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A babysitter is an essential part of a busy family’s life, being able at any time to step in and help with the care of babies, young children or pre-teens when the single parent or parents are temporarily occupied elsewhere. An experienced and responsible babysitter is the HELP button in a parent’s life, being able to take over the responsibilities of the parent for short periods when required. A babysitter helps out in times of difficulty, stress or emergencies or simply when the parents need some time alone, knowing that their children are being cared for safely and happily.
There is a fine but important distinction between a babysitter and a nanny, as some of their responsibilities naturally overlap. A nanny is an employee, working from the home of her employers, and is contracted to fulfill her duties for set hours (usually the same times) every weekday and over weekends if she lives-in with the family. She will usually work for eight hours or more each weekday, and perform the same tasks each day, including tidying up after the children, washing and ironing for them and sometimes for the family as a whole, and cooking the children’s meals as required whilst she is on duty. A nanny is tasked with looking after babies and very young children, and is a stabilizing and constant presence in a home where both parents work. A nanny’s responsibilities do not usually include driving and transporting children. Further information on nannies can easily be found on Uptasker.
A babysitter works on an ad-hoc basis, being called in for shorter periods as and when needed, and works on an hourly basis, being paid an agreed fee for the number of hours she works. She should ideally be a driver as she may be tasked with driving children to various activities, or collecting them from school, and must be able to drive to and from her client outside of normal working hours. She may work for a minimum period of about three hours or for longer stretches of time, depending on the needs of the parents. She may work in the client’s home or in other areas where the children are situated whilst she is looking after them. For instance, she may be required to take care of a child or children on site during a formal event, at a wedding or similar function where the child might otherwise disrupt part of the proceedings, or be called in to look after children whilst the parents are out during the evening. Her duties are varied, according to the situation, but have the care, welfare and safety of the child foremost in importance.
Many babysitters are trained in First-Aid or basic CPR techniques. A babysitter may be required to provide assistance with homework and other school projects, or to generally supervise homework assignments. There are many babysitting and childcare facilities available for very young children, with trained professional staff in constant attendance, but it is likely that the child will have to be dropped off at the facility, which may pose a problem with transport arrangements. If this is not an issue, parents can relax in the knowledge that their child is in a safe environment and learning to interact and play with other children of similar ages.
As she deals with babies and young children, a babysitter should understand and be skilled in keeping them suitably occupied or entertained, as agreed with the parents. She must be adept at dealing with inevitable minor falls and scrapes and give appropriate comfort to a distressed or unhappy child in the absence of its mother. This is a skill which can never be under-estimated, and involves a high degree of trust between the babysitter and the child, which is not an easy accomplishment. She should be skilled in preparing or cooking simple meals if required, and be aware of any allergies the child may have in order to protect them from exposure to such allergens. Her role, whilst she is with them, is that of a protector, story-teller, disciplinarian, comforter, chauffeur and chef to the children in her care.
As with many services across all industries, babysitting services are becoming more and more visible online, and a web search will produce the names of many babysitting services in your immediate area. Be aware, however, that these services may often not have their own websites, and you will need to check their references and client testimonials yourself. Sites such as Uptasker are amazing resources in listing babysitting services close to you, together with their contact details, links to websites, if available, online ratings and client reviews. Of course, the best testimonial you can get is through word of mouth referrals, but if this is not possible, you can also check for advertisements in newspapers, magazines - particularly parenting and baby issues - flyers, through babies’ and toddlers’ supply shops, and the Yellow Pages. Always check testimonials from previous or present clients, preferably by speaking to them yourself rather than just accepting written online references, especially if you are using them for the first time.
Until your children are old enough to take full responsibility for themselves, their actions and decisions, they cannot be safely left without adult supervision. There will be occasions when you need the help of a qualified and experienced person who can take over your function as a parent for a few hours, and this is where a babysitter is an invaluable aid, stepping in to give your child or children the care and protection they deserve whilst you cannot be there yourself. A caring, responsible and experienced babysitter is a parent’s best ally when trying to manage unexpected time constraints and problems whilst keeping their children safe. For more tips, see our babysitter articles.