Wouldn’t it be nice to call on Mary Poppins or the Babysitter Club to look after our precious cherubs? Unfortunately, with the age of social media and the perception that ‘millennial babysitters’ are distracted and neglectful, it’s easy to get a little anxious about enlisting the help of a babysitter.
As a single mother, the process of choosing the perfect babysitter and leaving our little people with a ‘stranger’ can seem daunting. Being the main (and only) decision-maker you may feel over-whelmed. Choosing the perfect babysitter involves research, interviewing and a great deal of trust in our mothering instincts.
But fear not! With careful planning and taking the six tips below into account, any anxiety involved can be reduced. Although we might not be able to obtain a ‘Mary Poppins’, we can still find someone almost as perfect in every way!
6 Ways to seek out the perfect babysitter
Be clear about what you want in a babysitter
Before the search begins, make sure you know exactly what you want and expect from a babysitter. Clear guidelines keep you focused throughout the search. Writing guidelines down also prevents you making rash decisions when stress and anxiety kicks in! Consider writing down your babysitter requirements in the following headings: Personal qualities, age range, experience, references, budget, expectations and personal values and beliefs.
Check for babysitter credentials
Queensland laws require that anyone caring for a child other than a family member must obtain a valid ‘Working with Children Blue Card’. It is worth your while to check your own state regulations for working with children and ensure your potential babysitter is complying with these. If they are a high quality, reliable and safe babysitter, they should have no hesitation in producing this card to you on request. Current First Aid and CPR certifications are also a useful certification to keep your mind at ease in the instance of an emergency situation.
Check for babysitter references
Take the time to check out their references. Have they ever worked with children before? Are they able to perform the duties you expect of them? Consider advertising through education faculties at your local Universities and TAFEs. Many students babysit or tutor for extra cash while studying. Or seek out organisations on social media groups, such as the Single Mum Vine. Babysitters found via these mediums will often have experience, and therefore references. Also consider word of mouth. Ask friends and family members for some recommendations. Maybe they have a great ‘go to’ babysitter that might be just the right fit for your family. After all, word-of-mouth is the best reference you can get.
Consider your children’s strengths and weaknesses
Michael Francis (Care.com) brings up an great suggestion of considering your child’s strengths and struggles when choosing the right babysitter. A more academic babysitter could help your child with homework or assignments. A sitter that is quite active might play sports out in the yard if your child is more high energy. Although it’s not necessarily a requirement, it’s a great way to get bang for your buck. Plus, as a single mother, you may also consider the need for a positive male role model in your child’s world, in which case a male babysitter could fit the role. (have you ever heard of a manny?).
Arrange a meet-up
Arrange to meet your children’s potential babysitter at a park or public area and see how well they connect and interact with your children. Is there an immediate positive connection? Can your potential babysitter show confidence and positive authority over your children? This is a great way to check their appearance, punctuality, organisation, attitude and any other requirements you may have. Plus, it is a safe way to meet the potential babysitter without the need for further commitment if things don’t work out. If they are not willing to do this, then don’t feel guilty about moving onto another potential sitter. I would suggest doing this after you have seen their credentials and references.
If your child has a disability, it may be worth your while contacting relevant disability organisations to see if your child is eligible for some funded care time. You may also ask an NDIS support coordination provider to understand the coverage of your child’s NDIS plan and to connect you to various childcare services available in their network. Although it’s not exactly ‘babysitting time’, it gives you a break and allows your child to connect with someone who understands their condition.
Trust your (fiercely protective single mother) gut
Ultimately your single mother intuition is very strong. Francis again brings up the importance of trusting your gut when seeking out a babysitter. Credentials and experience mean nothing if there is something that ‘doesn’t seem right’ about them. Don’t be afraid to say no and continue the search, a single mother’s gut is usually the strongest guide during the search.