A recent report by The National Marriage Project shows that having a regular date night (or any one-on-one couple time) with your spouse can literally change your marriage. The findings in that report are fascinating, but here's the quick version: When couples have date night once a week, they are three times as happy with the marriage, are more communicative and half as likely to divorce.
That's significant, to say the least.
Finding couple time might be easy when it's just the two of you. Once kids enter the picture, things get a little more complicated. Enter the babysitter.
A good babysitter can save your marriage by making it simple for you and your spouse to leave the house - alone. You need that one-on-one time. Here's what to look for in a babysitter and how to go about finding one.
A good babysitter should have the following qualities:
A good babysitter will pay attention to what is happening around them, prevent accidents and remember details about dinner time and bed time routines. Sometimes, especially if your baby sitter is a teenager, she will have little-to-no childcare experience. That's okay, you can check for responsibility in a variety of ways. Is she a good student? An accomplished athlete or musician? An entrepreneurial spirit? Any of these can foster responsibility.
A good babysitter is somebody you can trust to be unsupervised in your home. Are you worried about the sitter using your internet for unsavory purposes? That she will let her over-18-boyfriend in after the kids are in bed? These are red flags, and not something you should ignore.
A good babysitter needs to be able to roll with the punches, so to speak. He needs to keep his wits about him if your 4-year-old falls and knocks a tooth out. He needs to be able to think clearly in case of an emergency, and he needs to be able to discern between an inconvenience and an emergency before calling you.
While your children would put this attribute first, the other three are far more important. If you feel the babysitter in question is responsible, honest and resourceful, then you can ask yourself if she's fun also. Your children are more likely to respond positively and to behave themselves if the babysitter is fully engaged with them, so this is definitely a happy bonus.
So, now that you know what you are looking for in a babysitter, how do you go about finding this perfect person to care for your little angels?
First, ask for recommendations
. Your friends, neighbors, parents of your child's friends, teachers, coaches and other parents at school are all good resources for finding a good babysitter.
Second, talk to more than one sitter
. If the sitter is a teen, talk to the sitter's parents as well. Get a feel for her personality and ability to handle stressful situations. One big question that can give you a big clue as to how she will perform is, "Do you view babysitting as a job or as an easy way to make some quick cash?" When the sitter (and her parents) answers this question, really listen to what they say and how they elaborate on their answer. You want a babysitter who takes it seriously and will be on task when they are in your home.
Third, be upfront about your expectations
. Discuss her rate of pay, your rules about screen time, your expectations about internet usage and texting and her behavior with your children. It might be uncomfortable, but these discussions will give you a better sense of how successful your night will be.
Fourth, be detailed in your children's needs
. Write down information about your child's allergies, bedtime routines and major household rules. If your child has a special need, make sure the babysitter knows about it ahead of time.
. Once you are out of the house, resist the urge to call and check on the babysitter. If you've done your homework, things will be going just fine at home. Couple time is for you. Enjoy it.