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How to Keep Your Favorite Babysitter From Being Poached By The Joneses

By Guest Contributor

By Holly Burns of Nothing But Bonfires

So you’ve found her: the perfect babysitter. She’s smart, responsible, reliable, and you suspect the kids might actually love her more than they love you. The good news is that you can accept dinner invitations left, right, and center now that someone you trust is holding down the fort. The bad news is that if she’s that good, someone else is going to snap her up soon, and then she won’t be able to watch your kids this Friday night—or next Friday night or the Friday night after that—because she’ll be watching someone else’s.

How to keep her around? Why, it’s actually surprisingly easy. Take it from a former babysitter who always chose her jobs wisely.

Guide to Everything Archives1. Have Good Snacks

Find out what she likes to eat—Cheetos? Cherries? Cream cheese on organic rice cakes?—and then keep it on hand. Make sure she knows that pint of Phish Food has her name all over it—or hey, take a Sharpie and actually write her name all over it—so she doesn’t feel like she’s sneaking around in your kitchen cupboards. Just knowing you bought that bumper back of Twizzlers all for her will go a long way to keep her sweet.

2. Pay Well—Or At Least Pay Fairly

One well-behaved fifth-grader at night does not command the same rate as four rambunctious preschoolers in the middle of the day: make adjustments accordingly. Round up when you’re paying by the hour, and never hand your sitter a twenty and then ask her to drop the change in your mailbox the next day. (True story: someone did that to me once. The calculator said she only owed me $19.25, so that’s all she was going to pay me. I had to drive back over there in the morning to leave her seventy-five cents in an envelope.)

3. Come Home When You Say You Will

Sure, emergencies crop up, but if you promise you won’t be later than midnight, don’t be later than midnight.

4. Never Ask Her To Pick Up Your Dry Cleaning

She’s your babysitter, not your housekeeper. Picking your kid up from soccer practice once in a while is fine if you’ve agreed upon it, but asking her to throw a load of laundry in or tackle a list of errands is the quickest way to get blacklisted. Sure, you might multi-task, but that doesn’t mean she has to.

5. Be Cool

Leave her money to order pizza for dinner. Grab an Us Weekly at the grocery store and leave it on the coffee table. Once you know she won’t throw a kegger in your living room, make it clear that you don’t mind if her boyfriend comes over to keep her company after the kids are asleep. And don’t forget to talk to her about her life. After all, you’re in a great position: you’re hipper than her mom, but you’re still old and worldly enough to offer advice on guys or friends or school. Everyone needs a cool aunt. Be that cool aunt.


Guest Contributor
About the Author

Guest Contributor

We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.


We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • bessie.viola

    September 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

    This is perfect… must remember this! Really, I’m going to print it. Like you I always was choosy with the babysitting jobs, and the house with the best snacks and access to cable won, hands-down.

  • Nadine/Scarbiedoll

    September 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Ooh Holly, this is great! Love it!

  • katie

    September 24, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    terrific advice! i was a nanny for a family that did all of these things, and i know that i definitely went above and beyond for them, partly because of how well they treated me.

  • A'Dell

    September 24, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I would always get bored after the kids went to bed and end up cleaning. It was not unusual for parents to come home to an immaculate kitchen and vacuumed home.
    The parents who were overly grateful and threw extra money at me were the ones that I always accepted repeat jobs from.
    And the parents who just expected me to do that and started leaving the home a disgusting mess? I was suddenly “busy” on the nights they called.

  • Fairly Odd Mother

    September 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I still remember those people I hated sitting for, as well as those I loved. “Hated” had no TV, nothing to read but The Joy of Sex, no snacks, and paid terribly. “Loved” had cable, paid well, great food and the best little boys ever. Having sweet little kids helps a LOT too.
    Our babysitter is the best kid ever. I would cry if she ever left us. Thanks for the tips to keep in mind.

  • Angella

    September 24, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    From a former babysitter and a current mother, you hit it bang on, my friend.

  • Mandee

    September 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Snacks! Why were snacks so important? It wasn’t like my parents were starving me, but I did love the houses with the good snacks.
    I once got hooked into keeping the granddaughter of a very wealthy family (in a very small town)for 3 weeks. The grandmother initially wanted me to be live in, but I told her no way. I negotiated M-F, 8-5 with a lunch break for the same amount she initially offered for the live in job. The first day, she handed me a Louis Vuitton wallet with a $5.00 bill (and some Bergdorf receipts for multiple pairs of $400 shoes) and told me that the money was for incidentals I might incur while we were out and about and that it was to last me the entire three weeks. She also gave me a list of places that we needed to be seen (the Country Club) and a list of places we were to avoid (Wal-Mart).
    Needless to say, I never answered any of her calls after that hellacious three weeks.

