Finding and scheduling babysitters is an art and a science. I have some in high school and some in college, and they all have different vacation, exam and sports schedules. It’s tricky to keep track of them. We’ve been busy lately, too, so it’s hard to keep track of us. (Proof: one of them called me from my kitchen while John and I were in North Carolina. Oops!) Figuring out babysitters is something that there should be classes on. Some days it seems that hard.
For the most part, I think we’ve landed in a great place. I’ve got reliable help on most days of the week, and if there’s a missed day from now and then, John listens to Harry Potter books in my office with me, which we both like.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about what makes good sitters, and here are some points to look out for. (FYI: I’m intentionally using feminine pronouns. Don’t be offended – obviously there are some kickass boys who babysit as well. It’s just easier to write this way.)
1) A great babysitter has friends. When she’s busy, she has a friend who can take her place. Adds some variety and saves you from having to fill a day. It’s good to have a deep bench.
2) A great babysitter likes to read. John’s favorite sitters actually like some of the same books that he does, which is great, because sometimes there’s a need to discuss the similarities between dementors and shadowthieves or other critical issues.
3) A great babysitter knows the rules. John’s not old enough to effectively keep secrets. So if my babysitters bend the rules for him, he’s going to tell me about it immediately after they leave, and then I have to deal with it. (Once he’s old enough to keep his mouth shut, we’ll all be happier.)
4) A great babysitter plays sports. I hate that I can’t be out in the backyard running around in the afternoon, but just because I’m sitting inside doesn’t mean John should be. If he’s muddy at the end of the day, that’s been a good day.
5) A great babysitter sometimes wins. I think one of the hardest things for a kid to learn is this: you win some, you lose some. It doesn’t help anybody to have a babysitter who throws every game. Sometimes kids need to have their hats handed to them so they can learn to shake hands and move on.
6) A great babysitter is better than you. She has more energy, more creativity, and is more fun. (See photo above of the bake sale created by John and Charlotte with play-doh today.) I used to feel guilty about this. Now I’ve learned that babysitters can be all in because they’re only doing it for an hour or two. For parents, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you find a good babysitter like this, I advise you to be on time, pay her well, and ply her with snacks. You want to go to any means necessary to maintain a good relationship, because someone like this does not come along often. And for the love of pete, be careful who you give her number to. You don’t want word to get out too far. A great babysitter is not one who never has time for you.