When I was pregnant with my first child, I was the Beauty Director of Cosmopolitan magazine—a fun job, but also a demanding one, that often started with business breakfasts at 8 a.m. and ended with cocktail parties at 8 p.m. I will never forget the fear I had as I was reaching the end of my maternity leave and had to separate from my precious Amelia and go back to the glamorous grindstone. Leave Amelia with a stranger all day? The thought made my stomach turn.
The process of finding a trustworthy babysitter can be overwhelming because it is such an important decision. At first, I couldn’t believe there isn’t any sort of specific licensing or accreditation required for being a caregiver, like a nurse or physician’s assistant. Then I became wise to the fact that most babysitter agencies don’t do any more of a thorough background check than you would normally do anyway, so what’s the point?
How do you find the world’s best babysitter? Here’s how I found mine.
My mom and I were sitting on a bench in Central Park, gently rocking Amelia in the stroller, and talking about having to gear up to go back to work. On the lawn in front of us, there was a big group of babysitters, with all the kids who were in their care running around. The babysitters were great—running after those who strayed from the group, encouraging them to play different games, helping resolve disputes, feeding them lunch and cradling those who just wanted to snuggle. My mom said, “Those babysitters look trustworthy. Go and ask them if they know of any babysitters looking for work.” It was a great idea—as the saying goes…birds of the same feather flock together.
So that’s what I did and within 24 hours I had about twenty voicemails from potential babysitters. Now, how to narrow down a big list?
First, I scheduled a quick phone interview to find out if they had reliable references, they are indeed a babysitter and not a cleaning lady who keeps an eye on the kids, their proficiency of English, and their availability. This lead to a shorter list of about 10 babysitters who sounded promising.
I wanted to call all of the reference s before meeting anyone in person. You can get such a good insight into a babysitter’s experience, personality and care-taking style by talking to past employers. I asked questions like:
What she always on time?
Was she really interactive with the kids and play with them a lot?
Was she proactive in setting up playdates and keeping the kids busy on no-school days?
Is she a good reader and does she like to sing songs with the kids?
Would she get upset if you had to work late?
Would she help get dinner ready for the kids?
How would she discipline children who misbehaved?
When I got positive answers to all the above and decided to interview someone, I tried to schedule at home during a time when Amelia would be awake and (hopefully) in a good mode. This way I could also let Amelia give me some feedback. It’s surprisingly easy to tell if there’s good chemistry. I also paid particular attention to how physically fit they were. After having experienced the terror of 9/11, I wanted a babysitter who was strong enough to pick up my baby and run fast if she had to. Or, if a creepy guy was lurking in the playground, someone who could defend herself and my brood.
I wound up interviewing about six babysitters and Sharon was the clearly the right choice. She had excellent references, her track record with families was amazing, often staying with them for five or more years, and she was so comfortable and loving when she held Amelia. Sharon has been caring for my children now for 10 years. I can’t believe that much time has passed, but I wouldn’t have been able to continue to work and maintain my sanity without her. Ask any #supermom, and she’ll say the same about her caregiver.
Do you have any good tips on how to find a great babysitter? Please share!