I just moved to a new city for the third time this year, and since I’m a working mom with a five-year-old daughter, this means it’s time to find a babysitter once again. At this point, I’m familiar with the process. I’ve always moved around a lot due to work and other personal interests. But being used to it doesn’t exactly make the process a cakewalk. It’s hard to figure out who you can trust to look over your child, especially when you are new in town and there are no relatives or friends who can give you recommendations on who to hire.
Since I’m a bit of an expert by now, I figured I could write down how I go about looking for babysitters these days. Having it in writing will help me organize my thoughts, and it should help other parents who also need to sort through strangers looking for someone to look over their kids.
Alright, so if you don’t have people you trust who can offer you babysitting services or recommend someone, the next best thing is to work with a babysitter platform.
I’m currently living in Australia, so naturally, I use Juggle Street when I’m looking for a babysitter. They are one of Australia’s largest networks of babysitters, and working with professionals who have been part of the network for a while makes things feel a lot safer. They even let me search for babysitters who have first aid training, which is useful.
You’ll want to use a platform like Juggle Street not only because it keeps track of people who have been babysitting for a while, but also because it makes it easier to contact them. I find that I can tell a lot about a person’s working style and level of professionalism by how they react to my initial message.
My daughter is a darling. She’s well-behaved and easy to be around, so I’m lucky enough that I don’t need the world’s best babysitter to look after her. But I do need a responsible adult that can follow instructions. I need the babysitter to respect my daughter’s bedtime, and my daughter has a couple of allergies that the babysitter needs to keep in mind.
When I’m first getting in touch with a potential babysitter, I always send out a “feeler” message. It’s a template I use that contains the basic information about the job — the age of my daughter, the hours I need the babysitter to cover, etc.. At the end of the message, I ask a couple of questions about the babysitter’s experience and availability. And the number of babysitters who fail to answer those questions is astonishing.
I don’t shut down candidates just because of that, but it is definitely a red flag. And I’d say 8 out of 10 people who fail at that early stage turn out to be either unprofessional or inattentive during later talks or when we meet in person, which is not good.
So that’s my first major trick for filtering candidates and separating the bad prospects from the ones with potential: asking simple questions, making simple requests, and seeing how they respond. If they respond at all.
The second trick is, of course, meeting in person and letting the babysitter spend some time with my daughter under my supervision. If that goes well and all the other factors look good, that’s usually when I hire the babysitter.
While all that sounds good on paper, I’ve had cities where half a dozen babysitters couldn’t earn my trust at the playdate stage, and I ended up having to take my daughter to work for me for a week.
It’s not an easy process, but at least I’m getting better at it every time.