There is an art to being a good babysitter. This, believe it or not, does not involve cans of lager and you and your boyfriend on the sofa.
If you are hoping to make some decent money while you are at school or college, having a good reputation as a reliable, responsible babysitter is the perfect way to build up a regular client base. It is the ideal student job as you will have time to read or revise in a quiet setting after the children have gone to bed.
The best place to start finding families that need babysitters is through word of mouth – ask your parent’s friends, local mother and baby groups or toy libraries. If you prove yourself to be a good babysitter, you may find that most evening and certainly most weekends will be booked well in advance.
Arrive on time – the parents are likely to be looking forward to a potentially rare night out, so make sure you arrive at the agreed time.
Confirm your rate beforehand – it can be a lucrative business, so check the local going rates and go for the upper range. Agree if you expect a paid taxi home, have your own transport or will be expected to be taken home. Do not wait until you get there to discuss this as the parents may be planning to drink alcohol and taxis may be booked up.
Try to meet the children first – if you are able to pop in for ten minutes prior to your first babysitting session, you can introduce yourself and save any awkward wails on the night. If not, give yourself a few minutes when you get there to allow the children to cry, be shy or a little nervous. Sit down at their level, ask what their favourite book is and start reading. Ask if they’ve had their dinner or what they did that day. You can build a rapport by not being too ‘grown up’ but by being a sensible, friendly person.
Decide what locations you are happy to babysit in – you may find that you prefer to work with more affluent families, only families in your street or town, families you know or only through personal recommendation. While it is important that you are a responsible babysitter it is also imperative that you are comfortable, too.
Do not smoke or drink alcohol – the parents may say that they don’t mind, but it is not advisable.
Make sure the children’s bedtime is clear – stick to whatever rules you have been given by the parents. If the children are still awake when you arrive, spend some time playing, reading or doing a jigsaw. If they are allowed it, you could make the children a hot chocolate before bedtime and let them watch some television. About five minutes before their bedtime, let them know. Take them to their room and read them a story. This will create a relaxing atmosphere and make them less likely to play up.
If the child wakes up, gets upset or cannot sleep – take some time to calm them down, read a story and assure them that their parents will be coming home soon.
When the child is asleep and you have some time to yourself before the parents return, make sure you don’t fall asleep by keeping busy. Don’t feel like you have to tidy up a grubby home, but you can put away any toys the children had been playing with and wash up cups and saucepans if you have used anything. Feel free to make yourself a hot drink, but it is not advisable to swig juice straight from the bottle or tuck into the dessert in the fridge unless you have been told you can! You can use this time to relax, catch up on coursework or watch television – probably best not to make international phone calls (the bill will rather dilute your good reputation) or watch a scary film in case the children wake up.