My husband and I became parents through adoption: we brought our daughter Alex home as a newborn from the hospital. However, unlike most parents who have the luxury of some paid maternity or paternity leave when they bring home their little ones, the company we both worked for didn't give maternity leave to adoptive parents. Therefore our need for a babysitter came fast and furious: after two weeks of vacation time off, we both had to go right back to work.
Needless to say, we were pretty picky when it came to finding a babysitter for our 2 week old daughter -- after all, we still didn't know exactly what we were doing! We decided to forego finding a babysitter simply by word-of-mouth, and instead went directly to one of the best-reputed nanny placement companies in Houston, one that did complete background checks, required CPR certification and came with extensive recommendations. After interview three candidates, we settled on M -- even despite the fact that she requested permission to bring her pre-teen daughter to work with her. My instincts just told me she was the right one.
My instincts were never more spot-on: M was amazing with Alex; even more happily, her daughter T was fantastic with her as well, since she'd grown up around her mother's work. It was like having 1-1/2 nannies in one, and not only did M because a trusted nanny, but in many ways, she helped teach me a lot about motherhood.
Eventually, we didn't require a nanny, but M continued to be our go-to babysitter until Alex was 4, for the occasional date nights my husband and I would enjoy. Sadly, however, about a year ago, M moved too far away for it to be worth the long commute into town to babysit.
And then, my husband and I found ourselves without a babysitter. Worse: we discovered we'd been seriously spoiled.
After having such an amazing person care for Alex for so long, the thought of bringing in a teenager to do the same job seemed unthinkable, even though now Alex was a very easy-going preschooler instead of a helpless infant, and a teenager would probably be very capable to do the job (after all, I started babysitting when I was 12!). When I finally decided that I was being silly, that I should go ahead and take up a neighbourhood kid on his offer to babysit, about a week before the scheduled date, something happened which made me think that perhaps he didn't quite have maturity to take care of a 4-year-old. We ended up canceling his services. And my paranoia increased tenfold.
Eventually, we ended up finding another babysitting service, who recommended L -- a mom herself, of, coincidentally, a preschool girl named Alex. And while L is no M, she's very good with Alex, and Alex loves her. And better still, Marcus and I can go out again every couple of months or so.
How about you: how did you choose a babysitter (read: am I the only paranoid parent out there)?
Karen is a writer and a photographer in Houston, Texas. You can read and see more of her work at Chookooloonks.
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