You’ve been dying to get out of the house for some one-on-one time with your partner, and you’re hiring a babysitter. Kerry McArthur tells you what you need to know.
Date nights are one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship with your partner. Apart from being an opportunity to rediscover your sanity, it is also a time to reconnect without the constant interruptions of a baby or toddler.
Being able to relax while away from home means you need to be confident with the person you leave your child with. Essentially you are leaving your heart with someone else.
There may come a time when Granny or Aunty aren’t available to babysit, and you need to call on the services of a friend or a babysitter. Whether this person is a local teenager or a seasoned professional, there are still things you need to ensure that you have communicated.
1. Allergies and health concerns
If your child has specific food or environmental allergies, it’s important to write these down, along with the treatment needed.
Ensure that you include the method of treatment and dosage with very clear directions. Be as clear as possible, and ensure your handwriting is legible – this is one time you can’t afford to be ambiguous.
If any medication needs to be given while you are away, write down the name and dosage of this and keep it in a separate section to avoid confusion.
2. Emergency contact details
Always write down your contact details, along with another trusted person that you know will be in the area or available in case you are not in reach. You never know when you will have a bad signal or just won’t hear your phone. Make it clear that they can call if they have any questions or concerns, as this will put you and them at ease. Make a note of the closest emergency facility and ambulance services, and in the same section, list your address and basic directions in case these are needed. Show your babysitter where to find the electricity box and water cut-off, along with the alarm or panic buttons in the event of an emergency.
3. Hidden hazards
Let the babysitter know of anything that could cause harm. Toddlers and children can be extremely busy and they get into everything, especially when their parents are not around. This can range from grumpy pets, their love of climbing the bunk beds to their attraction to the pool.
4. Play basics
Make your babysitter’s job easier by letting them know the best way to keep your little one busy. Give them a few favourite activities to do together.
5. Dos and don’ts of discipline
Make the boundaries clear. What are you willing for your babysitter to do in the form of discipline? For example, how long is time out allowed for? Where does time out happen? What other steps are involved? This will ensure continuity between you and the babysitter.
6. General routine
Write down a basic routine including meal times, play time and bedtime.
Technology includes TV time, channels allowed and duration. Also let your babysitter know if you allow other technology such as tablets, and if so which apps or games are allowed and for how long.
Don’t downplay this aspect of the evening, as this can very often cause more meltdowns than you leaving. When you are at home, the bedtime routine is probably complicated and important in getting your child to sleep. A stranger is likely to do it slightly differently and cause confusion for your child.
Leave a step-by-step guide on how to achieve bedtime with minimal fuss. Include bath routine, drink (or no drink) instructions, story time and then ultimately how your child likes to fall asleep, what the favourite blanket or snuggly toy is, and whether to switch the light off or leave it on.
Are you expecting to come home to a generally tidy home, do you want supper dishes or coffee cups washed up, toys packed away, etc.? if you are, let your babysitter know.
Remember that they are stepping into your shoes for the night, so if it is something you would have done then it is not unreasonable to expect them to, but don’t expect them to clean your house or do your ironing!
Lay out these expectations before you leave so that it doesn’t cause friction when you come home.
Discuss payment when you arrange the babysitter and then again before you leave. Discuss how you will be paying and how much, as this can be a very sensitive topic and especially awkward if your babysitter is young.
10. When all else fails – secrets
Separation anxiety might rear its head as you are getting ready to leave. A change in routine can be very disruptive and your babysitter will need some tricks up her sleeve. Let your babysitter in on your secrets: favourite songs, best loved book, allowed treats, bubbles for bath times and any other secrets that you use to comfort your tired or anxious child.
Giving your babysitter the necessary tools to look after your child will not only make the evening enjoyable for them but make it easier to have more date nights knowing that your child is having fun and is safe while you are not there.