How To Find A Great Babysitter
If your number one excuse for a dismal social calendar and the lack of a regular date night is that you can’t fine decent child-care, than help is on the way. I know you think it’s impossible to find a worthy sitter. You’re convinced that once you peel your screaming child off your leg who’s begging you not to leave, that this teenaged neighbor you hired will do nothing but obsessively text her BFF while your child decides to play dolphin trainer in the unguarded pool. All this trauma so that you can go out and enjoy a mediocre movie (that you could watch on DVD) and eat a meal (that you could prepare faster and cheaper at home).
You deserve a kid-free night
But the truth is you can’t stay home every night with your child. It’s not good for you marriage, your social life, or your sanity. Make it your mantra. “I deserve a life. I deserve a healthy marriage. I deserve my brain cells.” Repeat while peeling said child from your extremities. I know your kid will make an impressive performance that makes you feel guilty to no end, but once you’re out of earshot and you have a reliable sitter, she’ll be gleefully skipping around the yard playing pony lessons with her new bestest friend.
Once you’ve accepted the fact that leaving your home for brief stints of adult amusement is ultimately better for your marriage (which in turn is better for your child), you’ll need some moral support and guidance in your hunt for the perfect (or generally acceptable) babysitter.
Who makes the best babysitter?
There are competent, loving people out there who will take wonderful care of your children. There are also creepy people, negligent people, and people who think that it’s acceptable to charge $18 an hour and watch E! True Hollywood Story while the kids decide to finger paint the dog. Also, just because someone is a blood relative doesn’t make them a worthy candidate. If your mother-in-law would relish an opportunity to watch the kids for you, but lets them drink Diet Coke against your wishes and insists that adult-strength Tylenol is the same thing as Junior Tylenol(only cheaper), it’s worth paying someone else to watch the kids.
Where to look
But how do you find that “someone else”? Here are some ideas where a great sitter might be lurking:
- Mommy-N-Me Teacher/ Preschool Aide - This pool of professionals is a veritable gold mine of underpaid, overqualified, baby-crazy educators. They’re frequently studying for better underpaid jobs as teachers or child-care administrators. Don't let their fancy degress fool you -- they are still willing to sing “Tuna Fish” at the top of their lungs and have memorized recipes for Ooblick, Gak, and Play-Doh.
- College Child Development Department - Along the same lines as the preschool pool, your local college or junior college child development department is brimming with starving students, eager to implement their newfound understanding of Piaget’s developmental stages (and equally eager to make rent this month).
- Babysitting Co-op - If every penny you earn has been allocated to the diaper, milk, and Robeez fund and you simply can’t scrounge together enough for a night out, consider spearheading a babysitting co-op. The way this works is a group of frugal, struggling, or granola-y parents agree to trade babysitting duty so that everyone gets a night out once a month. These can be moms from your playgroup, breastfeeding support group, preschool, soccer team, etc.
- Agency or Referral Service - If you have a history of bad judgment when it comes to hiring, dating, and setting people up, you may want to employ a reputable agency in your hunt for a child-care provider. They will charge you a fee, but their screening process entails more than “a good vibe” and will offer you reassurance that your sitter isn’t hiding an outstanding warrant, a lead foot, suspended license, abuse charges, or mafia connections.
- The Misunderstood “Manny”- What first comes to mind when you see a man-nanny or “manny” caring for someone’s young children? People automatically assume he must be gay (not that there’s anything wrong with it) or have a living room frighteningly full of irresistible arcade games and toys. This myth must be dispelled. Sometimes a male caregiver is exactly what you need. Are you raising unruly boys with a husband who travels or works late far too often? Are you negotiating a divorce and wishing there was a man around for your kids to spend time with? Or maybe your jock husband is coaching his way through fatherhood while your artistic son would love nothing more than a manny to sit and build elaborate medieval models with him. While the word “babysitter” may not conjure up images of a deep voice and facial hair,it can certainly be a possibility worth exploring.
- Borrowing Babysitters - Obviously it would be lovely if you could just borrow a sitter who had been tried and tested on someone else’s kids. This is a great resource if a) your friend is okay with farming out such a precious asset (always assure them that they will retain first rights). Or b) your friendship with her is less important than having a good babysitter on hand. Keep in mind, though, that nanny-poaching is a crime punishable by exclusion from birthday parties, purse parties, and family barbecues.