In a perfect world, parents and the babysitters they hire would have open, honest discussions about each other’s expectations and feelings about a babysitting job. Yet, although they both have kids’ best interests at heart, there seem to be a lot of unknowns and assumptions between the two camps. For instance, parents who want to do the right thing can feel clueless about whether they should give their babysitter a ride home or have a meal on hand for her to eat with the kids… let alone what they are expected to pay her to watch multiple kids, carpool to activities or cook dinner. Let’s shed some light on issues that play big roles in keeping families and their sitters happy by revealing seven “secrets” babysitters wish parents knew:
1. “Mothers (and fathers) really do know best. Please share some inside intel!”
No matter how much childcare experience your babysitter has, she’s by no means an expert on your kids. She needs your direction to know how best to care for them. For example, give her advice on how to console your baby when she’s fussy, and explain the extended intricacies of your toddler’s bedtime routine. If your little guy is accustomed to hearing Goodnight Moon before he drifts off, sharing that detail could save both your child and your sitter a whole lot of grief and even make or break the night. Similarly, if your sitter is spending a long period of time with your kids, give her some direction on how to spend the day, such as suggestions for activities your kids enjoy and your typical meal/snack schedule. If you really want to help make the day a success for everyone involved (and improve your chances of getting her to commit next time!), leave a simple craft or game she can play with the kids, or tee up a movie the kids are looking forward to watching.
2. “I try to be as flexible as possible, but please try not to be late.”
It’s one of the biggest pet peeves of every sitter. Everyone is late once in a while, and being late is often out of your control. But, try to be home when you’ve committed to returning and if you’re running late, give your sitter as much advance notice as possible. Remember that she’s happy to help when she can, but she has other responsibilities, plans and jobs that often keep her on a tight schedule, too.
3. “I’m happy to tidy up, but I’m not here to do housework.”
You’re hiring a sitter to take care of and entertain your kids, not clean your house. It’s not too much to expect that she clean up after the kids — pick up toys they’ve played with, throw muddy socks in the laundry basket, and wash dishes after a meal she’s fed them. But, it’s unrealistic to expect a babysitter to handle heavy housework, even while the kids are napping. To ensure you’re on the same page, have a candid discussion about job duties and expectations.
4. “Babysitting one child is not equal to babysitting two or three.”
Hourly babysitting rates vary considerably depending on your location, the sitter’s experience, job responsibilities, and number of children. On average, if you have more than one child, expect to pay $2 to $5 more an hour for each additional child. Be sure you know your sitter’s rate before you hire her so no one is left feeling cheated or surprised at the end of the night.
5. “A child’s bad behavior can be tough, but not knowing how you would like me to handle it can be tougher.”
Keeping the peace and ensuring everyone is safe and sound is an important part of babysitting. Help your sitter avoid and correct your child’s behavioral mishaps by sharing your family rules and letting her know how you’d like her to help enforce them. She needs to know if a time-out is a powerful tool in your house or a phrase your child has never heard. Remember to clue her in on problem areas, such as your toddler’s proclivity to bite or his big brother’s fascination with Sharpies.
6. “I don’t expect a meal, but please don’t forget that I get hungry, too!”
It’s not always possible for your babysitter to squeeze in a meal for herself before she arrives, especially if she’ll be with your kids at a mealtime. If she’s feeding your child, it’s nice to have something for her to sit down and enjoy with him. There’s no need to prepare or leave her a special meal or stock your fridge before her arrival, but arrange for her to order a pizza for the kids and herself, or to share whatever your child is eating. It’s also fine to simply encourage her to help herself to anything she can find in your kitchen. She’ll appreciate that you’ve thought of her needs, too.
7. “Offering to pay for my cab or subway fare home shows me you care about my safety.”
As you know, life in the city doesn’t come cheap. It’s expensive to have a night out without kids, but don’t cut corners on getting your sitter home safely. Consider her transportation cost (at least her trip home) a part of your childcare costs. A good rule of thumb is to always offer cab or subway fare if she doesn’t have her own car and you aren’t giving her a ride home.
For more truths from both sides of the fence — parents and sitters — check out UrbanSitter’s Infographic: “She Said, She Said.”
It includes insights from a survey of more than 400 sitters and parents across the United States who were asked to reveal their expectations of a babysitting job, including pay, responsibilities, and the biggest challenges.