Tip #1. TRADE!
I (Kami), am fortunate enough to live by every single one of my family. Siblings, parents, in-laws...it's great. We love living so close and it makes finding sitters pretty easy. That said, we don't like to solely rely on family to watch our two girls. Sometimes we feel we overuse them and sometimes we feel they are just too busy. It is so nice to trade with my sisters/sisters in law. Our kids all play so nicely with each other that most the time it makes it easier on us when we are watching them. If you have friends that live nearby with children you can also trade with them. Date night for a date night, why not?
Tip #2. WORK OUT A SCHEDULE WITH YOUR PARENTS.
I will still talk a little bit about having family close. I have three siblings. One year my mom and dad decided it would be a great idea if they started a 'date night' for each of us kids. We each got one week a month to choose a night where they watch our kids and we go out to eat, to a movie, to the temple, with friends, etc. We have loooooved this! Because there are four of us kids, we just go in order of birth and take that week of the month. I am the third born so I know every month I have the third week to plan a fun date with the hubby. Sometimes we trade weeks if one of us have something else, etc., but this has been so joyful for us with kids because we know we at least have one date night every month that we can count on. On the other side, my parents love having the one-on-one time with their grandchildren because they know they are creative memories and the kids love it too!
TIP #3. OLDER NIECES/NEPHEWS.
I remember babysitting a lot when I was 11-14 years old. Once I hit about 14 I was starting to become heavily involved in the social seen and became disinterested in babysitting. I think if you can find someone who still loves babysitting enough to actually play with your kids then you are lucky. We have a few nieces who love watching our girls, and our girls love them to come. Cousins are usually friends and play with each other anyways so choose a niece or nephew that lives near you and is responsible.
Tip #4. NEIGHBORS.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by awesome neighbors who have girls at great ages for babysitting. This tip is probably the most convenient because if you can get neighbors that live close enough to you, you don't have to run them home late at night. Also, you know that their parents are just down the road in case anything happens. Plus, because they are your neighbors means you know their family really well. We have a few neighbors that are over the age 16 and still like to babysit. This is an awesome scenario because they are so responsible and are great with the kids. Plus, what 16 year old doesn't love extra cash for gas, going with friends, dating, etc.?
Tip #5. COMMUNITY.
If you are a part of a large group of something then consider those around you. I am a part of a large ward (or church group) and there are many young women that are at a great age for babysitting. A lot of times, within our church they may have extra activities that teach home-making skills, babysitting, etc. This is great because you know that they are getting the knowledge that they need to be mothers one day and should make great babysitters.
Tip #6. SEARCH FOR OLDER SIBLINGS.
If you are looking for a sitter one thing you may want to consider is if the sitter is an older sibling. Usually if they have younger siblings then they have had a lot of experience with younger kids and chances are they are trained already from babysitting them.
Tip #7. CONSIDER YOUNGER COUPLES.
This is an especially great tip if you are leaving town for a day or two. My husband and I went to Vegas for the weekend a few years ago and at that time had a 1 year old and a three year old. We had our parents help but decided to try out a younger married couple with no kids to help out for one night. We knew them well, they were friends of my little sister and they seemed excited about it. They came and spent the night in our home, this made it easier for them to put our kids down in their own bed, the kids had all of their own toys, etc. We made sure that this worked out with the couples' working schedules and we paid them a good amount. We were happy with them and the girls loved them. Plus, it's great practice for them when they do have kids!
Tip #8. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE HOW YOU WANT IT FOUND WHEN YOU GET HOME.
Okay, okay, okay. So this might not work every time, but it's a good way to go. We try to have our house/kitchen clean when the sitter comes so they will hopefully leave it better than they found it. This is something you may want to touch on with a new sitter when going over things before you leave. Maybe say something like, "if you can leave the house somewhat like you see it now"... We had an experience once where we came home from a nice night at the spa and the house was a disaster!! The kids were still awake, the portable potty (I'll give the sitter a break, Livi was just freshly potty trained) had poop in it with toilet paper all over, toothpaste was smeared all over the bathroom cabinet, dinner was still left out... It was so frustrating. Common sense is what I call it, and hopefully your baby sitter has it. But coming home from a nice, relaxing couples' massage and having to spend 30 minutes scrubbing the bathroom floor was more than just disappointing. That sitter has never come back. Let them know what you expect.
Tip #9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO TALK WAGE.
I think this is a great idea to discuss on the first time you have a sitter come. Ask them, "Do you have a going rate?" and then maybe discuss with them, "Well, this is what I usually pay per hour. I will add a little more if the kids are asleep and the house is clean" or something like that. I know that every family pays differently, especially because we all have kids in different phases of life. My girls are super-easy right now. None of them are still in diapers, they are very independent, we usually have dinner already made when we leave. I have two girls, ages 5 and 3, and we pay $5/hour, and I round up the last hour. Babysitting can get expensive. You go out to dinner and a movie with your husband and spend $50+ and then after being away about 4 hours you come home and pay your baby sitter too. But remember, it's worth it. It is so nice to get a nice out and spend quality time with those you love.
Tip #10. LEAVE DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS AND FOLLOW UP
I am such a routine person with my kids. I also like to know details about them when I am away from them. When my kids were babies I swear everyone that babysat them were like, "okay, okay, we get it. We know how to warm up a bottle! We know how to wipe a baby's bum! We know how to lay them down in their crib!" But not really, because every baby likes things done a certain way. Make sure to give details on your kids' routines. Kids are very used to consistency, so they will act their best when things are being done the way their mommy does them.
On that note, I have been looking over a lot of great printables on Pinterest to leave with your sitter. There were a ton of them and I just love the idea of filling these papers out for them. There are even some for the sitter to fill out so that when you get home you can just look at the paper and read the details rather than ask her/him. It's genius! Check out these printables and see if any work for yourself. I love the idea of laminating these and using a dry-erase marker to fill them out so you don't have to print a new one out every time.
Babysitting Checklist - Kid to Kid
Nightly Routine - Apartment Therapy
While We're Out - Thirty Handmade Days
Notes for the Babysitter - Darling Doodles
Notes from the Nanny - Your Parenting
Info for Sitter - Fireflies and Jellybeans
Important Info for Your Sitter - Nannies On Call
Babysitting Notes and Emergency Contacts - Thrifty Little Mom
Babysitter Notes - Kamely Lane
Don't make getting a babysitter stressful. Follow some of these tips and leave with ease and comfort. But make sure you do get a sitter often. It is not only good for you to have a break and go out and enjoy yourself, but it is also good for your kids to be away with you and with someone else. It makes both of us on both ends appreciate each other better!