Hiring a babysitter so you and your spouse can enjoy a "date night" out of the house, without little people demanding to have their butt's wiped or their food cut into bite size pieces is a special treat for any couple. But, for the teenager who is taking your place in the role of caregiver to your kids for the night, it's a part-time job. One they do not because they simply love children, but because they want a chance to earn some spending money of their own that they don't have to beg from their parents.
If your children are just now to the age where you'd consider leaving them with a babysitter, or you usually have family do the babysitting for you, then you might not think of all the rules of etiquette that are involved. It's difficult to remember back in time to the days when we were the babysitter, anxious to see how much cash we were pocket at the end of the night. Trying to stay awake on the couch until the parents came home, wondering if we dared call a girlfriend to pass the time.
Times have changed a lot since I was a babysitter, but one thing has stayed the same: My teenager is eager to earn her own money, and at 15 there aren't a lot of options available to her outside of babysitting. She LOVES hanging out with kids, so this is a good fit for her. We've found, however, that some gigs definitely work out better for her than others.
I definitely don't think that anyone breaks these "rules" that I've outlined out of anything other than being thoughtless and not even thinking about it. I also know that when my own children were small, hiring a sitter was a very rare treat because it can add up, quickly!
Here are some quick, and I hope easy, rules of etiquette for hiring a teenage babysitter:
1. Remember the teenager who is at your house to babysit is also someone else's kid. Don't ask this teenager you've hired to babysit to do anything you wouldn't want your own child doing a few years from now. If you don't know the teen's parents very well, it's perfectly okay to have a conversation with them about what's okay and what's not. Things like having a friend over and having a boyfriend/girlfriend over should all be figured out ahead of time.
2. Discuss things like how much the teenager charges in advance
If you were going to work for the day, you would expect your employer to tell you how much they were paying you before you agreed to work. Why should you ask anything less of the teenager who is in your home for the evening? In addition to that, consider that if you're coming home late they may (likely!) have fallen asleep on the couch and won't be ready to discuss what price is okay with them when you wake them up.
3. Give as much detail as possible including where you're going and when they should expect you to return
In today's era of cell phones, texting and constant access, it might not seem as important to let your babysitter know where you'll be, but the more information you share the better prepared your babysitter will be to handle anything that comes up. If you're not sure what time you'll be back, give a range. Saying, "We should be home sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m." is far better than leaving it completely open-ended If you're going to an event, let the babysitter know what time you think the event will end; it will help her estimate when you'll return.
4. If the babysitter is responsible for feeding your children while you're gone, make sure there is something for the babysitter to eat as well!
Look, we all have those days where we simply have nothing to eat in the house, even pulling off a PB&J would be a stretch some days. We need to go to the store, and we haven't made it yet, so there's slim pickings. Maybe you grab fast food for the kids, offer to pick something up for the sitter as well. Ordering a pizza? Ask what toppings he or she prefers. If you are having the sitter watch your kids from 3 p.m.-midnight, the babysitter is going to need to eat something during that time.
5. Sort out transportation in advance
If your sitter is old enough to drive, then this may be an unnecessary step, but if the kid you've hired is under 16, or doesn't have their own car, you'll need to figure out the logistics of getting the babysitter to and from your house. Whether or not the other set of parents is playing a role in this is something that should absolutely be sorted out in advance. No one wants to be waiting up for their kid to get home at 1 a.m. only to discover the parents she is babysitting for had one too many cocktails and can't drive her home, or that since the kids are in bed, they can't leave to bring her home without waking them up.
6. If your kid have specific rules that you want followed while you're not there, spell them out
If you're fairly strict about things like screen time or bedtime snacks, or if the kids have chores they should do before being tucked in for the night, make sure the babysitter is aware of all of these things so they can make sure they get done. It's only natural that the kids try to get away with a little bit of something since you're away for the evening; make sure the babysitter knows what you expect him or her to enforce on your behalf.
7. If you need to cancel, do it as far in advance as possible
If you've arranged for a sitter several weeks ahead of the date, and then find out last minute that your plans have changed, or been cancelled, or that Grandma is available to keep them after all (for free!), take a moment to remember that you've asked this teenager to give you an evening of their time in exchange for pay, which you're now canceling. Now, I'm absolutely not saying you have to pay the babysitter anyway, that would truly suck. I am saying you should do something to show your appreciation and to say you're sorry for canceling last-minute. It might mean the difference between them saying yes or no the next time you need a sitter!
Some other tips that are good to follow are to ask the teenager before you leave for evening for his or her cell phone number, so you can call or text to check on the kids. If you don't have a landline at your house anymore, this is especially important. It's also good to ask in advance if the sitter is certified in things like CPR in case of an accident. Make sure they know your home address, in case they need to call 911 for any reason. If your children have any health concerns or allergies, make sure the babysitter knows exactly how to handle things like medications.
Hiring a sitter and having an evening out on the town is a treat. By following these steps, you can (hopefully) relax enough to enjoy yourself!
Do you have tips to add to the list? Leave them in the comments!