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The Best Babysitter

By Katy Killilea

p1010104_11Years of experience, sympathy for children, first-aid certification . . . what makes a great babysitter? For their first few years, our kids’ only babysitters were their grandparents. But grandparents have a habit of going off to Hawaii when they might be needed. So we have had to branch out, and we’ve had a handful of great babysitters, each with their own star qualities.

1.    THE NEIGHBORHOOD KID: A kid, too young to babysit, can be paid a bit of money to work as a “helper” while you are home. You can supervise in a vague way, and be on hand in case of an emergency. If the kid has natural babysitting talent, your kids won’t bug you and you’ll be able to get some stuff done. If the kid’s a dud, your children will pester you the whole time and you’ll know to move on. But if you’ve found a winner, after a year or so, you’ll have a fully trained babysitter who is loyal to you and is adored by your kids.
COST: $2/hour.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: playing on the sidewalk, preferably with a doll, chalk, or rubber ball. PSP addicts need not apply.

The Best Babysitter2.    THE WHOLESOME TEEN: Teens who are in orchestras and/or run cross country are ideal babysitters. They are disciplined and responsible, yet young enough to play like kids and really have fun with yours. We have a teenage babysitter who plays all of the board games the adults in our family have deemed too annoying (e.g., Cranium Hullaballoo, Chutes & Ladders, Trouble). Prominently place Edy’s Ice Cream Dibs in your freezer so they’ll want to come back.
COST: $8/hour if you drive them to & fro; $10/hour if they drive themselves.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Houses of worship, or court a friend’s teen-aged offspring.

3.    THE COLLEGE STUDENT: They are often experienced with kids, and don’t mind staying up late. They typically are able to provide their own transportation. One drawback is that they usually move away after a few years; another is that they like to go out with their friends and are not at your beck and call.
COST $10-$12/hour.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: score one from a friend, or check the lists maintained at colleges and universities.

4.    THE PRO: An adult who sits professionally costs more, but will show up on time, have a distracting stuffed animal in her bag in case of a difficult good-bye, and will do your laundry while your kids are asleep. (I heard tell of one who folded clean clothes and figured out where to put everything away as well!) And she will not Jo Frost you with criticism, charts, and advice. I have never actually had anyone like this in my house.
COST: $15+/hour.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: This is a mythical being, like a unicorn.

Who’s your favorite sitter, and would he or she come over to my house? Please share your tips and ideas by posting comments.

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  • I have had great luck with Brown University’s job board. The con is the high turn over. The pro is the individuals are always mature, responsible and have experience.

  • And once you find a good babysitter, it’s probably best to go out and have adult fun weekly–if only so you can stay in touch with the sitter.

  • I am fortunate enough to have found a real, live Unicorn but please don’t ask for her name or number because I won’t share it! She is like family to us and when we come home from a Sat night date night, my kitchen is clean, my laundry is done, ironed and put away, etc, etc.

    Please note: 1)we do not ask her to do this. She claims that she just “has” to keep busy. 2)We constantly tell her how much we appreciate and adore her and we are equally as loyal and generous to her as she is to us.

  • I feel so lucky to have teen sisters who sit for us occasionally. If one can’t come, the other often can. That being said, I think we use a sitter about once a month at most–the expense of a sitter often rules out the cost of dinner at the Laiterie, and if we can’t go there, why leave home?

    Does Kidoinfo have a CheapDates section in the resource guide?