Finding a Suitable Babysitter
Getting a babysitter who can provide complete peace of mind can be incredibly stressful, especially for working mums who might have to attend a company dinner or corporate event at the drop of a hat. Whether you have to stay an extra few hours at work or take a 3am conference call at the office, you need someone you can trust. But how do you go about finding a babysitter who's right for you?
Attributes of a Good Babysitter
Safety is paramount when it comes to babysitters. However, it's no good hiring someone whom you know is safe but your child finds boring or dull, or who never turns up on time. Here's a checklist to see if a potential babysitter is right for you:
- References: Ask for and check at least three reliable references, with phone numbers.
- Reliability and Dependability: Do they turn up on time, can they be trusted to stay late if you get held up?
- First Aid Skills: Especially important with babies and young children. If you have a regular babysitter you might want to invest in their attending a qualified First Aid course.
- CRB Check: You may feel more comfortable if your babysitter has a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, although few do. It is required for all people who work with or around children on a professional level, such as childminders and teachers.
- Right Personality: Hire a babysitter who fits in with you, your child and your lifestyle. It's not good if they tick all the right boxes – but you can't stand them!
- Special Skills: Do you need someone who speaks a specific language, knows how to cook or has a driving licence? Also, if your child loves to play football or do arts and crafts, their life (and yours) will be a lot easier if you hire someone with the same interests.
Where to Look
There are numerous ways to get the right babysitter, whether you need someone on a regular basis or just as a one-off. Each method, however, has its pros and cons...
Several online services exist to connect parents to babysitters, or you may want to try your luck at posting a card at the newsagent's, your doctor's surgery or on the local college bulletin board.
- Pros: You might strike it lucky and find someone affordable who has no other commitments.
- Cons: You never know who you're getting unless you take the time to interview them, which may not be time-efficient – especially at short notice. Also, they may not come with references, and you'll have to take what they say at face value.
Word of Mouth
Arguably the best way to find a babysitter. Talk to friends, acquaintances and neighbours, or even ask if your local nursery or school could recommend a teacher with free time.
- Pros: Someone tried-and-tested is probably safe and reliable.
- Cons: Everyone has different tastes and opinions. A babysitter that's fabulous for your neighbour's shy little girl may be completely unsuitable for your feisty, active child.
Grandparents, sisters or nieces often like to take an active part in family life.
- Pros: They probably already have a bond with your child, and they could sit for free!
- Cons: Try telling your mother-in-law you don't like the way she disciplines your daughter...
Ask your friends or other school mums with children of similar age if they'd like to trade off babysitting with you. Trading off once a month could give you a cheap night out with your husband, or even with the girls.
- Pros: It's the most affordable way of getting a babysitter.
- Cons: If there's a problem with the care provided, you may feel uncomfortable bringing it up with a friend. Also, you'll have to babysit yourself – and if their children are badly behaved spoilt brats, it'll be hard to explain why you don't want to repeat the exercise for a second time.
You might already know of someone on your road, or ask your local secondary school to recommend someone who lives locally.
- Pros: As your neighbour is young (and hopefully energetic and up for a laugh), your kids might really enjoy playing with them. He or she probably lives within walking distance, so you won't have to pay for their taxi home. Also, they may charge less than an adult.
- Cons: Be wary about trusting a teen with a child under age three. They also probably are not well-versed in first aid issues, and may not know what to do should an emergency arise.
Look online or in the phone book to see what's available in your area.
- Pros: You can hire someone at extremely short notice, and don't have to worry if you stay out until 4am.
- Cons: Leaving your child with someone you don't know, even if they are CRB checked, is not something all parents would want to do. Also, an agency will charge extra for a placement fee – every time you use them.
Finding a decent babysitter is time-consuming, but a worthwhile investment. The busier you are, the more you need help you can trust. Good luck!