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5 Things I Didn't Know I Wanted in a Babysitter

I've been a mom for five years, and we've had very few real babysitters in that time.

For a few blissful years, we lived near my newlywed sister and her husband, and since they didn't have children of their own yet, they were happy to watch our little ones when we needed it (or at least they graciously pretended to be). When my husband was in grad school, we swapped babysitting with another student family to save money.

But with our most recent move, we don't have any family nearby, and with my work schedule, plus a book club for me and a choral group for my husband that meet the same night, we've had more babysitters in the last three months than we had in the last five years.

I knew, of course, that I wanted someone who would take good care of my children, but I didn't know that there were some other things I really would love in a babysitter.

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Here are a few that have made babysitters extra great in my opinion:

1. When your teenage babysitter tells you that you look cute

A few weeks ago, I did my hair and makeup after a pool trip, just minutes before the babysitter arrived. When this 15-year-old showed up, the first thing she said was, "You look so cute." Let me tell you, that girl has a job for life at my house.

2. When they can drive themselves

I grew up getting picked up by the mom or dad and then one of them driving me home afterward. I assumed that would be the case for me too, but several of the teens that babysit for my girls have their own car or live so close that I can stand on my front porch and watch them walk to their front door, and that is seriously the best. Goodbye, awkward small talk in the car.

3. When they periodically text me to give me an update

If you'd asked me six months ago, I would have assumed I'd prefer radio-silence that meant everything was good. But now I am extra grateful for a babysitter who texts me to say everyone went down easily to bed and they read some books together after dinner. That little text gives me mega peace of mind.

4. When they keep the television and iPads off

I really want a babysitter who comes over and PLAYS with my girls, instead of letting them sit in front of a screen for two hours. It's always a little painful to pay a babysitter, but it's much less so when I feel like they've really engaged my girls (plus, my girls are much less reticent about having a babysitter if they know it is someone who will pay five games of Candyland and then read them a few books).

5. When they jump right in

It's always a little awkward when you're still there and your children are climbing all over you or the babysitter and you're trying to finish up any last things before you walk out the door, but if the babysitter comes in and sits right down with my girls to play, help them eat their dinner or go see the latest art project, that makes the transition from me in charge to them in charge so much easier and smoother for everyone.

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You know what else doesn't bother me? When the babysitters eat the good snacks. I lived for eating someone else's snacks when I was a teenage babysitter, and I certainly don't begrudge them for scoping out the treats in the pantry now that I'm the grown-up.

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