Motherhood

8 Questions to Ask a New Babysitter

8 Questions to Ask a New Babysitter

When Toby was a newborn, I felt totally overwhelmed by the process of finding a nanny. How do you even begin? I wondered. Thankfully, over the past four years, we’ve figured out how to find wonderful caregivers, including 8 questions to ask…

Here’s how we found great nannies (we have a more casual search process for date-night sitters):

Step 1: Scout potential sitters
This is the hardest part, I think! We’ve found potential nannies through word of mouth from friends, as well as online parenting forums in our neighborhood. (We’ve never used a service, like sittercity.com or care.com, although they seem good. Have you?) Once we find a handful of people, I set up phone interviews.

Step 2: Ask enlightening interview questions
For the phone interview, I’ve found that these eight questions have helped me learn a lot about someone’s personality and decision-making skills:

1. Please tell me about yourself and your experience with children.
2. What do you think kids like about you?
3. What’s your favorite age child to take care of?
4. What kinds of activities do you like doing with kids of different ages?
5. Have you ever had a philosophical difference with parents you’ve worked for, or is there something they asked you to do that you would have done differently?
6. How have you handled discipline with kids you’ve cared for?
7. Can you tell me about an emergency situation you’ve been in while babysitting, or something that scared you?
8. What questions do you have for us?

Step 3: Talk candidly with references
References are usually overarchingly positive, so in an effort to speak candidly, I always make sure to ask, “What did you NOT like about this person? What are some things you found bothersome?” Then you’re much more likely to get a direct and straightforward answer, and you can decide if that thing is a deal breaker or not.

Step 4: Meet the nanny for a playdate
After narrowing down the list to my favorite two or three candidates, I’ll meet each of them in person with the boys. Since we’ve already done the phone interview, we won’t have to talk about anything major and can just chitchat and play with the boys and spend time hanging out. It’s great to see their personality and if everyone has a good vibe!

Step 5: Trust your gut
To me, one of the most surprising things about hiring nannies is how much it’s like dating! When we’ve interviewed potential nannies, sometimes they’ll look perfect on paper (tons of experience, glowing references), but something won’t click, or I’ll just have a funny feeling that something’s not quite right. It’s such a personal and intimate relationship, and you want to find someone whom you and your children will fall in love with—and whom you can trust. Another surprising thing is how much I’ve loved the sitters we’ve worked with. Our sitters have become part of our family, and we adore them so much more than I ever thought possible.

And an aside: My heart is breaking into a hundred little pieces because our beloved nanny Brady recently told us that she’s moving back to Colorado this December. We’re so sad (I cried when she told us), but it’s a great decision for her and of course I want the best for her. But still. Heartbreak.

What’s your childcare situation? Do you have a babysitter or nanny you love? How did you find him or her? Did you ask any other interview questions that worked well? Have you ever had a negative childcare experience? Did you choose a daycare instead? I’d love to hear…

P.S. 5 tips for sibling rivalry, and 10 tips for traveling with a baby. Plus, mothers talk openly about work/life balance.

  1. Nikky says...

    Our current situation:

    I am a stay at home mother, with a 6 year old girl, 4 year old boy, two year old girl, and new born twins.

    Since the beginning of the twin pregnancy we realized we will need an extra set of hands. So we began looking for a full time Nanny. I found that some of the people we interviewed where just looking for something to do with their time and happened to like kids.

    Example: Once we thought we found the “one”. After a couple of days with her and me together, we felt it was the right time for me to start leaving the house. I went shopping for the week and ran some errands. When I arrived home, I found all the children playing “hairdresser” with real scissors and real haircuts. And this sweet 23 year old didn’t understand why this was not acceptable – all she could see was happy children being cute.

    Now, with the twins being 7 weeks, we havent found “the one”, rather we found two!

    We have two wonderful ladies that have been life saving.

    One is a 19 year old girl who just graduated highschool – she is with me in the mornings from 9 – 2 to help with the twins – which allows me to run errands and SLEEP! And we have another wonderful wonderful woman in her late 60s who has been a Nanny all her life from 4 – 8. This woman is the sweetest and most nurturing person I have met. She is so good with the kids, and will randomly do the dishes and fold laundry even though she knows that is not her responsibility.

    What I have found, when you find the right match, child rearring becomes a group effort. You are both investing the kids. You become a family. And it is a beautiful thing to watch. I am a much calmer mother when my nanny’s are around – not because it is less hectic – but because I am embarrassed to unleash “monster Mommy” in front of them. And I end up enjoying motherhood so much when they are around, it’s nice having another adult to speak to and an extra set of hands.

    I am a big believer that a woman should never be alone. We are socail beings. Solitary confinement is the ultimate punishment. And adding kids to solitary confinement is a greater one. Being a stay at home mother is a beautiful commit, but it can’t be done alone. If you are not happy, something is wrong (I learnt this this hard way).

    Thank you for your post :)

  2. Hi,
    At the beginning of my time with the family their mother referred to me as the children’s babysitter. I think, like you Joanna, she felt “nanny” had elitist connotations. I respected that but asked if she would mind calling me the children’s nanny. Being called a babysitter made me feel temporary and juvenile. It might sound silly but to be called a nanny meant to me that my job was, a job. That she recognized the effort I put into being prepared and present when I came to work. It also made me hold myself to a higher standard.
    Thanks for sharing this article……..

  3. Sasha says...

    I hope a few suggestions from a nanny is helpful.

    I love my job and work full time, right now I have absolutely fabulous employers. Here’s what they do that really makes or our situation work for everyone.

    No one asks me to do anything that isn’t child care. A nanny is not a housekeeper. I do do lots of things around the house, and the family acknowledges and tips, but I know it’s not my job.

    They respect my expertise and I respect their choices as a parent and don’t judge. They respect my time, never being late or canceling at last minute or making a fuss if I need a day off.

