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“I wish they fed me, too": We spoke to 12 babysitters about what they wish parents knew.

I started babysitting when I was quite young, popping next door to watch a few kids around my neighbourhood while their parents went on date nights. It was a good gig that helped pay for my new shopping addiction, but it wasn’t always easy.

Year after year I learned the hard way how to keep tiny humans happy, usually after making a big mistake and calling my mum for advice. But one thing that was abundantly clear from the very beginning was that I would never, under any circumstance, raise my concerns or questions with the parents.

That sentiment seems to be consistent among all young babysitters, so when I became a parent myself and started hiring sitters to watch my kids, I decided I was going to be different. I was going to be the perfect employer.

“I’m a cool parent with enough experience to understand exactly what they need from me”, I said to my partner. “They’ll text if they don’t know what to do, right?”

Wrong.

Mums confess. The things I do after the kids got to bed:

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Most babysitters are quite young, so it’s important that parents take the lead on direct communication. But how can you know exactly what they’re thinking if the sitters don’t feel comfortable speaking up?

I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask a dozen babysitters who have all watched kids in the last 30 days exactly what they were thinking when “sitting on” your precious cargo. And here’s what they wish you knew:

1. “I wish they would feed me, too.”

Oftentimes parents put a lot of effort into preparing food for their kids, but they completely forget about the sitter. As most parents don’t expect a babysitter to cook and watch their kids at the same time, it makes sense to have a pre-made meal in the fridge. But what is a sitter supposed to do?

“I usually watch these kids at night and I’m supposed to feed them dinner. The parents have never talked to me about what I can eat. I know it’s probably fine for me to order delivery after the kids are sleeping, but I get nervous about the delivery guy knocking on the door loudly. I just don’t eat and wait until I get home. I kind of wish they left me a plate or ordered me pizza and had it waiting when I arrived.” – Olivia, 20

“I bring my own food to their house, but I hide it in the bottom of my bag because I’m worried they will realise they never talked about food with me and feel bad.” – Brittany, 24

2. “I don’t feel comfortable punishing your kids.”

Most parents do a pretty good job of explaining the ‘house rules’ before they leave, but they often forget that these sitters aren’t parents themselves.

“Last time I babysat, I was told that the kids weren’t allowed to watch TV. If they turned it on I was supposed to say no and turn it off. If they didn’t listen to me, I could take away dessert. The kids didn’t listen to me and then cried for so long when I wouldn’t give them chocolate that I had no choice but to give it to them. I don’t know, I’m not their mum. They don’t listen to me in the same way.” – Sophie, 22

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Instead of expecting young sitters to have the experience and confidence to punish your children, just allow your kids to bend the rules for one night.

Having a sitter should be an enjoyable experience, not a triggering one. And you want your sitter to want to come back, too. So much like with grandparents who “break the rules” here and there, let your kids watch television or make a mess. Just for one night.

 

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3. “I’d like to know who to call and for what reason.”

If you’re on top of your parenting game, you’ll leave a list of emergency contacts on your fridge and tell your sitter to “call if you have any problems”. Unfortunately, they probably won’t. Not because they don’t want to, just because they don’t actually know what warrants a call.

“I’ve never really figured out what defines a problem. I know I would call if the kids were choking or something, but what is they just refused to eat?” – Samantha, 18

“What would warrant a phone call? Should I call if they won’t go to bed?” – Kendall, 30

“I always write the text and then delete it. I just think I’m probably bothering them.” – Micha, 24

4. “Tell me how long I’m babysitting for.”

Half of parents who use sitters are quite detailed when they request a specific time and date, while the other half just ask if the sitter is free for the night and give a starting time.

“It’s really annoying when I don’t know when the parents are getting home. It’s not that I always make plans afterwards, but a normal job has business hours and I feel like babysitting should too.” – Shay, 26

“I find it strange that parents don’t give me a start and end time. It would help me decide if I want to take the job or not.” – Kev, 31

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If this is impossible for you and your partner to do, just make that clear. Most babysitters just want to understand what is being expected of them, much like any other employee.

5. “I never know how much I’m getting paid.”

This comes up a lot in the babysitting community. Parents text to see if a babysitter is free, but they forget to talk about the payment. And because we’re typically dealing with younger women, they feel quite uncomfortable with negotiating their rate if they think they deserve more.

“I feel like I have an uncomfortable conversation with the dad every time I watch his son. He asks me how much I should get paid and I just get uncomfortable. I wish he just knew.” – Jade, 21

“The mum and dad don’t seem to communicate, so they always ask what the other one gives me. I always feel weird and end up getting less because I get nervous.” – Steph, 19

 

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6. “Don’t feel that you need to apologise to me.”

If you’re anything like me, you feel that you need to apologise if the house is dirty, or the food isn’t prepped, or maybe you’re running a little bit late. Don’t.

“It’s funny how often they apologise. They are paying me to work for them, so it’s just not necessary. I understand that parenting is hard, so they don’t need to worry.” – Kyle, 27

“I don’t care if the house is messy at all. They are using me because life is intense, right?” – Lexie, 27

The fact is, babysitting is a job and you are the employer. If your employees have concerns about their job responsibilities, it’s up to you to address those concerns immediately.

And while they may not always share those concerns with you, you can now use this list (and the comment section below) to try and make your sitters job just a tad bit easier. They are watching your children, right? It’s worth the extra effort.

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