1. Be on time. Yes, like a real job. When we call a sitter, that’s because we really really need to get away. So every second you’re late is like… Mmm, how to explain this? Okay, you know when you have to pee really really bad? It’s like that. So just picture that you’ve been needing to use the restroom for a long time. Like, all day, you’ve been looking at the clock just waiting for the right time to leave and go pee. And just when you think you’re about to get to go pee, you are told you can’t. Because someone’s car broke down. So then you have 2 screaming kids who are hungry, and you’re wearing your black cotton dress (the nice one) that’s getting marked up by banana-coated baby fingers, plus you actually showered, did your hair and did your makeup today. And now you just have to sit here, waiting to pee, for 40 minutes until someone finally shows up.
2. Actually do stuff with the kids. When I call you to watch my kids, it’s usually because I have a lot going on, and I haven’t been as present as I should be. So that means, when you get here and I’m paying you $10 an hour, I expect you to be on the floor, playing with these little rugrats. Not checking Facebook. And certainly not putting them in front of the TV. Play games, be active, involve them. Heck, when I was a babysitter, I actually packed a backpack full of little kids’ toys and brought it to peoples’ houses when I’d babysit. (Aaaand, I only got paid $2 an hour but that’s another story.) The point is: play with the kids and be present. Because sometimes, we Mamas aren’t able to do that as much as we should.
3. If you dirty any dishes while you’re here, I expect you to clean them up. That includes the kids’ dinner, or anything you make for yourself. And, if I left you a sink of dirty dishes, it’s even more amazing if you do those dishes too. Seriously, a sparkly kitchen is the best thing any housewife could come home to. When my sitters leave me a clean sink (or even better: empty my dishwasher and then do dishes), I compliment them the minute I walk in the door. Because I’m legit grateful that I don’t have to do that. And, my husband is always like, ‘Wow, she really did a lot tonight.’ Seriously, this scores huge points! Often, I’ll even text you the following day, just to thank you again for cleaning up everything last night. It saves me so much time, and makes me feel special that someone else did this not-fun job for me (because I already do it approximately 18 times a week). Don’t be the sitter who leaves a sink full of dirty dishes, but washes the baby’s bottle and puts it on a paper towel right next to the sink. If it’s between you and the sitter who does dishes, I will tooootally be calling her.
4. Pay attention when I’m giving you instructions. (And, if you don’t remember them, it’s okay to ask.) Although it’s hilarious to find the 2-year-old in his brother’s newborn onesie when we wake up at 7am the next morning (true story), you could have avoided that by texting me to ask where the pajamas are. It’s completely acceptable to forget the instructions I’ve given you and text me to confirm. It shows you care about doing it right. And trust me, coming from a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys under 3 1/2, I usually can’t even remember what I ate for lunch that day. So if anyone can understand your lack of memory, it’s me.
5. You always need to give the kids a bath before bed. Basically, you’re here to do the things I’m not always able to do. And since I’m paying you, I expect them to happen. Unlike last night when I was way too exhausted to even put them in pajamas, much less bathe them (unless you count playing in the kiddie pool in our backyard at 2pm). True, some moms prefer the sitter not bathe the kids, but I always require it. One less thing for me to do tomorrow or the next day (or, let’s be real, the day after that).
6. If the kids are asleep for any amount of time while you’re here, pick up the house or fold laundry. I fully expect you to pick up all toys the kids have played with while you’re here. Actually, I expect you to pick up, even if the house was a mess when you arrived. There is nothing better than all our kid crap being picked up and out of sight when I get home. Don’t worry about putting the stuffed animals into the wrong basket, or whether Spiderman goes in the living room toy box or the kids’ room. Just put them all somewhere, so that when I walk in from my amazing night out, I don’t have to trip over tiny plastic airplanes and orphaned Legos.
7. When you call in sick, it’s really amazing if you find a friend who will babysit in your place. This isn’t a must, but my top babysitters are so awesome that they always do this. They’ll be sick, or something came up, and in the same text where they’re canceling, they’re telling me that their friend is free and can cover. To which I reply, “You rock.”
8. Respond to my texts. I know I said I don’t want you checking Facebook while you’re here, but I do want you responding to any texts I might send. I usually forget to mention something before we leave, so I’ll often send a text to tell you that there’s clean laundry on the laundry bed, or the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty. Oh, and if you want to get extra credit, take a picture of the kids that shows how much fun they’re having, and send it with a text like “no tears since you left.” This shows that you care that the kids are having fun, and tooootally seals the deal of your amazingness in our minds. Plus, lame parents like us love to pore over pics of our offspring at our fancy dinners that we scheduled (because we couldn’t wait to get away from those kids but now all we want is to be back with those kids). Parenthood: the ultimate contradiction.
9. Dinnertime is dinnertime, and bedtime is bedtime. Don’t tell me they weren’t tired. Don’t tell me they wanted cookies instead of chicken. Feed them what I tell you to feed them. And put them to bed when they are supposed to go to bed. Grandparents can mess these things up (because they’re grandparents and that’s what grandparents do), but when I’m paying you, stuff better get done how I say.
10. I’m not really happy when you go to college or get a job. Sure, I’m happy for you because you’re an amazing girl. But I’m sad on the inside. Aaaand, a little bitter. Because it means I have to start all over in finding someone who can watch my kids, and who also satisfies the requirements in items 1 through 9. Which is nearly impossible. Because babysitters’ schedules are busier than mine, even when I had a full-time career in TV news. So congrats on getting into college. But really, you suck because now I have to replace you.
11. I need you. Seriously girl, thank you. I know I ask a lot, but let me be real: I need you so badly. These little kids drain my 30-something body of energy faster than the house gets trashed when the toddler is looking for his favorite red race car. I truly appreciate all that you do, and I really really do need you. Sometimes it’s hard for me to ask for help, so when I do, it means that I’m really desperate for a break. Now, get the kids to bed and clean up the house before I get home.
Formerly an Emmy-nominated TV news reporter, Janie Porter is now a stay-at-home mom to 3 boys under 3 1/2, Huffington Post contributor and creator of the inspiring mama blog, SheJustGlows.com. Follow her on Facebook for encouragement in the less-than-perfect parenting journey, and tips on finding your inner glow (even on the days when you feel like you’re drowning in toddler tantrums and spilled apple juice).