For most Singaporeans, there will be a number of childcare options. Some prefer to place their baby in an infant care or childcare centre while they’re at work, while others hire a domestic helper to look after their baby at home.
Another option is to find a suitable nanny or babysitter.
Financial planner and mum of two Evangeline Lee found this option to be the most viable after she had her first child, Julie, now 5.
Since her work hours were “erratic and flexible” ― she works anything from two to six hours a day, usually meeting clients ― Lee didn’t want to place her child in a full-time childcare arrangement.
“I was happy with my work schedule because that meant I could spend most of my time with my children, but it also meant that I needed someone reliable to help me watch them when I did have to work,” she says.
Her solution? A babysitter who lives five minutes away from her ― she pays her $18 an hour for her babysitting services.
“Madam Lai was a recommendation from my neighbour, who hired her as a nanny when her kids were younger. It was perfect because at that time, she was watching just one other toddler, and she was happy to be paid by the hour when I dropped Julie off.”
Part-time babysitting arrangements are also ideal for parents who may need some time off, for example, to run errands, attend an older child’s school appointments, even to enjoy a date night.
If you’re mulling over hiring a part-time nanny to watch your little one, there are several things you need to consider.
1. Don’t limit your options
There are many ways to find a babysitter who best suits your needs, so don’t just pick the first one that comes your way. Make it known that you’re in the market for a nanny by sending the word out to your family and friends. Nannies that come with references from people who know are often more trustworthy. You can also place ads on your social media platforms, or in online classifieds, to seek babysitter applications.
Make it known that you’re in the market for a nanny by sending the word out to your family and friends.
Joey Ng, mum to Jacob, 2, found her nanny through a bulletin board at her neighbourhood RC. “I thought it would be good to engage her because she lived in the same block as me. It is really convenient for us and she is great with Jacob.”
A number of websites and agencies list nanny services, too:
2. Recognise that your nanny is your employee
Your potential babysitter may seem to connect with your baby right away, perhaps, your peewee (and even you) might be drawn to her right away. But always remember that this is an employee-employer relationship, and that you are paying your nanny to take care of your child.
Once you draw those boundaries in the relationship, you’re better able to focus more on the attributes that you’re looking for in a nanny (for example, that she has to be hygienic, dependable and honest). This way, you’ll worry less about whether she likes you and your baby.
3. Conduct an interview
This is a good time to suss out whether this babysitter is indeed the right fit for your family. Ask her about her previous experiences ― does she have children of her own, and how many children has she looked after? Does she prefer looking after babies, toddlers or older kids, and why?
Besides basic babycare, what else can she do for your child? Does she enjoy playing, singing, dancing, or even reading to him? If you’d like your child to get some outdoor time, you may want to ask her if she’s willing to bring him down to the park for walks.
Also, ask her what she would do in the case of an emergency ― does her home have a first-aid kit? Check if she has CPR knowledge or skills and does she know what’s the nearest clinic to her home, should she need to take your child to the doctor.
4. Do your checks
Talk to other mums who have hired your babysitter previously. Ask what they liked or did not like about what her. Ask how long she worked for them, and how old their kids were. Find out what her personality is like (is she stern or cheerful, for instance), before you decide whether you’d like your little one to be spending long periods of time with her.
Don’t be quick to write off a potential sitter just because your munchkin takes time to warm up to her.
5. State your requirements
Depending on the age of your baby, he’ll have varying needs. For instance, is your child still using diapers? Will you be leaving expressed breastmilk or formula milk with your nanny? Will she need to prepare baby food? Do you expect her to engage him in stimulating activites? Is TV allowed? Do you need regular or ad-hoc babysitting services?
Your requirements and expectations should be stated clearly, and it would be ideal if you could put these down on paper and get your nanny to sign against them. As mentioned before, since your babysitter is your employe, it would be fair to her to agree to what you expect of her.
6. Arrange a trial date
Don’t be quick to write off a potential sitter, just because your munchkin takes time to warm up to her. Babies and young toddlers often have separation anxiety when it comes to leaving their parents, so it may take a while before the crying stops.
Instead, watch how the nanny handles the situation ―is she calm and collected? Does she draw your child’s attention away from you, and towards some toys?
7. Go with your gut
Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. Geraldine Chen, mum to Noah, 1, noted that she was close to hiring a particular sitter, but changed her mind at the last minute, because the sitter was very unresponsive to her texts.
“I understand if she was busy, but she took three or four hours before replying to my texts, and would rarely pick up the phone. She seemed like the perfect nanny, but I wouldn’t feel at ease if I wasn’t able to contact her when my baby was with her,” Chen explains.
If you don’t have a good feeling about a particular sitter, regardless of her experience or credentials, it’s time to rethink.
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