We've been fortunate to have some great sitters over the years. We are still in touch with most of them, even though our needs have changed and the individuals weren't necessarily appropriate as babysitters any more.
I've learned a lot during the course of these relationships, and mistakes have been made on both sides. At the end of the day, though, these sitters kept my children safe and happy, and my kids had sitters who loved them and whom they loved. All in a all, a win-win situation.
Your sitter deserves a fair wage. This will take a little research on your part, but trying to pay your sitter less than the regional standard for age and experience level is a sure way start things off poorly.
Of course, a sitter trying to get more than the going rate isn't fair, either, and you have to pay something you can afford. This is exactly the area where I've seen several potentially awesome sitter-family relationships stumble and ultimately fail.
Ask your neighbors with children what they pay their sitters. Ask your acquaintances in town, the local business owners you see regularly, things like that. When you call your sitters' references, you may or may not feel comfortable asking this question, but I think it's perfectly valid.
Look at your sitters' qualifications and experience. Are they more qualified than average? What about the type of sitting they'll be doing for you? It is more intense than usual. Will you be particularly dependent on this sitter in ways you might not be dependent on others? Finally, look at your budget. What can you afford to pay?
Be honest with your expectations for your sitter. And if stumbling blocks happen in the course of the relationship, don't keep it in. Be honest, also, about personal quirks - if it really bugs you when the cordless phone is left off the base at the end of the day, say so. Letting issues build up inside is good for no one.
While I don't expect my sitters to do any real cleaning, others do. I do, however, expect that she helps the kids to generally pick up any messes they make together (card games on the living room floor, for example). While there may be other things that I might let slide, particularly when my kids are so happy, other things are like personal pet peeves. I make sure to say, "Hey, could you be sure to...."
Say thank you often. Even if this is an everyday sitter and things are crazy, make sure you say thank you every single time you see them - and some crazy days require many thank yous.
Don't forget your sitter has a life beyond the walls of your home. Be home when you say you are going to be home, and don't ask them to unduly sacrifice time with their own families to take care of yours.
Ask about your sitter's life, too. Show interest in who they are. You might even do something every now and again to support that personal life. If your sitter loves beading in her spare time, the impromptu gift card for a local beading store would be an awesome thing.
It all comes down to mutual respect. Even though this is an employer-employee relationship, you must have respect for one another. Treat your sitter like you would want to be treated, and you and your family and your sitter will be happy together for a long, long time.
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