Welcome to the first post on my blog. I hope you find this journey to be as interesting as I intend it to be. Since I eventually hope to make reader questions and advice a big part of this blog (Tumblog? Tumblrog? Tumlog?), I thought that the best place to start with my first post would be a question from an actual parent:
How do I find a babysitter I can trust?
(This mom asked to remain anonymous. She and her husband have one toddler age daughter. And, in case you’re wondering just what the Hell qualifies me to dispense any sort of advice, I invite to learn more about me here.)
Man, I picked a tough one for my first time out. Let’s see what I can do here.
Here’s the thing: you’re never going to fully trust anyone else to take care of your kids. Ever. I’m willing to bet money that you feel just the tiny bit nervous when you leave Dad in charge while you go take a nap for thirty minutes. That’s fine; every parent feels that. That’s your kid, and if you can’t see what’s going on all the time, then you will always wonder somewhere in the far corner of your mind, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH MY KID RIGHT THIS SECOND??”
I’m sure that the parents of the kids I work with aren’t 100% at ease all the time, and I’m very good at what I do. It’s just natural for them to be concerned. So, the first step is to give up on the 100% trust thing. Breathe deep. Let it go. Let’s move on.
Instead, let’s focus on how to find someone with whom you feel comfortable and with whom your kids are safe. To that end, I have four suggestions:
1. Trade off with other parents
You probably know some other couples, right? (If you don’t, for the love of God, find some. Having couple friends may be the only thing on this Earth that will keep you from talking to the walls just to have the privilege of a conversation with someone other than your husband or child.)
Set up an informal exchange system with some of the other parents you know. You and hubby go out for date night, you can leave the little one with them, and vice versa. This works especially well when they have a child of a similar age to yours, because then it’s really a glorified play date.
2. Get referrals from family members or friends
Not surprisingly, you are not the first parent to run into this problem. So, find those other parents who had the same issue and ask who they used. If the person they recommend isn’t available, they’ll know someone good who is. Trust me, the nannies have an informal employment network that rivals Idealist.
3. Use a reputable website for your search
Since this is a fairly common issue for parents, and we live in a capitalist economy, someone has already identified the demand for a service to fill this market gap and has rushed to supply it for you. Websites like Nannies4Hire (which I have used to find families to work with) have national databases of professional nannies looking to be matched with good families. This is the only site I have used, so I can’t speak to the reputation of any others, but they are out there.
You might also try Angie’s List, which people swear by for finding reputable businesses. I don’t know whether there are listings for private individuals like nannies — mostly because I’m too cheap to pay for a membership myself — but there are listings for child care services.
4. Do a background check
Finally, no matter where you find your next potential babysitter, unless it’s someone you know very well — in which case, there’s probably no reason for you to read this post — run a background check. I know it seems weird and a little creepy, but really it’s pretty standard. The family I work with ran a very thorough background check on me, and I didn’t think twice about it. When I ran a children’s shelter, we ran background checks on every potential hire.
Any professional will understand the need for you to feel secure and not have a problem with you looking into their background. Seriously. It’s not a big deal.
In case you don’t happen to know a private investigator or have any friends at the local precinct, you can get started with some of these free tools recommended by Lifehacker, or find a service online that will do it for you. You’ll feel better.
To the advice seeker: I hope that helped. If not, feel free to let me know and I’ll see what other advice I can come up with.
To everyone else: What tips do you have for finding a trustworthy child care solution?
(Photo credit: Tattooed Hippy’s flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.)