Saturday, November 05, 2005

In Need of a Sitter

By Christina VanGinkel

Hiring a babysitter for the first time can be a daunting task, especially if your infant is brand new to you and you have never had to deal with such a scenario before, or you are in a new location and need to find a new babysitter, as your old one is now to far away to be of service. In the best situation, a family member or friend that you know and trust is an ideal choice. The problem is, so many of us live nowhere near family, and asking a friend is just not something we want to do for a variety of reasons.

If you belong to a church or other small organization that is a gathering of people for a non-work related activity, such as a crafting circle, you could post a notice if they have a bulletin board, or inquire of the other members if they know someone who does babysitting. Calling the local Red Cross is also an ideal choice. You can inquire if they offer a babysitting class, and if so, if they can recommend, or pass your name, onto the individuals (Usually teens) who have recently passed the course. If your area has a penny saver paper, you could also post a notice there that you are in need of an occasional babysitter. Asking neighbors and other parents of young children that you know can often result in both suggestions on whom to call, and information on whom you might not want to hire. Keep track of all information gathered, no matter how trivial it may sound, as hiring a babysitter is one of the most important tasks you will encounter. If you are in a large metropolitan area, you may be able to hire a sitter through an agency. If so, still follow through with any additional information gathering that you can, never relying totally on an agency's recommendation.

Once you get a few applicants, your real work will begin. Interviewing them is something many people never do, and it just boggles my mind that someone would leave their child with someone they do not even know, just because they call themselves a babysitter. Ask them if they have any references of others they have sat for, and then call those individuals and inquire how often they have babysat for them in the past, how old the children were when they did, and if they still baby sit for them, and why or why not. Inquire if they have any first aid training, and if so, do they have a certificate. If you end up hiring through an agency, still go through this review.

The first few times you have them sit, stay home. Use the time to get some chores done or some reading, crafts, etc. That way you can observe the sitter in action, and be at hand for any questions that may arise. If a sitter is uncomfortable with you there, chances are you do not want them sitting anyway. Once you are comfortable leaving, be sure to check in, and leave them every bit of information they need on how to get a hold of you. If possible, run errands or go somewhere the next few times that will allow you to stop back in unannounced at intervals. In today's world, surveillance cameras are legal in many states and if so, with their lower cost making those accessible to anyone who can afford a sitter in the first place, they should be used. Think of it as posting guard on your most prized possession.

A friend of mine has what I consider the ideal setup. She has a camera connected to her computer at work, which has several counterparts around her home. She can monitor the activity at home anytime she wants, and the cost was only a couple hundred dollars to set up with her existing computer equipment. Her sitter knows and is comfortable with this. So far as to even sitting down at the one computer at home and having baby interact with mom during mom's breaks at work. Two final notes: Do not ask a sitter to wash dishes, fold laundry, etc., remember that you are hiring someone to watch the kids, not to do your chores. Secondly, follow your instincts when hiring a sitter, or firing a sitter. If things do not work out, do not hesitate to never use them again.

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