While I am not someone who thinks only family members can take care of my children (and I know people who feel this way) I am extremely picky about who does take care of my children. I think it’s criminal how little child care workers make in this country. I think child care is one of the most important jobs a person can hold.
Although we have family members living about an hour away, after my daughter was born, we needed to find a good babysitter. We didn’t plan to go out often, but the fact is, parents need time away sometimes. We did.
Unfortunately we didn’t know anyone who could do it, and I was against hiring a teenager that we didn’t know well. Are there teenagers that are excellent babysitters? Absolutely. You may have someone in your life already who fits the bill. We didn’t.
However, I don’t subscribe to the idea of having teenagers babysit for infants or very small children. Could they be terrific sitters for older children? Sure. But infants can be especially trying at times – we all know that, and I think there is more of a chance of a teenager being unable to cope with excessive crying or just being not being attentive enough to watch out for warning signs that adults with more experience would know to look for.
When we had twins just before my daughter turned three, it was out of the question for me to entrust two infants and a toddler to anyone without a lot of child care experience. I first asked a friend’s nanny (her employer’s kids are the same age as mine) but I grew impatient when she kept showing up with other plans, as in: “I need to run this errand and want to go shopping with my friend, can I just take the kids with me?” I wasn’t comfortable with this, so we didn’t call her again after this happened more than once.
We finally asked one of the workers at our children’s daycare if she would be willing to babysit on occasional nights when we wanted to go out. She is a lovely woman in her twenties and my kids adore her. We pay her a higher hourly rate than most other people I know, but to me, it’s worth every penny for peace of mind and I feel that it makes it worth her while. In fact, I am thinking of giving her a raise. It means that we don’t go out very often, but to me, the tradeoff is worth it.
I admit to bringing some baggage to this decision. Before we had kids, a woman I knew from high school had a tragic experience with a teenage babysitter who, evidently overwhelmed by her infant son’s crying, threw him down on a hardwood floor, permanently injuring him. Her five-year-old son witnessed it and told her what happened. It only takes a minute of frustration, and who hasn’t been frustrated by an infant? It can happen to anyone, but I would rather take my chances that someone with a more maturity would handle it better.
How can you find a trustworthy person to babysit? Asking for recommendations from people you trust (work, daycare, church, etc.) or asking a child care worker are good avenues. There are services that will match you with people looking for childcare gigs, although I have no personal experience with those.
The good thing about our constantly connected world, is that it’s easier than ever to encourage your sitter to contact you with any questions or concerns and for you to check in frequently. Start out by not going far or for too long, and hopefully you’ll find someone you come to feel comfortable with watching your children.
At the end of the day, as many other parents will tell you, the best thing you can do is trust your instincts and go with what feels right for you.