More on babysitters: When to part ways

It's ironic that I scheduled Vanessa's piece about working withbabysitters yesterday. Yesterday morning I fired our full-time
babysitter who'd been with us for about three weeks. The kids loved
her, but she was late to pick them up from school three times in two
days, and two of those times she was more than 30 minutes late.

There is more to the story (she appeared to be dodging me and wouldn't
answer her phone or call me back while she had my kids so I had no idea
where they were or if they were OK), but the latenesses were enough for
me. With older kids, the whole point of a babysitter is being there at
the right time.

So I'd like to talk today about what's acceptable and what's not. How
do you know when you need to fire a babysitter? What's something you'd
give a second chance for? (I gave a second chance after the first late
pickup, for instance, but no second chances on not telling me they were
OK.)

Are there warning signs to look out for? And what's a reasonable expectation?

Please share stories of situations and talk about whether you kept
working with the babysitter or not, and what your process was. It'll
help me and all of us. Opinions welcome from people in all situations,
of course.

67 thoughts on “More on babysitters: When to part ways”

  1. This doesn’t exactly address one of your questions, Moxie, but I’ll throw it out there. Sometimes we use younger teenagers from families we know well to sit our 5-y-o, when we know our evening won’t run too late. She often has more fun with younger babysitters too, as they are very eager for the job and play with her so well. I’ve not had a problem with anything kid-related with a younger sitter, and I make sure they have my cell phone number (and I know their mothers are paying close attention too).With these newer members of the babysitting corps, I’ve learned that some stuff that to me is obvious is not at all obvious to them. I find that my expectations are usually met if I try to spell out things: “We made some macaroni and cheese for her dinner — it’s sitting on the stove. (less obvious part coming here) When she’s had all she wants, please put the leftovers in the refrigerator. Here is a Tupperware container for that,” etc.

  2. we just had a babysitter in the neighborhood to watch our 2 year old when we went out. we’re not using her anymore because she was playing video games while our daughter was awake. I don’t care if the sitter plays while the baby is sleeping, but not while she’s awake. I don’t pay her to play video games; I pay her to watch my daughter.

  3. I asked to have a day care teacher removed from my child’s room when she mentioned to her own children in my child’s presence that they would get the belt when they got home if they kept that up. The center ended up letting her go completely.

  4. You were absolutely right to do that, Moxie.I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to let anyone go, but the downside is that’s because they were all great great babysitters who were college kids that graduated and moved away, so they’ve left us! 🙁

  5. This is different, but related. We recently moved to a new city, and started my 2.2 yo daughter in a new daycare (previously we’d been doing a nanny share). The adjustment seemed really hard- her behavior in the evenings was TERRIBLE (biting me, screaming for upwards of 30 minutes, etc); she was very unhappy at drop-off; she seemed tired beyond what she should have been given that she was napping for 1.5-2 hrs at daycare. Everyone kept saying to me, keep her there, it takes more time, give her a chance, there have been so many changes. I kept saying, but when we put her in a daycare for 2 weeks while her nanny was on vacation, she loved it after 3 days! And back and forth, and I agonized, but after 2 weeks, started looking for other options, and at the end of the third week, I pulled her out and started her in a home-care situation. She’s now home with a lovely SAHM, her 1 year old, and her 4 year old who is in school half-days. On the SECOND day she no longer cried at drop-off (whined, yes, but not tears), slept better at night, and her evening behavior was back to her regular 2-year-old-ness, which is to say mostly sunny with occasional short tantrums. I don’t know if there’s a lesson in this for other people, except to reiterate the amazing moxie motto: YOU are the best parent for your kid (everyone else, except my husband, thought we should wait it out), and, of course, trust your gut. At some level I think we all know what behavior really rings our bells, and Moxie, I’d also find not returning phone calls when with the kids to be really high on my list. Good for you for making that hard decision.

  6. I think I’ve posted on this before, but we fired our long-term (6 months) part-time nanny after three independent reports (including one where strangers approached us on the street after recognizing our kids) of seeing my son and the other child we nanny-shared with unattended in the park. The nanny was there, but she was nowhere near the kids. At the time, they were under 2 and the park borders a busy street.The other mom and I each confessed that a person we knew had told us the same thing, but we had each dismissed it as an isolated incident and not told the other. Oops.
    We probably should have fired her after the first time we heard about this, but we knew the situation would be ending soon anyway for scheduling reasons. We decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, which I have regretted ever since. Our son was never all that happy with her, and I kept talking myself into thinking it was fine. It was not fine and he knew it. Trust your gut.
    If you no longer trust the caregiver for some reason, it is time to part ways. That is not something you can work out, because the stakes are too high. And if you’re in a nanny share situation, it’s probably best to let the other family know whatever you know, and let them decide to worry or not (not criticizing the other mom at all–we both did the same thing and I think it was understandable).

  7. Love all my sitters, didn’t ask one night sitter back after I would come home and find the house more messy than I left it, also she would have her boyfriend over without asking me first, and she drank on the job!

  8. the night sitter I hired was a friend of my husbands, and we argued a lot as to whether she should come back. But we eventually agreed that of one of us felt insecure about a sitter it was grounds for dismissal.

  9. I had gone through what I thought was a pretty good interview process in finding a home daycare provider, and put a deposit down. Long story short, I happened to be walking by her house when she had left the 2 kids already in her care (infant and toddler) in her car with the door open, unattended while she was back in the house. I stood in the driveway and waited to see how long it was, at least 5 full minutes. When she finally came out it was all bluster and “oh, I’ve got to run, catch you later girlfriend!”. I fired her that night, lost my deposit and never looked back. I told her in no uncertain terms why I was firing her and told her it was her obligation to tell the parents of the children what had occurred, because it wasn’t acceptable.Later, I found out that she had not applied for a childcare license, which she would have to obtain before caring for my daughter. Most likely because members of her household would not have passed the background screening, as I found out from someone else whose kids are in HS with her kids. Nice.
    So, yeah, I feel like I dodged a major bullet and that someone was really looking out for us that day. I’m still freaked out that I almost ended up leaving my daughter with that woman, but maybe it was a good thing for me to learn to be a lot more critical and assertive in what kind of care I want for my daughter. I soon found a WONDERFUL caregiver for my daughter, it’s been a year now and we couldn’t be happier.

