Many mums struggle to leave their pride and joy with a babysitter. Placing your confidence and trust, along with the most precious thing in your world, in the arms of a complete stranger is a big ask. That said, every mum needs a break, so it's worth your while doing a bit of research to make sure your long-awaited night out is both wonderful and worry-free. Here are some tips for choosing a babysitter that you'll feel comfortable with.
Use a family member or friend whenever possible
You'll feel much more comfortable leaving your child with someone you and your child knows and trusts. The added assurance that the person minding your little one loves and cares for them almost as much as you do, is invaluable. Don't be afraid to ask a close friend as well as your parents or in-laws to do you a babysitting solid, you'll be surprised at how much good friends want to help you out, especially if they have kids and you can return the favour.
If you must use a stranger, ask around first and check references
Like anything, the best recommendations are from friends. Ask for babysitter recommendations from other mums you trust in your mother's group, at kindy, at the school gate, or mums you work with rather than simply plucking a name from the phone book or local rag.
Once you have some names, it's vital that you check references. These may come from other families who have used the sitter, school teachers, employers or community leaders. Try to contact more than one reference so you're confident that the people you're talking to are true contacts and not a friend posing as a past client.
When you contact families the sitter has worked for, ask how many kids they have. Also, find out if they ever had any problems with the way the sitter interacted with their children. Suss out as much as you can and jot down notes next to the sitter's name. This will help you to pre-evaluate them and work out if you're going to meet them in person.
Pick quality over price
The more babysitters that you have to choose from, the more likely it is that you'll find someone who ticks all of your boxes – including price. However, if you have limited options and are stuck between getting a sitter with numerous quality references, or someone who will work for cheap, always dish out the extra money. Like anything, you pay for quality. Anything can happen while you are away and you need someone with experience to ensure that your child will be as safe as possible. This includes paying more for a sitter that has first aid certifications, or has had experience in childcare centres or pre-schools.
Have a meet and greet
Once you've done a background check, the next step is to invite the sitter over for a meet and greet. This is your chance to ask questions and to see how he or she interacts with your kids. This is important because you'll be able to get a feel for how much your prospective sitter likes kids and how your little ones warm to them too. Be sure to ask about the sitter's training in First Aid or CPR. Discuss what he or she may do in certain emergency situations. It's ok to treat this meeting like a job interview, because that's actually what it is – you're paying for a service so you want to be sure the person you hire has the skills and experience that matches your criteria. A competent sitter will be able to answer these questions and prove he or she can handle the job.
Plan an early arrival for the babysitter
After you hire a sitter, have him or her come to your house a half-hour before you are to leave to go over all emergency issues. To make your (and the babysitter's) life easier, print out and fill in this emergency numbers contact sheet and be sure the sitter knows where to find it.
Call home to check on the kids and the babysitter
Be sure to call home, even if you left feeling completely comfortable with your new sitter, the first night you leave your little ones in their care. Call at a time when you may be able to head off a potential problem, such as half an hour after bedtime when the babysitter may be dealing with bedtime tantrums. You could suggest some ways for the sitter to coax your little one into bed and you'll also get an idea of how they're coping with the situation. Just make it a short and sweet call so you don't disrupt any order that the sitter may have put in place.
Go somewhere local
The first night your new babysitter looks after your kids, try to go out somewhere local. This will make you feel calmer knowing that should anything go wrong, you're not too far away to race home if need be. Likewise, don't make the first night a late one, allow for a bit of debrief time with the sitter after you come home to check how they went. This will also allow them to ask you any questions or tips on how they can better manage your kids next time.