Just as your heater only breaks on January nights (never on a comfortable October day), emergencies might sprout up at home the minute you leave. Your babysitter's been briefed on your kiddo's likes and dislikes, but she also has to know how to get to the hospital from your house. Keep an emergency list on your fridge, and you might actually be able to relax and enjoy your time free of the zoo that is your home.
Your babysitter should know when to dial 911 (and if she doesn't, she probably shouldn't be alone with your kids) and your cell number. When a minor emergency strikes and you're unreachable, don't count on your toddler to know who to call next. Make a list of three or four people she can call, like local relatives and trusted neighbors, as well as the phone number for poison control (1-800-222-1222), the non-emergency number of the local police, and your child's pediatrician and dentist. Add the vet's number if you have pets. Write your full names, each child's full name and your address on the contact sheet in case she draws a blank while on the phone getting help. Each time you leave, write a note detailing where you're going and how to reach you. It's a lot of numbers, but don't worry about overwhelming your sitter. If she's a teenage girl, she'll cherish any opportunity to use her phone.
Your toddler or preschooler is probably going to screech "WATCH ME!" at some point during his babysitting session, and there's about a 50 percent chance that what comes next is going to end with tears, blood or both. Most of your kiddo's scrapes aren't going to be emergencies, but he might think that they are. Write out a list of first-aid kit locations and tips for how to deal with minor injuries (for instance, make a note explaining where in the freezer she'll find ice packs or what situations warrant giving out specific dosages of children's ibuprofen). Include a list of any allergies in big, bold print. The little guy is bound to be recovering from some illness or another at any given time, so try writing out his current conditions and medications on a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge. When he's moved on from pinkeye to a cold, you can update the board.
House and Weather Tips
The house can get up to just as many hijinks as your kids can (almost). Your sitter needs to know where to find the first extinguishers, what doors have a tendency to get stuck and what your evacuation route is in case of fire. And if you live in an area prone to sudden natural disasters -- like tornadoes or earthquakes -- she needs to know your safety plans. Tell her where to take the kids if a tornado warning strikes and where you keep your emergency kit with flashlights, radios, and food and water. Don't have all these plans figured out? Now's the time. No need to mention to the sitter that this well-stocked emergency kit is only about 24 hours old.
The little guy probably won't break his leg while you're shopping, and the house likely won't catch fire while you're catching the latest Ben Affleck flick. But your kid very well may melt down in spectacular fashion when the sitter's in charge. A tantrum might feel like an emergency to your sitter, so write up some reminders for dealing with your child's most extreme behavior. Make a list of the steps to take when giving him a timeout, what to do if he bites or kicks, and tips to calm him down if he's hysterical over missing you. Another thing to include on your emergency lists? Basic safety tips for caring for a little guy. Include reminders like "Never leave him alone in the bath," "Grapes, raw carrots and hot dogs can be choking hazards," and "Mr. Fuzzypants the teddy bear is the key to Johnny's happiness." She might know this stuff, but you'll be reassured that she's well prepared.
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