A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Things Your Babysitter Secretly Wants You to Know

Updated: Jul. 17, 2024

From what they know about your marriage (hint: it's a lot!) to your parenting habits that drive them crazy, babysitters get honest about what it's really like to watch your children.

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Mother And Son Playing With Toys On Floor At Home
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Do the introductions before the night-of

Before I babysit for the first time, have me come over and meet your child for a few minutes while you’re home. If you can’t do that, show your child a picture of me ahead of time. (I can probably text you one.) It really helps the kids feel more comfortable before you leave me with them. Follow these tips to hire a babysitter you can really trust.

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African woman greeting female friend for having a new house. Smiling young woman congratulating her friend. Couple welcoming friend for housewarming party.
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Make a big deal when I arrive

It sounds like such a small thing, but if you open the door, give me a hug and act excited to see me, the kids think, “Oh, Mom really likes her. She must be OK.”

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father and son hug goodbye before school love and affectionate embrace
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Stick with quick goodbyes

If your child has separation anxiety and starts to cry when you’re leaving, hurry up and get out the door. Coming back for one more kiss or trying to soothe him before you go just prolongs the crying. Once you’re gone, he will stop crying—I promise. Most kids calm down in 10 minutes or less. (If it makes you feel better, ask me to text you once he stops.) For school days, make sure you know the 33 things your child’s teacher wants you to know.

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Business concept: Businessman writing on blank notebook. Holding pen in right hand.

Leave a list of all the important information

It’s hard to remember all the details you’re throwing at me in the 10 minutes before you leave. That’s why we love when you write down everything. In addition to emergency phone numbers, include the full bedtime routine, the rules of the house (Can the kids eat in the family room, play on the iPad?), where I can find things like extra toilet paper, and how to use that tricky TV remote. Don’t forget to include your WiFi password.

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Alarm clock on the nightstad
Diana Rui/Shutterstock

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less when you come home

Go ahead and get your party on, parents—that’s a bigger paycheck for me! But if you’re going to be later than you said, please give me the courtesy of a heads up. One time, the parents stayed out all night when I had another sitter job booked for the morning. Parents and babysitters alike should know these tips for playing with kids when you’re tired.

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Mix of snacks : pretzels , crackers , chips , nuts and nachos

Snacks are one of the best perks

If you want a happy sitter, have something besides kale chips and organic apple sauce for me to snack on, and make sure to mention that it’s OK for me to help myself.

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Woman is putting fifty dollars in the wallet
Vera Kandybovich/Shutterstock

Money is my bottom line

Yes, I like your kids. I may even love them. But I’m still doing this for the money. If you pay me well or tip me at the end of the night, I’m going to feel much more loyal to your family. And I’ll be more likely to say yes next time.

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Two women friends talking to each other on a couch in apartment

Don’t complain to me

I’m not sure why you feel so comfortable confiding in me, but to tell you the truth, it makes me uncomfortable. Moms are always complaining about how their husbands never do anything around the house, how they spend too much money, and worse. Leaving your kids with Grandma? These are 26 things your mother-in-law is secretly thinking.

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Father and son happy time with little child at home

Your kids can’t keep a secret

They told me when Daddy lost his job, when Mommy went away to rehab, and how you both walk around naked.

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White piggy-bank on the old wooden background. Top view.

Have my payment ready before I get there

Sometimes parents haven’t had cash and need to raid their kids’ wallets or piggy banks to pay me.

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Mom with her tween daughter relaxing in bed, positive feelings, good relations.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Chances are, I know about your marital problems

The kids tell me about your fights, and sometimes I hear you arguing outside before you come in. At one job, I learned the mom was having an affair because all of their devices were linked through iCloud, and her text messages to her lover popped up on the kid’s iPad.

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DVD player with an open tray, white background

Sometimes, I learn a bit too much about your personal life

One time I went to put in a DVD for the kids, and there was porn in there.

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Big stack of mails, pile of papers, or heap of letters waiting on wooden table

Don’t leave things on the counter you don’t want me to read

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bill, a to-do list, or a bank statement. I saw one family’s tax return, and after that, I didn’t feel so bad asking for a higher rate.

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Sexy blue male underwear on the hanger
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If you ask me to do the laundry…

…you might want to think about what’s in your hamper first. I was shocked to find out the buttoned-up Dad I babysat for wears brightly colored briefs.

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Mom giving baby a diaper change at home. Focus on mother hands.

I can’t stand reusable cloth diapers

They are totally disgusting. On the nights when I’m coming, please be considerate and leave me a few disposable ones.

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child girl reading with book and flashlight and teddy bear in tent. before going to bed
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

I hate it when kids have super late bedtimes

I know you want to get the most bang for your buck, but your three-year-old should not be going to bed at 9 p.m. He’s just going to be cranky and ruin your day tomorrow. You’ll want to know these bedtime hacks that will help your toddler fall asleep sooner.

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Action shot of four naughty children siblings fooling around at home, turning living room upside down. Restless cheerful kids in casual clothes playing, having fun, fighting with pillows on sofa

There’s a reason I suddenly have so many conflicts

If you keep asking me to babysit and I always have an excuse, take a hint. I probably didn’t like babysitting for you for some reason, so you may want to reconsider what you pay or work on your child’s behavior.

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kid with ice cream

I know I’m not your kid’s parent, but…

…it drives me crazy that you’re so inconsistent when it comes to discipline. One mom told her son in front of me that he couldn’t have any ice cream that night because he hit his sister. But when I came back the next day, he said, “Guess what? I got ice cream last night!”

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Upset little baby boy crying outdoors. Toddler having tantrum in the park
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When a toddler is having a tantrum…

…my favorite trick is to stay calm, get down at their level, and start talking really softly. They’ll quiet down just so they can hear what I’m saying.

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I hate a vegetables! I'm not eating this!

Stop coddling

Let him cry it out in the crib. Don’t cook her a separate meal if she doesn’t like what you’re serving. And never, ever give in when they whine.

Sources: Kate Jenson, a babysitter in Chicago; Kathryn Poeschl, a babysitter in San Mateo, Calif.; Emily Levitan, a babysitter in Marin County, Calif.; a babysitter in Charlotte, N.C.; Lynn Perkins, founder of urbansitter.com; and Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company