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Responsibilities of a Family

Keeping Your Babysitter For The Long Haul

The hiring process for finding the right babysitter can take weeks, if not months, if you’re holding out for the perfect childcare provider to work for your family. After all, you will be entrusting your children to whomever you hire, so no "warm body" hire will suffice.  Additionally, since your children will likely grow attached to their babysitter, it becomes all the more important that you retain the babysitter long-term (ideally, for as long as your children will need a babysitter).  While no employer-family can secure a guaranteed long-term employment from their babysitter, here are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of long-term employment. 

A. Pay and benefits must be designed with hiring and retention in mind.  For example, if you are offering pay that is well below the prevailing wage rate in your locale, and you offer no employment benefits, your babysitter candidate may not be interested in accepting the job with your family.  If she does accept the job, she may not stay with you when that next job offer (that pays better and offers benefits) comes along.

B. During the interview process, be prepared to ask whether each candidate is willing to make at least a one-year commitment to care for your children. Responses to the question should give you an idea of what the candidates' goals are for the immediate future.

C. Once you find that perfect babysitter for your children, it’s recommended that you, as the employer, work with your babysitter to create a retention plan (how you’ll be keeping your babysitter for the long term).  Some babysitters prefer paid time off to employer contributions to health insurance.  Some babysitters would rather work for a family that treats them like part of the family while other babysitters prefer a traditional employer-employee relationship.  It is important that you get to know your babysitter, what she values, what she expects of you, and what motivates her, as no two employees are the same, and it will serve you well to customize your employment relationship with her to meet her unique values, expectations, and motivations. 

Retaining your babysitter is a task that you need to work on as her employer. Be clear and consistent with her duties and role as a babysitter, keep the lines of communication open, and resolve any issues as soon as possible. In sum, foster a solid working relationship with her.   


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Making Reasonable Requests of Your Babysitter

It’s ultimately your babysitter’s responsibility to perform all of the duties you’ve discussed to the best of her ability. However, keep in mind that it’s important for you as an employer to be reasonable with your expectations.

If your babysitter has a long list of daily tasks such as cooking, picking up the dry cleaning, and running miscellaneous errands for you during the day, she’ll have a harder time attending to the most important task at hand: caring for your children. Consider your requests and whether or not they are reasonable to accomplish in a day, given her primary role as caregiver for your children.  Some tasks can be accomplished in tandem with her caregiving role (i.e., light lunch preparation, which she and your children can have fun doing together).  Other tasks take away from her caregiving role (i.e., addressing the needs of the plumber and electrician when they are at your home installing your new kitchen appliances takes your babysitter's attention away from your children).

If you have a need for a spotless household, but also have an infant and a toddler in the care of your babysitter, consider hiring a separate person to take care of household duties. You can also stress that household chores unrelated to the care of your children take second priority to making sure your children are safe, healthy, and happy.

Periodically, you may wish to initiate a discussion with your babysitter to determine how she feels about her workload.  Many times, babysitters may not feel comfortable initiating a discussion with you about their feeling overworked or torn between caregiving and attending to myriad other assigned tasks.  It thus becomes your responsibility to assess your babysitter's workload as she experiences it.  Be sensitive to non-verbal cues.  If she is acting hurried, it may be time to initiate this discussion.  If to-do lists are being left largely undone, it may be time to initiate this discussion.  If your children are engaging in a greater than usual amount of attention-seeking behavior, it may be time to initiate this discussion.

In the final analysis, you are well advised to put yourself in your babysitter's shoes.  If you were in her shoes, would you be able to focus your attention on your children while simultaneously attending to the work tasks that you are considering delegating to her?  If not, then perhaps you should not delegate those specific tasks to your babysitter, as her primary role is to care for your children. 

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Babysitter Responsibilities: What’s Typical

When you’re hiring a babysitter, you should be clear about the responsibilities you will be delegating to her.

While babysitting responsibilities may vary from household to household, the basics remain the same. Typically, babysitting responsibilities include everything that relates to the care of children. This can include preparing meals for the children, clothing them, providing mental stimulation for them, doing laundry for the children, reinforcing appropriate discipline, and fostering a trusting and nurturing bond with the children. Additional babysitting responsibilities can include providing transportation for the children and facilitating playgroups and outings.

It’s important to keep in mind that some babysitters will only perform duties associated with the care and cleaning of the children and will balk at performing other household duties. Other babysitters willingly provide services such as meals and cleaning for the remainder of the family. 

It is essential that you discuss and potentially negotiate with your babysitter about job responsibilities along with pay and benefits at the time of hire.


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Parent Expectations For Babysitters

Parents can be full of worry when hiring a babysitter. This is especially true for parents who are leaving their children in the care of a babysitter for the first time. However, if you’re a parent who has been thorough in the hiring process and clearly outlined your babysitter’s role, you should try to put your fears to rest and let your babysitter do her job.

Here are the expectations you should have for your babysitter's role in your family.

*to arrive on time for work.

*to notify you in a timely manner if she is ill or will be late in arriving.

*to communicate to you any significant milestones, changes, and issues regarding your children.

*to keep you informed of your child’s activities, whereabouts, and eating habits during the day.

*to provide a positive environment for your children where all of their basic needs are attended to.

*to get to know your children as individuals and respond to their unique interests and talents.

*to nurture your children and inspire them to trust and care for her.

*to behave consistent with her primary role, which is caregiving for your children.

*to complete each of her duties in a timely and appropriate manner.

*to support your role as parent and follow the directives given by you.

*to respect your privacy and behave in a professional manner with you and your children.

*to give you proper notice when her employment relationship must come to an end.

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Signs You Should Be Letting Your Babysitter Go

If you ever have an instinctive feeling that the care your babysitter once provided is no longer up to par, it’s always a good idea to investigate it.  Some issues may be resolved by simply clarifying your expectations with your babysitter.  However, some issues are more serious.  Below are four signs that letting your babysitter go is promptly warranted.

1.  You see a noticeable drop in the quality of care your child is receiving. For example, your child used to be in fresh, clean clothes and had activities to fill her day and now she seems to be watching more TV and needs a change of attire when you see her each evening.  If your babysitter is no longer attentive to your children, it may be time to let her go.

2.  You observe that your babysitter often appears impatient with your child. Watch for her body language, facial expressions, and speech to see if she appears to dislike being around your child.  If your babysitter is not nurturing your children, it may be time to let her go.

3.  You should expect your babysitter to follow through with your reasonable instructions. If she isn’t doing that, either she’s not understanding you or she doesn’t respect your authority as the employer-parent. If it’s the former, try to clarify your expectations. If it’s the latter, it may be time to let her go.

4.  You see visible bruising or other injuries on your children.  You may be told that they are becoming quite accident-prone, but when you ask your children in private to describe how the injuries occurred, they become uncomfortable and speak in vague terms.  Or your children begin to act afraid of your babysitter.  Or you see any other marked negative change in behavior from your children that cannot be reasonably explained by them when you speak with them privately.   If you suspect your babysitter is committing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it may be time to let her go. 

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