Inspiring Stories 13: How To Find Your First Time Babysitter & Feel Comfortable
You run Babysitters of Chelsea & Kensington; what’s the biggest concern that parents have when they first get in contact with you?
The concerns vary from family to family. Often a first time parent will get in touch to say they haven’t been out since their little one was born, and that was 18 months ago (!) because they don’t feel comfortable leaving them with someone other than a family member. They are anxious to find one particular babysitter who will bond well with their child and who they can call upon as/when they want to go out. Other parents who are used to leaving their children with babysitters are simply anxious to be able to find a babysitter at short notice because they’ve been offered a last minute reservation at a restaurant they’ve wanted to try for ages!
Whatever the concern, we provide the same level of care and attention to detail to all of our families and do our best to find them someone who their child will feel at ease with and/or who is willing to change their plans and babysit at short notice.
"Involve your children in the process of choosing a babysitter."
How do you help parents find a babysitter that meets all their and little ones need and requirements?
It’s extremely important to pair children with a babysitter who meets their needs but this is equally for the babysitter. Our babysitters take their role very seriously and we know it’s crucial that parents, children and the babysitter all feel comfortable during the appointment.
When a parent requests a babysitter, the babysitter is told: how many children they will be looking after, how old the children are, where the family are located (street name and nearest tube), if there are any medical notes to be aware of and if the parent chooses to include one, a note with instructions/detail about the appointment. This helps the babysitter to decide whether they feel happy taking on the appointment.
Babysitters specify the ages of children they have experience looking after and their profiles will outline activities they feel comfortable undertaking such as taking children to after school activities (which may involve driving or taking children on public transport), sports, baking, helping with homework etc. I know that parents really take the time to read our babysitters profiles to find a babysitter who meets their needs. For example, one parent booked Rosalind because of her background in dance since her daughter is obsessed with all things ballet! Charlie (one of our male babysitters) is often booked by families with boys as they know Charlie and the boys will have a great time playing together.
Some parents will request a babysitter who speaks a particular language and/or perhaps who has experience with children who have medical issues such as severe asthma. Some of our babysitters are teachers, midwives, paramedics, doctors or nurses which appeal to parents for obvious reasons.
"99% of the time children stop crying 10 minutes or less after the parents leave and it’s often best to slip out quietly once the babysitter and your children are engaged in an activity."
Parents obviously worry when leaving baby on their own for the first time, do you have any advice on how they can feel comfortable doing so?
We completely understand that leaving a child for the first time is a very daunting prospect! My first piece of advice would be, where possible, to involve your children in the process of choosing a babysitter. I know a few families let their children look at our babysitter profiles so that they can decide who they would like to babysit them. This makes them feel excited about the occasion which in turn, settles the parent.
Secondly, communicate. We’re always on hand to answer any questions and the more information we can gain from the family in terms of their requirements, the better. This can all be passed on to prospective babysitters so that they are comfortable with what the appointment will entail. I’d also recommend that parents communicate with their babysitter before the appointment via a phone call or our internal messaging system. This way they will have spoken to their babysitter to help put their mind at ease.
Third, it’s a good idea to book a babysitter to arrive 30mins - 1 hour before you have to leave so that you/your babysitter/your children can all meet in a relaxed environment and make sure everyone is settled and you can go over any instructions beforehand. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend drawing out the ‘goodbyes’ as this is when children can become tearful which will make you worry that they will be distressed all evening. 99% of the time children stop crying 10 minutes or less after the parents leave and it’s often best to slip out quietly once the babysitter and your children are engaged in an activity like a game, book, snack or whatever is going on at the time.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask your babysitter to text/call you at intervals during the appointment. Lots of babysitters will do this anyway to let you know when their children are asleep and we understand that that will help to reassure you that everything at home is a-ok!
With a service like BOKAC, what’s the process you go through to find trusted sitters for parents?
A lot of it comes down to our experience. We have been recruiting babysitters since 2010 and in that time, have developed a sixth sense for those people who truly love children and will be able to follow instructions carefully, while still providing a fun and caring environment for children to be supervised in.
For the first 5 years after BOKAC started I recruited all of our babysitters myself. Last year we took on a director of babysitter recruitment, Sara. Sara had been a BOKAC babysitter for over 2 years and is also training to be a child psychologist so she is perfectly placed to know exactly the kind of babysitters our families are looking for.
Our babysitters first apply to register via our website and the initial stage tends to be emails/phone calls back and forth with Sara who reviews their childcare experience and availability on a basic level. If they seem suitable, each applicant completes our registration forms and provides two references: one from someone they are currently or have recently been employed by and one from someone they have recently babysat for. We follow up on these references to verify the information given.
After this, Sara arranges to interview each babysitter in person where they meet for about 30 minutes to discuss their childcare experience in more depth (Sara presents them with a range of scenarios to find out how they would react in various situations) and to make sure they would represent BOKAC to a high standard. After this, they are able to complete their online profiles which can be viewed here :http://bokac.co.uk/our-babysitters.
What three things would you say to parents to help them feel less anxious when they've left little one with a babysitter?
1. Feeling anxious is normal so don’t feel anxious about being anxious and try not to let this takeover your evening/day out - that will defeat the joy of booking a babysitter!
2. You’re doing the right thing. You can’t not see your friends/go to the theatre/spend time alone with your partner in the long term and if you try, that won't be good for your children either.
3. If you can’t put your anxious feelings aside, text or call your babysitter to check in. They will be more than happy to put your mind at ease!
To find a babysitter so you can get a little freedom & feel happy without the guilt; head over to Babysitters of Kensington and Chelsea.