6 Red Flags to Look for When Hiring a Babysitter
Oof. It’s the parenting anxiety mother lode
When you find a nanny or babysitter who’s a good fit for both you and your kids, never let her go. And if you’re just beginning the search, breathe; it doesn’t have to be all heartache and hand-wringing. Look for these warning signs—and never ignore your most reliable alarm system of all: maternal instinct.
Her references won’t call you back
Other moms who spring into action to vouch for your candidate can go a long way toward soothing your hiring fears. If they won’t return your calls or seem reluctant to share their stories of working with her, walk (OK, run) away.
She checks her phone incessantly
We totally get the need to stay connected to loved ones. (PS: Now is the time to explicitly request that she send you pictures of your kids on the playground, on the potty and on the hour.) But if she fails to put away the earpiece during your interview or checks her texts during an initial meet-and-greet, you have to wonder if she’ll be playing Candy Crush while your kid eats sand at the park.
Her feelings about discipline don’t align with yours
Communication is key to all caregiver relationships. Ask her how she would handle a situation during which your kid acted out. Then check your gut for discomfort.
She’s too serious
We all want someone who can help keep our kids clean, fed and on schedule. But the best babysitters know how to elicit—and appreciate—a good giggle. They also don’t freak out over spills, Play-Doh in their hair or crayon on the walls. If the fun factor is missing or her fuse is short, she’s not the one.
She’s not serious enough
The kids may love her—because she lets them watch The Lion Guard for two hours and views bedtime as a moving target. But even the most liberal parents have boundaries and beliefs that need to be enforced. If she doesn’t seem to absorb, or ask follow-up questions about, your household rules, their fun may end up being your frustration.
You have different expectations
She wants access to a car, free lunch and four weeks of paid vacation. You want to cut back on her hours when work is flexible without paying for time you don’t need. Broach these tough subjects during the interview—with a printed-out contract in hand—and take note of her level of professionalism when it comes to negotiating and navigating. Clarity and openness, especially when it's awkward, can turn even a part-time sitter into a life-changing parenting partner.