by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
You've heard the advice. "Take some time for yourselves. Create a date night. Hire a babysitter and spend quality quiet time together." Your friends have told you that. So have your closest relatives. Perhaps a counselor has recommended the same thing.
So you're convinced and ready to proceed. Get out the phone book and call a sitter. But wait! It's not that easy.
Finding a babysitter who has a similar parenting style to your own is no easy task. More and more parents are finding this out and struggling to find a compatible, reputable babysitter, even if it's for a few hours a month. Some, aware of the recent news stories about incompetent child care, are consumed with fear and anxiety around leaving their children in the hands of a complete stranger.
If concern about quality babysitting is on your heart and mind, the following tips can help you in your search as well as relieve anxiety while you're out.
Do your homework. Take your time in this important search. Ask neighbors, friends, co-workers for recommendations. Check and double check their back ground and reputation. Find out if the person you are considering has taken child care classes, infant CPR certification, or training of any kind. There is no need to rush into finding a babysitter. Take your time.
Look outside your immediate family. Resist the temptation to let an aunt or cousin watch your children without giving the same scrutiny to them as you would a stranger. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who baby sit have all been known to molest children. Being a dear relative does not exempt someone from incompetence, a poor attitude, or consuming self-interest.
Consider hiring a younger babysitter that you can train. Begin by hiring a "mother's helper" to come to your home to play with your child while you are home. You can observe the young person's interaction with your child, offer suggestions when situations arise, and model how you want the care of your child to take place. You can then extend the length and breadth of the young sitters role as their experience increases.
Clarify the babysitter's role. Be specific and direct about your expectations for them. Remind your babysitter that safety is your primary concern while your child is in their care. You do not want their focus scattered on other responsibilities. You may have to tell your babysitter that your child must be in view at all times. Point our specific dangers, such as where the poison chemicals are kept in your home, the steep back steps, or the closeness of the road to where some neighborhood children play ball, etc. Leave the number for the poison control center by the phone, both upstairs and downstairs. Show the babysitter where you keep the ipecac syrup in case vomiting needs to be induced. Remember safety first.
Instruct the babysitter to ignore the phone and television. These are obvious distracters. It only takes a few seconds for a child to enter into a dangerous situation. Remind the sitter that you are hiring them to interact with your child and be the adult present in their life while you are gone. One cannot be fully present while watching TV or talking on the phone.
Leave your babysitter a list of fun activities that your children like to do. Set it up so that your children enjoy the babysitter coming over to play with them. Make it an event to remember with fun games and activities. If the babysitter doesn't want to get down on the ground and play with your kids, get a different sitter.
When you find a good babysitter -- keep them happy! Find out their favorite snacks/food and have them available. Write a thank you card to your babysitters a couple of times a year. When you can, give them a bonus, extra money, holiday or birthday gift. Do what you can to show your appreciation.
Consider positioning your babysitter as a valued member of your family. They can be an iatrical part in helping you raise your children. The steps you take to find that person can give you a much needed parenting break, ease your anxiety and create fun for your children too.