Recently, I was on a Mom Talk Radio Roundtable.  There were three of us on the call, with only seven minutes to chat, about the topic of finding a babysitter AND the challenges presented if the babysitter was a family member.  Needless to say, there was only time for me to share my worries and frustrations, and not enough time to share possible solutions.  (Note to MTR – give your guests more time…)

Anyway, since I was unable to get to the “hearty” stuff, I figured I would share it here:  The fears we have about babysitters today and what we can do about it.

We watch the news and read the paper and “the”caregiver horror stories. You know the ones.  So when it comes time to leave our child (especially for the first time) with a babysitter, every single report comes rushing back into our heads until we are basket cases.

Here are some factors to consider.

1. Don’t go cold turkey.

Plan to have your first outing local and short.  Stay in the neighborhood and make the trip two hours or less. Better yet, don’t go anywhere at all.  Stay at home and take a shower, make dinner uninterrupted, or workout, while the babysitter watches your child in your own home.

2. Keep it in the family.

Have a sister, brother or parent watch your child while you run some errands or take a nap. For some, this is an easier transition.

3. Don’t wait too long.

If you still have not had a date night with your partner and your child is three years old, you have waited too long.  Just like most things in life, the sooner we start, the easier it is.  Don’t wait until the first day of daycare!  Try going out before then to ease the transition.  Stay-at-home-moms should find time to get out in the early months without the baby.  Your baby probably will not notice you are gone.  (Wait until they are two years old though and they will notice!)

Once you have decided to head out without the stroller, who do you have watch your child?  It is not as easy these days.  I was 13 when I started babysitting.  I did not have CPR training or a background check. I did not even have a license to drive!  Yet, people trusted me with their kids.  Today, I am not sure the majority of us would have hired our ownselves back in the day. Times have changed – along with car seats, safety gates and cabinet locks too.

So in the world today, what can you do to find a reliable babysitter?  I honestly don’t know, but I can suggest ways to improve your chances of finding one.  When you do find one, you will be the envy of all your friends.

1. Ask for recommendations at your local church, synagogue, etc.

2. Ask for recommendations at your local high school or college. Specifically speak to a guidance counselor or related office.

3. Friends and neighbors are a source for references, so ask them.  (But you may have to bake them a lot of cookies to get them to talk.)

4. Look for sitters on Featured on national television and in major publication, this resource has close to 90% of their caregivers as babysitters, many with references and background checks. has babysitters located across the country and membership costs as little as $8 a month.  You can customize your babysitter search too: a 25 year old babysitter, fluent in French and can cook? Just type it in.

In addition to all the above, make sure you know what is it you want.  You may want a background check or maybe CPR certification is more important. You may want a college-aged babysitter or maybe a senior in high school is sufficient.  Whether it is a “stranger” or a family member, make sure you are clear on your expectations. Also make sure to leave relevant contact information so you can be reached when you are out.

Will there come a day you feel comfortable leaving your child for the day, night or (gasp) weekend?  Maybe. (I have my doubts).  But hopefully the above tips will enable you (and me) to at least walk out the door for a cup of coffee.

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