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Starting Out as a Babysitter: Natalie's Story
Deciding to Babysit
When I decided to babysit, I started by asking myself if I enjoyed being around children enough to take care of them. Luckily, the answer was "yes!" If I didn't really love kids, it would be obvious to the parents that I didn't enjoy the job or the kids.
I remember having babysitters when I was younger and a couple didn't seem to enjoy babysitting very much. Sometimes they didn't really want to interact with my brother, sister, and me — they may have been more worried about their payment than taking care of us!
But most of my sitters were fun. As I begin babysitting myself, I remember many of the activities they did with us. It helps me come up with ideas for the kids I'll be babysitting.
Learning What to Expect
At first, I joined my older sister and a friend to observe their interactions with the kids they were looking after. I was especially interested in how they entertained them. From them, I learned that entertaining kids is all about the age group.
One great activity I learned from my sister was "Movie Night." Instead of just putting a movie on, she planned ahead and made tickets for the movie as well as popcorn. The kids loved this little extra touch. It taught me how much kids enjoy imagination and creativity.
Before I started babysitting on my own, I worked as a mother's helper. This type of job is usually after school, not in the evening. It's a good way to get started because the child's mom is home when I am there, so not all the responsibility falls on me. I'm taking care of the kids, but I can still ask their mom for advice and answers to questions as they come up.
I also get to see how the kids' mom interacts with them. It helps me learn what the kids like to do — and how they respond to things they don't like! Also, the kids get to know me and aren't afraid of me when I come over to babysit.
One of the best things to do in preparing to be a confident babysitter is to take a babysitting course. A number of parents and babysitters have recommended that I do this. Now that I will be doing more babysitting, I plan to enroll in a class soon.
All this preparation taught me that I shouldn't expect too much of myself at first. After all, I don't have much experience. Talking to my sister and other babysitters has helped me realize that, with time, I'll feel more comfortable and get more confident about babysitting. Just knowing that I won't always be this nervous gives me some extra confidence!
On My Own!
I decided to start my first job in my own neighborhood. That gave me the comfort of knowing my parents and sister were close by so I could call with questions if I needed to. It also helped that the parents left their numbers by the phone (along with a list of emergency numbers). I haven't had to call parents while I'm babysitting yet. But it's good knowing I can.
My first time babysitting alone, I felt nervous. I tried not to show it because I didn't want the kids to sense it. Kids can feel it if their sitter is uncomfortable, and I didn't want my nerves to make the kids anxious too. After all, it can be more work to look after kids when they are upset! I tried to be friendly, smile a lot, and ask the kids lots of questions about themselves.
I was more comfortable starting my first babysitting job with just one child to watch. I also decided to start out taking care of a child who was at least 3 years old. I figured I could work up to babysitting for more kids (or babies) gradually.
Organizing and Managing Jobs
The worst thing I could do is be late or forget a babysitting job. Being late could make parents question my interest and whether I am responsible. So I have a calendar just for dates and times I'll be babysitting to help keep my schedule organized.
I set an alarm on my cell phone for about 15 minutes before I need to be at the house. That way I won't be late and I'll have time to grab anything I might need.
Talking About Payment
Asking for money can be hard! It's never easy to discuss my hourly rate with a child's parents. As a way to justify my rate, I asked around to see how much other babysitters close to my age are making per hour. I also take into consideration that I am a less experienced sitter and my hourly pay won't be the same as a seasoned babysitter.
I plan on increasing my rate as I get older and gain more experience. Once the families see that I am capable they may want to give me a raise! However, I try not to focus on the issue of money because in the end it's about the kids and whether or not they enjoy our time together.
We all remember our favorite babysitters (as well as some of our not-so-favorite ones!). My goal is to be that fun, helpful, caring babysitter who makes a difference in a child's life.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD