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Thieving babysitter?

What do you do if you think your babysitter/childcare provider has taken something from your home or out of your purse or diaper bag? How do you handle this sort of delicate situation? The author of The Anxious Parents’ Guide to Quality Childcare offers her tips.

The parent’s question:

I hate even thinking this, but since we had a babysitter watch our kids (infant and age three) one night last week, I can’t find the bottle of my favorite perfume, and we seem to be missing a couple CDs. I think she might have taken them. How do I handle this?

The childcare expert answers:

This is a very tough question. In my book, I discuss the importance of TRUST in a parent-caregiver relationship. When you have suspicions like these, you are facing a critical breakdown in an important component of that relationship. However, as in any situation when you THINK something is amiss but have no real evidence, you need to tread carefully.First, I recommend that you do two things:

1) tear apart your house to make sure that you didn’t misplace the items, your kids didn’t “borrow” them and your spouse didn’t lend them out and 2) determine if these missing items are worth the trouble of trying to get them back or determine who actually took them.

Sometimes, it isn’t worth the heartache of following the culprit to the ends of the earth to get the things back. In any event, however, you must still cope with the issue of what to do with your suspicions about the babysitter.If you have a pretty strong suspicion that it was the babysitter who took these items (meaning you have torn up the house etc.), and you really don’t HAVE to reclaim them, you have the option of just never using her again. When my oldest was about 18 months old, I used a teenage sitter who seemed okay. (I did check her references before I used her). However, when my husband and I would return from our evening out, there was always a fast food bag in our kitchen trash. “Laura” would tell us that her parents were dropping the meals off for her. But after a while (this happened every time), we began to suspect that MAYBE she was having a friend stop in to keep her company. We could never prove it since my son was asleep (and couldn’t talk anyway) and my neighbors weren’t watching my house like prison guards. So, being uncomfortable and having no way to confirm our suspicions, we just stopped using her. No explanation was needed. End of story. You can do the same and cut your losses now.Let’s say that you have a very strong suspicion that it was the babysitter who took these items AND you want to get them back. This issue is a bit out of the realm of childcare (and more into “stolen property recovery”), and I will say that your chances are slim to none, but I can give it a shot…One tactic is to use your “parenting logic” and try something like this: Call and ask the sitter to stop by to help you out with something and mention “Laura, did you happen to see my Chanel perfume the last time you were over. I thought I left it on my dresser but I was in such a rush, I must have put it down somewhere else.” Then, see if the object re-appears after she stops by. OR you can try being a bit more direct: “I can’t seem to find my Chanel perfume anywhere. If you borrowed it when you were here, I would be very grateful if you could return it. No hard feelings and no questions asked.” I offer absolutely no guarantee that either of these approaches will get you anything more than cut-off connection when she hangs up on you — but if these things are that important to you, it is worth a try.

A true experience

What about the situation where you can’t find these things and you really don’t know what to think? Here’s a true story. About four years ago, I was under a horrible amount of stress: my job was exceedingly difficult, both my children were having medical problems and my father-in-law was terminally ill and bedridden. My mind was so scattered that getting through each day was a trial. One Friday, I took $500 out of my bank account at the cash machine on my way home from the office. When I got home, I put the envelope on my kitchen counter, or on the steps going upstairs or…or…or… Get the picture?My husband went through all our garbage, I retraced my steps and tore the house apart, my babysitter helped — but we never found that money. Part of me thought that maybe, just maybe, the sitter took it. I mean, it couldn’t just evaporate and we looked everywhere for days. Still, it was so out of character for her to do that sort of thing and I was so distraught that I was sure she would have “found” it during her search if she had taken it. In the end, I just had to let it go — and with $500 at stake, it wasn’t easy. Maybe it was me, maybe it was her, maybe it was Casper the Friendly Ghost. I’ll never know — but, I did know that I didn’t know enough to accuse her of having done anything. If you are in this limbo, I recommend that you do what your heart AND mind tell you is the best thing to keep your sanity and self-respect.Finally, I can’t really offer any advice on what to do if you believe the babysitter has taken these items and you still wish to use her, since I think it is a totally misguided idea. If you can’t trust a person with your possessions, how can you trust her to care for your children?

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