When I finally broke down and realized momma can't do it all, all of the time, I waved the white surrender flag and started looking for a babysitter. We have been fortunate to find some amazing young women who not only give us breaks for work, date nights, and general mental health, but also really love our boy. I often hear other moms talk about how they have a hard time finding and keeping a long-term babysitter and I can tell you that it's not all just luck. Once you find a great sitter, you need to go about keeping that sitter. He or she is your greatest resource!
These tips have come through trial and error and most of them came at the insistence of my husband. I love that I married a man who is thoughtful. I don't know that we would have kept our awesome sitters as long as we have if it weren't for him.
- Pay fairly and well. We had a sitter who told us her fee was $2/hour less than all the local competition. That was music to my ears as a budget conscious momma! But my husband insisted that we pay her the going rate. His point was that if she had multiple requests for a Friday night sitting job, we would obviously rise to the top because we pay her more. She went on to be a long-term sitter for us and frequently made herself available to us when we had a last minute need.
- Keep your word. If you request a sitter in advance, he or she has cleared their schedule to be there for you. They may have turned down other work, or social engagements to care for your child. Things come up, I get that, but if you need to cancel, give as much advance notice as possible. Our policy has always been that if we have to cancel within 24 hours, we still pay our sitter. Don't simply think, "Oh they're just kids, this is fun money for them, it's no big deal." Our sitters use their income from childcare to pay their car note, insurance and cell phone bills. Similarly, if you decide to call your date night early and come home an hour before you planned, go ahead and pay your sitter for the full-time.
- Schedule in advance when you can. Going back to my previous point, you need to value your sitter's time. Don't be disappointed if your sitter can't drop everything to be at your house with just a few hours notice. Line up your important events in advance. Better yet, schedule a regular monthly date with your sitter so you're always on their calendar. If advance notice is the norm, they are more likely to juggle things when you have a last minute need
- Be considerate. If your sitter is going to be at your home all evening, have something there for them to eat and drink. I like to ask my sitters if they have a favorite food or drink or if they have any food allergies. Better yet, leave some cash and takeout menus!
Bottom line, treat your sitter like the valuable resource that they are and they will keep coming back to give you the break you need.