A few years ago, you would have had to basically kidnap me in order to get me out of the house, kid-free.
It’s not that I didn’t love a good night out on the town; it’s just that I didn’t want to leave my baby at home. My son was a horrible sleeper, always sick, and was also my first kid. There was a strong chance, at least in my head, that the babysitter was going to break him.
Enter Kid Number Two. Something happens after Kid Number Two. All of a sudden you decide your kids are fine, and it’s time to try to squeeze into your jeans and get your groove back.
Well, in all seriousness, while we definitely go on more dates after baby #2 arrived, I’ve also started a new career which means my sitters are now on speed dial. Since my kids’ new preschool wasn’t starting until September, we decided to have a few babysitters come to our house during the week. With our “summer of sitters” almost over, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
This may be a bit of a stretch, or even a little “Forest Gump-y”, let’s compare babysitters to a box of chocolates. Every sitter who walked into my house looked great on the outside and talked-the-talk, but did I really know what I was going to get? My son is now 3 and thinks that everyone who enters our house is his best friend, so he isn’t always the best to give “performance reviews.”
Yes, some sitters brought toys and activities they thought my kids would enjoy playing with (SO COOL!).
Some cleaned the playroom so it sparkled (NICE TOUCH, GIRLS!)
One even did my dishes and exclaimed, “Well, the baby was sleeping and I thought your son and I could do it together!” (UM, I LOVE YOU.)
However, I don’t expect any of this special treatment.
In fact, all I have are TWO simple requests from our babysitters:
1. Please keep my kids safe.
I have a 1-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy. They love to run, play, get into things, and mess with each other. Please just watch them to make sure they don’t fall off the couch or put each other in headlocks.
2. Please PLAY with them.
Nothing pains me more than the idea of a babysitter not interacting with my kids. I don’t expect to come home to my 3-year-old singing songs in French or anything, but I do expect that he has done something along the lines of drawn a picture, read some books, played trains, or put together puzzles.
These two requests seem easy, right? You would think they would be the top 2 items under the job description of a babysitter. However, with everyone being so addicted to social media, I do worry that Instagram may be getting more attention than my kids. I like to think of checking social media as a modern day “smoke break.” Play with my crazy kids, check out what your BFFs are posting on Facebook for a few minutes, and go back to work (aka paying attention to my children). I mean, it is what you’re hired to do.
I must reiterate that I am lucky to have WONDERFUL babysitters who we adore. My son repeatedly asks when they are going to come back to play with him. However, this post was inspired by our one bad experience where my kids were trumped by an iPhone and ignored for 3 hours. The baby wasn’t held and my son wasn’t played with. Although nothing “bad” happened, I felt disappointed and guilty.
What have I learned?
- When meeting a new sitter, state your expectations. You can blame it on a past bad experience. “I once had a sitter who sat on her phone all night, can you imagine? I’m sure I don’t need to ask you to put the phone down and hang out with my kids.”
- Ensure they have activities. Pick up some fun crafts at Hobby Lobby or score big at the Target $1 section.
- Make a list of things to do. Your sitter may not realize it’s okay with you to grab a handful of kitchen utensils and toss them in the kids’ water table for easy outdoor fun.
- Speaking of social media, don’t be afraid to “friend request” your babysitters. The younger crowd tends to show their real personalities/hobbies on these sites.
- Leaving your kids in the care of others can be emotional (even when an adult beverage with other grown-ups is REALLY needed)!
What advice would you give a new mom who’s looking for a sitter?
What tip have you learned the hard way?
**This post originally appeared on September 4, 2014.