I just got back from a three-day camping trip with a bunch of the ladies from my church. I’m a leader for our young women (age 12-17), and we spent the time enjoying nature, building our faith, playing ridiculously fun games, and eating way too much junk food. It was a wonderful chance to step away from the craziness of everyday life and remind myself about the things that matter most in life.
One thing I’ve learned about being a mother is that I’m always a better mom if I get a break from the kids from time to time. When I start getting really irritable, I often stop and ask myself when the last time was that I left the house without the kids. Usually, I realize it’s been too long.
These breaks are essential to my marriage, too. Because of this, my husband and I are dedicated to having regular date night. Even though it costs money to hire a sitter (unless you’re lucky enough to have family nearby), we feel it’s money well-spent. As my husband says, “Paying a babysitter is cheaper than divorce.” We feel like time away from our kids is essential to keep our marriage happy and healthy, so we try to do date nights away from home at least twice a month (on the other weeks we do date nights at home).
The hardest part about getting away is prepping everything and everyone. Leaving your kids with a babysitter can be stressful, but there are things you can do to ensure that your kids and the sitter are prepared for an evening of fun.
1. Talk to your kids about where you’re going…and why.
Little Man (4) knows that it’s important for mommy and daddy to have time by themselves. I’ve explained that just like he enjoys having special time with mom and dad, we like to have some special time for each other. It helps us be a happier family. Now when I tell him he’s going to have a babysitter come play with him, he always asks, “Are you going on a date?”If your child has separation anxiety issues, remind them that you will come back (I love the Daniel Tiger “Grownups Come Back” song), and help them plan fun things to do with the babysitter.
2. Leave your babysitter with “sub plans”.
When I was teaching middle school, whenever I had to be absent, I would leave extensive plans for whatever substitute teacher was covering my class. I gave them a lesson plan, sure, but I also left seating charts, a list of reliable student “helpers” in each class, emergency info, and more. I do the same for my babysitters. I have a word document on my computer that I update and print each time I have a babysitter. It includes contact information, my kids’ favorite activities, and our typical schedule. I try to be really detailed. Here’s an example:
You can make your own “sub plans” or if you want something quick and easy, I’ve created a free printable Babysitter Information Sheet for you to use! It’s an editable PDF, so you can use it multiple ways:
- print it as is and write it by hand
- print and laminate the blank sheet so you can edit the information over time
- type directly into the form and then print when you’re done. EASY! I like having an electronic version so I can change things as kids grow and the routine changes.
Download my info sheet for FREE below.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD your FREE Babysitter Information Sheet
When I started leaving these extensive plans, I wondered if it was a little bit of overkill. I didn’t want my babysitters to feel like I didn’t trust them…I just wanted them to have as much helpful information as possible. However, several times now, I’ve had babysitters comment on and thank me for the information…so I guess my teacher tendencies are a good thing!
3. Make sure everything is easy to find.
When my babysitters first arrive, I give them a tour of the house. I lay our the kids’ pajamas ahead of time, set toothbrushes and toothpaste on the counter, and make sure any food, drinks, treats, etc. are easy to find. I make sure to tell them where I hide the remote control and how to work the TV. My Little Man is old enough to help the babysitter find things she may need, but when my boys were younger, this was essential.
4. Leave fun things to do.
In my babysitter information sheet, I include a list of some of my kids’ favorite activities. If I’m leaving for more than a few hours though, I try to leave a couple of special, new things for the babysitter to do with the kids. Whether it’s a new coloring book, a simple printable game I’ve found online, or some other Pinterest-inspired activity, having something new and fun is a great way to build a positive relationship with the sitter and keep everybody happy and occupied.
5. Make sure expectations are clear.
Make sure your babysitter knows what you expect of him or her. Do you want them to make sure all toys are cleaned up before bedtime? Do you want them to give the kids a bath? Do you expect them to do the dishes? Then, tell them (nicely). Make sure you keep your expectations reasonable, and if you ask them to do things above and beyond cleaning up after themselves and the messes made while they are there, pay them accordingly. Also make sure you leave clear expectations for your kids. talk to them about what rules will still be in force with the babysitter present and where you will be more lax.
These things are super simple, but when I make sure to prepare everyone adequately, it means that things go so much more smoothly while I’m gone. Knowing that I won’t (likely) come back to a disaster allows me to really relax and enjoy my time away from my kids and return ready to jump into the fray again!
I regularly link up here.