Not too long ago, I had a hard time getting and keeping babysitters. I was still new to the mothering gig, I had three pages of typed out instructions to deal with every situation, and I would talk incessantly when they arrived. In short I became the woman that nobody wanted to babysit for!
I gave up on teenage babysitters for a couple years. I became a member of our fantastic neighborhood babysitting co-op. For weekend date night or for weekdays when I need kids picked up or dropped off or there was some other type of complicated issue, I always turned to the babysitting co-op.
But I still wanted the chance for my girls to experience a teenage babysitter. See, I started babysitting when I was 11-years old and I didn’t quit babysitting until a few weeks before I had my first child, at 32. Most of my teenage summers were spent working at least 20 hours a week. I would ride my bike to the kid’s house, take him to the pool, hang out, play, and do all the fun things that got me asked back again and again. I don’t remember doing a whole lot of cleaning up after ourselves and I have no doubt that the moms had to tell me on more than one occasion what to do, but I appreciated it and always learned from it. During those rough, rocky teenage years it was really nice to have a kind person who wasn’t my mom but who would listen to me and give advice when needed. So babysitting is sort of in my blood!
When I was ready to put my toe in the water again recently, I remembered a tip I learned from my friend Jessica of A Parent in Silver Spring: babysitters these days don’t want to talk on the phone to you and frankly, their moms don’t want to talk on the phone to you either. You text them and that’s how you get them! Also, my sister suggested that I stop being a pain in the butt. I combined those two pieces of information and dipped a toe back in to the waters of the neighborhood teenage babysitters.
Learning from my earlier lessons when NOBODY wanted to babysit for me, now I take three things that are the most important to me and those are the things that I tell the babysitter as universal rules. They may be different at your house, but for me they are:
- Be attentive to the kids. Do not text or talk on your phone with your friends while you are babysitting.
- Water. The girls must have water with them everywhere they go outside.
- Tidy. The girls need to tidy up their toys after they play and everyone can work together to clean up after a meal or snack.
Obviously there are other notes on logistical issues, bedtime routine, etc. but this is the basic gist of what I tell them.
I had to learn some other things too, in order to create a good relationship with my babysitters.
- Go away. I had to learn that I had to go upstairs and stay out of the way if I was trying to work while she was here because if we were both in the room it wasn’t good for either of us. The girls are AWFUL when the babysitter and I try to chit-chat.
- Stop talking. I also had to learn to just shut up. For the most part these girls usually know what they’re doing, and I need to trust them just like I wanted to be trusted when I was that age.
- Leave quickly. Different kids are different, and Ramona gets too anxious if I take too long to say good-bye. I have to get all the way dressed and have my purse in the car before the babysitter even arrives. Their schedule is typed out and on the bulletin board so we only have to exchange the briefest of instructions. She walks in, we chat for a minute, then I say good-bye, kiss the girls, and head out. My girls love having teenage babysitters – it’s just the transition time that is tough for Ramona.
We also have a college student who watches Beezus after school. She and I sat down together and sketched out a rough schedule for those afternoons and I typed it up and laminated it. It covers things like how long they stay at the playground, what is an appropriate snack, and whether or not a friend can come over to play.
Respect and flexibility are important on both parts. I am ALWAYS home when I say I will be and I ALWAYS round up her pay to the nearest hour. I am flexible when she wants to visit her boyfriend in another state instead of babysitting. In return, I stress the importance of the fact that I work 45 minutes away from our house, and if she decides she is sick in the afternoon, I’ll never be able to make it home in time to pick up Beezus. She is super flexible about staying late when I ask her to and she also asks that I send her an updated schedule via e-mail every two weeks. It works for both of us!
I’m happy to say that my current teenage babysitter is still returning my calls and the young adult babysitter is still showing up to work. In fact she’s got the girls outside right now while I’m editing a few posts! I’m curious do you use teenage/young adult babysitters? Are you able to keep them? What advice do you have to share?
When she’s not coordinating her calendar to book a babysitter, Ellen blogs semi-anonymously as Thrift Store Mama from Gorgeous Prince George’s County, Maryland.