Now, let's keep this between you and me: my sitter is absolutely wonderful and I am the luckiest Mom in the world. Was it luck?
When I was pregnant with my son a few years ago I had already established my home-based business. At around my 7th month of pregnancy my Mother in Law sent me and email saying, "you'd better interview sitters now." I rolled my eyes and disregarded her advice. Please! I still had a good 3 to 4 months before I would need someone! Why interview now? That just seemed ridiculous.
Luc was born and because I own a home-based business I was back to work pretty quickly. I suddenly realized that no, my son would NOT lay in the bassinette and sleep in the corner of my office while I got work done. Also, despite the adorable commercials, it's nearly impossible to type and use a mouse while holding a beautiful baby in your arms. Luc seemed to be awake much of the time, eating, or needed to be held. (By the way, I don't subscribe to the 'hold him all the time and you'll spoil him' deal so don't even start with me).
Time to Hire A Sitter
Finding someone to take care of your child is a difficult task. No one will love your child as much as you. There I was; desperately trying to find someone to take care of my son, recover from a c-section, keep my business floating, keep the developing ulcer at bay, and every once in a while, take a shower. I remember looking at my husband and saying, "now I know why women get 6 weeks off when they have a baby." My husband and I were so knocked out. We were exhausted, hungry, and the house was a disaster: all because of a little 9lb baby.
Important to know
We are not originally from Long Island (little or no contacts to find a sitter)
We don't have family here (no one to pitch in at the last minute)
Our friend's do not have children (they can't point us in the right direction)
I did not want my son to go to anyone else's house (I want him in his own home)
I would not put him in a day care facility (I want individual attention for him)
I wanted the sitter to come to my home each day (I need consistency)
Did not want a live-in nanny (no room and want privacy at the end of the day)
The Sitter Criteria: Hold Your Ground!
My husband asked every secretary at his work if they knew anyone that would be interested in baby-sitting for me. I put ads in the local Pennysaver. I received an UNBELIEVABLE response despite the fact that most of the time they were NOT reading my ad "you must come to my house." They wanted to take him home to their house so they could watch their own kids and mine at the same time. If a sitter doesn't want to come to your house but would rather stay at their own it's because they have stuff to do at home.
The reason I was hiring someone is because I didn't want Luc ignored. I certainly didn't need to pay someone ELSE to do their housework, laundry, grocery shopping and cooking while letting my son sit in front of a television all day. I also didn't want Luc being with other children at such a young age. Toddlers and older kids are like little petri dishes and I didn't want a sick baby.
Time went on and sitters came and went. No one beat him or did horrible things like you see on TV shows like Dateline and 20/20. I just didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling and never left them alone with him for extended periods of time.
Where do you find them?
The first sitter was a referral from one of the secretaries at my husband's office. She came to the house to interview and frankly, as long as she didn't have satanic messages tattooed on her forehead: she was hired. She was okay, didn't hurt Luc in any way but basically found that watching a baby wasn't conducive to stylish clothes, long nails and hair, and sometimes a lot of work. She was easily distracted, watched TV a lot, and called Luc "fussy" when he just wanted someone to pay attention to him. She wasn't here long. (Mental note: Tell next sitter she's not allowed to watch TV while Luc is awake.)
One day, I received an email from the President of my Alumni Association, which I was very involved with saying, "are you looking for a Mother's helper? My daughter is looking for work while in College." I interviewed his daughter but I must admit I was a bit harsh at the interview. What if I hate this girl and want to fire her? How will I face her parents? I figured if I seemed like someone that was very difficult to work for she would tell me she didn't want the job and I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. Psychologists call this "Passive Aggressive."
As it turns out, she was the best thing that happened to us. Alison is so wonderful with Luc and has become part of our family. 3 years later, she's still here. Each day when Luc hears the door open he screams and runs to her, "Ali's here! Ali's here! Ali's here!" I have perfect strangers walk up to say, and me "your nanny is so wonderful with your son, where did you find her?"
My Mother in Law was right, start interviewing months before you need the sitter. It will be so nice to have that out of the way when you have the baby.
Keep looking for the perfect person: they are out there! I think we're taking the "don't talk to strangers" rule a little too far! Just because someone is a stranger it does not make him or her a bad person.
Make part of your interview process include having them watch your child while your home. You will see how your child reacts with the sitter. Your sitter will see how you like to do things. You'll be able to get your laundry done and maybe even take a shower! You'll develop a level of comfort with this person and be able to leave the house knowing everything is okay.
Hidden Cameras and Detective Agencies
If you think for one tiny second that something is happening to your child either at a day care center or in your home: DO NOT hire an agency. TAKE YOUR CHILD out of the situation. If you have a feeling that something is not right; that's good enough. Don't wait for the video confirmation of your child being neglected or worse to take action.
Good luck finding a sitter. I hope you'll be as fortunate as I am.
(above is a picture of Luc and Alison)
Copyright, Claudine M. Jalajas 2001