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Lately I’ve been reading a lot about building a platform as a writer. And one of the books I’ve read emphasized that it can’t just be about writing, and it can’t be fake. It has to reflect you, and be about building a relationship with the people who read your books. My day job is as a babysitter, which means that I probably ought to write a little about that. So here’s one of the main things that bugs me as I go about my life. It’s kind of on my mind since it happens a lot. (As such it expresses a certain amount of frustration, so if mild rants are not your thing feel free to give this a skip.)

Topic: communication skills, lack thereof.

I understand that sometimes things happen. Schedules in this business can be flexible by default, something was sprung last minute and now there’s a lot of scrambling to find the babysitter who’s not already employed, even that things got busy and you forgot to respond or let me know about the changes. It can be annoying, but I try to understand and not overreact and just do my job with a smile because sometimes life is crazy. However….

Some people are bad communicators. Not bad people, bad parents, or bad employers. Just not great at letting me know what my job is. And since they’re all nice people, here’s a list of the things I wish they would remember to do.
Be specific.

This happens especially when I’m interviewing and first starting to work with a family. I cover a variety of jobs, from a regular after-school position to a few weekend gigs, date nights to school event nights, all kinds of different stuff. So to pay the bills I have to keep approaching new people and working out the details. And I get that it’s intimidating to hand out details of your life and your child’s life to a complete stranger. (My mom has made me permanently paranoid about what details I give out online, so I understand being wary!) However, if I am going to babysit for you, I at least need to know general ranges. Like how many kids, approximate ages (just knowing toddler versus elementary age is all I need), but most importantly, what day and time you need me. If you need Friday evening, tell me that. Don’t just ask “Are you available tomorrow?” because I’m not in the morning but I am in the evening so it matters! Things like that. Give me the details I need to make a decision about taking the job or not, so time won’t be wasted on a back-and-forth for something I can’t even do.

Be honest with me.

If you’re going to be late, don’t know when you’ll be back, daughter is just getting over a cold, please tell me! Beforehand, please. Sometimes I have to rush off to something else. Sometimes it’s just nice to be warned ahead of time. (Honesty also helps with my next point, which is…)

If I’m doing something wrong, tell me. I’ve only ever run into this once, where someone just kind of adjusted things around my unknowing mistake, but I’ve read horror stories. I might not even realize it’s a problem, or perhaps the rules weren’t properly conveyed. Or maybe I’m just being careless because I don’t think it’s such a big deal. Tell me! I’ll adjust. I want to work with you on these things, to keep your kids safe and do the best job that I can do.

Hold yourselves to the same standards that you hold me.

Also, please be prompt.

If you expect me to get back to you within a certain amount of time, please respond to me within that same amount of time. Some things are more urgent than others, but being called the morning-of for a job when you told me you would let me know my schedule two days ago….Well. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and means that I’ll be a lot more precise in what I can’t do for you. (Meaning there are only so many last-minute jobs from one family that I can take before I start saying I’m busy out of dread.)

Going back to standards…

Remember that I have a life. I try to keep my schedule flexible so that I can work with a variety of schedules, and my friends know better than to spring last-minute weekend plans on me, but I have things I want to do with my life. Like write. And also do laundry. Knowing when you need me ahead of time is a huge help with that, because I tend to say “Okay I’m free” because I technically am but dang that was my only writing time and if it wasn’t so sudden and abrupt I would have said no because I’ve done a lot this week and I need time to catch up on home stuff. I mention this because while it is technically my own fault that I get overwhelmed here, I start resenting people who pull this stuff. Last minute is okay. “I forgot to tell you” is not.

Whoa. This is a longer list than I meant to make.

To be fair, the majority of families I work with are great. There are always a few hiccups, but I love taking care of kids and I love seeing parents who love their kids enough that some of that care gets reflected in how well they treat me as a caretaker.

Don’t suppose any other babysitters are reading this? Any horror stories to share?