The very first time I left my baby with a new babysitter — a totally professional experienced nanny — I was so choked up with emotion about leaving my five-month old in anyone else’s care that I had to excuse myself to another room and cry for a bit (while she was still there!). There was so much to communicate and I had no idea how to say it all.
Since then, things have gotten a lot easier; I am eight years into my parenting journey and have 3 sons so I know a thing or two about their needs. Also, I am more comfortable with leaving my children in another’s care and I have a solid network of sitters. I maintain an evolving list with their evening routines, forbidden foods, and emergency contact info on my fridge for reference.
Despite my preparations, I still find that there are surprises with every new caregiver. Most of the differences are minor and I don’t sweat it (like when the kid’s bedroom doors are left open, which we never do at sleepytime) but other discoveries make “the list” for next time.
This piece of legal paper lives on the side of my fridge forever. The top part includes my kids’ names and birthdates, so I don’t need to frequently update ages, as well as our address and emergency contact info. The bottom part contains my peculiar instructions.
In addition to my overly thorough notes, I have the verbal instructions. I realize that what’s normal for me, might sound wacky to you so I offer a partial list of what I tell a new babysitter in the hopes that if I show you mine, you’ll show me yours:
- Take off your shoes, wash your hands. I’m a nut about this. If I see them do it first thing, I can relax. Otherwise, ummm, please don’t touch my kids or their food.
Pro tip: If you’re weird like this, tell the sitter before they come over, so you’re not accusing them of being unclean. AWKWARD!
- Clean up the mess you make. I don’t need my house to be magazine-ready when I get home but please tidy up the dishes and food prep stuff as well as the toys you got out.
Pro tip: For this reason, I nearly always ask sitters to make dinner so they’ll do the clean up.
- Keep up with the toddler. The little guy is the craziest. No matter what, always have one eye — if not hand — on him; the bigs will probably be fine.
Pro tip: I have safe zones set up in every room so adult caregivers can go to the bathroom or open the oven door.
- Lights out at bedtime. I was surprised to learn that my toddlers negotiated for the lights to stay on… and the sitter wondered why they didn’t fall asleep. In our house, lights go off, all the way off. No matter what the kids say.
Pro tip: I have the whole bedtime routine written down for reference.
- No toys in the bed. Again, my kiddos negotiated for puzzle pieces and blocks to be in their beds overnight. Huh? Actually, that one probably goes into the category of bedroom door left open and other things that are no big deal.
Pro tip: Let go of what you can. Bedtime 15 minutes late? So what!
I’d love to hear what’s on your “list” of instructions for babysitters. Does anything unusual make the cut?