  • Helen

    September 28, 2008 at 6:39 am

    And comfortable furniture is required!! Long, long ago and far, far away, I used to babysit for a family that had the whole house decorated in country style … including a hard wooden settee in the family room. The only soft spot to watch TV was up in the master bedroom on their bed and I couldn’t do THAT! They also only ever had boring snacks like fruits and vegetable. To a 16 year old? YUCK.
    Their kids were really nice and they paid really well though … so I kept going back.

  • The Babysitter

    September 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    So far I have stayed loyal to all the people I babysit by. The only thing that makes me not want to babysit, is when there is a difficult child that is very attached to the mother and doesn’t stop crying. It leaves me with a helpless feeling that I can’t stop the 1 year old from crying, so I don’t like babysitting there often.
    By the families where the children love me, and I love them, I always say yes if I can.
    I’m also more likely to babysit by the families that book me in advance. Since, if a few families ask me for the same time, then I choose the one that asked me first.
    Now about your suggestions.
    1- About the snacks, there is one family that keeps snacks out on the table, and she has the good sugar ones that I like, so that is definitely a plus.
    2- I charge one rate to all families that I babysit by, no matter how many children or what time of day. But there are some mothers who don’t ask me how much I want, and they just pay me more, that makes it easier for me, because I wouldn’t want to say a high price. Most mothers round up when they pay me. One time I corrected a mother and told her that she owes me 10 dollars less, and she told me to just keep it and not to correct her anymore. A different mother asked me how much she owes me, so I told her the amount and she didn’t have an exact amount, so I owed her 4 dollars and took it off the next payment.
    3- It is nice when the mothers say what time they are coming home, and if they stick with it. A lot of times they get in traffic and they say they are sorry and I completely understand. But the ones who don’t know a time and then just pop in the door are kinda spooky. It’s nice when they call or knock before to let me know when they are home.
    4- So far I haven’t had any mothers ask me to do chores for them. One person was going to ask me to watch her kids for a few extra minutes while she dropped off a meal to someone who wasn’t feeling well. I told her I will drop off the meal for her since it was on my way anyways.
    5- Most mothers have conversations with me and ask questions about my life and stuff, it definitely makes it more friendly and less of an employer/employee relationship.

  • Isabel

    September 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    This is great. I’m just now starting to join the “need to find a good babysitter” territory, so any information is good information.
    I just wish that someone would be upfront and tell me what to pay. When I’ve asked the babysitters what they charge they’ve only said “whatever!” Dude, I NEED AN ACTUAL NUMBER THAT WE WILL BOTH BE HAPPY WITH!!!
    The first time I got a babysitter my husband paid her WAY too much. And now I know we’re going to be stuck paying her that same price. We want to keep her around…so I guess we’ll keep paying her that. AHH!

  • Nancy R

    October 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I think pay largely depends on the area in which you live.
    I’m in a small town in the Midwest and the few times I’ve had a babysitter (lots of family nearby means we rarely pay for a sitter) I’ve paid $1.50 per kid, per hour – I have three kids, so I rounded it up to $5 an hour.

  • Della

    April 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Been at both ends of this spectrum, now.
    As a babysitter, I have to agree: it’s such a simple thing, but the families who pulled me to the pantry and SHOWED me where the goodies were, instructing me to help myself… those jobs were awesome. In fact, it was a relief when they would tell one or two items were off-limits (you can have anything in here except please leave the Graham Crackers alone because I’m making cheesecake tomorrow) – it showed that anything BESIDES that off-limit list was truly mine for the taking, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about it.
    Maybe it’s because a lot of us eat when we’re bored?
    I didn’t have cable at home when I was a teen, so getting to watch Discovery Channel or the Movie Channel after the kids went to bed was nice.
    Another way to keep your babysitter is to HAVE RULES FOR HOW YOUR HOUSE RUNS and MAKE SURE THE KIDS KNOW THEM. Even if you don’t apply those rules when you are home, having a set of ground rules for the sitter to stick to makes her life SO much easier.
    Rules like “no kids on the internet/no play-dough/no caffeinated soda if mom and dad aren’t home” or “you can’t have dessert unless you eat five chicken nuggets and half a cup of green beans” make life a lot easier, especially if Mom and Dad wrote them out on a sheet of paper or better yet, told the kids about them ahead of time. That way there’s no question about “mommy doesn’t make me do that” — Mommy wrote down right here on this piece of paper that it’s going to work that way tonight, even if that’s not how it normally goes.
    Keeps the babysitter from being the bad guy and from having to exercise their own judgement on those contentious issues. And free to exercise their judgement on popularity-enhancing things like “well, she didn’t say what to have for dessert- I think four scoops of ice cream sounds JUST RIGHT!” 🙂