As parents, we view babysitting our children as a cushy gig allowing the young employee to watch TV, eat unlimited snacks, and play with our adorable little cherubs, all while simply ensuring the house doesn’t burn to the ground. But the truth is, it’s not all a bed of roses.
A good babysitter is hard to find — especially on New Year’s Eve, the most in-demand babysitting night of the year. TODAY Parents gathered a bunch of teen babysitters and encouraged them to tell us all about their parent pet peeves, so that you can learn from others' mistakes. Commit these babysitting sins, and you may find yourself shut out the next time you try to plan a night out.
So if you want to ensure that your fabulous babysitter will continue to make time for you in his or her busy schedule, beware of these 10 things parents do that are sure to drive your babysitter into your neighbor’s arms:
1. Don't be late without warning
“When you tell me you’ll be home at a specific time and then you don’t text or call to tell me you’ll be late,” longtime babysitting veteran Lauren Farfel told TODAY Parents. “I might want to go home and go to sleep, or maybe I’m meeting up with my friends afterwards. I have a life too.”
2. Don't invite the neighborhood over without more pay
“When I show up at the house expecting it to be just a couple kids, but then there are a whole bunch of other kids there for a playdate,” Farfel said. “You end up taking care of, like, six kids and then don’t even pay you more for it.” Listen up, parents: More kids, more money.
3. Don't expect maid service
“When people leave their dinner in the sink for me to clean up and expect me to take care of their pets,” said Lauren’s sister, Ally Farfel. “The job is to take care of your kids — and I will clean up after them (and myself).” But babysitters are not maids.
4. Not funny
“When you joke about me breaking into your liquor cabinet,” Lauren said. “It’s so uncomfortable. If you don’t trust me, don’t ask me to babysit.”
5. Be clear about payment
“When I have no idea what I’m getting paid for the job,” said Lila Bromberg. Don’t be coy about money. “It’s awkward to talk about money with an adult when you’re a teenager, so I’m grateful when you bring it up ahead of time.”
6. Give a house tour
“When you don’t take the time to walk me through the house and show me how stuff works — the lights and alarm and the TV,” said Jillian Dveirin, who once sat on the couch for three hours with nothing to do when her cell phone died. “I didn’t know how to work the TV and I was afraid to touch it without permission.”
7. Don't sneak in a sitter on a sleeping kid
“When you put your child to sleep before I get there and you don’t tell them I’m coming to babysit,” said Jillian. “Nothing is worse than a kid who wakes up scared looking for their parents.”
8. Get out — and don't smoke up
“When you don’t leave.” One teen sitter who asked not to be identified said this happened to her: “The parents were home and kept ‘checking in’ on me and the kids every five minutes. It was confusing to the kids and awkward for me. Oh … and please don’t smoke pot while I’m there!”
9. Make it clear who's the boss
“When you don’t tell your kids that while you’re out, I’m in charge,” Jillian said. “The kids ignore everything I say if they think their parents won’t back me up.”
10. Don't keep secrets
“When you don’t let me know if your kids have any issues!” This was a big issue for all of the babysitters. They’re OK with handling night terrors, tantrums and allergies … but they need to know what to expect. Communication is key.
Avoid these pitfalls, and you will reap the benefits (hello, date night!). Maybe it’s been a while since your babysitting days, and all you remember of the job is sneaking your boyfriend in after the kids were asleep and playing Space Invaders on the Atari ‘til 1 a.m. But babysitters today take their jobs seriously, and you should too.
“Babysitting is a big responsibility," Jillian Dveirin said. "I want to do a good job.”
Editor's note: This is an updated story first published in 2013.
Sarah Maizes is a writer, comedian, and award-winning author who’s written several picture books for children, including "On My Way to The Bath" and "On My Way to Bed." Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.