    I truly feel valued. They pay on the top end of the scale and I do my best, with love. We all take our relationship seriously and put effort into keeping it positive. They give wonderful presents for special occasions, and sometimes for no reason at all. We do many things together outside of “work” because we feel like family.

    We are all open to suggestions and see each other as equals, all caring for this sweet child and working together to do it well. We feel like a team. We trust each other.

    I think every family deserves this. I would never leave for another job because of how well I’m treated, and I pass every bit of this care along to the child I care for.

  4. Britany Robinson says...

    Hi I just came across your page as I was looking for questions to ask a potential babysitter. My husband and I have a 6 yr old, 2 yr old, and 1 yr old, I am a stay at home mom and have never really left them with anyone. My husband and I are wanting to be able to spend a little more time together,i.e. go on dates or hunting or fishing. We are looking for a part time sitter and have found a potential candidates however I am scared to death. I feel guilty leaving my kids with someone so I can go out and enjoy myself or that I am putting someone out by asking them to keep my children. Do you have any advice that could help with this part of the babysitter journey? Thanks

    • Sasha says...

      Hi, I’m a nanny, here are a few tips. I love the interview questions Joanna suggests here. Find someone that answers well and FEELS like the right person and then just go. Do a few short dates, one a week for a bit. Build up your confidence and see how your kids seem to like the nanny. If she/he works out, great them really well. Pay more than you must, give lots of notice for dates, show that you confidently trust them, leave a few treats (like a yummy chocolate bar). Someone who feels loved and cared does MORE than her job, she passes the love along to your kids. Always be respectful and kind. Do not ask her to do the dishes or laundry, but if she does, absolutely acknowledge it and tip it.

      I hope you found someone wonderful and get to enjoy some special dates with your partner. A happy marriage is a really important gift to your kids.

  5. Tracy says...

    Hi Joanna, I came across your wonderful article just now, thank you! We currently have a 2 month old and we are in search for a sitter. We live in Englewood, 15 minutes from the city of Denver.

    Any chance does she still babysit and if so if love it if you could connect us as your words were beautifully put and I would love to have someone we trust in our home with our daughter.

    Thank you kindly,
    Tracy

  6. RianR says...

    I like to ask, “How were you disciplined as a child?” It’s often enlightening and gets to the heart of what they do, not just what they’d like to do. Honestly, finding good childcare is the scariest, hardest thing ever.

  7. thank you for this. I am finding it hard to lookfor a nanny for my two boys and this is just the right thing! I hope I’ll be as lucky as you to have someone you can trust your kids with…

  8. Tammy says...

    Unfortunately most of the article seems to be missing as it’s just the opening paragraph. I would love to know the questions to ask as my kids are getting to the age that we’re thinking of hiring someone to watch them so we can enjoy an adult night out. Thanks for all the great articles!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the post got temporarily lost in the redesign process, but it’s back up now! thank you, sandy and tammy! xo

  9. Sandy says...

    Hi Joanna! I’m looking for a nanny right now and I remembered you posted this article awhile ago…i can’t seem to find the questions anymore so was wondering if you could repost??

    Thanks!

  10. Amber says...

    I once hired a high schooler from a large family to watch my 1 and 3 year old. Her mother had recommended her, but both of us didn’t realize she didn’t know how to change diapers! I’m glad I wasn’t gone that long, but it was a bit shocking to find her on the computer with my kid crying in a dirty diaper. I taught her how to do diapers but her lack of communication and initiative kept me from hiring her again.
    Find a sitter who loves engaging your children in activities. Bonus if she does dishes when they’re asleep.

  11. Joanna dear,
    I can’t see the article. Or I should say the questions. I can tell from the comments that others could… but it seems like something has changed. I’m dying to know your 8 questions!
    Love,
    Aimée

    • Yes, I also cannot see the 8 great questions!

  12. Joanna, any chance Brady is moving to Fort Collins? I could use a good sitter here in Colorado! :)

  13. I would highly recommend doing a back ground check, I would also ask, if they were abused as children? and kind of abuse. I know that sounds crazy, but I am in the field of abuse therapy, and many of my clients were abused by family members or babysitters…

  14. Hi Joanna,

    I’m pretty sure I saw your son’s and their sitters out at a Brooklyn playground a few weeks ago. The sitters were very attentive and engaged with your boys. I recognized your boys from your site, of course, but it totally made me feel like some crazy person. Anyway, our kids (and your sitters) played together and they all had a great time.

  15. These questions were excellent – I used them tonight when interviewing a potential nanny actually! I was thinking it would be great to see what list of questions you might have for when you are asking other parents who have used your nanny/babysitter for references?

  16. When I babysat through high school and college, I was always asked if I knew CPR or any other emergency response techniques!

  17. S. says...

    Joanna, Your timing was perfect as we are currently on a search for an evening babysitter here in Brooklyn for our 6month old daughter. I’ve phone interviewed a few people and am now going to meet one for a mini babysitter/baby play date. Logistically….are they compensated for this time? I am planning on paying her, but if this is part of an interview wouldn’t it make sense not to pay??

    BTW…not to be too strange, but if any readers are looking for casual evening work i’m looking! Shoot me an email-Shannon- skbarnett AT gmail DOT com

  18. These are great questions. I was surprised, though that nobody’s suggested a babysitting coop.

    Some local moms and I have just started one (we have a max of 15 families). You start with a certain number of points (we chose 40), redeem for a sit (1 point per 15 minutes) and earn them when you watch someone else’s kid(s). It’s free and a guilt-free way to ask friends for help! I can’t wait for it to really get rolling, especially as our kids get older (mainly 2 and 3 yrs now). There are a couple of websites out you can use for free to manage everything.

  19. We have family in our area but with all the strings and feelings we knew finding a sitter would be way more beneficial for us. We went through care.ca and met babysitters for interviews and it was an amazing process. I knew which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t and we found a couple of really great sitters to rotate! These questions were all on the list though lol
    xoxo
    The Accidental Mama
    http://www.theaccidentalmama.com

  20. Instead of an open-ended playdate, maybe have the prospective nanny over and have Toby give him/her a tour of your home, or read books together, or something that has more direction and a clear time frame. Also make sure your prospective nanny sees you and your children interact so he/she gets your family vibe. I agree that you should leave the room for a bit while your boys and the potential hire become acquainted, you can still be within earshot, but it might help everyone relax.

  21. Last month we recently found a babysitter for our daughter who is 2.5years old, and I wish I would have done it sooner! I was too overwhelmed…and paranoid, seeing all the stories on the news.
    I think the best way to find someone is through a recommendation from a fellow mother. And also, nanny cams with a baby monitor that you can watch through an app on your iPhone, because you can never be too careful.

  22. Great questions…our babysitter became family.
    She is a great mom…who fought adversity, poverty, language barrier and left her country to provide a better life for her kids.
    Not only I am happy to have her in our lives…I am honored to know her.
    Plus…our boys speak perfect spanish :)

  23. My husband and I just moved to Denver with our 21 month old daughter and we have a baby on the way! We would love to meet up with Brady if she would be interested!

    Thanks so much for all your amazing posts! I really enjoy your blog and especially with this post now that we are looking for new sitters!

  24. Great post! I nannied for a little boy Henry from 2-4yo…and then his baby sister, Mabel, from birth to 2yo. THE MOST REWARDING experience ever. I recently moved to LA from North Carolina (where they live), and I think about them SO much and miss them terribly! I miss our “adventures” and the joy those kiddos brought to my life. It is true when you find a good match (both nanny to family and family to nanny), it is an unbreakable bond. Mabel was born on my birthday, which was a blessing and further sealed the bond I have with the family. We remain pen pals, which is a fun exercise for Henry as he is just learning to write his name and other words. Maybe a great thing for your family and Brady to do! I wrote a post about Henry years ago here: http://rachelinteriors.com/2012/04/17/hello-my-name-is-henry/. Kids. The very best.

  25. I was a nanny for a family for several summers (we got super close and they’re now basically family). One of the things that was awesome about their mom was that she was very clear about not expecting “parenting” during my nanny time- I was basically in charge of feeding, cleaning up after and making sure they were having fun and doing productive activities… I enforced household rules but she didn’t expect me to be a mom or even really a “grown-up”- I was supposed to have fun with the kids, and we made the summers really fun. She also spent some time at home with us every once in awhile- not in a checking up way, just in a she-had-things-to-do-at-home way, and it helped that I also got to know the parents, what they were like and what their values are, and could be on board.

  26. I already had several jobs as a Babysitter and work in daycare but i certainly would love to be the Nanny of your two Darlings :)

    Love from Germany,

    Isabelle

  27. I’m also one that gets hung up on the term nanny sounding elitist and so then I fumble around, interchanging the words because I really don’t know what to say instead.

    In middle, high school and through college, I made most of my spending money by babysitting/nannying and loved it! I know that I would be very thorough and picky regarding child care. My husband and I joke that one day we’ll welcome an older/middle aged woman in to our home (like another grandmother) instead of a younger caregiver.

  28. I recently quit my job to start my own business and babysit part time. I was so lucky to find a wonderful family to for via care.com! It’s definitely just like dating – for both the babysitter and the family!

  29. I have 3 kids and while I completely agree with those questions, there are two other things that are enormously important for me:
    1. eye contact. If the person doesn’t make eye contact with me, my husband and my kids during the playdate, it’s a non starter.
    2. washing hands. We’re huge into hand hygiene here and so many babysitters/nannies ask to use the bathroom to wash hands immediately upon entering my home. I just can’t hire someone who doesn’t.

    I also like to ask potential candidates why they left their last job. The last thing that I’ve figured out is super important to our family is to have a caregiver (nanny or babysitter) who has joy in her heart. Someone who is obviously happy on the inside is a much better fit for my family than someone who is brooding (we’ve experienced both). Moods come and go, of course, but someone’s general positive outlook can have a huge impact on little ones.
    Good luck to your babysitter in Colorado!

  30. Such an interesting post again giving me insight into American culture (or maybe it’s just regional, as someone mentioned).

    In Norway a babysitter would be someone who comes in the evening if parent/s are going out and need help. It would very often be family og a friend or a trustworthy teen if you’re lucky enough to have one of those in your neighbourhood. :-)

    Norwegian maternity/paternity leave is a year long and then the one year olds go on to start kindergarten, where they stay until they start school at six.

    This is generally the way everyone does it here, with exceptions of cource. Some have have nannies or au-pairs to help, but this is really only for well-off west side Oslo families. The kids are still in kindergarten, though.
    Others leave their kids with a “dagmamma”, a babysitter minding children out of their own homes, but this solution is often just an emergency solution due to lack of open kindergarten spots.

    The dagmammas feel more uncertain, scarier, I think. Nobody checks up on them, whereas the kindergarten is a much more transparent environment. Controlled by the government and all that – us Norwegians do love the government. ;-)

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  31. This is great – thank you for posting! My son just turned one and from 3-10 months he had a nanny. We found her on care.com and she was so wonderful! I am so grateful we found her! Then we moved, and we put our son in day care. It was stressful at first (for me not him!) but he loves it! I know we made the right decision, but I am so glad we got to keep him at home with a nanny until he was almost one.

  32. Great post, Joanna! I live in Strasbourg, France, and I am a mother of a 10 months old babygirl. We chose a daycare center, and it suits us very well. But we are thinking of hiring a babysitter for evenings… We can’t decide from what age it’s reasonable to leave our baby to a sitter… It’s our first child and leaving her to a stranger is quite frightening, I have to say!! It would be so great to have a post about this subjet and your experience… I’m sure a lot of parents are in the same situation…

  33. This post came at the perfect time. Our perfect Mary poppins nanny here in Melbourne has fallen illand her doctor recommended for her not to work for two or more years. We found out on Friday. She was everything we ever wanted and the thought of finding a new nanny has sent me into a depression. Do your nannies watch both of the kids? We have a six month old and two year old. What questions would you recommend for families who need care for multiple children? Thanks!

