I ran into a problem recently, when my youngest kids' school and day care were closed, my husband was away, I had to work, and I had no backup childcare.
Yeah, it made for a tough day.
I scraped by (it's challenging to work from home with little kids running around, but it can be done -- single parents do it, and more, all the time). But I wished I had taken the time to thoroughly vet a few baby sitting candidates months ago, rather than procrastinating because the interview process seemed like too much work.
Yes, the interview process. Whether you're looking for a teenage "mother's helper" to play with the kids for an hour after school or a full-time live-in nanny to hold down the fort while you're at work, you have to rely on more than a notecard pinned to a corkboard at the supermarket. When I was a babysitter, good recommendations and an up-to-date CPR certification were more than enough to get a child caring job. But now? Not anymore.
If you're looking for a full-time nanny, I've got a great checklist of questions to ask here. And if you prefer to go through an agency that's done some of the screening for you, Care.com is offering a fee-free three-day weekend starting in the morning on Friday (April 24), during which you can access their database of pre-screened caregivers for free, search for providers (child care, pet sitters, housekeepers, and tutors) by location, post jobs, contact providers, check references, schedule interviews, and even run a free background check.
But if you're putting off hiring a sitter because you're confused as to what to ask him or her, here are 15 questions to get you started (I've used "her" and "she" throughout, but don't take that the wrong way -- male caregivers are fine in my book). Tailor them to suit your family, of course.
1.) What are her qualifications?
2.) Is there an age-range with which she is most comfortable?
3.) Can she provide references?
4.) Will she give you permission to conduct an extensive background check?
5.) Does she know first aid or have any emergency training or other certifications?
6.) Does she have children of her own? How about younger siblings?
7.) What are her interests? Her pet peeves?
8.) Has she ever had to discipline a child? Why? How did she handle the situation?
9.) What would she do in an emergency? (List different scenarios.)
10.) What is the most difficult situation she's ever been in with a child? What was the outcome?
11.) Does she like pets? (If you have any)
12.) Does she have her own car? (If so, check her driving record.)
13.) Will she pick your child up at school if you need her to?
14.) What sort of a time committment is she looking for, day-to-day? How about in the long term?
15.) Are there any questions she has for you to answer?
What questions do you ask a potential babysitter? Share your experience with the rest of us in the comments!
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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