Hiring a sitter who is not someone directly related to you or a familiar individual can be very anxiety producing, especially if you are looking for a sitter for the first time. The reality is it's amazing if you have family to help you with your child, but even if you do, it's nice to relieve your family members and get your child used to new people. Consider the sitter a good emergency contact for you to have. God forbid someone in your family is sick or unavailable.
And while there is no guaranteed foolproof way to find the perfect sitter, there are things you can do to try and secure the best care for your family. Use these tips whether you are hiring a sitter full-time, part-time, or for simple date-night fun.
1. Use a Service or Local Moms' Group
To hire the perfect sitter, you have two great options:
A: Contact your moms' group via Facebook as most likely these women will have references or can share where they found their perfect sitter.
B: A service is one of the best investments I made in order to find my current perfect sitter. It was worth the money I invested in order to search around. Care.com is where I turned to for a sitter and while I did get a ton of messages from sitters I would never have even considered, I did find some really nice candidates and finally the sitter we hired and love.
2. Pay Attention to the Sitter Profiles
If you're using a service or contact a sitter via email or text, pay attention to how the person is presenting him or herself. I am not saying you should expect a dissertation on the person's sitting services, but the person should be presenting him/herself well and giving details about his/her background.
Some of the sitters who contacted me just said "I love kids" and "watched my baby cousins." And then they sent me very brief and general messages that showed they didn't read my ad fully.
3. Consider the Age of the Sitter
It's important to me to have a sitter who is older than 18 years of age. As a single parent, I need a mature sitter so personally, older than 21 is preferable. Our current sitter is 27, but our last sitter was 18. For my own needs, I sometimes need someone who can stay long hours, come in emergencies, drive my child, and also help me do errands when even I am sick!
I also knew my daughter would respect someone who was young enough to be active as she's an energetic child but old enough to have had some life experiences.
Know your child/children and who they respond to best. A grandmotherly type wouldn't have worked for me personally, but for another child and mom, a nurturing, grandmotherly type might be better. Or maybe your little one is an absolute spitfire and the younger the sitter, the better.
Keep it in mind based on your situation and child.
4. Review Many References and Where They Come From
Make sure you get as many references as possible and that the references share how and to what extent they know this sitter. I had one friend of mine find out the sitter's references were family and friends, but these references had claimed to be clients. You can't truly guarantee someone is being honest, but you can google their names. Get a first and last name of these references as well!
5. Google Your Sitter
Interestingly, some of the Care.com candidates came up in my Facebook friend suggestions and wow, what I saw was interesting! If you're applying to be a sitter, watch what photos you share on Instagram. Just saying.
Google your sitter. You never know what might come up.
6. Pay For the Background and Motor Vehicle Check
Does your potential sitter have a lead foot? Good to know now! Obviously these checks won't reveal everything.
7. Lay Out What You Need Clearly Up Front
Be very specific about what you want. Laying out expectations and needs from the start will help you get the best sitter for your situation possible. I was clear in my ad I was a single mom needing emergency and periodic care in order to get relief so that way whomever saw the ad understood my needs. Be upfront. It doesn't pay to "surprise" a hired new sitter with things last minute.
8. Do a Trial Run
My sitter came three times on a free trial run before we hired her.
Ask from the start about trials. Someone could come visit and your kids may like the person, but the trial runs are ways the sitter can watch how you do things in action and then gradually take the wheel.
The first time we did our trial, the sitter met us briefly. The second time, I was there and she shadowed me. The third time, I stayed for a while and shadowed, and then left.
9. Set Payment Terms Up Front
Don't delay — be straightforward!
10. Have Backup Care
Make sure you hire a backup. Our old original sitter is my backup, along with friends.
11. Be Clear and Leave Notes
You have your own way of doing things that your sitter may never even remotely think of. Leave notes detailing a basic to-do list, and if you want something done a certain way, say it. Sitters are not mind readers.
12. Show Gratitude
If a sitter goes above and beyond, show gratitude. It has helped me keep sitters simply by acknowledging verbally or financially the extra effort the sitters put in!
13. Ask Yourself If You Like the Person
Make sure you can get along with your sitter well, especially if like me, you really rely on the person. Even if your kid loves someone but you two don't gel, it won't work.
And lastly . . .
14. Give Feedback and Look For Maturity
Give feedback if a sitter isn't going about something the right way. Make sure to also note maturity. One sitter got great references but she seemed inflexible with the schedule and a bit immature. For my single mom life, it didn't work.
Don't Forget These Extra Questions to Ask Potential Sitters:
- Are you CPR certified? This is a must!
- What age range of kids are you most/least comfortable with?
- How do you handle poor behavior?
- How flexible are you schedule wise?
- What do you enjoy doing most with the kids?
- Where is your phone during sitting times?