  34. I just went back to work and I’m extremely fortunate that my sister is able to watch my 14 month old son and my older daughters as well. But for a nighttime babysitter, I use word of mouth or my nephew’s friends–high school or college girls. I still haven’t left the baby at night with a high school sitter, only with my sister or with my husband, if I’m going out with friends.

  35. Thanks so much for this, Jo. I love how fondly you always refer to your sitters. It is such an important relationship. We found a gorgeous babysitter/nanny on one of those sites. We love her but she is so busy with uni lately that she’s becoming less and less available. Now I’m tossing up trying our toddler in childcare but he’s only 17 months and I feel like he’s still so little. Good luck finding a new sitter for the boys xxx

  36. I’m a sitter/nanny for a family of four. My current family I actually found on instagram and it was sooo nice because when we actually met in person we felt that we already knew each other so the transition was really smooth. definitely ask to check out the social media that the potential sitter/nanny uses. I’ve been with this family for a year now and we are moving together out of state so I will be transitioning to being a live-in nanny. Its a big change but they have become my family. They are even inviting my parents to the baby’s birthday party. I feel like the luckiest person ever to have found such a perfect fit.

  37. Add me to the Denver list too! We’re looking for a full time nanny/babysitter for our 9 month old daughter and 6 month old niece, and would love to talk to Brady if she’s interested in doing the same type of work and going to be in Denver. Otherwise, even occasional babysitting in the evenings and weekends would be awesome. Great post – these questions really helped! (P.S. My sister is named Joanna and it’s one of my favorite names)

  38. interesting discussion about the correct term—nanny vs. babysitter! i changed a few words in the post so it’s switching off between nanny and babysitter. i figured it would be more clear and help new readers understand that i’m talking about experienced full-time childcare providers. thank you!!!

  39. I’m in Denver as well and always looking for a great babysitter when our regular one is busy! We have a 2 year old and another on the way. Would love to meet Brady if she’s still interested!

  40. I needed a job that I could do and bring my baby with me so I signed up on sittercity. I had two babysitting jobs within a week as well a regular nannying gig. I found it easy, as the babysitter/nanny, however, I’ve never looked for a babysitter for my child. I’m nervous to have anyone except family look after her, but your post is helpful! I’m glad you found a sitter you love.

  41. Am I the only one who is now on a quest to find a lipstick that matches Toby’s rep lips?

  42. I babysat as a middle and high school student and couldn’t imagine being asked these questions. However, I think we’re really discussing nannies here and if that’s the case, these questions are great. I’ve heard that some nannies take issue with being called “babysitters” because they feel it diminishes their role as professionals. They consider babysitters to be unskilled workers but nannies trained professionals, so I prefer the term “nanny” in this context.

  43. I would love to get your take on your babysitter’s use of social media. What I mean is, how do you feel about them posting pictures of your children? I have friends who nanny and post pictures of their day with the babies and I always wonder what their parents think.

  44. I’ve been babysitting for over 7 years and last year I was an au pair. The thing is, child care is a job. I like this list because a lot of the questions are about how the babysitter will handle the actual job! Too many interviews I’ve had for babysitting seem to be about, essentially, do they (the parents) like me.

    Try to think through an average day or evening and ask questions about specific expectations. For example, if you expect this person to cook for your kids, ask them about their cooking ability/experience (like: “What would you cook for a 5 year old?” or “Are you comfortable cooking while watching three young children?”). (Cooking can be a really different experience alone versus with kids so it’s worth asking about that.)

    Also, consider whether there is anything outside the normal scope of babysitting that you might want/need the babysitter to deal with, like a young puppy (I babysat for one family with a huge, rambunctious puppy… I loved it but not everyone would!!). I’ve had several jobs where I’ve done yard work in addition to child care.

    Finally, to me, a “babysitter” is someone who works a few hours a week or a very irregular schedule. Maybe “nanny” isn’t quite the right word but I think there is a big difference between someone who watches your kids one night a month and someone who is there nearly every day as a part of their lives.

  45. Oops, somehow I accidentally wrote the comment on your previous weekend post! Ignore it if you come across it :).

    Parenting is so personal, and it’s hard to know what they think is acceptable behavior–the same mother can seem oddly lenient about certain things and then pretty conservative about others. Spanking, organic vs. GMOs, vaccinations, dessert, saying bad words, using proper names for genitalia or not, crying it out or not, you can never predict what one parent thinks is ok or not.

    Sometimes I feel a little crazy about nitpicky parents–I feel like I should be given similar treatment that a teacher is given-that is, trust that the values I’m instilling are useful.

    I used to feel hesitant scolding or discipling children in front of the parents, because most (american) parents don’t like other people telling their kids what to do–even if that’s what they hired them to do! But now I’m more confident about my choices, if a kid misbehaves, it’s my responsibility to not tolerate it. It shouldn’t be “your kids, not my problem.” We should be a village.

  46. Hey Joanna!
    I just moved to NYC for grad school at Columbia and am looking for a babysitting job! If you don’t have someone lined up already I’d love to help out.
    -Kaitlin

  47. This post reminisced of the two boys (4 and 6) I babysat a few years ago. Although it was my first time babysitting, I had a blessed time with the kids. I still remember the last moment of my first day. When I was about to leave their house as their mom came back home and asked me ” How were the boys, being good?” and I responded cantily ” Yes! they were so adorable and we played really well together!” and then all of sudden the boys who were around me ran away and disappeared from my view without saying goodbye to me. So there I was, standing in front of the front door feeling somewhat awkward and sad. I thought apparenltly the kids didn’t like me as much as I liked them until I found out my purse was gone by the boys. They ran away to find my purse and hid it in a closet so that I wouldn’t have to leave them. It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

    I think having a babysitter who loves children genuinely is the key.

