Hiring a Babysitter the First Time | Working Mother

When and How to Leave Your Child With a Babysitter for the First Time

Got first-time babysitter nerves? Read this, and then go out.

Mom Leaving Baby with Babysitter

Guess who will have the least issues with your hiring a babysitter for the first time?

Photo: iStock

Your little one thoroughly consumes you and your partner. But there will come a point when nagging memories begin to creep in. You used to really like hanging out with the father of your kid. The clothes you wore while you laughed and drank weren’t covered in spit-up stains. You used to eat nice dinners in places that didn’t smell like poop and butt lotion. You now you sit and sigh beside each other while blankly staring at Baby Einstein—you once went to things called movies.

Yeah. Those were good times. And they can be again. Right now in fact. You need a date night, and that means you need a babysitter.

The Great Escape

The first question to be answered: What age can you leave your kid with someone else?

That’s pretty simple. If you're breastfeeding, you can pretty much leave your kid as soon as they're proficient at the boob, which shouldn’t take long. If they’re dining on formula, you can jet even sooner.

Experts say that you could bolt with your partner (and leave behind some pre-pumped breastmilk) as early as a couple of weeks after birth. And while that’s the reality of the situation, the squishy part comes in convincing yourself that you can leave the kid for a couple of hours without turning him into some mommy-never-loved-me psychokiller. Consider the following:

Rested Is best. You're both going to be better parents if you've taken some time to breath a refresh. The bad breakdowns come during your over-tired, stressed and resentful moments. But you probably know that already, don't you?
Guilt Is good. You know how you can tell if you’re a good parent? You actually give a darn about leaving your kid with someone else for a few hours. If you were cavalier about it, there might be some issues.
Kids don’t care. The one who is going to have the least issues with this is your baby. Any possible distress he might feel from your absence is transitory at worst. A couple hours will not kill the bond you’re building.

The Night’s Watch

Once you’ve convinced yourself you can leave your child, it’s time to figure out who to leave him with. Many new parents in this situation will opt for family members. This is where mother-in-laws truly earn their keep. Grandparents are the gold-standard for care when you’re looking for a couple hours out with your partner. Just make sure they know the rules, and be ready to forgive them completely if they break those rules.

Things get a bit more dicey when it comes to babysitters. There are a ton of options out there for sourcing someone who’s not going to drink your booze cabinet dry. But the key is that you do not hire anyone unless you feel completely confident in their abilities. Here are some things you’ll want to do:

Check references. Whether you find someone through an online resource or local word of mouth, you need to dig up dirt. She should provide you with at least two references, and you should grill them. How do their kids like the sitter? Is the sitter animated and active with the kids or more even keeled? Did she ever drop a ball? A kid?

But remember that no matter how much other people like a sitter, ultimately you are the one who needs to feel comfortable with her abilities and skills.

Observe. Invite the babysitter over for a paid observation. At least one of you should be present during this visit and your prospective sitter can play with the kids while you get household things done. It will help you understand the dynamic. Is your prospective sitter more interested in hanging with your kid or naked Snapchattering (or whatever the youths are doing these days)?


Now that everything is in place, you’ll want to split for a couple of hours. Just make sure you’ve set the ground rules.

  • Is the TV allowed on?
  • What about phones?
  • Have you left a list of things your kid enjoys?
  • Have you left your cell numbers?
  • Is there an emergency contact number if your phones aren’t working?
  • Are you clear on the rates and what you’ll hand them when you get back?

Perfect. Now get the heck out of there and try not to spend the entire time worrying.
—Patrick A. Coleman

Fatherly is a parenting resource for men who understand that embracing what they've become doesn't mean giving up who they are. The site delivers expert-driven, evidenced-based parenting insights along with product and service suggestions tailored by the age of your kid. You can sign up for a digest of Fatherly's best content at fatherly.com.

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