How is babbysitter formed?
May 13, 2010 5:08 PM   Subscribe

What do you look for in a babysitter? What specific skills or traits do you consider to be most important?

We have a toddler-year-old who we love. We love her greatly, but the idea of spending some time away from her in the evening from time to time is nice too.

Given a large pool of babysitters, how do you separate out the chaff so you can give some attention to a shortlist of carer candidates? We'd prefer not to have to personally contact the longlist.
posted by lowlife to Work & Money (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The best baby-sitters are hand-me-downs -- the beloved and reliable babysitter of friends or family who are moving or whose kids are getting older and no longer need as much care. You will have observed them in action; heck, they've probably already met and spent time with your kid.

The second best are referred by people you trust.

You do not need to be hiring a baby-sitter off Craigslist. If you are tempted to do so it means you to find more friends who are parents.
posted by MattD at 5:13 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: We had good luck with; they do background checks, and you can check out profiles and call references. We interviewed the ones we used personally, and the first time, were only gone for a few hours and came back a little "early". Son was asleep, sitter was studying on the couch.

None of our friends close by have a kid; we had no one to give us references, no handy teenage relatives, not even a nice teenage kid who lives in our neighborhood. It was hire a sitter or stay home.

The two women we ended up using several times were both nice ladies; college students, working their way through school, and our son was at ease with them within a few minutes.

As far as what we looked for (this is kind of random but)

--Did they have a background check available on the site
--Did they have several good refs
--Did they care enough about their online profile to spellcheck, fill everything out, talk about what they loved what they were doing?
--Did they set off any red flags in any way? With a large list to choose from, no need to try to puzzle out why someone sets off your radar, just move on.
posted by emjaybee at 5:21 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: If you're just looking for someone for a few hours on occasional evenings, teenage girls are often your best bet, but you'll want someone who has experience and good references. When was my daughter was a young teenager, she took a babysitting course (basic first aid, CPR, general childcare dos and don'ts) offered by our local health department in conjunction with the Red Cross, and once she successfully completed it she got to add her name and phone number to a list of babysitters that was posted on a community message board. So maybe call your local health department or Red Cross office and see if they still have anything like that (at least you'll know it's a list of girls -- and boys -- who take babysitting seriously).
posted by amyms at 5:46 PM on May 13, 2010

And seconding emjaybee about red flags and your radar. Even though you should try not to be an overly-paranoid person looking for faults in every candidate (that's not healthy for you or your little one), you should always trust your instincts if a babysitter makes you uncomfortable.
posted by amyms at 5:49 PM on May 13, 2010

Meet their children.
posted by gjc at 6:49 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: I like to hire teenaged girls (or boys!) whose families I know; that way they feel responsible to both me and to their parents, and usually one of their parents is at home and "on call" in case the sitter has questions but doesn't want to call the parent. Your local norms may vary. I also have a sense from knowing the teen already whether they're reliable.

I hear college education and early childhood departments are fruitful places to look for sitters, as well.

For weeknights, I trade sitting with a mom I know who lives nearby. Her kids are a little older than mine is, but he loves to watch the big kids play and they love to read to him and be bossy. Weeknights are hard to get teen sitters, but families with kids are usually home in the evening (or at least part of it) so when both of us (or both of them) have to be out for the evening, we've been able to watch each other's kids. We were not, like, BFFs, but when she asked if I'd watch her kids when she and her husband had to go to a dinner, I was not only pleased to do so, but glad she'd asked because now I knew someone *I* could ask, and the trading has been really helpful for both our families (and our kids love it!).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:05 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: I'm a high-demand babysitter in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, and I usually have more jobs than I know what to do with because the families talk about me to their friends. NYC is saturated with Craigslist nannies and sittercity babysitters, which overwhelms parents and increases the degree of anonymity and time suckage when looking for a good caretaker. As for me, I came to the city with a couple handy references from my old home (DC), and as soon as I'd settled into the good graces of one family, about four more families were calling my number. Trust me, families are loyal to sitters they trust and will generally pass names along to their friends.