    Meeting a nanny for a playdate sounds good. Also
    The picture of Toby and his babysitter looks so lovely and sweet!

  48. love this photo spread!

  49. These are such great questions!

    I’ve been nannying for 5 years & babysitting for longer (Aussie – may use different terms!) and find that I often interview myself for the parents as no-one knows what to ask.

    Don’t forget to ask what they would do if someone knocked on the door that they weren’t expecting, check their driving record (tells you a lot about a person if they have a drink-driving/speeding record) and get a police check.

    Another tip: look for someone that is chatty and can have an interesting discussion about things other than kids – it means your nanny will be able to make friends with other nannies & parents at the park, helping to facilitate interactive play & new friendships.

    I think the most important thing is to find someone that you feel comfortable with as an equal. Even though I am usually 15-20 years younger than the families I nanny for, many of the parents have become like friends and I have become a confidant for them. You want someone that you can banter with as well as discuss real issues about the kids (bullying, staying down a year, sleeping issues).

    Regarding trusting your gut – if you need someone to start on a certain date but don’t get a good vibe from anyone you interview, you can use a short-term nanny service for a few days/weeks until you find the right person.

    And if you find someone great, remember to treat them well – if they stay back late because the kids are sick, tell them how much you appreciate it.

    Things like talking to them about their life outside the job, or taking them out on family outings/inviting them to the childrens’ parties as a guest, not a babysitter, will encourage your beloved nanny to stay longer.

  50. I am 24 and about half of my peers are nannies. They nanny while going to school or just as their full time gig. Each one is adamant about what hours they are seeking, and end up really dissatisfied if they don’t get enough/or have too many hours. So definitely make sure that factor is a perfect fit, or else they will be looking elsewhere while working for you.

    I once nannied 50 hrs per week without overtime pay and it was horrible. I felt really undervalued (esp. because it wasn’t like I was receiving health insurance as additional compensation).

    I go to a sort of liberal Christian church with heaps of traditional women that “loooove” kids and want to nanny. They are easily a good fit in terms of safety and the attention and love they will pour out on your little ones. At any given time, I could find someone at the church looking for a nanny gig as well, so there is a lot of resources to pick from.

    Your interview questions are insightful, but sometimes nannies with tons of experience, or a completed college degree, can feel absolutely drilled in these interviews, in the worst way. We want to feel like you are a good fit, too, and not feel like we have to feel like we are jumping through hoops to seek approval. There is an honest learning curve for every family anyways, and it usually isn’t too difficult.

  51. 1. where was this post three years ago?

    2. she has beautiful teeth!

  52. As a part time nanny (or daytime babysitter) I’d say the questions you ask can tell you a lot about a babysitter. I was part of the interviewing process for a new babysitter when I (unfortunately) left the first family I worked for and funnily enough, I think I asked the candidates most of the suggested questions. However, at the end of the day, it’s mostly about the feeling you get, if the babysitter ‘clicks’ with the kids. I never like interviewing without the kids present, how are the parents supposed to know if we’ll be besties?! :)

  53. I’m so sorry I don’t live in New York, I’d be perfect for the job! Unfortunately I live in The Netherlands ;-) Besides, I wouldn’t like to miss the two darling Italian-Dutch children I babysit now. Good luck on your queeste for the perfect sitter, I can imagine it’s a tough job finding someone to take care of your favorite human beings! X Marleen

  54. I was a nanny for years for a couple different families, and I think it is one of the most special, humbling experiences. It is such a gift to be invited into a family’s most personal and intimate moments. You get to see this community of people at their best and at their worst, and become a part of it all. I feel so grateful and honored to have been able to be in these people’s lives in such a close way. I’m sure your babysitter, Brady, feels the same about you! It’s heartbreak to be the one leaving, as well! Best of luck on your new search!! xoxo

  55. Colorado!!!! I would love to contact her;)!! We have a 3 year old and another on the way.

  56. But the real test of a babysitter is if the dog likes her. It means she’s sweet to all the animals in the house!

  57. I have used care.com and really liked it! I also asked the babysitter what they were wanting in a babysitting job before I told them what this job would look like. I wanted to know what they really wanted, so that they wouldn’t just say, “sure this sounds perfect,” all while looking for a replacement job.

  58. I have a son, now 14, with autism. I have interviewed, hired and worked with MANY caregivers, from babysitters to au pairs to therapeutic one-on-one workers. One thing I like to ask is why the person wants the job, or why they like working with children/people with autism. Often candidates will sort of volunteer this information, but I really want to know how my position fits in with the other parts of their life.

  59. Alexandra, I agree with your distinction there!

    I refer to my kids’ full-time caregiver as our nanny because she works for us 50+ hours a week and we pay employment taxes, disability insurance, worker’s comp, and unemployment insurance, plus contribute to an individual retirement account.

    We also have a couple other people who occasionally come for an evening or fill in for our nanny when she’s having a day off, and I call those people babysitters, because they aren’t my employees. The words I use to describe those different roles correspond precisely to the distinction you laid out!

    I think “nanny” does have some of the antiquated, elitist connotations that Joanna was talking about–implying someone who lives with you and who is raising your kids for you because you’re too fancy to do it yourself. But for a lot of people (my family included), a nanny is an alternative to daycare and costs about the same, when you’ve got twins and live in Manhattan!

    And in my case, I happened to have actually asked all eight of those questions and ended up with the world’s best nanny who has been with our family for more than three years now. So I can attest that they work!

  60. After a stressful time interviewing candidates and not finding a good match, I decided to go with day care. It worked for us, but there are definitely pros and cons with either.

    Now that my boys are in school, I had to hire a sitter to pick them up and watch them after school. It was stressful as well. Our first sitter lasted a week and left us in the lurch due to a family emergency. We found a good one, though, and I hope she lasts the year. Realistically, though, we’ll have to go through this at least every year for a while. Although it’s not what we’re doing, I can understand why people use after-school programs and other options. It’s hard!

