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. Although the terms may sometimes be used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.
A babysitter is defined as someone who temporarily cares for children upon request of the child's parent or guardian. Babysitting arrangements are typically part-time, and ideal for parents who require time off for errands, to attend to other appointments or even enjoy a night alone together. Babysitters are usually required for impromptu situations or occasions, with services lasting for about 3 to 5 hours. Responsibilities include tending to children, playing with them and keeping them occupied while parents are out.
In contrast, a nanny typically works full-time while the parents are at work, and may even stay overnight. If hired for a full day, they work around 10 to 12 hours. They would also have more responsibilities than a babysitter, including taking care of the child’s meals and activities and even monitoring their development.
If you’re mulling over hiring a nanny or babysitter to watch your child, there are several things you need to consider.
1. Don’t limit your options
There are many ways to find a babysitter or nanny 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 you know are often more trustworthy. You can also place ads on your social media platforms, or in online classifieds, to seek babysitter applications.
A number of websites and agencies list nanny services too. Some of the most popular include:
- Find a Nanny
- Nanny SOS
- Babysitters Singapore
- Caregiver Asia
- MEIDE Babysitting
- A-Team Amahs & Cleaners
2. Recognise that your nanny or babysitter is your employee
Your potential nanny or babysitter may seem to connect with your baby right away, and both of you might be drawn to her immediately. But always remember that this is an employee-employer relationship (not a friendship), 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 nanny or 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, ensure she has the proper qualifications in case of an emergency, including first aid training and CPR knowledge. Even a driving license may come in handy, especially if you own a car and baby needs to go to the hospital. Educate her on the nearest, in case she needs to take your child to the doctor.
4. Do your checks
Talk to other mums who have hired your nanny or babysitter previously. No nanny or babysitter is perfect, so 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.
5. State your requirements
Depending on the age of your baby, he or she will 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 them in stimulating activities? Is TV allowed? Do you need regular or ad-hoc 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 or babysitter to sign against them. As mentioned before, since she is your employee, it’s only fair to have terms and conditions that you both agree on.
6. Assess your budget and compare prices
Of course, nanny or babysitter prices vary depending on the number of caregiving hours, number of children and whether you hire them during the day, night or during weekends.
According to a report by Babysits.sg, the average rate for a nanny in Singapore for 2022 is S$15.25 per hour, and the average rate for a babysitter is S$14.20. While the difference is notable, do bear in mind that nannies take on more responsibilities than babysitters.
On a monthly basis, the average cost of a babysitter would be around $700 a month for 10 to 12 hours a day, for 5 to 5.5 days a week. For a nanny, the range may be from $750 (day-time only, including the cost of food) to $1,500 (overnight or live-in).
Factors like knowledge and experience, as well as other tasks they might be asked to do, can also influence their rates. You can also try to negotiate a lower rate if you drop your kid off at the babysitter’s house, rather than having them come over.
7. Arrange a trial date
Don’t be quick to write off a potential nanny or babysitter, 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 or babysitter handles the situation ― is she calm and collected? Does she draw your child’s attention away from you, and towards some toys or activities? If you can, let her show you how she handles her key duties, such as bathing, feeding and playing with your little one.
8. Go with your gut
Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. For example, if a nanny or sitter takes particularly long to reply texts, her unresponsiveness may make you feel uneasy about hiring her. Or if you feel like you can’t connect well with her during initial conversations, it could be a sign to keep looking around.
Don’t have a good feeling about a particular nanny or sitter, and can’t quite put a finger on it? Don’t be afraid to move on and find someone else, regardless of her experience or credentials.
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