How to Find the Best Babysitter & Reclaim Date Night With Child Care Expert Tori Ulrich by Renee Herren
Hiring (and keeping!) a babysitter can be an overwhelming and scary experience. Where to look, who to hire, how to prepare, nanny vs. babysitter?! Feels like a lot of work just for a date night! There is conflicting information everywhere and it's hard to know how to start. We talked through the different steps from finding, to booking, to tipping and beyond with Tori Ulrich, the founder of Chicago Super Sitters! Tori has worked in child care for 20-plus years and has interviewed and placed hundreds of sitters.
Q: What is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?
A nanny is typically a full time, contracted, salaried employee, that helps with more than just the kids! A babysitter is part-time, paid same-day, is 100 percent kid-focused and is not on a regular schedule. The titles shouldn’t have anything to do with age or experience (we are just used to thinking of babysitters as teenage neighbors). Both nannies AND babysitters should be equally committed to safety and educational care of your kid(s).
Babysitters can be preteens OR older and more experienced professionals – the difference in title speaks only to the time commitment. Babysitters are just working part time instead of full time.
Nannies are looking for regular, consistent, full-time work and income. Babysitters are typically working several freelance jobs, or are in school, or are looking for extra income.
Q: I’m new around here. Where do I find a babysitter?
- If you aren’t lucky enough to be in Chicago to use Chicago Super Sitters, look for and ask a nanny agency nearby – some have nannies that do part time babysitting work on the side for other families.
- Go old-school and ask your friends for their sitter’s number. If that seems a no-go (not all parents will share such treasure) ask if their sitter might have friends that babysit (be sure to check references!).
- Ask in your local/neighborhood online group for babysitter referrals (but make sure to do your own screening and reference check, too).
- Ask the babysitter/nanny that you see at the park that you like chatting with and is playing so well with all the kids if she wants to pick up more hours or if she has friends that do.
Q: What should I ask/check for when hiring a new babysitter?
- Most importantly, trust your gut! You’ll know when you meet a great sitter (like when you instantly know you’ve met a great new mom friend!). If your gut says something is off, listen to it.
- You are inviting a stranger into your house to stay with your kids so you can ask almost any question you want. Be respectful, but this is personal and in-your-home work, so it’s all on the table.
- Pets are family, too! Make sure your fur babies have a sitter that will love them, too, and ask up front if your sitter is pet friendly.
- Our favorite question is to ask them, “Why do you want to work as a babysitter?” If money is the first answer, we suggest to pass. A variation of “because I love kids” is what we’re looking for.
- How do you handle a tantrum? What are some of your favorite rainy day activities? What are your childcare strengths? What do you find difficult about working with kids? Tell us a fun story about a family you worked with.
- Make sure they provide references and call them all – child care and professional. Don’t skip this step.
- Check any potential sitters’ social media. Search Facebook by phone number, and search their name in Google. This could tell you a lot – good or not so good.
Q: How do I prepare my kids/home for a babysitter?
- If you think the kid(s) will be nervous, talk about a new friend coming over! Have a new book or activity ready for them to do with the sitter. Talk about the fun they will have. If you sound excited, it will help.
- Have your information ready to go to ensure a smooth transition for all! Chicago Super Sitters has a form you can use even if you’re not in Chicago!
- Consider allowing good overlap time at the beginning of your booking. You can go over info, have time for questions, and ideally have a chance to hear kiddo and sitter playing together while you finish getting ready.
- Make sure you also share non-kid related information – spare keys, Wi-Fi password, food that is off limits, strange house sounds, etc. Sharing these things also helps them feel welcomed into your home.
Q: What can I expect of my babysitter?
- You should expect your sitter to be professional, to look clean and comfortable to play, to be on time, and to come in to your home ready to work.
- They should be attentive to instructions, ask good questions of their own, and you should feel like they have a solid understanding of what you expect.
- They should send text check-ins while you are gone (if you want them) and should give a good recap of the gig when you are back.
- They should definitely clean up after themselves and your kids, and hopefully they’ll have done a little extra tidying, too. Especially if the kids are sleeping most of the time.
Q: Any extra good things to know?
- Remember that this is a business arrangement. Your sitter should, too. Ask good questions, give good instructions and set clear expectations!
- Make sure your sitter is safe getting home – walk them to their car, wait with them for their ride to come or even send them home in a car you order!
- Ask your kids about the sitter experience! The kid(s) had the most time with them so ask if they had fun, was the sitter on their phone, would they play with them again, etc. They are going to tell you the truth.
- It’s OK for you (and your kiddo) to be nervous about this process! It’s a big deal and nervous means you want to get it right. An experienced sitter will be patient with this.
Enjoy your kid-free time! You’ve earned it.
Q: How can people learn more about you and your services?
Find us at ChicagoSuperSitters.com to learn about Chicago-specific services. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram (@chicagosupersitters) for fun tips and tricks about all things babysitting and kiddos, and on Twitter. Stay tuned in all places for updates on new locations and new services being offered! And be sure to read my 30Seconds tips!