Ah, the babysitter. She's your ticket to freedom but also one of your biggest sources of stress as a parent. Whether you have a full-time nanny or just hire a babysitter for date night each week, you want to be sure that your caregiver is caring for your child in the same way that you would. Sure, you could do all of your research, call references and even do interviews, but that's not a perfect process. A slacker nanny or babysitter could slip through the cracks and become a caregiver to your child. Unfortunately, sometimes you learn that your child's caregiver isn't giving 100 percent on the job too late.
Want to know if she's really making the cut? You can check some warning signs to clue you into something amiss. From something like simply not paying attention to your child to something as serious as abuse, take your cues from evidence around the house and your child himself to decide whether or not your babysitter is up to par. If you're focused, you can see the signs and warn your babysitter or offer a pink slip for unforgiveable offenses.
- Watch your child. If your happy-go-lucky kid sours on a nanny after a period of time—and the dislike doesn't fade—that's a warning sign. "Check moods of kids," says Adrienne Kallweit, licensed private investigator and founder of SeekingSitters.com. "Are they happy when you get home, are they excited when you tell them that a certain sitter or nanny is coming to watch, or are they sad, quiet, depressed [or] have a tantrum when a certain sitter comes over?" Your child knows when a sitter is distant, boring or even abusive. Ask him how he feels about his caregiver or, if your child is nonverbal, pay attention to his physical reactions to a sitter.
- Check your computer. Kallweit recommends looking to your community computer for more clues. A good babysitter isn't checking Facebook, watching Youtube videos or chatting with friends on Messenger while taking care of your little one. Page through your browser history to see if you can find anything "off." A singular visit to Facebook shouldn't be cause for concern—but multiple visits during times her eyes should be on your child is.
- Take stock of your home. Unless you've stipulated it during the interview process, a caregiver shouldn't have to clean your home—but that doesn't mean you should come home to a complete pigsty, either. When the kitchen looks like it exploded and your living room is a minefield of toys, it might be a clue that your caregiver's lazy and not handling the job well. A good nanny cleans up after herself, so you come home to a house that looks the same as when you left.
- Evaluate your instructions. Did you leave with express instructions that your child needed to go to the park, only to find out that they stayed in with SpongeBob all day? A caregiver who loves her job should strive to follow your instructions on activities, feeding times, napping and other issues. While a rainy-day alternative is fine, you should be concerned if your ideas and instructions are constantly ignored by a bored or flippant caregiver.
- Ask for a report. Kallweit suggests that parents ask caregivers to provide activity reports. From dirty diapers to a walk around the block, your nanny should be able to detail how the day went. While you might not ask for a written report, just ask your caregiver how they spent their day. If she seems bored and forgetful about what she did, she's probably not giving your child the attention he needs. A good caregiver is enthusiastic about their adventures in cookie-baking, or giving you a rundown of baby's first taste of apricots.
While you can't always stop a slick-talking caregiver from getting into your home and treating your baby like a chore, you can be attentive to watch for the warning signs. Most of the time, it's the result of a gut instinct that something isn't right. While skipping date night to search for a new babysitter isn't fun, it's important that your child's getting 100 percent of the love, care and attention that you would give, when you're not around.