Conversely, this means you need to start polling your friends with kids about their favorite sitters. Pick friends with similarly aged kids, because toddlers require more work than sitters who expect to simply turn on a movie and order a pizza. Ask people at the playground, co-workers who live near you, basically anyone who looks like they have kids but also want a semblance of a life after their bedtime.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:42 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: Do you have a babysitting co-op in your area? They can be great ways for you to make friends in similar situations for both yourselves and your kids.

Don't automatically cross boys off your list, either. Definitely do your research, but my brother was in demand in our neighborhood for several years.

You might be able to see how they interact with your kid by using someone as a mother's helper -- having them keep an eye on things while you're nearby but otherwise occupied.
posted by Madamina at 7:57 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: I like a babysitter who can problem-solve and handle things themselves. Right now, I don't hire babysitters because we have a housemate who does childcare (plus some chores) once a week in exchange for rent, but one thing I like about him is that I can just say, "Oh, and the kids will need dinner," and he'll head into the kitchen and figure it out. I don't have to cook for the kids before we leave, or even plan the meal.

But when it comes time to hire babysitters again, one thing I'll ask them is a couple of "what would you do?" kind of scenarios. "What would you do if my 3yo came to you crying with a bloody lip?" "What would you do if one of the kids broke a glass?"--I don't know exactly, I'm just picking things out of the air. But a couple of, "you have a problem to solve, how would you solve it?" kinds of things.

The need to do this became clear to me when one of our babysitters told me when we got home that one of the cats had coughed up a hairball and she had left it for me because she didn't know what I would want her to do with it. I want somebody who can make a decision in any one of the many minor crises that are likely to come up, not somebody who can't even figure out what to do with a hairball, for cryin' out loud.

Seconding hand-me-down babysitters from friends. The university near us also has a babysitter listing on their Family Resource Center website and all of them have had background checks, and most have extensive experience as nannies or babysitter, CPR training, and so forth, or are education majors. We've had good luck hiring off there when we couldn't manage word-of-mouth. Sounds similar to SitterCity mentioned above.
posted by not that girl at 9:10 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: We interviewed off SitterCity as well and were pleased with the applicants, but chose for our regular sitters our daughter's favorite daycare teachers. Lord knows they aren't paid nearly enough for what they do, and they love spending time with her. And she is happy to see them, a big plus.
posted by tigerjade at 5:36 AM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks one and all, this stuff is great!
posted by lowlife at 5:49 AM on May 14, 2010

We did Sittercity and for our son to have a full time person watch him since 4 months old. He's 16 months. I prefered younger college students who are nurses or education majors since they have a high interest in kids. I required a sense of humor, patience, love, caring, and honesty within where if my son with his horrible colic was just a handful to deal with CALL US. No shame, no fault, etc because I rather have someon call me crying saying "uh he just won't stop crying. Please come home" than to hurt him and be ashamed to admit not taking it anymore. I also had paid trial periods between my husband and I for 2 weeks to see if I could pick up little things. I did with one of them and we did not hire her. No way a person who had "alllll this high end nanny experience" couldn't hold a bottle right when feeding and seemed awkward while holding him. RED FLAG.

The rest were fun and loving and our son always smiled, went to them without a fuss. It also helped that my husband had flex hours where he could come home at any time. I also had trick questions in the application and interview like "would you take a drug test, etc" and "how to you discipline an infant". You'd be shocked to hear people actually have an answer on the infant one. If they refuse a drug test, there you go with your answer too.

It's hard. REALLY hard. It caused many ulcers, nightmares, panics, and tears. Our son is 16 months old and we went through 2 nannies (one due to school and the other due to medical reasons). Our current one was with us as a backup for the others and wound up taking full time. We've had her for a year. I feel blessed. Our son loves her.

Good luck.
posted by stormpooper at 6:20 AM on May 14, 2010

« Older How can I open a specific already-opened tab in...   |   Considering hiring a personal assistant, looking... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.