Want to take care of Jerry Mahoney’s kids? Follow these five rules or you’ll blow the gig before you get it.
Hello! Thank you for your interest in babysitting my kids. It’s a fun job – and educational, too. If you come work for us, you’ll learn the names of all the Thomas trains and how to distinguish them by their creepy mushed-up faces. You’ll get to know the lyrics of every One Direction deep album cut, especially “Tell Me a Lie” and “I Wish”, which are my son’s and daughter’s “jams”, respectively. Most of all, you’ll learn the one and only proper way to make a peanut butter sandwich to avoid making a little boy cry.
The job has its perks, too. Once you’re on our payroll, your kisses are granted the power to heal minor injuries, you’re free to lounge in one of our two backyard (plastic princess) pools, and you can help yourself to all the Penguins of Madagascar fruit snacks you want. (We’re trying to get rid of those. They’re “too sticky”.)
I’ve interviewed a lot of people for this position, so before we go any further, allow me to offer you a few tips – just suggestions, really – to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of our applicants and help you get on my good side.
1. Show up on time.
What I’m looking for most in a babysitter is reliability, so if we schedule our interview for 4pm, try to arrive by, oh, say 3:59:59 at the latest. Maybe you’re used to your econ class starting a few minutes past the hour or going to movies that have 15 minutes of previews before Kristen Stewart shows up on screen. Here in the world of legitimate employment, we start on time, and if you’re not here when you said you would be, you’re likely to see my minivan backing out of the driveway and peeling off on its way to a playdate.
In that case, don’t bother rescheduling.
2. Don’t look like a slut in your Care.com headshot.
I know your Facebook friends love that picture of you with a beer in one hand, your back arched to accentuate your barely-covered boobs, with that “I’m a naughty girl” expression on your face. I have no doubt it’s gotten you tons of responses in the Craigslist personals, but you’re going for a different audience here, and they may not appreciate you mimicking the Lolita one-sheet… or the way their husband shouts out, “Whoa! Hire her!” when he sees your picture. We gay dads are unlikely to be impressed either.
When I see anything resembling a “Girls Gone Wild” audition still, I picture my daughter in a few years, and I start to weep. If you insist on the trashy headshot, please include your parents’ phone number in your ad, because I’m going to want to give them a call and express my sympathies.
Surely there’s a photo somewhere of you playing minigolf with your special needs cousin. Use that instead.
3. Show the most conservative side of yourself.
I’m aware that I’m from a different generation than most of the young women who apply for babysitting jobs. They have more liberal attitudes about what body parts they’ll pierce or what colors they might dye their hair.
I would never suggest anyone not be themselves, because I respect your individuality, and besides, I’m going to discover your freaky side eventually anyway. Still, if you’re the lead singer of a death metal band, maybe you could tone it down a bit for our first meeting. You must have something other than skull earrings. Wear those. Go with a tasteful tongue stud rather than that spike-tipped rod that I have to duck to avoid every time you open your mouth. Swap the black lipstick out for a pale gray.
I gave big bonus points to the young woman who, during her interview, pointed out and explained each of her visible tattoos. I would never disqualify someone for their body art — well, maybe Amy Winehouse wouldn’t have made the cut — but the fact that this applicant raised the topic showed a) self-confidence and b) a sensitivity to the squareness of parents like me.
4. Know your kiddie lit.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I have a “gotcha” question. It’s really tricky, too. Ready? Here it is…
“What are your favorite children’s books?”
Gets ‘em every time. First, I’ll ask my interviewee what she likes doing with kids, just to see if “reading” makes the list. It should.
If not, I’ll ask directly, “Do you like reading to kids?”
“Oh, yes. I love it. On my last job, I used to read to the kids all the time. It was our favorite thing to do.”
“Really? What were some of the books you read?”
Shrug. “Nothing in particular.”
I’m stunned how often that question leaves babysitter applicants speechless.
Seriously, is it so hard just to say Dr. Seuss? The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Go Dog Go? Even people who hate kids can name a couple of children’s books. I’d trust someone who loathes Dr. Seuss more than someone who can’t quite remember his name.
Originally, I intended to screen out anyone who didn’t know Mo Willems, author of the Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie books. He was my favorite children’s author before I even had kids, when I used to buy books for my nieces and my friends’ kids. Yes, I had a favorite children’s author… is that too much to ask of a childcare provider?
I have yet to interview a babysitter candidate who’s even heard of Mo Willems.
What’s up? Are the other kids you sit for just that lame? Have you never been to the children’s section of Barnes & Noble?
Now I look at it differently. You may not know Mo Willems—or Sandra Boynton, Bob Shea or any of our other favorites, but if I hire you, you’ll learn. We’ll enrich your life with fine literature like Happy Hippo, Angry Duck and Time to Pee. When your next potential employer asks about your favorite children’s books, you’ll hesitate to answer because you have too many to choose from.
Still, when you first meet me, at least try to prove you’re literate.
5. Don’t completely ignore my children.
You may have noticed a couple of other people sitting in on our interview. They’re small and active, and they didn’t have a lot of questions for you, but you know what? They were kind of important to the process. The fact that you didn’t say hello to them when you came in, goodbye when you left or pretty much anything else in between, reflected a bit badly on your children-handling skills.
This is one interview where it might actually have been good to walk away from the boss and brush a Rapunzel doll’s hair for a few minutes. Once you show up on time, you can drop the professional demeanor. Silliness is a plus.
See, my kids may not be the ones who’ll pay you or drive you home, but they get a vote, too. If, after you leave, my daughter confesses, “She was scary”, you’re probably not going to get the job.
So there you have it. Five easy steps to winning that job babysitting for my kids. Good luck! Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to tell me how cute they are.
Photo—Babysitter holding a flyer from Shutterstock