Read anything at all about how to keep your marriage alive and kicking and it’s almost inevitable that there will be a tip about having a weekly, or at least monthly, date night with your spouse. The idea is to spend time together as you would have done in those carefree, halcyon days before you were married. The dates serve to remind you both that you need to nurture your relationship, that it takes effort and that it’s all worth it!
After you’ve had kids, date night takes on a whole other layer of ‘don’ts’. That means don’t bring the kids, don’t talk about the kids, but instead pretend that life is like it was before diapers, feedings and spit ups!
When is it okay to start leaving baby with a caregiver?
That is completely up to you. Some people are comfortable leaving baby with a caregiver for a few hours within weeks of the birth. Others aren’t comfortable even after a year has gone by. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready and will only be miserable the entire time.
That said, sometimes it does take a bit of a leap of faith to leave our little ones with someone else and by refusing, even months and months later, you’re saying to your spouse that you think it’s more important to put the baby’s needs before their needs (and your own!) That can have its own set of ramifications and really, it’s not about who is more important: the health of the ENTIRE family unit is important.
Ultimately, it will depend on who is caring for your baby. Is it your mother / mother-in-law or someone you’ve hired from a babysitting service? Is it the teenager from next door or the older lady who is also a classroom helper at the elementary school?
Who is going to care for baby?
Once you’ve decided that you can stand the idea of leaving baby with someone else for a few hours, who will it be? If you have family nearby that you love and trust, that is your first and best bet. Your parents will likely go to long lengths to make sure that they give perfect care to their little grandbaby.
A sitter from a service or that you found from a fellow mom’s recommendation is also a good choice: they likely have training (infant CPR, for example) that your parents might not, and they have recent experience in caring for a baby. Particularly if your baby has specific health management needs, it might be best to consider a professional, at least at first!
Whomever you choose, you should prepare yourself, and them, for the task at hand!
What questions should you ask of a potential caregiver?
If you’re not hiring ‘Grandma’, you definitely need to ask your potential caregiver some questions at a face to face interview. Why face to face? Because you want to see how they interact with the baby. A babysitter who shows no interest in your baby and doesn’t even look their way is probably not someone you’re going to be comfortable with in the long run.
As to what you should ask them during the interview, here’s a sample list:
1. Basics, like availability and rates.
2. Experience with babies (or if your child has any special needs, experience with caring for a child with those needs.)
How long they’ve been a babysitter?
For what sorts of families (number of kids, age ranges, etc…) have they worked with?
What techniques they use for getting baby to go to sleep?
Use scenarios to ask them how they would react to emergency situations like baby is choking, or baby isn’t breathing in their crib…
3. Any formal education? Infant CPR, First Aid, childcare courses, etc…
4. What they like about being a babysitter?
5. What’s the most challenging situation they’ve ever faced, as a babysitter?
6. Check in with the comfort level around pets, if you have any.
7. Whether or not they’ve got a current police / background check they can share.
8. Can they provide references? (RED flag if they can’t, despite reams of experience!)
9. Would they be okay having a paid test run where you were in the house the whole time?
With regards to this last point, this is a lot about putting you at ease about the sitter’s habits or behaviors. For example, if the phone rings, does the sitter put the baby down and leave them on the carpet or do they take baby with them to answer it? While your sitter will be on their best behavior while you’re around, what you’re looking for is behaviors that they THINK are correct, that you don’t agree with.
What information should you provide to that caregiver?
If you’re going to go out on a regular basis, you might want to set up a babysitting binder. It’s a one stop location for all the information the sitter might need. What should you include:
1. A top sheet that shows the details for THAT babysitting job: where you will be, how you and your spouse can be reached and when you expect to be back.
2. Emergency information, including any relevant medical information on baby, allergies, emergency phone numbers (poison control, etc…), doctor information.
3. Secondary contact information, such as your parents or in-laws, in the event that the sitter can’t get through to you.
4. Likes and dislikes for baby: for example, if your baby likes their formula at room temperature instead of heated up, or if your baby has to have a certain lovey for bed.
5. A sample evening routine, so they know what’s expected and when baby should be put down for the night.
6. Any information about the house or pets that they might need, like the fact that the back door sticks or Rover needs to pee around 9 p.m.
Then you need to breathe in and out, and take time to nurture your relationship with your spouse, or with yourself, if you’re a single parent. You’ll be a better parent if you have time for you too.