  10. Oh, I should also mention all the things that get my goat that I let slide.An infant who is under 6 months old only getting 45 minutes of daytime sleep (not every day but once a week maybe).
    An infant under 1 year old only getting 1 hour of daytime sleep (not every day).
    Wasting 6 ounces of breastmilk during the course of a day (I’m sure there are state regulations about not saving the bottle, so they have to throw it away once it’s heated even if it crushes my little heart).
    Teaching my child improper grammar. (I can un-do this, I hope.)
    Teaching my child poor handwashing technique(heck, at least they’re washing hands all the time even if they do put the soap on the hands before the water, thus washing all the soap off before the scrubbing begins).
    Encouraging clean plate club behavior.
    Permitting every birthday and minor holiday to become a sugar-infused, junk-food fest.
    Not being more forceful with other kids who touch my kid (hug, touch, sit too close, tap to get attention). My kid is a little shy, and he really doesn’t like his space invaded. He’s too shy to speak up, and this is probably teaching him all kinds of bad things about letting other people touch him when he doesn’t want it, but they only have so many eyes and so much time in the day to police this kind of behavior.

  11. First warning sign – diaper put on backwards. Second warning sign – crib rail left down. Third (FWIW – I’m never getting to a third warning sign again) report from older chid that they had been outside playing together in the front yard unsupervised. And she lied about being a non-smoker. All around bad choice for a babysitter.I’m chronically early so lateness would bug me but the not being reachable would have freaked me out. I’m so passive by nature it is really, really hard to be assertive with peple when I think it’s going to upset them. You’d think that protecting the boys would make it easier but it doesn’t and I’ve let things slide more than I’d like.
    @caliboo – wow, so glad that worked out for the best!
    @mamabirdNYC – I have the same unhappy daycare situation but nothing to compare it to – it’s always been this way and I can’t figure it out b/c the people seem very nice, engaging, caring, lots of planned activities, clean new facility, etc. But it sure does eat at me that he’s always so unhappy in the mornings.

  12. @SarcasticCarrie- I don’t think there is a state regulation on the breastmilk, because my day care center will do whatever I tell them to do with leftovers, and they are definitely a by-the-book pace. (I think we’re both in CA, but that you are up in San Francisco? SF may have its own rules.)But yeah, the wasting of breastmilk used to drive me nuts. Our rule was that once it had been heated, it had to be used that day. I just about cried when a substitute worker dumped a new bottle in with one that had already been reheated. It was at the end of the day, and there was no way Pumpkin was going to drink all that. And I didn’t even have supply issues. I think that if you’ve never tried to pump to meet the demand of an exclusively breastfed kid, you have no idea how precious breastmilk is.
    Anyway, to Moxie’s original question- I’ve never had to fire a babysitter. We mostly use family- I have a sister in town who likes to babysit from time to time, and whenever my parents are in town they practically insist that Hubby and I go out for dinner. We are very fortunate. We have used the teachers from our day care center a few times, and although they are more expensive than a high schooler, it is completely worth it to have zero worries as we walk out the door.
    I think my limits for what would cause me to fire a sitter are different for occasional night sitters vs. a sitter who is providing care for a significant chunk of my kid’s life. I’d change day cares for difference in style type things that I’d probably let slide in an occasional sitter.

  13. @mom2boys- can you get some of the other parents to “spy” for you? One of Pumpkin’s little friends at day care has a really hard time at drop off and is super clingy at pick up. Her mom was concerned, but of course anytime she showed up to check, she changed the dynamic. So she had a couple of the other moms report on what we saw when we dropped off or picked up. Her daughter was always playing happily, and involved in the activities. We even managed to get Pumpkin to tell us how her friend’s day was for awhile- as in “E. was sad” or “E. was not sad.”Anyway, based on what we all saw, E’s mom decided that E. just has a hard time with transitions. She’s been working on some strategies to help with that, and E. seems to be doing better at drop off. She’s still super clingy at pick up, though.

  14. @ Cloud – Thanks, that’s a good suggestion. I have noticed that some of the kids just have a harder time with the separation than others (oh to have a child that just waves bye bye) and mine seems to have it the worst (at least from my biased perspective). I know he’s not miserable all day long because they have webcams and I can log in and see him sitting in a group for story time, or outside on the play ground or on the floor coloring. Even though I know he’s not just sitting there crying all day it’s still so hard to deal with the “No mommy bye bye” and death grip as I peel him off of me and hand him crying to his teacher. I’m 90% sure it’s just a phase and just him but that little bit of what if – what if another situation would be better gnaws at me.

  15. We had the good luck to meet our current home-daycare-provider socially, almost a year before we had our daughter. I got to see her and her husband in action as parents to their older son and then to their baby girl born 6 months before ours. Their 2 kids are really happy, outgoing, and smart – their son got moved up a grade because he was already reading when he started school. My one complaint is that the TV is on most of the time there; on educational shows, but still it kind of bugs me. Nevertheless, our daughter seems happy there; she has a playmate, and a gentle, nurturing caregiver. So for the time being, we’re sticking with it.

  16. Oh boy, this post comes at a good time. We’re trying to figure out what to do about our nanny, who has been with us for two years (since my son was 3 months old). She is WONDERFUL with him (at least, she was when he was an infant) but not so great with us. She’s old enough to be our mother, which I liked when I was an unsure first time mom, but now more and more it seems to be causing arguments when we ask her to do something and she believes that her way is the right way and instead of recognizing that we are the parents, she argues with us. Things like not wanting to give him Cool Whip and ice cream after dinner. She’s also started taking him to the bookstore almost every day and it seems that the appeal is more for her (she can get an iced coffee) than for our son. She’s also taken a ton of (paid) sick time this year and seems to think that just because I work from home sometimes it is not disruptive to me for her to take an afternoon off. And we never seem to win on the money front. She never works the full amount of hours she’s contracted to (we pay a weekly salary), but if we ask her to work any extra hours, we’re expected to pay for it. I’m just trying to figure out how to balance all of these issues with the fact that she clearly loves our son and that he loves her. So far, part of the solution has been to send him to preschool three mornings a week and cut her hours but we’re really starting to wonder if we should just find someone new. How do the rest of you balance having someone who has always demonstrated trustworthiness (though she lied about smoking too) and trust with your child vs. a prickly relationship with you/your partner?

  17. eh, @Charisse- don’t take my word for SarcastiCarrie’s location! I’m 38 weeks pregnant and not at all thinking straight. I may be confused.Really, the only thing you should trust from me is a statement that I’m ready for this baby to be born. THAT is definitely true.

  18. @Nut Mommy, this maybe doesn’t help you now but we don’t give paid sick time. We do pay for all holidays and all vacations that we take (so we pay 52 weeks per year). My philosophy is that if the nanny isn’t working because we’re on vacation or it’s Christmas or I got home early or whatever, that’s our issue and she’s entitled to count on her regular weekly salary. If she’s not working because she’s sick or wants to go on vacation at a time when we will have to find an alternative child care arrangement (which we might have to pay for), that’s her issue and we don’t pay her for those hours.I don’t know if others think that’s fair or not, but I think we do pay her well and she ends up getting about 4-5 weeks of paid vacation per year, plus holidays.
    I guess if your child care situation is stressing you out more than finding a new situation would, it’s time for a change.

  19. One thing that these comments reminds me of is something a trainer in a children and dependent adults abuse class told us: go ahead and act on the little things, because more often than not they hide bigger problems. DHS might visit with a report that the children were left unattended for five minutes outside and find that the children are left entirely alone for hours on end or that they’re living in filth. A babysitter who’s not punctual may also not be mindful about other aspects of care.Fortunately I’ve never had to fire a babysitter but we have changed daycare situations and it was a great move. My son’s behavior improved immediately.

  20. @MamaBirdNYC: Your daycare experience is so similar to our recent experience this summer – it’s uncanny. Thank you for the further validation!Our 2 yo daughter also moved into a new daycare situation (she had been at a center previously), which lasted 3 weeks (about 11 days altogether) before we decided that it was untenable and we were all miserable. (In addition to our daughter’s emotional/behavioral changes, awful dropoffs, sullen pick-ups, and fatigue from poor napping schedule, the daycare provider took an opportunity to share with me – within earshot of my daughter! – her low opinion of my husband. My last straw.) We lost our two week deposit, but it was *well* worth it for the peace of mind. Luckily I had her former behavior to use in comparison.
    Moved her to a new daycare almost 3 weeks ago – by end of first week, she was just a little clingy, by beg of 2nd week, she was totally fine, asking to go to “school” & has been ever since. (Right back to where she had been at previous daycare.) I still regret that I put her through that misery, and exhorted her to limit her screaming & crying at dropoff, when she may well have had reason. (And inadvertently taught her that it’s better to be sad than angry.)

  21. Gut reaction is important, though I confess that sometimes I’ve second guessed whether my gut reaction is truly a sign that something is amiss vs my own ambivalence and guilt about being at work.That said, I fired a full time nanny/babysitter after her first week because of my gut. Just had my second child, was still on maternity leave, but had hired her to start so that my older son could get used to her and so that I could have some daytime help with the new baby and all. She had worked for her previous family for nine years, passed background check with flying colors, seemed great.
    But then, while I was at home and she was with my son I just didn’t like her. She was really shy so I gave her the benefit of the doubt at first. I watched her through the window with my son while I was inside with the baby and she basically sat there with her arms folded and made no effort to interact with him at all. The next day I walked across the street with my son and left my newborn with her and she was totally unengaged. I don’t know whether she realized I could still see her, but sheesh, if you can’t fake it the first week on the job, what’s it going to be like a month from now?
    Minor infractions in the grand scheme of things with respect to child safety and the like, but I knew I would not be able to go to work and wonder if my kids were just being ignored all day so I paid her for the week and said goodbye.
    Our babysitter now is amazing. She doesn’t always do everything the way I would do it, but my kids are learning that there’s more than one way of doing something.

  22. I “fired” my mother-in-law as a sitter! When my daughter was a few months old, my MIL would come over 1 morning a week for about 2 hours to see her granddaughter. I would use the time to run errands alone. Twice I heard my daughter wailing before I even got my key in the front door. The third time MIL was watching TV and daughter was crying (not quite wailing yet) beside her (TV’s in the basement, which is probably why I didn’t hear anything as I walked in the door). My MIL thinks “a little fussing won’t hurt her”, and “it’s good for her lungs” and other outdated ideas…but I know my kid and I know she doesn’t wail like that for no reason. So I told her that it was time I took my daughter shopping with me, thank you, but I don’t need help next week.

  23. First off, no, I am not in SF. I’ve never even been to California (28 states and none of them CA). I’m in Chicagoland.I have a question about the smoking: obviously smoking while on the job taking care of the kids is a no-no. Smoking in a home where children will be even if you don’t smoke around them is also a n-no in my book. What about smoking on her own time while not working? I have no idea. I suppose if the nanny were to use her own car and it was filled with tar and smoke smell, that would be a no-no too. And you don’t want someone whose clothes smell like smoke hugging and holding your kids. I’m just not sure where you would/could draw the line.
    Nut Mommy – It might be time for a performance appraisal (or a parent-teacher conference) where you review what’s going on, what will happen in the next year, discuss displeasure with reliability/sick time, reiterate house rules, and reposition yourselves as the parents, etc. Just like your boss would do with you.

  24. I just want to second everyone’s suggestion to trust your gut. My son was in a home daycare starting at 4.5 months and while it was fine it wasn’t great and a number of little things bothered me, but none seemed worth going through the hassle of finding another childcare provider (we couldn’t afford a nanny, and the childcare centers around here all have gigantic waiting lists) and taking my son away from people with whom he was clearly very, very comfortable.But then our childcare provider’s life became very complicated, she threatened to close the business, did leave us with no childcare for 2 weeks without prior notice, etc. etc. I decided this was enough, and found another home daycare provider who is AMAZING. Like I never want another person to care for my child or my future children, ever. And my completely unreservedly good feelings about this situation just confirm to me that I should have trusted my nagging worries and slight discomforts earlier, rather than just trying to rationalize that they were the neurotic worries of a first-time mother adjusting to the fact that she was not in total control of every second of her son’s day.

