Whether it’s for work or play, sometimes you need a break from your house and kids, and a paid babysitter is often the only way to make this happen. If you’re new to leaving a babysitter in charge, this can be nerve-wracking for you and a little unsettling for your little ones. OHbaby!'s checklist ensures you’ve covered the basics, hopefully buying you all a sense of security and peace of mind.
Some babysitters don’t have any idea of baby’s routines, or what time children should hit the hay, so this is an essential nugget of information. For younger children bedtime is usually more of a process than a set time, so you may want to clarify whether the time you set is ideally for the start of the process or the final lights out.
Don’t forget to let the babysitter in on any special toys and comforting tools and techniques. A familiar stuffed animal or favourite blanket can be a lifesaver when a little one is missing their mama. Obviously don’t forget to leave out the dummy if that's the magic trick when settling. Inform the babysitter of any favourite songs or bedtime stories that you usually use to calm them.
Health and safety
If there are any keys your babysitter needs to know about, especially for an emergency, make their presence known, marking keys with coloured tape if need be.
If you have a fire extinguisher, point it out, and any fire exit strategies that aren’t apparent. If your babysitter is foreign, remind them of your country’s emergency phone numbers.
Let the babysitter know where to find the first aid kit, along with the paracetamol - as well as the appropriate dosage, and method of measure.
If you have a house alarm, consider whether they need to know the code in case of emergency.
Give them more than one number; ideally yours and a companion you’ll be out with, as well as a number &/or address for a neighbour or local friend. Let them know where you’ll be going, and what time you expect to be back.
Sure you should probably let your babysitter in on your wifi password and show them your movie-viewing systems and remotes, but much more importantly fill them in on any technology policies/agreements you have in your house. If you don't want any photos of your children taken or posted online, make sure you let them know! You also need to fill them in on whether your children can use devices, and if so when and where. If this is a whole new aspect of parenting for you and you're still figuring out your stance, check out our great article on technoference.
Leaving the house
If this babysitter gig is going to be more than a one-off arrangement you're best to think through and discuss whether you’re comfortable with the babysitter taking the kids out for walks and outings. If you are, set some parametres. Where/how far are you happy for them to go together? Are you comfortable with your babysitter driving your child/children. If so you’ll need to ensure they have a full understanding of appropriate car seats/boosters/restraints, and how they’re installed and fastened.
Friends/neighbours who can play
You may be totally comfortable with your children’s friends/neighbourhood kids dropping around for a play, but this can put the babysitter in an awkward position if they’re not sure of your expectations here, or they consider their payment to be based on the number of children in their care! It’s well worth a little discussion – don’t just expect your babysitter to go with the flow.
Babysitters may feel quite out of their depths with your child’s toileting needs. For nappies make sure everything they’ll need it at hand on the change station, what products they’ll need to use, and how to go about nappy disposal. If you have a child who is toilet training, remind your babysitter to remind your child if necessary, and let them know in advance what parts of the toileting process they’ll need to assist with.
If you’re hoping your babysitter will help you out with the housework when your kid(s) have gone down, you’re much better off to be transparent about this at the start of their first job with you than to come home and discover your (silent) expectations unmet. Explain you’re a busy household and that it’s your general policy for babysitters to contribute some of their down time (if they end up with any) to keeping things running, for example dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming etc. If they’re not comfortable with this they can let you know, and at least you’ve made your request known from the beginning, instead of changing their job description down the line.
Food and drink
Make it clear what, if any, snacks and treats are permissible for the kids while you’re gone, and when. Don’t forget to explain any allergies or intolerances your kids have. If you have a child requiring bottled milk or formula, give clear instructions for its preparation, including its temperature.
Don’t forget to feed your babysitter! Hopefully you’ve given this some forethought, and have food and drink they can help themselves to on hand.
Last but not least, especially in the mind of the babysitter, is settling up. Hopefully this is something else you have also given some forethought to, as it can be awkward when you don’t know the going rate! Ask around your friends and neighbours what they pay per hour, or if they have any set rates in place. Obviously it depends on the age and experience of the babysitter, and sometimes the needs of the kids. If in doubt, have an open discussion to ensure you’ve found a rate you’re in agreement with, and be generous. After all, if they prove to be a great babysitter they’ll be worth their weight in gold, and you’ll be calling on them time and time again.