From time to time, I do like to take a take from pretending to be a parent and instead talk about what I actually do: childcare.
If you’ve read my bio (or know me personally), you know that I worked at a daycare for 4+ years, and I am currently a nanny/regular babysitter for two different families, as well as doing the childcare for a local homeschool group.
All that to say, I have a pretty good idea by now of what parents like to see in a babysitter.
Don’t worry, parents. You may be thinking that this post isn’t super relevant to you (although I would love to hear YOUR feedback!). I’ll be following up next week with a reverse post about how be your babysitter’s favourite family – things you can do to ensure that your babysitter is happy to come back next time!
For those of you who are reading this because you want to get into babysitting, or you want to up your babysitting game, read on!
Here are some surefire ways to become everybody’s favourite babysitter.
Arrive on time
Punctuality is a life skill.
No matter what job you’re working, arriving on time is part of being professional. Even though babysitting tends to be a more casual job, punctuality shows that you care about the needs of the family you’re babysitting for.
Parents may have events they need to get to at a certain time, or they may be trying to get to work themselves. Be considerate of their needs.
If I’m babysitting somewhere for the first time, I like to GPS the location ahead of time so I can see how long it will take to get there. Then ROUND UP. If the GPS says it will take 15 minutes, give yourself 20.
You may be into classic rock bands, but suburban babysitting might not be the best occasion to wear your favourite Kiss shirt (those kids will have nightmares for weeks).
It’s okay to dress casually – you’re going to be down on the floor with kids, after all. But follow some basic rules.
Set a good example for the children and make a good impression on the parents by choosing more conservative clothing. This is not the time for miniskirts or deep plunge tops.
Although you might be playing out in the yard with the kids, you’ll give off more of the “responsible adult” vibe if you choose an outfit that is free of rips and tears, and doesn’t have any stains.
If you’re doing your job right, there’s a good chance it will involve standing, sitting, squatting, walking, running, skipping, and contorting your body into all sorts of shapes you never thought possible.
The point is, tight restrictive clothing or easy-to-mess-up material will inhibit your ability to play with children.
A t-shirt and comfy jeans are perfect for pretty much any babysitting job.
Think about what your outfit says about you
The best rule when considering your attire is just to ask “What does my outfit say about me?”
Some things you don’t want your outfit to convey:
- “Halfway to homeless”
- “Prissier than a princess”
- “Fast and easy”
- “I was goth in high school”
Get off your phone
If you’ve already put the kids to bed, great! You’re free to be on your phone, watch tv, read a book, etc. But just like any other job, you’re not being paid to browse Facebook (unless you’re a blogger 😉).
In this case, you’re being paid to watch the kids. You can’t do that with your eyes glued to your phone all day.
Now, to clarify, unless the parents have a specific phone policy (some do!), it’s probably okay to check it from time to time. Sometimes, the parents may text or call for an update, or to give you some additional instructions. It’s good to make sure you aren’t missing that.
I also sometimes look up an answer on google if the kids ask me something I don’t know.
But babysitting time is not tweeting, instagramming, or facebooking time.
Never post pictures without parents’ permission
While we’re talking about social media, here is something I see babysitters doing all the time that grinds my gears:
Posting pictures of the kids they babysit on social media.
Now, I’m not a paranoid person. I’ll definitely post pictures of my own kids on social media one day, and I don’t mind if other people post pictures of my kids either.
But there are a lot of parents who try to keep pictures of their children off of the internet for safety reasons.
It’s just good etiquette: If you don’t know, don’t post.
Be consistent with the family’s rules
One thing I always like to ask parents when I first start babysitting for them is whether they have any specific household rules I should be aware of. Every family is different, and they have different priorities.
Some families let the kids run around the house, going crazy. Some families request that children only do that outside.
Some families are liberal with snacks. Some only allow snacks at designated times.
I always try to maintain consistency with whatever the family’s usual rules are. If they don’t let their kids have after-dinner snacks, I don’t either. If they don’t let their children run in the house, I take them outside when they start getting crazy.
Maintaining consistency shows your respect for the way those parents do things in the household. It also sets you up as a figure of authority with the kids. Trust me, if kids think they can run all over the babysitter, they will. Kids are boundary testers by nature.
I can’t believe I’m actually having to say this, but I was talking to a family the other day who told me that out of the 7-8 babysitters they have ever hired, only one ever cleaned up.
That’s incredible to me.
Would you want to come home from date night to dirty dishes all over the table and toys cluttering the living room?
No. Of course not.
If you’re babysitting in the evening, take a few minutes after the kids are in bed to clear the table, load the dishwasher, and sweep if necessary. Make sure at least most of the clutter is picked up off the floor.
Then – and only then – can you put your feet up and browse Facebook.
Brief the parents
Last but not least, let the parents know when they get home how things went. This is especially important the first time you babysit for that family, and/or if it’s a family with a baby.
Share a cute/funny story, let them know what time they got off to bed and how bedtime went, and let them know if the kids behaved nicely.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable telling the parents that their child screamed bloody murder and started throwing things when you told them no to a second scoop of ice cream. But parents really do want to know how their kids behave when they are away.
It’s definitely easier when you can give a good report, but that won’t always be the case. Establish honesty and trust by telling them the truth.