  61. My mom did at home daycare for 25 years, and she was always said the interview ended up going both ways. Sometimes she turned people away Bc they weren’t a “good fit” for her. At the end if her career she had a child die from SIDS while he was in her care. It was heart wrenching for all of us, but what was truly amazing was all of the people who came to get house to comfort her. There were parents of the kids she had babysat over the years, but the the kids-some of whom had grown into adults by then-all came to sit with her. hundreds if people visited her house and told her how important she had been to them, and lots of them even helped themselves to the cookies in her cookie jar. Never underestimate the impact a great babysitter has on children and parents alike. :)

  62. Oh my goodness what a stressful process it can be. SO great if you find someone you connect with, but SO stressful if you don’t.

    When my first was born, I interviewed about a dozen potential nannies and never felt comfortable. I didn’t know enough people at that time to get personal referrals, so I was relying on craigslist and sittercity (I think? – one of those) for applicants. Ultimately, I decided to go with a day care, and it was the right decision for us at that time.

    Now that my boys are in school and I’m back at work, I had to hire a sitter to pick them up and watch them after school. SO HARD! It’s even harder to find someone great who’s only looking for 12-15 hours/week. Our first hire lasted a week and left us in the lurch due to a family emergency. Stress! We found a great one, though – fingers crossed she stays at least through the school year. But realistically we’re going to have to do this every year for a while. Even though it’s not what we’re doing, I can understand why so many rely on after-school programs.

  63. Add me to the Denver list. Brady, if you will be open to occasional babysitting in and around Denver, please let us know.

  64. I was a nanny for the same family for the last three years. At the beginning of my time with the family their mother referred to me as the children’s babysitter. I think, like you Joanna, she felt “nanny” had elitist connotations. I respected that but asked if she would mind calling me the children’s nanny. Being called a babysitter made me feel temporary and juvenile. It might sound silly but to be called a nanny meant to me that my job was, a job. That she recognized the effort I put into being prepared and present when I came to work. It also made me hold myself to a higher standard. Being in the same category as Mary Poppins after all!Of course your babysitter could prefer to be called just that. It might be an interesting conversation to have.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It makes me feel so great to hear other nannies appreciated.

  65. I work as a nanny for a little girl since she was 3 weeks old (2 years already!) and I love love love the family!
    When looking for a nanny I would recommend, that you let her play alone with the child ( when they’re older of course) because children behave SO differently when being alone without their parents and it’s not only you to decide if you like her, she also has to like the child of course! And the child can tell you if it liked the nanny. Also please think about the fact that you are going to leave your child alone with that person. It happend twice that a mom told me she wouldn’t be home at all and then she just couldn’t handle it and worked from home while I had to pry the child away from the home office. Every. Single. Day. I can’t be a good nanny if you don’t give me a chance to be one!
    Also talk about rules and her way of raising children. Do you want her to be strict? Stricter than you?

  66. I’m a nanny of many years so am coming at this from the opposite perspective. But I came across a similar article not too long ago — that despite trying I cannot find now. One of her primary suggestions? Go for a drive with the candidate! I wish I could remember precisely what she said about it but I think the gist had to do with the ability to multitask and also simply that you can learn a great deal about an individual’s personality by being a passenger in a car with them. Anyway, I thought it was clever.

  67. This is a great post! As a former nanny, I definitely understand the request to meet the kids before being hired, but I sometimes found this step awkward and like there was a lot of pressure to “perform”. I once had a 2.5 hour (!) interview to nanny for a family in the Bay Area, and the dad literally watched me play with their toddler for 1.5 hours. My husband and I had dinner plans that night so he came to pick me up and could not get over how uncomfortable it was. It’s a lot of pressure to immediately connect with kids, especially when their parents are watching you to see how it goes. So just keep in mind that some people might not appear quite as comfortable at that very first meeting, but they will still make wonderful nannies!

  68. I’ve been a professional nanny for almost 15 years, and I always tell parents that are new to domestic hires, TRUST YOUR GUT! And that usually proves correct for most things as a mother, doesn’t it? A sitter can have great references or be brand new to child care.. We all start somewhere, and we all have a hiccup or two we wish we didn’t.

    I can be a great nanny, and you can be a great family, but that doesn’t mean we will be great together.

    Use common sense. Ask questions. Look for specific answers (“I like all kids and all kids love me always” is not an answer). Trust your gut- if you spend your whole day with a knot in your stomach, then who cares if she is the Yale of sitters on paper? No different than anyone else you’d welcome into your life, be selective, not desperate for cheap or immediately available.

    And did I mention trust your gut!

  69. Love this post. With a 4 and 1 year old, we have had our share of nannies/sitters. I generally use care.com to find a pool and then work first email inquiries, then narrow down to a few phone call interviews, and then aim for 2-3 in person interviews. My experience has been relying on just one in person interview is not enough. Something always happens to one or two candidates — they suddenly have a better offer in a closer location, or whatever. Twice when we were hiring we had the nannies just not show up on the first day, which is mystifying and terrifying as we thought we had a good connection. That said, it is hard to know how people are on first encounters. We have had numerous good first playdates or in-person interviews (always good to have kids meet the person), and then either the two no-shows or several people who on their first few work days could not really take care of the kids and the few other tasks. Mystifying because I make it a rule to call at least 3 references. I figure that sometimes a sitter might have been better in one home than another. But I love the idea about asking the references more pointed questions about what you did not like. The phone and in-person interviews are important, but the most important for me are several trial days during which the sitter/nanny is paid but helped along/observed. It helps her to get to know the home as well.

  70. On the nanny vs babysitter differnce…

    To me a nanny is an employee, someone who works primarily for you, for more than 1200 hrs. a year. Nannies are true employees and deserve that you help pay their taxes including their Medicare and Social Security taxes. You also help pay into their disability in case they ever get injured and help pay into retirement so that when the time comes they get a check from the government. I think it is immoral to ask a person to care for our children and then not legally pay them in case they get injured or grow old doing so.

