I used to baby sit quite a bit. She Who Must Be Kept's former best friend had a child that was a good ten years younger than me. I also knew a few people here and there with little kids, and some of my younger cousins.
I ran into a LOT of problems while I was baby sitting. In one instance, I was supposed to have a baby less than a month old for one night. I had him for three days. In one instance, I was supposed to watch one child for a few hours. I had two kids over night.
I decided I needed to write a guide for parents AND sitters on how to make this go as smoothly as possible. (And yes, all of this has been an issue for me at some point in time.)
1. If your kid can't be left home; don't do it. If you have a child who is going to scream for three hours because you left them home, you really shouldn't leave them with a baby sitter. What do you think we're going to do about it? It's really stressful for us, and you are not paying us enough to get our eardrums burst. I make this first and foremost because I think parents forget that.
That isn't to say we don't expect and anticipate a little anxiety from the kid. A good baby sitter is prepared for that. A good prep is; "It's sad when Mommy leaves. But, WE get to play together this afternoon! I'm so excited. Want to help me color a picture for Mommy? She'll be so happy when she comes home!"
2. Leave clear rules for the baby sitter. I don't mean something like; don't play with matches. If you, for instance, don't want your child to watch the television while you're gone, say that very clearly. In front of the kid, if at all possible. It's really frustrating for a sitter when the kid is telling us one thing and throwing a tantrum and we don't want to call to interrupt your girls' night out to ask if they can go play at Billy's or whatever.
Some rules to leave; television/computer/video game rules and regulations
BEDTIMES (and make sure this is nonnegotiable)
If/when friends may come over, if/when they may go to a friends
3. Your baby sitter is not your maid. Your baby sitter is not your maid. Your baby sitter is not your maid. Your baby sitter? NOT YOUR MAID. That being said, no baby sitter is going to balk about picking up the toys they got out (or helping the kid do such), putting the supper dishes in the dishwasher, or putting the towels from bathtime in the laundry.
Also, if there's some big Goldfish Holocaust and all the crumbs are in the rug, we will want to know where the vacuum is to pick that up. It did happen on our watch, after all.
But we're not going to run a load of whites, wash the windows, scrub the pots and pans, do your dusting... That's just not going to happen, okay?
4. Be home when you say you're going to be home. Or if you're going to be late, give me a call. If I didn't drive myself over there, then I need to let my ride know, and that's really why I hate if you're late. If your kid is asleep and I'm sitting around making money watching reruns of Viva la Bam, then I don't care if you're not coming right home. I *care* because my ride is waiting to come get me. Of course, if you then decide to take my home, whatever.
5. If your kid is a notorious brat, and yes there are a couple, then could you let me know that? I don't expect you to come right out and say; "He can be a real pain in the ass sometimes." But I WOULD like to know; "We're having some trouble with tantrums right now. I'm so sorry about it. This is how we're dealing with it...." and leave me a detailed step by step plan. Do you use time outs? Where do you do that? Do you take away toys? What? Don't leave me just staring at your kid have a nuclear meltdown on the kitchen floor because I won't give him a cookie!
6. If you can't get your kid to bed, what makes you think I can? I'm the baby sitter, not Super Nanny! I'll do the best I can, but listen, don't be surprised if you come home and he's still awake sobbing and not in bed and I'm sitting around tearing out my hair because I don't know what to do.
7. I really need you to be ready to pay me at the end of the agreed upon session. I make my prices clear right out (two dollars per hour per kid, and this is dirt cheap. I've heard up to five dollars an hour). So it's not going to be some big shock to you that it costs what it does.
I don't take credit, either. I don't have a credit card scanner in my purse, all right? If you don't carry cash, stop at the machine beforehand. If you're a little bit short once in awhile, that's cool, I don't mind, really. But if you show up every night like; "Can I pay you next time?" No. There won't be a next time.