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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Finding a Babysitter Isn't As Easy As It Sounds

This found its way to my Facebook feed yesterday, and while the original list is gone, the article goes into enough detail to give you the point.

The gist is, a couple put out an ad for a babysitter, and in the ad, they put 65 questions the applicants should answer.

There are lots of problems with this. First of all, if you are so incredibly picky about who is going to watch over your precious, why are you posting on Craigslist? Drop the $70 and go to or Sittercity, seriously.

Secondly, I think they just got on a roll and forgot to stop themselves. Now, they're looking for a nanny, which I assume means the person is going to be with their children for much of the day. I'm currently looking for a babysitter for eight hours a week. So it's different, yes. But I would never dream of asking some of these questions. I mean, sometimes you just have to ascertain information from what you've got instead of alienating the whole world.

For instance, after you've asked what drugs the person is on, you do not need to ask their complete drug history for the past twenty years, or give them a hypothetical drug question.

"Do you reward the honest meth head, one year sober, who, in the spirit of full disclosure, did pop a tab of ecstasy in celebration of the great new kids (your kids) he can't wait to learn and laugh with?

Or do you go with the folks who at least had enough sense to lie on your very-easy-to-lie-on Internet survey?"

Now, many are laughing at this, particularly after the couple listed every drug (prescription and street) known to man and asked prospective sitters about them.

But, as heinous as the questions about this come off, what I see is a couple who had a bad experience with drugs either in their own past, or they hired someone they thought was drug-free to watch their kids previously, and the person was not, and now, they're obviously super worried about it.

I don't want someone on drugs watching my kids either.

The hand-washing question is worded entirely wrong. Seriously, what were these people thinking? Here it is, as mocked in the article (for good reason.)

 Choose the following instances when you would wash your hands with soap and water, or clean your hands with a hand sanitizer (No, we're not expecting you to choose them all. Just answer truthfully):
- Before eating
- After eating- Before bedtime- Upon waking- After touching a public door- After going to the bathroom- Before feeding children- After playtime in the park- Before changing diapers- After changing diapers- After cleaning the house- When hands are visually dirty

"How should you answer this?, the article asks. "They say they don't expect you to choose all of them, but don't those all sound like pretty good situations in which to wash your hands, now that they mention it? Is it possible the "don't choose all" warning is a trick to weed out the Unclean? Or will selecting all of those instances make you look like an OCD hand washing enthusiast who will scrub the tender palms of their children until they're raw and red? Maybe the answer is "none of the above" — to boost the kids' immune systems?"

Okay, so my kids have pretty weak immune systems, and I really do hate when they get sick, especially when it could have been prevented. But this looks like something the couple should have told the sitter during a sit-down. Something like, "This is our expectation for hand-washing, because little Johnny is ____ and ____ and precious."

Because it doesn't matter how the sitter feels about hand-washing, or even how often he or she washes his or her hands in her own home. So long as they know your expectations, they should be able to follow the guidelines.

And the GPA and the hygiene. Is high school GPA important for babysitting? No, but it does show your ambition and ability to follow through and reason. Maybe. I wouldn't ask it.

Hygiene? Eh, I think they go so far as to ask how often the sitter bathes. They have no people skills, I swear.

Still, you don't want your sitter showing up smelling like a drunken hobo, either. Where's the line?

A dear friend of mine took issue with the question asking a doctor to sign off on the sitter's general health to ensure he or she was in good health and able to perform "the rigorous job of caring for two children."

My friend thought it was fat-phobic. And I, as well, feel like it's extreme. I wouldn't want to sit for these parents, I mean, they don't even know how to talk to people.

Still, the issue at hand is, "Can you get on the floor and play with my kids at their level?"

I once had an older woman come and meet my children for possible babysitting and she later wrote me saying that she wouldn't be able to play games with the kids because moving around like that hurt her too much. I completely understood and we parted ways amicably. I needed something she couldn't provide. No harm in sussing that out beforehand right?

But a doctor's note? The parents have obvious trust issues.

Still, shouldn't you have trust issues when you're giving your kids to another person whom you do not know to care for?

The main point here is that you're going to be nervous about leaving your kids with someone you don't really know all that well. But you can't suss out whether or not someone is a good fit for your family by posting a million questions in a Craigslist ad. That is the absolute wrong way to do things.

If you want to find a nice, trustworthy, dependable babysitter who is a good match for your family, first, advertise in a reputable place. Then have them over. More than once. Give them an interview, then as many times as a "mother's helper" as you feel you both need. Only through getting to know someone the traditional way will you (especially if you're as high strung as this couple apparently is) feel comfortable leaving your children in his or her care.

It's up to you to make the right choices for your kids. You can start by going about it the right way.



  1. I wouldn't work for parents like that in a million bazillion years. Not for anything.

    My ads on Craigslist for sitters were always meant to attract, not repel, the sort of person I would want to have watching my kid. The e-mail exchanges afterward were almost entirely sufficient for weeding out bad fits, and the interviews showed me whatever e-mail couldn't. As I grew more experienced with sitters and what they were like, I added questions to the interviews of subsequent sitters, but it was never a matter of giving them the third degree. The questions it came down to were: 1) do you like kids? 2) will you keep mine safe and happy and engaged? and 3) will you be comfortable being honest with me if/when something goes wrong?

    And dude, you are a writing star. How do you have ten posts already on the year? LOL.

  2. I agree with you. I either ask for recommendations or use a reliable site. I have successfully found a babysitter here which was recommended to me by my neighbor. A whole list of choices came up and I was able to find the perfect sitter and it didn't take long at all. I have really liked using this service and I have been fortunate enough to find a responsible babysitter.



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