    A babysitter works for many persons and works for one family only occasionally.

    Sorry. My soapbox is a large one today. Lovely post and awesome questions…

  71. It is interesting the way you use ‘babysitter’ – in the UK, a babysitter would be like Abby said – someone who looks after your children in the evening while you go out.

    I suppose we don’t really have babysitters who come to your home during the day – they would be called a nanny. However we do have childminders, where you take your children to the childminder’s house to be looked after while you’re at work. It’s a more personal alternative to nursery (daycare) with smaller ratios – what I’ll be using when I go back to work. Trying not to think about it at the minute as I don’t want to leave my baby girl!

  72. I live in Denver and have 2 boys. Is your beloved sitter moving to Denver by chance and is she looking for some babysitting jobs? I am always looking for great sitters. Please let me know, if so. xo

  73. That makes a lot more sense, and these questions definitely seem appropriate when interviewing what I’d call a nanny.

    I hear you on the connotations, though here they’re probably more racial in nature (as most nannies are people of color). But I think that since it’s such an ingrained thing here that typicallybabysitter = young woman who is trying to make some extra cash and nanny = career childcare provider who is typically a mother/grandma type and can potentially teach your child how to speak Spanish or an Asian language, it’s just confusing if someone mixed the two terms.

    Either way: love the tips for finding a long-term childcare provider! :)

  74. Thanks so much for writing about your experience with interviewing a childcare provider! I’m in the process of finding a new babysitter in a new city and feel a little bit lost without my usual network of online communities and friends to ask for help. Hope you guys find a wonderful new sitter as well!

  75. We found a wonderful nanny on care.com. We interviewed a ton of people and something with her just felt familiar. She’s not perfect but neither am I. She loves our daughter and takes her on adventures and they genuinely have fun together. We also did a background check, credit check, and made sure she was CPR certified. It’s not all a gut feeling!

  76. I have known Brady since she was 2 yrs old and she truly is a gem! I also babysat for her quite a few times :)
    Having been a nanny myself one thing I would suggest is to talk to the kids the potential sitter has cared for before. I had one couple hire me after only talking to the children I had previously cared for. They told me no parent could have given me a better reference than what those kids had! ;) BUT, I still think you should talk to the adult references also.
    I am looking forward to having Brady back in Colorado and wishing you all the best with your new sitter.

  77. This is interesting. I babysat all through high school and college and almost all my jobs came through word of mouth. I honestly think I would have run the other way if someone sat me down with these questions! Each family is different and a good babysitter will adjust to different needs.

    I think a good tip for finding a new babysitter would be to ask around at the coffeeshops or restaurants you frequent. There are probably baristas and servers out there that you know as well as anyone you’d find on a website who would love to make some extra money by babysitting! I got a ton of great jobs from customers who saw how I interacted with people. You know that cashier with the truly authentic smile who remembers your name and what you ordered last week and knows how to calm down irate customers? Ask them! Their managers or bosses are probably pretty great references.

  78. Lucky Brady!! We just moved to the New Jersey suburbs (I guess??) from Colorado for my husband’s new job in the city. We would go back to Colorado in a heartbeat if we could! It is so… different… out here. I hope we will get to move back West in the future.

    As for babysitting – I started babysitting at age 11 like Hevuva. So crazy! I haven’t found a sitter since we’ve moved (I SAH, so just need one for nights out, etc.), but we have gotten some referrals from neighbors for HS girls. They just seem so young!

  79. yes, nanny vs. babysitter—i never know what to say. it’s just whatever the person wants to be called, i guess? i always think “nanny” sounds sort of elitist, like out of some old english story…so i usually go with babysitter. for this post, i’m talking about daytime babysitters who are more or less full time. hope that helps clarify!

  80. I’m a bit confused – is this for a ‘babysitter’ (as in comes for a few hours in the evening)or what I would call a ‘nanny’ (has sole charge responsibilities for all or most of the day while I work). I think Abby, above, asked this too! is there a reason not to call this person a ‘nanny’ or is that weird in NY? Would love to know, this is such a helpful list but I’d read it quite differently depending on which kind of person I’d be talking to!

  81. I’m 35, so it’s been a little while since I’ve babysat, but when I did I was never asked so many questions! I babysat for friends kids, or neighborhood kids. I guess my question is similar to Abby’s. Are these folks who watch your kids when you go out for a date night, or do they have a set schedule each week to watch your kids?

  82. I’m having a time finding a go-to person. We’ve only had a few friends watch our son. I just find it daunting to go through the process of finding/meeting someone new. But I know we probably need to.

    By chance, is your sitter moving to the Denver area? We’re in Denver and would love to meet her…if she’s still considering having that responsibility.

  83. We have a nanny – she has been with us for almost 2 years and my son loves her. Best advice I got was if you want a great nanny – ask a great nanny for suggestions. During my mat leave, I was in a number of music classes etc with my neighbour’s nanny and saw how great she was, so when it was time for us to look, I asked her for suggestions, and we ended up hiring one of those. In our neighbourhood, a lot of the nannies do things together, so our neighbour’s nanny would have seen positive and negative aspects of the nannies she was suggesting over the years, and puts a great deal of consideration into her recommendations. Our nanny had been with her previous family/employers f/t for over 14 years, and they just didn’t need her as often any more. She still takes our son (who is almost 3) over to visit with the 3 girls she used to take care of – they love to play with him, even though they are all in their teens.

  84. I am a nanny and sitter and have been with a couple different families for long periods of time. The first was a family i knew, and the one i am with now was word of mouth. I have an account with care.com and have been interviewed once by a family there (they chose daycare instead of a sitter). Other than that I haven’t really had a great experience with the services, I’ve encountered some kinda skeevy dads and a mom who was 3 hours away who asked me to come up that night. So bizarre! One thing I think the site is helpful with is I have a background check up that families can see.

