As much as parents love their children, taking the evening off for date night is imperative to a happy relationship. However, before dancing and drinking the night away with your beau, it is crucial to find that perfect trustworthy babysitter to watch over the kiddos.

Even if you’ve relied on one sitter consistently as your babies have grown up, there will be a time when they are unavailable — off doing whatever teenagers do for fun — and you’ll have to rely on a neighbor or a referral.

Unfortunately, even if your favorite sitter recommended her best friend or her best friend’s sister’s cousin, they may not turn out to be as great as you’d like.

Dearly talked to one dad, Robb Lippitt, who recalled the cringe-worthy encounter with a sitter that drove him to never hire her again.

Robb Lippitt/Independent Journal Review

Robb described himself and his wife, Debbie, as “really chill” about who babysat for their two daughters. He said:

“Any sort of ‘she’s great’ was good enough. We valued going out a lot and figured pretty much anyone could watch the kids for a couple of hours and dial 911 if needed.”

However, his reliance on his neighbor’s teenage daughter quickly ended after she took advantage of the quiet house of sleeping children.

She had asked the Lippitts if a friend could “stop by and drop off some stuff she needed for a school project.” They agreed, but returned home around midnight only to find the sitter’s “friend” still lurking in the kitchen.

When the sitter turned down Robb’s offer to walk her home, insisting her friend could do it instead, he didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary. Not until the next day was he aware that he had been taken advantage of.

The following afternoon, Robb received an angry call from his neighbor demanding to know when they had returned from date night. After he truthfully reported “midnight,” she berated him, shouting that her daughter hadn’t returned home until 3:30 a.m.

Her “friend” was actually more of a “boyfriend,” and the two took off after her shift rather than return home.

Although his neighbor ascribed the blame to him and his wife, the sitter was duly at fault for “scheming and lying to get alone with the guy,” as well as breaching the Lippitts’ trust.

That was the last time he didn’t take a sitter home to their door (“unless they drove themselves,” he added).

Another mom, who requests to remain nameless, recalled to Dearly about a particular sitter that never sat for her family again after a similar incident. When she and her husband returned home, they found an unexpected guest on their couch. The babysitter introduced the boy as her “brother home from college.”

After having a lovely conversation with the two, the babysitter declined a ride from the family, insisting her brother could take her home.

Thinking nothing of the events of the previous night, the couple was surprised to receive a call from their babysitter, who admitted the stranger was actually her boyfriend. The mom recalled:

“We never asked her to babysit again obviously, but I do have to applaud the parents for making her apologize and for knowing that it was her fault and not ours that we let her leave with him.”

Mother of two Miry Serlin recalled a similar incident where she and her husband returned home to her college-age babysitter and boyfriend, who refused to get off the couch despite their job clearly being over for the night. While Miry was confused, her husband explained to her “naive self that it was probably because they’d been making out and the boy couldn’t stand up without embarrassing himself.”

Despite babysitters (hopefully) having the best intentions with your children, it is crucial to set ground rules before heading out for the evening. As a seasoned babysitter myself, I am always most comfortable and confident in a home where the parents lay out exactly what is expected of me.

Though it may seem superfluous and unnecessary to tell your sitter that you’d rather not come home to find her making out with a total stranger while your child sleeps 20 feet away, it’s better to speak up rather than be sorry later.

Communication between parent and babysitter is key for an overall positive experience. Although now a mom of grown children herself, Paula Caryotakis recalled to Dearly what made the difference between a positive and negative babysitting experience:

“I loved the houses where things were written down, where I was shown where the Band-Aids were, where I was shown how the tricky lock worked, etc. etc. It made me feel confident that I could keep the kids safe and made for a fun and pleasant experience.”

She added that the more unpleasant jobs were those where the parents had little respect for her own time or health. For example, not warning her if their child had been violently ill minutes prior to her arrival, or returning home hours later than originally expected.

As with most social interactions, respect goes both ways. Haggling payment can be an uncomfortable subject, but Paula recommends that parents know what they want to pay prior to hiring a babysitter in order to avoid any unwanted surprises. She said:

“[The babysitter] could feel good about accepting the job and I would not worry about being charged more than I was ready to pay. If I wasn’t offering enough, they could decline.”

Paula added that in her “heyday” $1 was the average hourly rate. Nowadays, any potential sitter would laugh in your face if you offered them that. Instead, perhaps, propose a range with which you feel comfortable paying.

And in order to avoid a catastrophic shouting match with your neighbor, such as the one endured by Robb, Miry recommends meeting the potential sitter prior to them actually babysitting.

Robb Lippitt/Independent Journal Review

Even if the teen comes with a glowing recommendation, she said:

“[You] can’t take someone’s word for it that the kid is good, even if they babysat for someone else. Your standards might be different.”

Although Robb’s girls were never endangered by that babysitter, it’s safe to assume that the overall experience could have been better. The key, according to Robb, is finding teenagers who love kids. Some look at babysitting as an easy way to make money, but the trick is to find those who actually want to bond with your kids. Robb said:

“If they see the kids as amusing, entertaining and fun then everyone is happy. If they are [seen as] annoyances who need to be put to bed, it’s much harder.”

So spend a little time getting to know your babysitters. After all, you want them to love your child (almost) as much as you do!

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