  25. My nanny is regularly 10-15 minutes late in the mornings. Because I know this and am actually okay with it, it doesn’t bother me. If I need her to be earlier, I let her know the day before that I need her to get there on time, and she always does. Otherwise, I just consider it a bonus when she gets to my house at 8! But I come from a family who is late for everything, so it’s normal to me. We still pay her the salary rate and don’t dock her for being late.I do expect a call from my nanny if she is going to be more than 15 minutes late, which she does. Living in the DC area means that traffic can be crazy and unexpectedly so on some roads.
    Not being able to contact her except as a fluke would be unacceptable. Not knowing where my child(ren) is would be unacceptable. So many of the things you all mention are just not okay!
    As for the preschool dropoffs, my daughter cries and is clingy more often than not (we are on week 3), but then at pickups she also cries because she doesn’t want to leave! I know she is having a great time there, she just has trouble with transitions and we are working on it.

  26. I suppose it’s different for sitters v a nanny but if you have a nanny that smokes, how realistic is it that she is going to go all day without taking a smoke break in front of the kids?I ask about smoking because I just don’t think it’s a healthy habit and the smell does tend to linger. To each their own but since I do have a bit of a say so at the beginning, it’s easier for me to be upfront and say I’m looking for a non-smoker, than bring it up later if it becomes an issue.

  27. I let a lot slide with my current nanny. We don’t always get along and she can be super ditzy, but the kids are always safe and she loves them.I had interviewed a woman who wanted to watch 1-2 or kids in addition to her own. We got along really well and she had all of these activity ideas she wanted to do. The problem for me was that I never felt like she had any idea what she was getting in to. I have twins who love to explore and run in different directions. Her yard wasn’t fenced, and she didn’t see the problem with that. In the end, my gut told me to bail and I did.

  28. Nut Mommy, I hear you! We are having a similar problem. Our nanny is great with our little guy (only 4 1/2 months old), but insists on doing things her way. She is also older and refuses to use the sleep soothing strategies I’ve asked her to, insisting that she has to do things “her way.” I know she has a lot of experience, but I also believe that consistency is important for building healthy sleep habits. We’ve only had her for a few weeks now, but I’m really wondering if this is going to work out. What are people’s thoughts on how important consistency is between nanny and parents? My gut is telling me that these early power struggles are not a good sign. (She even completely changes his clothes from how I’ve dressed him every day to something she prefers more (when he is not soiled/dirty)) At the same time, when my son is awake, she is great with him. I’d be very curious about others’ opinions on the issue – I don’t want to be reactionary, nor do I want to be complacent.

  29. I had a my daughter at a neighborhood house from the time she was 9 weeks old until she was just shy of 16 months. At first things were great, they treated her like one of their own and she seemed happy but once she started on solid foods I started noticing things. Most days she would come home in a different outfit than the one I sent her over in and the new outfit would be dirty with food stains like she didn’t use a bib and her face and her hands would even be dirty and she would have dirt smudges on her legs and if she was barefoot her feet would be black. Now I know kids get dirty but this was EVERY DAY! It was a huge annoyance factor with me, but we kept on and soon I started noticing that she was always falling asleep when my husband picked her up around 4pm and she would sleep until I got home at 6pm, needless to say our nights would be a constant struggle since she would be cranky that we had to wake her for dinner and a bath and then she would get overtired and not fall back asleep until 10pm or later which would start the whole cycle all over again the next day, we were told that she doesn’t like to nap but she always napped at home on weekends for 2-3 hours at the same time. Then we noticed that if she wasn’t cranky or tired, then she was hyper and found out that while this woman’s kids were off from school from the summer they were all giving her sugary snacks ALL DAY LONG! But the kicker was when her and her husband decided to split and he went nuts, luckily on a weekend so my daughter wasn’t there and we found out there was a history there. We pulled her immediately and now she is in a great place where she gets regular naps, has a set snack time, no sugary juices and she is learning her colors and letters and she comes home CLEAN!. Looking back we should have pulled her when the above mentioned things started being noticed. Of course her kids do not listen to her at all and run wild too so that should have been the first sign to get out of dodge! We learned a valuable lesson, regardless of a friendship or not, next time we will find someone else at the first sign of our child not being taken care of properly.

  30. Losing Sleep–These early power struggles are NOT a good sign. She sounds controlling and dismissive of your wishes. I can’t imagine that it will get better
    -From someone who has employed several long-term babysitters over the years!

  31. Not related to sitters in particular, but related to events in my life over the past 7 years and this topic…..I urge everyone to listen to their instincts. They are simply never, never wrong. I teach 5th grade students, and the theme of my year is “LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS.” If a situation is uncomfortable, you are probably right. If you think you don’t understand something academically, you are probably right. If you think someone is being mean to you but hasn’t actually DONE anything, you are probably right. Too often we (women especially) are taught from a very early age to NOT listen to our instincts because we can’t always qualify it. We don’t have to have a reason to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is reason enough. I wish someone had taught me not to ignore what I couldn’t name. Sometimes things just feel off, and you don’t have to know why to extricate yourself from a situation or person. So as an educator with preadolescent kids in my class on the verge of a life full of tough choices and situations, if they walk out of my classroom knowing that their instincts are always right, I will feel happy about sending them off into the big world of middle school.

  32. One more shout out for the instincts/gut philosophy. We fired our first daycare provider because of our personal issues with her. I think if we had kept her, our son would still grow up to be a kind, happy man. But, I didn’t like her. And I was pretty sure I could find someone else who I liked, AND our son would thrive with. It took a while, but eventually we found *our* perfect daycare provider.I stress *our* because what is perfect for us, may not be for another family. What wasn’t working for us with the first daycare provider wasn’t an issue for the other family who used her as well.
    So, definitely go with your instincts and do what’s comfortable for your child AND for you. The “for you” part will probably be harder to achieve than the “for your child” part, but I think it’s just as important.

  33. I can’t help but keep thinking about the Gavin DeBecker book- Protecting the gift. I found out about it through this blog and ever since I read it I am in the “trust your instincts” camp. So much of what people have said about not dismissing the little things and trusting your instinct regarding this post is in his book. Of course e describes some horrific things and that’s why it is VERY important to just trust your instinct.We have never had to fire a babysitter so far but there have definitely been some that I like more than others. We have one regular sitter and she is a very important person to this family. We really trust and love her so much that I arrange most of my schedule around her schedule.
    Not being able to reach the sitter is definitely a deal breaker for me. Unengaged especially with young kids is also a deal breaker. No drinking, smoking, talking excessively on the phone (while kids are awake) and no friends over. These are all deal breakers for me.

  34. Sorry, SarcastiCarrie, for the confusion over your location. I don’t know who I have you confused with. You should come see California sometime! I went to college in Chicago… I loved it. I still miss the pizza. I’m less nostalgic about the winters.On the smoking- I don’t let anyone smoke around my child, and I would expect anyone I was paying to show up not smelling like smoke. But if they smoke on their own, I don’t really care and don’t consider it my business.
    For those of you struggling with nannies who do things differently than you do- I feel your pain. I’m not sure how I would handle that with a nanny. We use a day care center. One of the hardest things for me about the transition from the baby room to the toddler room was that they needed our daughter to fit into their way of doing things. I had some real angst at that time that seemed to be about things like sippy cups and finger food. Looking back, it was more about me not really being ready to have my baby turn into a toddler. I certainly wasn’t ready for the idea that she should have to adjust to someone else’s way of doing things. Once the adjustment had been made, it was fine. I actually think it has been good for our daughter to learn how to adjust to different situations and to start to get used to the idea that she is not the center of the universe (she is an only child- for another couple weeks!- and an only grandchild on both sides). She loves her day care, and her teachers there. But at the time… at the time, my husband had to talk me down more than once.

  35. Yes, instincts. I had my daughter with a neighbor family who didn’t speak much English. I had seen them all the months I was at home with my daughter and thought they were caring for their grandchildren. I was surprised to find out they were babysitting! So we left my daughter there starting at 11 months. I loved them.One day when I was 6 months pregnant with my son, I saw another child let my daughter out of the gate on the playground to a busy alley. I freaked out because there is no visibility, and even a car going 5 mph would have hit her. No apology. I stewed on this for a while, and then called to discuss with their English-speaking daughter. I mean, they hadn’t even seen her going into the alley. I think if I had not been picking her up that moment, well, I shudder to think. But we were so close to maternity leave that my husband insisted we not make any big changes. When it got to the point I couldn’t sleep anymore, he took the morning off and actually spied on them with binoculars to make sure she was properly supervised, and she was. I still couldn’t sleep because I was so worried about her care.
    A month later, we found out they had bought a house nearby and would be moving. I noticed their apartment slowly being emptied out of stuff but figured they would give me their new information. One day my husband went to pick her up and the apartment was empty and they weren’t there. They had given me the intersection closest to them, but not their address, so we had no way to find her and no one answered their cell phones. We later found out that they had moved their entire apartment with shopping carts down the street and were plopping my daughter in the front part. For $1,300 a month. They eventually brought her to the old place (where we had dropped her off in the morning) an hour or so late.
    I called and got their address. Their new condo had a pool. All I wanted was to get through the last month to maternity leave. They asked me to bring her swim diapers and a suit for the pool. It was very deep and my daughter was less than 2 and very rambunctious. I told them I was uncomfortable and didn’t want her in that pool. When my husband picked her up, they told him how much fun she’d had playing in the pool. I cried so hard and spent so much time at work frightened that something would happen to her that I left work one day just to check on her. They woke her up from a nap and she had on like 12 play mardi gras necklaces. They asked me again to bring swim diapers. I took her home with me and never went back. Had to find a babysitter for a month before maternity leave.
    For a while they had refused to give her a nap because they didn’t want her to cry it out and because she didn’t want to nap. I talked to them about it a couple times and said I thought it was cruel for a less-than 2 year old not to have a nap. They worked on it and did it.
    My daughter was sensitive to dairy and they kept giving her yogurt and we worked through it.
    But when I felt it going south and stopped being able to sleep because she hated going there (whereas she used to go get her shoes on Saturday mornings and ask to go there) I should have pulled her out. She was delighted with her new babysitter and so were we. It was upheaval, but I just felt she was so much safer and she was happier too. I wished I hadn’t waited.

  36. @Julie, I would love to hear about how to instill the lesson to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS in my soon-to-be 6 yo. She is still pretty good with it so far, but I am not, and I see her struggling.

  37. I was a babysitter while in college responsible for picking up kids from elementary school, bringing them home, having a snack and playing until their mom was home from work. In two years of doing this, I was NEVER late one time. One time I even locked my keys in my car at school and thought I would be late and I called the mom (corporate exec so well I called her secretary) to let her know I had contacted this school and was on my way. This was pre-cell phones. I don’t know.I let go a babysitter. In hindsight, I think I was hasty as I had a newborn and I was probably a little on the edge and maybe wasn’t clear enough with my expectations for my toddler (TV on too much was the issue and being inconsistent in other areas).

