Being married to a police officer comes with a lot of challenges. Yes, there's everything you'd expect, like fearing for them while they're working, and dealing with the increasing tensions surrounding procedure — especially in our very progressive and liberal home — but there's also the security bits I deal with. Things like which purse I carry and how I search for a babysitter become very complicated when they encounter the wall known as that guy I married. The babysitter thing, though? I'll allow it. It's important and what a police officer wants you to know about hiring a babysitter can really make a difference in your home.
Police officers may have a different approach to hiring a babysitter than a civilian. They're likely going to examine each individual with much more scrutiny, and the interview process will be longer and more in depth than you may conduct on your own. There is a big emphasis on references, background checks, cameras in the home, and certifications. When a cop hires a sitter for their kid, they are meticulous in the areas of security and safety, which may mean that their partner has to look at the equally important aspects of temperament and personality.
When my husband and I have decided upon childcare, it has very much become an issue of "good cop, bad cop," and so far that's worked for us.
My husband, Tim, is an officer right here in New York City. Day to day he deals with some of the very scary sides of childhood. Everything from bad babysitters, to domestic violence, to kids in the system. It's hard, and I know it grates on him. Even after almost 19 years on the job, there are still cases that get to him, and it's almost always when it involves children — especially now that he has a few of his own. (Even though he's always loved kids, having previously worked at a summer camp and in a program for mediation in public schools.)
Obviously, I didn't look any further than him and our experiences when it comes to hiring a babysitter. I will say, he's complete crap when it comes to things like, "Will they know how to play dolls?" or "Can they make macaroni?" However, he's dead on when it comes to "investigate every aspect of this person like you're hiring them to be a top-secret operative in the CIA. We're talking Quantico, people." He is also very good at asking questions to get good answers. If there's a hole in their story, he'll find it. He'll exploit it, and he'll dismiss them.
Our poor kids will have such a hard time as teenagers. One of their parents is a cop, the other was just a really badly behaved teenager who got terribly good at not getting caught. Our kids are so, so screwed.
What a police officer wants you to know about hiring a babysitter is actually pretty simple. Tim says you need to make sure you get a full background check. The process for this varies from state-to-state, but here in NYC, it's done through the DMV. Even if you're hiring through a service, get your own check. It's money well spent and lets you decide what is and isn't acceptable.
Get a minimum of three references, preferably with at least one of them being from a teacher or place of employment, like a company or business — something or someone you can Google to corroborate that they're in good hands. Make sure you can call that contact at their place of work, or that you can be assured they work there. This is an additional layer of security to make certain the references are legitimate. It could also be from a volunteer organization or a place of worship. Talk to the references; don't just confirm employment.
Tim also adds, "Get cameras. Always have cameras." He says everywhere the baby will be, the camera should also be, except the bathroom, because the babysitter will also have to use those facilities.
Make sure the person you hire has taken a lifesaving class and is certified in CPR and the Heimlich, as well as versed in what to do if your child becomes ill. Quiz them on dosages, administration of medicines, and the safe storage of medications. "Make sure if they have any drugs they need to take, that they know how to keep it away from your child," he adds.
Be very specific on where they can go and what they can do with your child, too. Ask them about park safety, sun safety, and food safety. Accidents can and will happen, and kids hurt themselves all the time. (Especially our kids as they inherited my complete lack of grace.) Find out how your babysitter would respond. Make a clear and decisive plan. Who to call, when to call, and where to go need to be in that action plan.
Trust your gut. If you don't click with the feeling, even if they're charming and answer everything correctly, listen to it. It doesn't matter if their references are fine and they've never received so much as a speeding ticket, if your gut says no — move on. "Your gut knows more than you do sometimes," Tim says.
My husband listens to his gut more than most people I know. It's a big part of the reason we got engaged just three months after meeting; he's a gut instinct kind of a guy. But that being said, he always has primary plans, contingency plans, and a slew of preventative measures designed to keep our children and me safe. It can be a pain — I haven't had a purse without a zipper in 14 years — but I understand where it comes from. So maybe take his advice on this one — he knows what he's talking about.
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