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Choosing the Right Babysitter


Friday night is coming up and you have big plans with your wife. Maybe it's an anniversary or birthday. Or maybe, if you are a single dad, you have a date this weekend. In any case, you need to find the right babysitter for the evening, or perhaps overnight. Who will you call? How will you find a sitter? How will you know how much to pay? And most importantly, how can you tell the sitter will be right for your kids?

Choosing a Sitter

Trying to find the right sitter with the right temperament and personality for your children can be really tough. Here are some suggestions and recommendations from experienced dads for finding the right babysitter.

Work Your Network. Probably the best way to generate possibilities for a sitter is to ask around. Check with neighbors, particularly those with children who are the age of your children. Ask coworkers, friends at church or others. If you are involved with a group like Parents Without Partners, this can also be a great resource. Start making a list of possibilities.

Do a Quick Interview. Once you have identified some possible sitters, call them on the phone and find out about their interest and their style. You can ask questions like:

  • Do you enjoy being with children the age of my children?
  • Are you able to lovingly enforce rules like bedtimes, curfews, chores, etc?
  • How do you interact with children?
  • Will you give 100% attention to them while they are awake?
  • Can you handle my child with particular needs (if applicable)?
  • Will one of your parents be available to help in case of an emergency situation?
  • Do you have your own transportation, or will I need to pick you up and take you home?

Invite the Sitter Over. Once you have a first choice, see if the sitter will come to visit with the kids for a few minutes. Introduce them to the sitter and watch the chemistry. If it feels good, then talk about the specific arrangements.

Don't Ignore the Boys. Often, dads will assume that female sitters are the only possibilities. Particularly if you have boys at home, consider using a mature teenaged boy as a sitter.

When the Time Comes

When the sitter arrives at your home, it is important to have a conversation about your expectations and the information he or she needs to know while you are gone.

The Information Sheet. Make sure before you leave that you prepare an information sheet with vital information that the sitter might need. This should include:

  • Your name, home address, and phone number. Just in case of an emergency, it is good to have the information close at hand.
  • The phone numbers of your doctor, the police department, and the fire department.
  • The name, address, and phone number where you can be reached.
  • The name and phone number of nearby neighbors to be contacted in an emergency. Check with your neighbors to make sure they'll be home.
  • The time you expect to return
  • Bedtime
  • Any snacks available for the children and the sitter

The Briefing. It is important that you take some time when the sitter arrives to go over the important information he or she will need for the evening. This would include:

  • Location of flashlights, first aid supplies
  • General layout of your home, including where to find the children's clothing
  • Rules about answering the door and the telephone while you are away
  • Verifying the family routines such as mealtime, bedtime, television watching, video games, etc.
  • Any homework and help that might be needed
  • Your expectations about the sitter's role in cleanup

What To Pay

Sometimes the toughest issue with a sitter is what to pay. During your selection process, you should ask what a sitter charges. Some will charge per hour; some will charge a fixed amount for an entire evening; some will charge more for more children. Be clear up front. If you are asking the sitter to stay overnight, that is worth a lot more. And if you want the sitter to do things for you after the children are in bed like clean the kitchen, that will probably cost you more as well.

Also, be prepared to tip the sitter if the experience was a good one and you hope to have him or her back again. Being a little generous will help the sitter say "yes" the next time you call.

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Choosing a Babysitter

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