  38. I worked as a full time nanny for many years before I became a mom. I worked for each family for more than 3 years. As I look back now, I don’t think I would want to hire me–not because I was bad, but because I now have different ideas how I want my children raised.For example, I am more of an AP-type now vs as a nanny; I (usually) feed my daughter organic, well-balanced meals; I only let her watch Sesame Street and Signing Time (and the occasional SpongeBob when her dad and I are watching it).
    I wasn’t a BAD nanny…always reliable, on time, played outside everyday, didn’t watch TV (except for the occasional Arthur video from the library), taught letters, played games, learned about different plants, etc. I followed the parents’ wishes regarding food, parenting style, etc.
    Actually, as I’m typing this, I’m thinking maybe I would hire myself after all. It’s just hard when someone else who isn’t you is spending such a large part of the day with your child. You want the sitter to do everything the way you do, which isn’t realistic. (A funny story–I was much more physical with the kids than their parents were–swinging, throwing in the air, etc. One morning, the mom told me about how they were out somewhere over the weekend and how the umbrella stroller they were using tipped over when they overloaded it. She said the baby didn’t seem phased and thanked me and said it was because of how physical I was with the kids.) I think the biggest thing for me to admit is that as much as I thought I loved the kids I cared for, that pales in comparison to how much I love my own child. I didn’t realize it before I had my own.
    As others have mentioned, there are some biggies to be concerned about: safety (well-supervised), communication (know where your kids are; be able to reach the sitter), respect (respect the parents’ wishes even if the sitter has “a better way.”) And most important, trust your gut.
    I had a couple sitters during the summer when my daughter was 4 moths and again at 16 months. They didn’t play outside as much as I would have liked. They never cleaned up after her meals (despite being 2 of them watching 1 child). They used the pacifier far more than I liked. In the end I decided that for 6 hours of childcare a week, these weren’t hills to die on. My daughter was safe, the sitters clearly adored her, and the pacifier use just wasn’t that big of a deal.
    Sorry for the rambling. I’m sleep deprived with pregnancy brain.

  39. @Losing Sleep – Given that your son is only 4 1/2 months old, if you are dealing with early power struggles I would try to find someone new now. At that age, your child will not notice the difference as long as the caregiver continues to provide loving and nurturing. We had some issues with our nanny from the very beginning (on her first day she was asking us to rearrange some furniture, which drove my husband mad) and we ignored them and/or tried to change them via performance review-type conversations. But two years later, not much has actually changed and now I’m faced with potentially having to fire someone that my son LOVES and asks for. Take it from someone who has been there – the last thing you want is to feel like you can’t give feedback to or fire your employee because if she leaves it will break your son’s heart.@CG – I think you were smart on the sick leave. Our philosophy is that we don’t want her coming into work if she is really sick and would potentially infect us (so we didn’t want her to have to make a choice between losing a day’s wages or working while sick), but she’s ended up abusing it. And she also ends up with 4-5 weeks paid vacation per year, but seems incapable of scheduling the million tests she has to have on the days when she is actually off.

  40. We had a nanny for several YEARS that, in retrospect, I should have let go much, much sooner. She had a strong personality and I don’t and I really let the power dynamic get all sorts of screwed up. Plus, after the first 2 years she started being late, calling in sick, etc and drove me crazy. So what if I worked from home? That didn’t mean I didn’t really WORK, you know. She was very, very good with the children but the more I found out about her personal life, the less I trusted her judgment. We reached a natural end point with the job so I didn’t have to fire her. But I should have and now I have learned my lesson not to let things get to that point again.

  41. I think I’ve posted in the comments about my experiences before on this topic so I apologize if I’m repeating myself…From age 3 months to 2.5 years old, he was in his three day care settings, with the last, (and current – he is about 4.5 now), being a Montessori PreSchool.
    The first and second day care centers just didn’t meet my expectations but I, too, didn’t trust my instincts enough to pull him out mid-year with either.
    The warning signs for me included:
    – minimal interaction with him when he was under six months old
    – change in staff from really caring, well-trained people 8am-3pm into low-paid, low-motivated teenagers (few exceptions but still)
    – constant talking or texting on cell phones by the teenagers after 3pm to the point that I tried many times to leave my job early and that was incredibly difficult, a lot of frustration
    – My gut at the second center went off during the interview when the head of the center talked about how she spends more time with the kids than the parents, saying that over and over (seemed very judgmental at the time but I dismissed my instincts)
    – being dismissed to my face when I expressed a concern to the head of day care that even art activities were sugar-centered (decorating cookies as art projects? For 1.5 year olds?) I was even told, “yeah, I was like that with my first but then I got real…” by a teacher. Uhm, no, this is a real concern. Don’t dismiss me.
    I am still annoyed at myself that it took so long to convince myself and my partner to take our son out of the conventional daycare and put him into a pre school more alligned with our values. Yes, it costs more money but it is worth it. Sure, it isn’t perfect but it is MUCH, much better.
    As for sitters, once I started finding fast food leftovers in the garbage and sitter got very defensive when I casually asked where they came from, we stopped using her. (I was wondering who was dropping them off or if she came with them but got them from her car after we left. Never really found out. Found out from neighbors that a car would be parked outside our house for a while when we went out so I’m guessing boyfriend but still not sure.)
    I also tried out a friend’s 12-yr-old daughter as a mother’s helper type thing this summer and it really did not work out. The daughter was interested and seemed to do well for two days but on the third day my son sort-of hit her, (he was cranky, wanted attention, a different game; I was in the room and had been giving her many suggestions about easy things to do, but she was tired that day. I reprimanded him for his behavior but it was clear that he needed more than she could give and/or he had trouble being under someone’s care while I was also around but occupied with work. I do not think I will use a friend’s child again, though, because it was really hard to nicely tell the friend that after that third day that this isn’t a good situation for everyone.

