Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Tip: The Babysitter Checklist

Last night was our Back to School night for second grade.  Although the date was on our calendar for weeks, we found ourselves suddenly in need of a sitter.  All of our "regulars" had been snapped up by the moms who planned ahead.  I typically include myself with these uber-organized folks but somehow this time I dropped the ball.

At the last minute, we lucked out and got a lovely local high school junior. I don't think it's exaggerating to say she looked panic-stricken when she arrived on our doorstep at 6:30, wondering how she'd wrangle five tots to bed by 8:00.  I don't blame her; I think I often look the same way! 

It turned out to be a blessing that the triplets skipped their nap and were ready for bed earlier than usual;  the poor girl visibly brightened when I told her I'd tuck our trio of toddlers in before leaving so her only charges would be two tired grammar schoolers.  It struck me on the way out that we rarely leave our brood with people they don't know and even my own parents have been known to mix up the triplets and put them in the wrong crib.  With this in mind, I developed a Babysitter Checklist to ensure that sweet dreams are had by all -- and, perhaps just as importantly, that this nice new babysitter will one day return!

  1. Set the Ground Rules.  Make sure your sitter knows (and follows!) your rules about bedtime, screen time and time outs.  For us, bedtime for the grammar school gang is between 7:30 and 8:00, they are allowed 30 minutes of TV (but no Angry Birds) and a time out is in order if they don't follow the ground rules!
  2. Share your bedtime routine.  Is there a special blankie (or in our case, "WaWa") that Junior can't sleep without?  Is Goodnight Moon a bedtime mandatory?  Do teeth get brushed before or after the last trip to the potty?  These little details will help your wide-eyed sitter get your tots down for shut-eye right on schedule.
  3. Leave emergency contact info.  This one may be obvious (and I'm pretty sure someone once gave me a nifty notepad with this info on it!) but don't forget to leave the details that will matter most if things take a turn for the worse -- your cell phone number, your husband's cell, the pediatrician's number and ideally the number of a trusty neighbor -- someone in walking or yelling distance that can come in a jiffy.
  4. Share your expectations.  Do you want to come home from a nice night out (or a few hours at the local school, which is also quite nice but not exactly a romantic date!) to clean up mac and cheese and load the sippy cups into the dishwasher? If not, make sure your sitter knows the job requirements -- if they include cleaning up the kitchen or taking out the dirty diapers, you need to let her know.  If you don't, you can't blame her for ignoring them, just like you would occasionally like to do!
  5. Sitters need ground rules too.  How do you feel about your sitter talking on the phone while the kids are up?  Can she (or he) use your computer?  Have access to your wireless code?  If your sitter is over 21, are you comfortable with her having a drink after the kids are tucked in?  Is it ok if the boyfriend or girlfriend comes over?  Addressing these issues before you head out for the night is sure way to ensure that a good time is had by all.  After all, you're finally in the position to say "As long as you're in MY house, you'll live by MY rules" -- although, I wouldn't recommend actually saying it out loud if you'd like your nice babysitter to come back!

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