Finding a caregiver you can trust and your kids can enjoy is hard when you are new in town. If you’re searching for a babysitter or a nanny, learn what you need to do to make the right connection for your military family.
Don’t wait to find a sitter. Even if think you won’t need childcare, military life means preparing for the unexpected. Last minute care is one of the top reasons military families give for using caregiver sites like www.sittercity.com. To avoid rushing to find a sitter, some families begin the search even before they move.
TIP: If you don’t know many people yet, start your search where some level of “screening” for interacting with children has already occurred. This could be your child’s preschool, a church nursery, or online caregiver sites that provide recommendations from previous babysitting positions and background information. People who are already working with kids are showing they have an interest in the work and don’t just view it as fast cash.
MilSpouse reader, Stephanie, says: I see moms asking random people on base Facebook pages. Sorry but that’s asking for trouble.
Get a real understanding of what you can expect. A personal recommendation from a trusted friend is great. A chance to preview her skills in a church or gym nursery is perfect. Or seek out a reference who can give details. You need to find someone who can give you a trusted opinion about your possible sitter or get a chance to see how she interacts with other kids.
TIP: If you can’t get a personal recommendation from a friend, ask for at least two references you can contact. If you feel uncertain as to what you should ask them, check out www.sittercity.com for their list of “Questions for References.”
MilSpouse reader, Jennifer, says: I highly recommend doing background checks and getting references on anyone, even for teen sitters. After all, these are your children, the most important people in your life!
Get personal with a meet and greet at a local coffee shop or other public area instead of meeting at your home. Bring a list of questions to discuss with your potential sitter. Even if you are familiar with the sitter from a nursery, school, or friend, it is important you meet one-on-one to discuss your expectations. Ask your spouse or a friend to watch the kids so you can meet without the kids in tow.
TIP: Arrange for the sitter to meet with your kids before your first time away. Give her some space and time to interact and play. Ask the kids how they feel about the sitter and if they have any concerns.
MilSpouse reader, Karen, says: We interview sitters and then the kids do, too. What the sitter says to us is important, but the kids are the ones who have to like the sitter.
Discuss expectations to avoid misunderstandings. Be specific about what you will require of your babysitter so she can tell you upfront if she can meet your needs: laundry, driving, overnight stays, cloth diapers, unique issues with the kids. Don’t leave out any details that may cause friction later on.
TIP: Try to find a sitter who is familiar with the unique challenges military families face. If your spouse is deploying, discuss what extra responsibilities you may need help with and what challenges the sitter may face with the kids. A sitter from a military family will know that a last minute request may not be about your organizational skills but about the unpredictability of military living.
MilSpouse reader, Laura, says: I always write up a schedule of what we normally do and when, which helps both babysitter and my son, especially with nighttime routines.
Maintain a good relationship by asking questions, being reliable, and paying appropriately. Don’t assume everything is going fine if your sitter doesn’t speak up. Ask how things are going. And respect your sitter’s time. If you are consistently late or cancel often, you may lose the sitter you worked hard to find, so make sure you are meeting your sitter’s expectations.
TIP: Don’t assume what you paid a sitter in Alaska is what you should be paying your new sitter in New York. Rates vary by location, number, ages of kids, and level of responsibility. If you are uncertain as to what to pay, ask neighbors and friends and even the sitter you are hiring.
Many of our MilSpouse readers said: Trust your gut instinct! If something seems wrong, then don’t ignore any lingering feelings of doubt. Move on and find a different sitter.
Worried about finding a caregiver online?
Many military families turn to the Internet to find childcare, but make sure you are looking in the right places. Respected sites that specialize in linking parents with caregivers are your best bet. These sites often offer tools to help parents keep their kids safe like background checks, identity verification, and screening against sex offender registries. Over 110,000 military families have found a caregiver on www.sittercity.com, which has partnered with the Department of Defense to offer free memberships to those who qualify.