  42. I think I’ve posted in the comments about my experiences before on this topic so I apologize if I’m repeating myself…From age 3 months to 2.5 years old, he was in his three day care settings, with the last, (and current – he is about 4.5 now), being a Montessori PreSchool.
    The first and second day care centers just didn’t meet my expectations but I, too, didn’t trust my instincts enough to pull him out mid-year with either.
    The warning signs for me included:
    – minimal interaction with him when he was under six months old
    – change in staff from really caring, well-trained people 8am-3pm into low-paid, low-motivated teenagers (few exceptions but still)
    – constant talking or texting on cell phones by the teenagers after 3pm to the point that I tried many times to leave my job early and that was incredibly difficult, a lot of frustration
    – My gut at the second center went off during the interview when the head of the center talked about how she spends more time with the kids than the parents, saying that over and over (seemed very judgmental at the time but I dismissed my instincts)
    – being dismissed to my face when I expressed a concern to the head of day care that even art activities were sugar-centered (decorating cookies as art projects? For 1.5 year olds?) I was even told, “yeah, I was like that with my first but then I got real…” by a teacher. Uhm, no, this is a real concern. Don’t dismiss me.
    I am still annoyed at myself that it took so long to convince myself and my partner to take our son out of the conventional daycare and put him into a pre school more alligned with our values. Yes, it costs more money but it is worth it. Sure, it isn’t perfect but it is MUCH, much better.
    As for sitters, once I started finding fast food leftovers in the garbage and sitter got very defensive when I casually asked where they came from, we stopped using her. (I was wondering who was dropping them off or if she came with them but got them from her car after we left. Never really found out. Found out from neighbors that a car would be parked outside our house for a while when we went out so I’m guessing boyfriend but still not sure.)
    I also tried out a friend’s 12-yr-old daughter as a mother’s helper type thing this summer and it really did not work out. The daughter was interested and seemed to do well for two days but on the third day my son sort-of hit her, (he was cranky, wanted attention, a different game; I was in the room and had been giving her many suggestions about easy things to do, but she was tired that day. I reprimanded him for his behavior but it was clear that he needed more than she could give and/or he had trouble being under someone’s care while I was also around but occupied with work. I do not think I will use a friend’s child again, though, because it was really hard to nicely tell the friend that after that third day that this isn’t a good situation for everyone.

  43. I think I’ve posted in the comments about my experiences before on this topic so I apologize if I’m repeating myself…From age 3 months to 2.5 years old, he was in his three day care settings, with the last, (and current – he is about 4.5 now), being a Montessori PreSchool.
    The first and second day care centers just didn’t meet my expectations but I, too, didn’t trust my instincts enough to pull him out mid-year with either.
    The warning signs for me included:
    – minimal interaction with him when he was under six months old
    – change in staff from really caring, well-trained people 8am-3pm into low-paid, low-motivated teenagers (few exceptions but still)
    – constant talking or texting on cell phones by the teenagers after 3pm to the point that I tried many times to leave my job early and that was incredibly difficult, a lot of frustration
    – My gut at the second center went off during the interview when the head of the center talked about how she spends more time with the kids than the parents, saying that over and over (seemed very judgmental at the time but I dismissed my instincts)
    – being dismissed to my face when I expressed a concern to the head of day care that even art activities were sugar-centered (decorating cookies as art projects? For 1.5 year olds?) I was even told, “yeah, I was like that with my first but then I got real…” by a teacher. Uhm, no, this is a real concern. Don’t dismiss me.
    I am still annoyed at myself that it took so long to convince myself and my partner to take our son out of the conventional daycare and put him into a pre school more alligned with our values. Yes, it costs more money but it is worth it. Sure, it isn’t perfect but it is MUCH, much better.
    As for sitters, once I started finding fast food leftovers in the garbage and sitter got very defensive when I casually asked where they came from, we stopped using her. (I was wondering who was dropping them off or if she came with them but got them from her car after we left. Never really found out. Found out from neighbors that a car would be parked outside our house for a while when we went out so I’m guessing boyfriend but still not sure.)
    I also tried out a friend’s 12-yr-old daughter as a mother’s helper type thing this summer and it really did not work out. The daughter was interested and seemed to do well for two days but on the third day my son sort-of hit her, (he was cranky, wanted attention, a different game; I was in the room and had been giving her many suggestions about easy things to do, but she was tired that day. I reprimanded him for his behavior but it was clear that he needed more than she could give and/or he had trouble being under someone’s care while I was also around but occupied with work. I do not think I will use a friend’s child again, though, because it was really hard to nicely tell the friend that after that third day that this isn’t a good situation for everyone.

  44. @Losing Sleep – A good friend of mine was in a similar situation and regrets it to this day. If I remember correctly, the woman didn’t agree with my friend’s hospital in case of emergency which seemed irrelevant until there was an emergency. She took the baby to the hospital she wanted to take him to. Which was an extra 20 minutes further. When time was of the essence. Baby almost died. Personally, I would have killed her with my own two hands.@Heather – I had the same revelation once I had my own child. I nannied twins while I was working on my Master’s and while I was great with them – went to the park every day, read book upon book, played kitchen, basically humored their every whim – I just didn’t get it. And obviously, I had no idea at the time that I didn’t get it. I loved those kids…and still do – see them once a year or so. But I wasn’t a mother yet, so I didn’t know what truly loving something with all your heart really meant.
    After having one unsuccessful babysitter arrangement and one unpleasant daycare situation, I’m a little gun shy. I should have trusted that a woman so significantly overweight could not indeed keep up with my two year old, despite what she claimed. And 12 kids (8 of which were boys, 6 of which were fighting with make-shift swords) in one room with one adult for the full 30 minutes I was there was enough for me to bail out of a daycare without a second look back. Thanks to you guys, I’ve started trusting my instincts and I’m pretty sure that was not the place for us.
    Anyway, my sister and brother both live close-by and while they don’t know what it’s like to love your own child yet, they love E with all their hearts. And if we’re ever in a situation that requires more than a few hours of care, I think that I’d have to find another mom because no one really understands like another mother.

  45. I’m the one that runs around telling EVERY parent about “Protecting the Gift”. Reading it really really helped me learn to trust my instincts. And, ironically, also helped me worry LESS. (Which is saying something — I’m chronically, clinically anxious.)I’ve hung in there with a couple of situations I wasn’t in love with, but I’ve never thought my kid(s) weren’t being taken care of in a safe way. Moxie asked about things we did give chances for, etc. I had one gal who was going through a messy divorce. She spent too much time on her phone for my taste, but I was willing to cut her slack for that.
    When I’m looking for a nanny, I generally start by laying out my own parenting philosophies and ask them to tell me a little about theirs. If I think they won’t mesh, I don’t hire. It’s worked out pretty well for us.
    I also, though, generally think it’s good for my kids to realize that MY way of doing things isn’t necessarily the only ok way, so I’m all right with some differences, as long as they’re safe. I wouldn’t tolerate disrespectful behavior (either of my kids or of me — and this includes ignore explicit instructions about naptime, etc), but otherwise I’m pretty easygoing.

