This post title sounds like a jerk. Well it’s not, it’s just blunt. Maybe it’s Sagittarius like I am. Anyway, a friend of mine emailed me to discuss a predicament with her babysitter. Her babysitter had crossed some lines, been rude, and had questioned my friend’s parenting - allegedly. (Not allegedly because my friend is a liar liar pants on fire, but because I wasn’t there and it’s all here-say to me. Suddenly this post went from jerk to lawyer. Insert lawyer joke here.) ANYWAY, my friend was asking for some advice about how to fire her babysitter, and because we have such a great reciprocal email advice giving relationship, I built on the little bit of experience I have to hopefully help her out. Then I thought that it sounded like a great topic to blog about, so here we are.
I didn’t want this whole post to be about how to fire a babysitter so I figured it would be good to go over how to hire one as well. Ironically, I’ve just introduced my kiddos to a new babysitter this week so this post is all too appropriate.
Where to start? First, know what you are looking for. What is important to you in a babysitter? Make a list of these things and have the list on hand so that you can refer back to it. I find that I get caught up in conversation getting to know this new person with whom I’m trusting those two hearts that beat outside of my body, commonly referred to as my children. As a stay at home mom I find it very difficult to choose someone to have moments with my children, moments that are without me and that I will never get back. It’s a huge world of trust on their shoulders! So, have your list with you so that you don’t get distracted, much like I just did.
I like to have a new sitter hang out with us for a couple/few visits before I decide if this babysitter is a good fit for our family. I see how the kids react to her and how she interacts and plays with them. The sitters I have been most happy with have always gotten down on my kids level. They get on the floor to build blocks with the kids or sit at their little table for a tea party, or pull them up onto the couch for a story or 10 (because my kids LOVE to be read to).
Things I like to ask about:
Experience. Talking about previous experience will give you a better idea about what your sitter expects from this new situation as well as how she dealt with her previous employers and kiddos.
Pay. What are you willing to pay and for what. I always hated paying the same hourly rate both when my kids were awake and asleep. It just bothered me a bit because much of the time I left the kids was when they were in bed for the night or were napping. I now make a point of discussing a few dollars difference for babysitting the monitor vs. the kids awake and in all their glory.
Pets. We have cats and I make sure my sitters know this before they come over. If they are allergic they aren’t going to want to be at my house! I also remember being a babysitter myself and having two very excited little girls put their RATS on me before I knew what was happening. They knew what they were doing, those little munchkins. I refused to flick the rats off or scream like they wanted me to. I think it went something like, “OK that’s enough. Lets put these guys to bed now!” while I completely freaked out on the inside.
Duties. Do you want your babysitter to do dishes? Fold the kids laundry? Cook them dinner? You should discuss all of this and remember that asking nicely and treating your babysitter like a human being, with feelings and an ego just like yours, goes a long way. I’m flashing back to the movie “The Nanny Diaries” where the horrible mom refers to Scarlet Johansson, not by name but as “Nanny!” Yikes.
What’s acceptable. Go over what’s ok. Can she answer her cell phone? I like to say yes but ask that my sitter not have a long conversation distracting from keeping the peace with my kiddos. Do you allow TV (for her, for the kids, how much)? Are there areas of your home that are off limits? “Do not go in the Christian Grey playroom.”
Parenting style. How do you want her to handle disagreements, fits, & tantrums? Do you use time outs? Do you use distraction? I always like to make sure our sitters know that we don’t allow hitting. I also like to have her observe how I handle situations first and then talk about it after. I like to go over basics for our family like the fact that we don’t generally give the kids sugary treats.
Routine. I go over our bedtime routine a couple times with a sitter before I expect them to do it themselves. This way all parties know that the sitter knows what we are supposed to be doing and the kids don’t try to manipulate her to get what they want. I also leave a basic timeline listing when we generally do what. Dinner at 6pm, bath at 7pm, bedtime at 7:30pm. It can be as basic or as detailed as you are comfortable with but some guideline is nice for the sitter incase she gets overwhelmed with kiddos excited about a new babysitter friend.
Title. I generally go with Miss enter first name here as what the kids call our sitters. It’s always nice to ask your sitter what they are comfortable with or what they would like to be called.
Punctuality. If it’s important to you then request your sitter arrive 5 minutes early every time the come. When a sitter comes early to a first meeting I always try to express how I appreciate that they were early. Positive reinforcement works well for EVERYONE. Who doesn’t like to be told when they have done a good job?
Trial period. I like to let a new sitter know that we will be trying each other out for a bit to see if we are a good fit for each other. If either of us isn’t happy in the relationship then we can just move on. It’s kind of like the first few dates.
Documentation and references. I like to hire from recommendations of other moms I know but there are times when you have to hire someone completely unknown. It’s best to check their references. Get a resume from them. My husband and I like to make sure we have a photo copy of our sitter’s driver’s license before we leave them alone with the kids. Many websites offer a background check on their babysitters. A basic background check is nice to have. I’ve been know to ask, “Is there anything I should know about you?”
If you have hiring questions to add to this list please leave them in a comment below! I’m sure I’ve left something out!
So, on to the firing. It doesn’t have to be all dramatic or traumatizing. If you are just starting out then you can just let your sitter know that you don’t need their help right now. I like to ask if it’s ok if I keep their contact info incase I need them at a later date. Sometimes schedules don’t mesh well when you thought they would work out originally. Things happen.
It gets a lot more difficult when you have been working with a sitter for any period of time and there is an incident of some sort that changes your mind about your ability to trust them or your ability to work with them. Keep in mind that, because they make choices that you’re not comfortable with, doesn’t mean they are a bad person. Take time to cool off. Don’t yell at your sitter and flip out if you can at all help yourself. Of course, if I found a sitter abusing my kid, I might chase them out of the house with a stick, but you know what I mean. Make sure the incident is as bad as you felt it was at the time. Do you need to talk to the sitter to see if there is a legitimate explanation?
If it is indeed time to let your sitter go give them an exit interview. This can be done by phone without being rude. Have a list of reasons you let her go for yourself to reference. I like to let them know what I liked about them and what didn’t work for us. If someone is constantly late and make you late for scheduled appointments, this is a problem. (I try to have at least 30 minutes of time where the sitter and I are both home to transition the kids into her care. It’s just smoother though not always possible/realistic.) Try to keep your voice from being overly emotional and let your sitter know that her lateness effected your ability to _____. (Obviously a warning or discussing something like this first would be best).
I recommended that my friend let her sitter know that she had been offended by ____ or thought it was rude when _____. If you don’t let someone know how they lost your trust or respect, how will they learn not to act that way to others? The “exit interview” helps you feel like you expressed your concerns and lets your sitter know why they are no longer working for you. Don’t expect your sitter to be all apologetic about their sassy comments. Her pride has been hurt a bit in the conversation (no one likes to be told they have done something wrong) and she is most likely feeling defensive. The important thing is to explain in a calm and collected way, why you will no longer need her services. It’s up to your now ex-sitter to learn from her mistakes or to communicate better with her next employer! Like I said before, it’s always nice to include things that you liked about her work as well, even though you no longer want her to work for you.