One of the tricky things about having kids is finding time away from them. Sometimes, you just really need adult time. You need time with your partner/spouse to talk about something other than day care pick up and whose turn it is to pack lunches, to maybe see a movie, or to hang out with friends.
That’s where the babysitter comes in.
Finding a good babysitter can be hard. We’ve been lucky to have help from our moms and to find babysitters through our kids’ day care/preschool. But our moms don’t live super close and our babysitters, despite being adored by our kids, have lives (college, boyfriends, full-time jobs). They are also in hot demand from other parents seeking a night out. We’ve had events we’ve had to pass on because we couldn’t find a babysitter in time. I have been looking for additional babysitting options for a while now, and have been frustrated that finding babysitters in our town has been so difficult. Therefore, I was thrilled to attend a babysitting “social” hosted by the parent group in my town a few weeks ago. It was perfect: a room of parents looking for babysitters and a room of high school students looking for babysitting gigs. I came home with a pocket full of phone numbers and email addresses–and hopefully, a renewed social life with my husband!
I was lucky to increase our babysitting team, but since luck doesn’t watch my kids and eat our (limited) junk food, I’m sharing five ways you too can increase your chances of a date night that consists of more than folding the laundry and watching Sunday night television on HBO (but don’t get me wrong: that can be fun, too):
1. Friends – Word-of-mouth from people you trust is a must. But, there’s a limit to how many free nights the babysitter your friends recommend will have and you may end up competing with your closest friends for Friday night. Don’t rely on this option alone.
2. Other Parents – The parent group in my town has a very active email listserv, and often I see announcements for teenagers who are seeking babysitting opportunities. Sign up for these listservs if your town offers them, and consider starting one if your town does not (Big Tent is a platform many large groups use to facilitate communication like this). Post your babysitter dreams to your Facebook page! Someone will take pity on you and pass along some digits (just hope it’s not your cousin from out-of-state). And, I’m not above asking neighbors, people at church, people walking their dog down the street, and moms I meet in the grocery store if they have kids looking for babysitting gigs. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
3. Services – Care.com, Urbansitter.com, Sittercity.com, and a host of other websites will match you with sitters. I’ve never used these sites before, but have heard very good things about them.
4. Your Sitter – Have a good sitter? Ask her (or him) if she has any friends who are looking to sit. As your babysitters get older, their social lives will get busier and yours will not–unless you plan ahead and expand your team.
5. Schools – As I mentioned, my kids’ preschool has been a goldmine for awesome sitters. If your school does not post information about babysitting teachers, call a preschool in your neighborhood for the contact information of those on staff who do sit on the side.
Once you find those babysitters, read up on ways to interview them and to introduce your kids to this new person. Resources can be found here, here, and here.
As for those babysitters I met at the social, we’ve had four of them over to play with the kids while we’ve been home. We’re easing everybody into these new faces, and so far, it’s been a success. The new sitters have all been lovely, polite, personable, and great with the kids. My husband said that they were all “hopeful.” They gave him faith that not only would we get a night (or nights!) out, but that it was possible to raise well-adjusted teenagers!
Choosing a babysitter can be difficult. With all of the babysitters out there, it can seem like an overwhelming task to try and narrow down the pool until you find that one, perfect caregiver.
So what makes a great babysitter?
It is important, for the sake of consistency for your children, that your babysitter be able to commit to your family for at least a year from the interview date. Within that year, there may be dates on which you need a babysitter and she is not be available: however, she ideally will be able to be your babysitter most of the times you are in need…