Sunshine’s First Babysitter: Tips for Leaving Your Child with a Sitter

The other night I babysat for a neighbour.  I couldn’t get the wireless Internet on my laptop working, so I started reading through some old writing files.  I found this piece, written after we got a babysitter for Sunshine for the very first time when we lived in northern Alberta, and found it rather ironic that I was reading this while babysitting for someone else. Here’s what happened that day, and my tips for leaving your baby with a sitter!

Getting Out the Door

I hastily scribbled the list: our cell phone number, home phone number and address in case of emergency, two neighbors’ numbers (someone close by if the babysitter needed help), the place we were going to be. I stuck that to the fridge, made sure there were snacks set out for the babysitter, and went to find pajamas for Sunshine.

She was crawling down the hallway while my husband organized his stack of school papers in the living room before we went out for the evening.

Sunshine playing with blocks with her babysitter

It was the first time we’d gotten a babysitter—other than our parents—to watch Sunshine. While she often played with this babysitter at church, I was nervous about making sure anything the babysitter or Sunshine might need for the evening was available.

I babysat for most of my teen years. Now, as I folded Sunshine’s blanket by her crib and put the soother was in an obvious spot, I wondered if the parents I babysat for had been this nervous about leaving their kids with me. I certainly hadn’t been nervous about watching the kids!

The doorbell rang a few minutes early, as I gave my hair a spritz of hairspray. I dashed to the door to welcome the babysitter. We showed her around, but it was Sunshine herself who crawled to her toys and began playing, pushing the lid off her blocks and dumping them out.

The babysitter settled beside her, smiling at us as we put our boots and coats on. I tried to remember anything else I should tell her. Then we were out the door and in the Jeep, wondering if Sunshine had howled when we left.

Date Night without a Baby!

For the next four hours my husband and I were baby-free. We danced and visited and mentioned once or twice that we had a one-year-old at home.

I checked my cell phone occasionally, making sure there were no missed calls. I worried that between the dancing and the music, I’d never feel the phone vibrating in my pocket. At 9 pm I thought about calling home, just to make sure Sunshine had gone to bed okay—but if I did call, it might wake her up, so I didn’t call, trusting that no news was good news.

Baby sleeping in a playpen with a babysitter

When the dance wrapped up at 11 pm, my husband and I said goodbye and got into the Jeep. We were still excited from the music and crowds. And we had a babysitter at home. What could we do now? In a small town, it turned out, not much. We checked the karaoke at one bar, decided it was too loud and crowded, and walked home again.

We found the babysitter watching a movie with Sunshine, who had (as usual) woken up just past 11:00.

I fed her and then she snuggled with me, not falling asleep, just needing to know I was there and not leaving her again. And somehow, as I held her close, breathing in the scent of her fine hair and watching her eyelashes brush her cheeks and then flash up again, that was good.

Tips for Leaving Your Baby with a Sitter

  • Leave a note in a clear location (on the fridge or by the door) with your cell phone number and where you are going, as well as your home address, another emergency contact, and any allergies your child has.
  • Write down details about baby’s bedtime routine, eating habits and favourite toys to help babysitter. (Grab a free printable babysitter guide here!)
  • Give yourself time to transition out the door; if your sitter can come ten or fifteen minutes early, you can chat and play with the sitter and your infant to help them know this “new” person is a friend.

Make the change with your baby in a neutral place, such as playing on the floor or sitting in a swing, high chair or baby seat. Have that person engage your baby’s attention as you say a quick, happy goodbye. ~ Elizabeth Pantley

  • Choose the right time to go out; is your child more likely to play happily with a sitter after a nap or to fall asleep easily at the end of the day? If baby’s bedtime routine is a bit up in the air, try to go out at another time when baby will be happier with the sitter. (Date nights don’t have to happen in the evening!)

What tips would you share for leaving a baby with a sitter?

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