  46. Unlurking briefly to make a not-quite-on-topic but just as an example of differences note — I was a nanny for years before becoming a mom and was actually startled to discover I love my own baby exactly the same as I loved my nannying babies. I always thought it would be different and couldn’t fathom how it would be possible for me to love my own children MORE than I loved the ones I cared for. Turns out I don’t.

  47. @Moxie – Good for you for setting boundaries & knowing when to move on.Amen, @Anon – Trust your gut & especially trust your dog’s gut! I love it.
    @Losing Sleep – You’re the boss. I urge you to get rid of her now. She doesn’t respect your wishes, and these kinds of relational things always only get worse, not better. And your child really is at a great age to make a transition into a new care situation. Be brave – yes that is your gut trying to tell you something!
    @The PP who mentioned sitters having over their boyfriends – oh HELL NO!!! That would be a pretty big trigger for me. I will never trust random males around my kids. See “Protecting the Gift” for more on this – and Amen @Jan it does help us worry less.
    For those of us passive gals out there who hate face-to-face confrontation, “The Economy” is a widely-accepted reason these days to cut back on hours, pay, etc, where we have doubts and/or unmet expectations we don’t feel we can discuss with the caregiver. But then again, if we have doubts we don’t feel we can discuss with the caregiver, we probably have an underlying personality fit issue and really shouldn’t be employing the person in the first place.
    Our sitter firing story (a relatively minor one): We didn’t ask back a neighbor’s 17-year-old daughter because she didn’t follow our simple, specific instructions about putting our toddler to sleep in our bed (we co-sleep). Instead, she decided to put our toddler into the baby crib we had set to the highest newborn setting (as we’re expecting baby #2 any day now) – where our toddler of course climbed out after puking in there from being so freaked out. When we got home, my pregnancy hormones got the best of me, and though I am normally passive I bluntly asked her “WTF??” – I was also pissed that she didn’t call right away to tell us, and she said she thought the crib was safer than our bed, so I explained about the different settings, the bed rail on our bed, etc. Well, at least she apologized. She’s not a “bad” sitter, BTW, just not a good for our family – I’m sure she’d be perfectly fine with a lot of folks. That’s my long-winded way of saying fit (fit between parents & caregiver, AND fit between child & sitter) really matters.

  48. We let one go after she taught my then-2-yr-old “Oh my God, puck me, puck me.” Unintentionally, of course. Our first babysitter in a new state – we felt totally at sea!You did the right thing – if someone can’t tell you your kids’ status, find someone new. How hard was it to do that on short notice??

  49. I fired a licensed home daycare provider after three weeks when my daughter was about four months old. Always awkward, especially for me, who hates anything smelling of confrontation. Reasons:- Lied about it being a non-smoking home. Picked up daughter in afternoon and smelled cigarette smoke where kids were playing in the basement. Turns out her husband smoked, “but only outside”.
    – We agreed to a 7:15am-4:30 day, but in only a short period of time, I was frequently being asked to not bring daughter until “after 9:45” on such and such day, or to pick her up by 4 on another day. I understand that she had a family and things going on, but I didn’t expect this to happen four times in just three weeks.
    – Attitude. My husband was growing increasingly uncomfortable with her and for awhile I made excuses, but I got to a point where I grew tired of it myself. Nearly every afternoon when I picked the baby up, the provider had to express some issue with her. It was either how “gassy” my daughter had been, or how badly she napped, or how much she spit up. It wasn’t just telling me how her day was, but rather it was complaining. When we switched to the daycare center where we’ve been now for 2 years, we never heard a word in the infant room about her gas, napping, or spitting up, unless it was something unusual. I’m sure she had gassy days, crummy sleeping days, or times when she spit up. But being normal baby behavior (assuming the baby’s not sick), it just wasn’t a big deal.

  50. I learned recently that not all things are as obvious as I think they are. We’ve had our 16-year-old neighbor babysit our 1-year-old a couple of times now so we could go to evening events. The last time, I found soda in my daughter’s sippy cup after I had already paid the sitter and she’d gone home! I guess telling a teenager that my daughter eats “pretty much everything” was a bad idea. I’ll have her babysit again, as my daughter seems to like her a lot. But, I will be very specific with my instructions. My daughter also goes to daycare 2 days a week. They do things a little differently than I do, but I think that’s okay. From almost the beginning, my daughter has seemed to be able to differentiate her routines at home vs daycare. For instance, at daycare she only took 1 long nap (the whole class naps together), but she still went down easily for 2 at home. I understand that they have to do things differently there as they are 2 people with up to 14 toddlers vs just me and my daughter. Again, she’s happy when I drop her off (she smiles and tells me “by by” as she reaches for her teacher)and when I pick her up. I can look through a little window without the teachers knowing I’m there, and she’s happily playing. She even brings home art projects! They provide a disciplined environment, without ever “punishing” the children. I overlook the cafeteria type food they serve the kids and the fact that they only go outside about an hour/day (they do go into the gym a little more), because she’s not there every day, and the teachers are so patient, kind, and engaging with the children.

  51. I recently started sitting two – three days a week for a lovely couple I met at prenatal class as she’s gone back to work but I’ve elected to stay home. As a sitter, I am totally okay with them having slightly quirky rules about their kid and things like food, sleeping, etc. But what I am finding a bit challenging is I get an email the night before letting me know what time they’ll be dropping her off and picking her up. Its a new arrangement with many kinks to work out, but I have a life outside of babysitting that includes part time jobs, socializing etc and not knowing what my day is going to include until the night before is frustrating. So while I can appreciate that lateness etc is important from the parents’ perspective, being respectful of the sitter’s time is also important. Above all, its a relationship between two not just employee / employer in my world.

  52. There are really instances when you have to make a decision and fire your babysitter no matter how much the kids love her and no matter how great their relationship is. Things like you mentioned above are definitely grounds for firing a babysitter. Another thing i don’t like is when a babysitter pays more attention to the tv or computer or on the phone talking to whoever rather than paying attention to my kid. I guess it is important to set out rules before anything else so that everything will be clear to the babysitter.

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