parent has is leaving his or her child alone with a baby sitter. How do you know who is the right person to trust your baby with? And once you've found a great sitter, how do you keep him or her?
Finding a Baby Sitter
There are teenaged girls in every neighborhood in America who would love to earn some extra cash baby sitting. But of course not all of them are trustworthy, trained or responsible, especially with young children.
You can also find adult baby sitters or nannies that can take care of your child when you need to be away. Adults will charge more than children, but the peace of mind you get from having a grown-up with a car in the house may well be worth it.
If you aren't sure where to begin looking for a baby sitter, ask everyone you know who has small children. They will likely have recommendations for you. Also, ask around your doctor's office (the patients or the doctor). The office may keep a list of qualified people.
Another place to look is a local hospital that provides baby sitter training (the Red Cross or YMCA might also provide these classes). The program director may be able to get you a list of recent graduates, or have one of their students contact you. This is a particularly handy resource because you know ahead of time that the people you will talk to are certified in infant CPR and have had some training.
There are also many online services that make finding a babysitter much easier. These services range from just listing sitters in your area to actually qualifying the sitters ahead of time and actually doing the scheduling. Services like SitterCafe or SitterCity generally provide a list of sitters in your area with little to no pre-screening. Services like BabysitEase will also pre-qualify, interview, and do reference and background checking. Additionally, they will schedule the sits for you through an online account. You can access their site at www.babysitease.com.
Interviewing a Baby Sitter
Once you have a few names, it's time to contact potential sitters and invite them over for an interview. You will want to meet them in person so you can get a feel for their attitude and how they relate to your child, if possible. Do you like him? Does he seem to get along with your kids? Is he comfortable, confident, clean? All of these factors should play a role in your decision.
Ask for references and call the people your baby sitter names. Ask them how they liked the sitter, if they had any problems, if they are still using her and why or why not, if they recommend her to friends. This information is valuable because it lets you know how your sitter works in a real-world situation (and that she has had some experience before).
If you don't get a name from a training program, make sure your potential sitter has had training in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. You never know when emergency training will come in handy.
During the interview is also a good time to talk about money. Ask around to other people you know who have kids and see what they pay sitters. The sitter will likely have a rate she quotes, but you should know what to expect and how much you're willing to pay before you start talking money. Consider also that you might pay more when you need a sitter late into the night or for an overnight stay.
If you're dealing with a young baby sitter, ask if you will be expected to provide transportation to and from your house, or if he can get a ride to your house if you give him a ride home, or whatever other way you can work out the transportation. You want this to be clear from the beginning so you don't think your sitter is late when she thought you were picking her up.
A lot of picking a sitter has to do with gut instinct, so take you time talking to and watching your potential sitter at work. Then pick the person you think will be best for you and your child.
Having a Good Sitter Experience
You should have a contact sheet available for the sitter each time he or she visits (or at least the first few times) that includes your name, the address and phone number of the house, cell phone or other contact numbers, where you will be at what time and any special instructions. If you child has food allergies or needs to be given medicine, write it down.
Include the child's bedtime, what you usually do to get ready for bed, perhaps the child's favorite movie, activity or toy in case he needs to be subdued.
Add information on how to contact the child's doctor if you have an emergency number for him or her. Leave contact information for your next-door neighbors as well, in case there is an emergency.
Show the sitter how to work the security system, if there is one, where to find plates and cups in the kitchen, where the smoke detectors are and how to get out of the house in case of fire. Give them more information than you think they'll need, so if there is an emergency they will be prepared.
Keeping a Good Baby Sitter
If you have a good sitter your child likes, you will want to keep him or her as long as possible. Make it easy for him or her to keep coming back by paying well, returning home on time and making things around the house as easy as possible.
That means try to keep the house tidy before the sitter comes over, keep things she will need in the same place from visit to visit, suggest activities you haven't already done with the child that day, etc. The better you can make the experience for the sitter, the better the experience will be for the child, which makes everyone happy.