I’ve been hearing some talk lately about babysitters. Complaints, really, from moms who leave their children with seemingly competent teenagers only to be shocked by the state of their house upon their return. There is no greater buzz-kill than coming home from a fun evening with your husband only to spend a half an hour cleaning up someone else’s mess. These friends have begun to accept that this is the way teenagers are these days and because they are desperate for a babysitter, they would rather stay quiet about the mess in their house than say something to this clueless teen.
I understand your dilemma and I’ve been there before. But as a mother of teens, I would ask those of you who are hiring babysitters to look at this from another angle.
You’re the boss.
Think of it this way: My oldest boys are certified as life guards. They took a rigorous course in order to get that certification, but that was only the beginning. When they started working at our neighborhood pool, they were given additional training. They were told what was expected of them and what to do when there is down time (including not so fun tasks such as cleaning the bathrooms). I know they don’t always do what they are supposed to do because they are teenagers. I hope that when they do not, the manager takes them aside and reminds them of those expectations.
Likewise, if you want a good employee (babysitter), you need to take the time to train them in how you want them to work for you. Because, they ARE working for you (tax free).
Before I go any further, I would like to point out that you get what you pay for. Think about the rate that you are paying. If it is $2/hour, you’re going to get $2/hour type of work. On the other hand, if you know you are paying well, you have every right to tell them that you expect them to put the dishes in the dishwasher and to put the food back in the fridge when they are done eating a meal. You have every right to remind them to put away the toys in the toy room or outside (with your kids’ help). And, if they have a lot of downtime, you should definitely expect that these things are done before you return.
I’m not talking about extensive training or heavy housework. I’m also not suggesting that any clean-up duty should ever take priority over the well-being and fun of your kids. This job must have it’s priorities and the number one priority is not cleaning up. However, a few minutes discussing expectations at the beginning could lead to fewer misunderstandings later.
So, what to do if it looks like a bomb went off in the kitchen? Ask if your kids were helping clean up or keeping him or her from doing what you asked them to do. Reasonable expectations here, because you don’t want the sitter in the kitchen cleaning the dishes while your kids are playing in the street. But if the kids are down for the night, and he or she is sitting on the couch watching TV with cold pizza on your counter and dirty dishes sitting on the table… you should talk. Especially if you had already laid out your expectations ahead of time.
If the house is a disaster after you had gone through what you expect from them, then maybe you don’t want this sitter to come back. Pay them the minimum amount and send them on their way. Because if they don’t want to follow your directions as their boss, then their performance as a child-care provider is probably not great either.
I know, you are desperate for sitters and want them to come back. Confrontation is not easy. But here is the thing, if you don’t say anything how will they learn what is expected of them?
As a mom of teenagers there is nothing I want more than to have other adults shape my children into future members of the workforce (I can only do so much as their mom). Unless their employers take the time to evaluate their performance in the workplace, there will not be any improvement. Whether they take up odd jobs as tutors, doing lawn care, babysitting or working at the pool, my kids aren’t going to learn how to be outstanding employees without some kind of feedback.
And when you come home finding that they did clean up after themselves, pay them well. And tell them why you are doing so. Pay them what they earned, and they will come back. And you will be thrilled to have them.
Don’t give up on those teenagers yet. They are a great group of kids who just need a little more guidance than you think. Their bodies may be bigger, but they are still kids in many ways. Teens are capable of cleaning up after themselves and taking more responsibility than even they will give themselves credit for.
And look at it this way, by teaching your babysitter what is expected of them you are not only getting a better sitter, you are also helping to shape these kids into more responsible adults.