A babysitter dilemma

So I recently attended a First Aid course that a friend of mine hosted at her house. She arranged for someone to come in and teach First Aid to a group of parents. She also arranged food for us and babysitting for the kiddies whose parents couldn’t find anyone else to look after their kids during the five-hour course.

We, of course, all split the cost of the babysitter. But we were also all in the house while the babysitter was in charge of our kids.

If you’ve got kids, you know that even a well-intentioned, extremely likeable babysitter is going to have a hard time keeping your little ones away from you unless the babysitter can keep the kids in a room with a locked door.

I expected to see my kids periodically throughout the training because I’m cool and they just want to hang out with me they need Mommy for everything (note the sarcasm).

But I didn’t expect to have to take them on bathroom trips, give them their snack(s), change their diapers, feed them their lunch, put their shoes on when they went outside, take their shoes when they came back in and generally entertain them while also trying to pay attention to the First Aid course instructor and practice mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on half a rubber man. At $10 an hour, my expectations of the babysitter were a tad higher.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The girl was nice. And I think she felt intimated with all of her charges parents sitting in the next room (who doesn’t worry that a parent is going to get overly protective if you do something to their child that they don’t like?) But we were paying her to keep the kids away from us while we learned how to keep our kids alive in an emergency situation.

I don’t have a lot of experience with babysitters (my parents live close by so usually they babysit if we need it), so I’d love to know from you, when you hire a babysitter, do you interview them to find out all their skills and experience and what plans they have for your children while they are looking after them? Or do you just expect that, if they are offering their services and they are in that age category, chances are they can probably get by just fine?

I started babysitting when I was about 12 or 13 years old (which, by the way, I think is way too young). I got “clients” through people my mom knew and by putting my name and babysitting services in a silent auction at our church.

I got some jobs and people started referring me to their friends with kids. I did take a babysitting course that included first aid at the local community school, but other than that, my only skills and experience when I started out was looking after my baby sister who is 5 years my junior.

I remember calling my mother from the bathroom of a house where I was babysitting through the evening and into the night because I couldn’t get the two school-aged girls to stop crying and go to bed. I was frantic and desperate and more than a little scared that their parents would come home and yell at me for upsetting their daughters. (It all worked out though. My mom gave me some advice or other that worked to calm the girls down, and shortly thereafter they were both asleep and I was watching TV and eating chips, waiting for their parents to come home. They thought I was an amazing babysitter by the way. Apparently, I was the only babysitter who could get their kids to sleep.)

Looking back on that experience, I’m not keen to leave my kids with a 14-year-old babysitter over bedtime. Maybe in the afternoon if I have some errands to run, but not at night. I don’t even think 14 is old enough to be home alone at night. Let alone in charge of my precious babies.

But back to the babysitting experience I had recently. More than once during the day, I noticed that she was texting or playing on her phone while my kids were sitting on my lap. This would have been the time that I would have expected her to direct my children’s attention to a game or activity that got them out from under my chin while I continued to learn how to dislodge foreign objects from their throats.

But she didn’t do that. And I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t speak up either. (It does no good to stew over something if you’re not willing to speak up (in a nice way) and get the situation resolved.)

So, at the end of the day, I payed my portion of her babysitting fees and stewed all the way home.

Did I learn a lesson? Yes. Here it is:

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Because really, this is not about bad babysitting. This babysitter did keep my children occupied and entertained. (Though not as much as I had hoped she would.) And my children were comfortable and happy with her throughout the day. (And let’s be honest, this is a big plus. If my kids are comfortable and happy, I’m comfortable and happy.)

What this is really about is communicating your expectations up front. Naming the price that your expectations carry. And sticking to your guns when you see that your expectations are not being met.

I must admit, I’m a bit of wimp when it comes to all three of those things. So in babysitting and in life, I tend to fail at this and then I stew.

But this experience taught me a good lesson. One that I’m likely to remember for a long time. And maybe next time, I’ll get what I paid for.

Do you have babysitting stories (good or bad), tips or advice to share? I’d love to hear them! Please comment!


7 thoughts on “A babysitter dilemma

  1. memyselfandkids

    I definitely would expect more. I think some are uncomfortable if you are right there. It is better if you are out of the room and like you say make clear that you are busy.

    1. Nancy Post author

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that more was in order. I definitely think it has to do with the babysitter feeling uncomfortable because the parents were nearby. And had I been more clear about my expectations, I would not have been as disappointed. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  2. dusterbed

    You couldn’t have said it better. I don’t have any babysitting scenarios like this – but this can be applied in just about any situation with anyone; a job, an agreement between friends, a volunteer situation. I like it! Three easy steps to communication success: communicate your expectations up front, name the price (or terms), and stick to your guns! AWESOME!!!

  3. on thehomefrontandbeyondl

    thank goodness the days of needing a babysitter are over – I hated leaving my kids with babysitters – a lot of time I would just not go out – I found one that was just excellent – she brought stuff with her for my kids to do, she played with them, she was their friend–I was very lucky until she moved away

    1. Nancy Post author

      That sounds wonderful! I wish I could find someone like that. I think most kids who babysit want to do a good job. They just need clear instructions and to know what is expected of them. We have to remember that they are kids, too. And they look to us for guidance.


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