We have become pretty smooth about leaving Carla with a babysitter. In fact, we have a regular sitter whom we ADORE, and… I don’t think we’ve left Carla with anyone else (outside of family).
Oh. That’s not true. We did hire, on occasion – with permission, lest you think I am a no-good babysitter stealer – a friend’s regular babysitter. She was also great, but has since moved out of town.
Anyway, today I feel pretty easy breezy about leaving Carla. I still write out emergency phone numbers and where the sitter can reach us, and I still set out Carla’s nighttime pull up and pajamas, but other than that, I think I have Chilled Out quite a bit.
The first time we left her alone, I was A Mess. I typed out and printed a full sheet of instructions (even I am cringing a bit, thinking back on it) (although let’s be kind to Past Me, who was simply terrified of leaving her baby [her more than one-year-old baby] for the first time) with everything from emergency numbers to snacks Carla could eat to where extra burp cloths live in Carla’s bedroom. Gulp. Okay, just admit it: I even put “Call 911 in case of emergency” at the top of the typed up sheet. I just… I don’t know. I remember thinking, in a panicked fashion, what if the sitter sees these “in case of emergency” numbers and thinks I want her to call THEM instead of 911 if Carla is choking or on fire or something? Gah. Poor Past Me. (And lord only knows WHAT the babysitter thought, and whether she still tells that story – to uproarious, incredulous laughter, no doubt – at family gatherings and nights out with friends.)
Outside of being A Little Crazy, I try to be a decent babysitter-hirer. I try to ask her to sit well in advance. I fill her in on details a few days before, and I provide dinner – and a sweet treat – every time she comes over. (Although my husband and I discuss whether she even eats it, at this point. And whether she even LIKES the food, which I lazily lovingly purchase for her at the gourmet food store up the street and then put on a plate for her, and cover in saran wrap. And whether I should just have some sort of Frank Conversation with her about whether she would prefer I order pizza for her.) (One of my friends doesn’t feed her sitters at all. She used to ask her regular sitter if she’d like pizza or something, and the sitter always said no, so she stopped offering.) (That makes me anxious, thinking of someone in my house and me NOT FEEDING her.) I try to keep up on her life, to a not-creepy extent, and to offer her a ride home if it’s cold or rainy. I try not to text her too often during the evening. And we get her a Christmas present each year.
She is completely lovely, and she knows CPR, and she has lived on our street her whole life and has babysat for all our neighbors and she has a good day job and she is kind and easy going and Carla loves her to pieces. Of course, she has now gotten engaged (because OF COURSE, she is amazing) and so our days with her are numbered.
With this unknown limit on our babysitting time with her, I was almost glad when she wasn’t available for an upcoming event my husband and I are going to. Because it has forced us to find another sitter. (NOT the one whose number I got at a chain restaurant on the urging of my mother-in-law. I mean, the waitress seemed LOVELY and was very good at her waitressing job, but… I don’t know. Maybe this is a perfectly natural way to pick up a new sitter? I HAVE NO IDEA.)
So in a moment of boldness, I texted one of the lovely women who sees Carla each weekend for Sports Things and asked if she might be available. She was (although she charges FIFTY PERCENT MORE than our regular sitter GAH) (does this mean we are underpaying our beloved regular sitter? GAH) and so now I am hopeful that we will have a good backup.
But now I am pre-panicking about Dealing With Someone New. Do I… resurface my (potentially insulting but THOROUGH) sheet of instructions? Do I… have her come over 30 minutes early so I can walk her through Carla’s routine? The best part is that Carla already knows and likes her, so at least I don’t have to worry about Stranger Danger kicking in when I’m trying to get out the door. If this were a Brand New Person, I would have her come over to meet Carla before the real night out, or at least have her come over for a very short sitting experience – an hour or two, maybe, while I ran to the grocery store.
But what about her? How do I make her comfortable while making myself comfortable with leaving my child in her care?
I think if I were a sitter, I’d want to know:
- Emergency numbers, like who to reach if the parents never came home (gulp)
- The number and name of the place where the parents will be
- Location in the house of first aid materials
- Specific instructions about what the child can/should eat and cannot/should not eat
- Specific instructions about bathtime/bedtime routine (what time, what to wear, what happens when, where pajamas and pull ups and toothbrush and loveys and other-such live)
- If there are Other Rules and Expectations – like if I’m supposed to be doing dishes, or not going into a certain room, or no television (for me or for the child)
- Expected duration of the evening
- Any Common Issues – like, the child will definitely cry some when the parents leave, but will get over it quickly; or the child will try to hide before bathtime, and here are the places where she typically hides; or the best way to distract a child from Extreme Feelings is to make goofy noises and faces; or the child tends to sob quietly for awhile before falling asleep, and it’s normal and doesn’t require extra soothing
I would be very interested to know what other parents do to find a new sitter, and then, once they have a new sitter, prepare for the new sitter. And what sitters like/how they prefer to be treated.