Considerations in Picking a Babysitter

I was disappointed when reading Swissmiss today; it’s a blog written by a Swiss designer who profiles a variety of products, including a good dose of children’s items.

The disappointment came in the news that the Red Cross sells a 38-minute Babysitter’s Training DVD for $125. I also found a 21-minute video, Safety First Babysitting, for $89.

Why is that sad? Well, for $80 the Parks and Recreation department of a city in my neck of the woods, Arcata, Calif., offers an annual Red Cross babysitting workshop in four 3-hour sessions.

Here is the workshop description:

"This 12 hour American Red Cross certification will teach young teens leadership, safety, and responsibility. The course includes a handbook and certification in First Aid and infant-child CPR. Learn about baby feeding, diapers, play ideas and discipline. Create your own babysitters’s kit and learn skills for marketing yourself and interviewing for babysitting jobs."

Hmmm, do I want a kid who watched an expensive 38-minute video, or a young adult who labored through a 12-hour training and could potentially save my child’s life?

All of this raises the question, what qualities do you want in a person to whom you are entrusting your child’s life? Here is who my wife and I picked and why.

1) Other parents, close friends or relatives. Trust and maturity are major issues. One of our babysitters is a mom we know and trust. There’s no substitute for a person who is experienced in being around and raising kids, or knows your child well. Plus, she’s free. The mom has two squirming kids of her own and it’s heaven for her to hand them off to their dad and spend a quiet evening at our home while our daughter sleeps.
2) Coworkers or teenage offspring of coworkers. Our other babysitter is a nurse’s aide who is the daughter of another of my wife’s coworkers. She’s a nursing student with my two other top qualities: extensive experience in babysitting and CPR training.

On her first visit we had her arrive an hour early to play and orient my daughter. As it turned out, my daughter was excited at the novelty of the babysitter reading the bedtime stores instead of mom and dad.

We pay the babysitter $9 an hour, which from some googling appears to be a median wage. On one hand, she spends a few hours watching our TV, talking on the phone or studying while my daughter sleeps. On the other hand, we’re paying for experience and knowledge should something go wrong.

Babysitters can get as little at $4 or more than $12, according to a poll. It’s easy for the babysitter to eclipse the cost of the event or activity you’re attending.

3) Baby Co-op. Find one or two trusted parents in your playgroup and babysit their kids for an afternoon or evening while the other parents go out and have fun. Some baby co-ops have dozens of participating parents, but I’m more comfortable depending on a handful of parents I know well. A few hours spent managing a bunch of toddlers playing together nets you one or two future dates with your spouse as the other parents in the co-op watch your child.

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2 Responses to “Considerations in Picking a Babysitter”

  1. lisa says:

    I’m a new mom, and this question has been on my mind. I started babysitting when I was 13 (I got that Red Cross certification). It was a real “job” for me, as I usually had babysitting gigs four or six nights a week. I mostly sat for the same families on a weekly basis, and they would get to know me. But, I was still just a teenager, in charge of several children and sometimes very small infants. Most of my clients met me on referal from friends–very few of them had met me or my parents before leaving their kids with me. All of my friends also babysat, and these parents seemed to think nothing of leaving their kids with a young teenager. Now, as a parent, I don’t know anybody who leaves their kids with a teenager, and the idea of doing so seems weird and scary. Do people do that any more?

    December 14th, 2006 at 1:47 pm

  2. Hailey says:

    I am still a teenager but I do have to say about the comment above…I think its ok as you look in to it and know how the parents are and maybe even they could have a test run well you the parent are still there it may just work!

    April 14th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

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