  85. As someone who has nannied on and off for 20 years I think it is important to acknowledge that we all get overwhelmed at times. Parents get overwhelmed. Childcare givers get overwhelmed. Discuss this openly, share experiences, accept the reality of it. Have a plan in place. Where is a safe place for the child in these times? Who can you reach out to for help? There’s a lot of pressure, particularly in an interview for both the parents and the caregiver to appear perfect. We’re not. I think these kinds of nonjudgmental conversations can go a long way towards avoiding the albeit rare but tragic horror stories we hear of from time to time, and help lessen the stress of more minor situations. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s integral.

  86. My favorite question was to ask which was their favorite child to care for and why. Got some really revealing answers! At least in NYC, don’t forget the nanny is also scoping you out! Our beloved nanny rejected several families because they seemed too crazy!

  87. I wish i had seen these a couple of months ago! we had to hire part time nanny (the grandmas watch him a few times a week) when i went back to work and the process was so daunting. You are so right to say it’s like dating! we interviewed a few people we found through word of mouth, but ended up hiring someone we found on sittercity.com. As soon as we chatted a few minutes we knew it just clicked. Right before finding her, we interviewed someone who seemed perfect on paper, but in person the dynamic was awkward. One of her references even said “yeah, she can be kind of awkward, but she gets the job done.” I just couldn’t imagine hiring someone i didn’t feel comfortable talking to.

  88. These are great. Our regular sitters keep moving away (they are college or grad students, usually) so we are about to enter another round of sitter-finding.

    I cannot agree more with Christine — trust your instincts about someone!

  89. I babysat infants from the time I was 11 years old. ELEVEN. I loved babysitting, but it blows my mind to think of leaving my son with an 11 year old. It’s up there with Ernest Hemingway writing in “A Moveable Feast” about leaving his infant child home alone with … the cat.

    We had a bad experience with our first nanny share where we thought the nanny was a smoker, but she denied it and I thought, Oh, I’m just being paranoid. Then one of her references came back saying they’d fired her for smoking around their kids! The woman we eventually hired we had a good feeling about right away, and it worked out great. Definitely, definitely trust your instincts.

  90. To clarify, this is a babysitter that takes regular care of your children, right? Like it’s a part-time or full-time job for him or her?

    I’m asking because I would say we “have a babysitter” too, but she comes once a week and arrives about 30 min before my daughter goes to bed for the night, so she only technically sees her awake for about 30-60 min each week. It’s obviously important to us that she’s a sweet person who loves kids (and is trustworthy enough to spend hours essentially alone in our house), but I can’t imagine asking her all of these questions for the amount of time that she ends up actually spending with our kid.

    This may be regional, but in LA, I feel like I would term someone who spends more than 3 days in a week with my children as their nanny. Did you once explain why you use the term babysitter, or am I imagining it?

  91. What timing! I’m reading this while our new babysitter is playing with my son in the next room. Today is her first day! We used Care.com to find her and I was really impressed with the potential sitters on their. And a play date during the interview process was how I felt totally secure with my decision!

  92. When I had to start looking for a babysitter for my son, I realized that I kept comparing everyone I interviewed to a sitter for another family in our neighborhood. No one even came close to how amazing that sitter was with attention and love for that child.

    One day I saw that little girl with her mom, and decided to let her know I was comparing everyone to her sitter. I jokingly said, “we’d steal her from you if there was a way.”

    The mother responded “Actually yesterday was her last day with us, because our daughter is starting school.”

    I ran home and called the sitter, and she was available to start working with us the following week. My son LOVES her, and I never had s moment’s worry. We were so lucky it worked out.

  93. When I was a nanny (babysitter??) one of the more revealing questions I used to ask was ‘Have you stayed in touch with your former nanny?’

  94. I was a nanny/babysitter for three different families before I had my own child. One of them was through a personal reference, another from a job board while I was in college, and the last one I got when I made an account on care.com. All three were positive experiences and I think your questions are great! It’s a huge deal to trust your children to someone you’ve never bet before and I appreciate that now more than ever.

  95. As a person who has babysat other people’s kids, I am always freaked out to interact with kids in front of their parents until I’ve babysat for them for a little while. That makes people think I don’t love kids, but parents seriously freak me out. I am even afraid to smile at babies in stores, because I think their parents will think I am a pedophile. Sad to think about, but that’s the truth.

  96. Oh, this has been so hard! My son is 3 mos old and is currently at his very first day away from me *tear* :( We ended up using care.com and found an AMAZING sitter who will watch our little monkey out of her home. I would say that trusting my gut is what helped me to be most comfortable, can’t stress that enough. Wish I had these list of questions a month or so ago! Great post!

  97. kari, that’s a really good one! that kind of thing generally comes up during the “tell me about yourself” part of the interview, but you’re totally right—would be great to ask more about someone’s hobbies, passions, interests, since that really sheds light on their personality and approach to life overall. thanks!!

  98. These seem like good questions, but for myself I’d be sure to ask questions about what they do outside of childcare, eg: what kind of extracurricular a or hobbies do they have. Asking these questions I think gives a better idea of who someone is then the typical stock interview questions. This is a person working with your family, so if feel you should have some personal(ness) there.

  99. Even though I’m nearing 30, I still babysit (I specialize in children with diabetes because I have diabetes) and one question that was recently asked by a new client is how I handle sibling conflict. The kids I babysit for are 11 and 8 and get along quite well, but you know, they are brother and sister! I’m not sure you’re at that point, but it’s something to think about later on. :)

  100. I think these are excellent questions for a one on one babysitter and, to some extent, for daycare classrooms. I haven’t been blessed to have one babysitter for my little one, but these sorts of questions have helped me feel out what would and would not work for us. Above all, trusting your gut is SO important! As always, thanks for sharing Joanna! :)

  101. As a mother of 2 and having interviewed my my share of babysitters, I cannot emphasize how important how important trusting your gut is.