Secrets of the Babysitting Pros
Wanna be a standout in the babysitting pool?
Be dependable. Always return phone calls right away—parents are usually in a time crunch and appreciate a quick response. Arrive on time, or better yet, early. Go over details, like where the parents can be reached. Get a cell phone or pager if they have one.
Be presentable. No point showing up dressed like Britney Spears. Leave playing dress-up to the kiddies. Wear your comfiest clothes—and ones you don’t mind messing up a bit. Kids and parents like sitters who aren’t afraid of finger paints and mud pies. Wear sneaks, and go easy on the jewelry. You don’t want to hook Becky’s braids in all 12 bracelets. Ouch!
Get the rules straight. Most parents will tell you if there’s specific info for the night, but it never hurts to ask. Some sitters keep babysitting notebooks with a page or two for each family. On your first visit, get the house rules. Take notes and bring your book with you until you’re down with the drill
Be inquisitive. There are a few important questions you should always ask. Write them in your notebook: Do any of the kids have food or other allergies? Are certain shows or videos off-limits? Do the children take any medications? Does the house have an alarm and will it be set?
Respect the fam’s stuff. Just because you’ve been hired as head of household, you don’t get a green light to closet shop, snoop on the medicine cabinets, pry into photo albums, peek at mail, or call your new e-pal in Italy. Parents who come home earlier than planned are awesome—unless you’re sporting Mrs. Smith’s floor-length sequin-number while booking flights to Puerto Rico on Mr. Smiths’ state-of-the-art laptop.
Clean up. Leave the house looking like it did when you arrived. Pick up toys, games, food, and clothes. Clean the counter tops and floors of Spaghetti-O spots and Dorito crumbs. If you really wanna score bonus points, do something extra, like run and empty the dishwasher—parents love this one! Suzin, mother of a 3-year-old, agrees, “Although I don’t expect my sitter to clean, my husband and I once had a group of friends over for cocktails and then we all went out from our house. When we got home, she’d taken it upon herself to pick up and wash all the dishes we used. It really made us value her even more.”
One more tiny tip. Kids are people (just temporarily mini), so treat them like people. Don’t flaunt your four hours of power. No one likes a bossy babysitter. And, remember, dictators can be overthrown at any time. Be fair, yet firm when the time calls for it.