When you give birth to your first child, you can't imagine finding a baby sitter who is worthy of being entrusted with the care of the most precious being in the world. But as the end of maternity leave nears, you are forced to confront the need for another adult -- or team of caregivers -- to take over some care from you, the doting mom.
It's not as hard to find a baby sitter as you might imagine. There are so many options for child care when you return to work, including a daycare center, family daycare, full-time nanny, nanny share, family members and an au pair. You'll spend plenty of time vetting and interviewing the child care providers who will watch your baby while you are at work.
But for those rare date nights or other short-term needs, here are the top 10 ways to find a baby sitter. As your child grows older, the pool of potential baby sitters grows even bigger.
- Word of mouth. One of the best ways to find a baby sitter is simply by asking other parents for their favorite sitters' names. Just be sure to promise not to keep the sitter so busy that she can't babysit for your friends!
- Daycare center. Another great option is to ask the child care providers at your kid's daycare center whether they babysit on the side.
- Preschool teachers. Same goes for preschool teachers. Even if your child doesn't attend, you may be able to post a flyer at the preschool or ask the director for referrals to teachers who babysit.
- After school caregivers. Or if you have school-age children, the caregivers from the after school program may baby sit. The plus is that they'll know your kids already.
- Your child's extra-curricular activities. Similarly, consider asking the soccer coach, swim instructor or other afterschool activity teacher whether she babysits. Often these individuals will be older teens or 20-somethings who are happy for the extra bucks.
- Other parents. If you're in a mom's group, consider starting a babysitting cooperative with the other parents. You can take turns watching both families' children, giving every adult a break -- and the kids a playmate or two.
- Church, synagogue or mosque. A fabulous way to find a baby sitter is asking the youth director at your religious institution. The director will know the most responsible teenagers, and the ones most likely to be available on a Saturday night.
- Your neighborhood. Or, you can grow a baby sitter by looking around your neighborhood for your teenagers who might want to earn some cash. If they are nearby, you won't have to drive far to drop them off after date night is over.
- Craigslist or other listservs. Believe it or not, one of our favorite early babysitters came from a Craigslist ad. You'll want to triple-check references using this method, but it is possible to find a good sitter who is trustworthy and reliable.
- Nanny agency. When you're really desperate, you can always find a sitter through a nanny agency or referral service. The downside: it's usually pricey.