Ask Shuli: Is There a Babysitter in the House?

Dear Shuli:
I’m wondering where to find a Jewish babysitter. Do you think it even matters?
— Hot Date Night
Dear Hot Date Night:
This might be a good question to pose to my friend Minnesota Mamelah as well, but I’ll take a crack at it—since I am, in fact, a mameleh myself.
At first blush, it doesn’t matter whether your babysitter is Jewish, Christian, Muslim, agnostic or none of the above. What matters are his or her references, how well you know the babysitter and your kids’ comfort with this “sub.” I tend to field a lot of interfaith questions in this column, so I’ll consider this “Jewish advice” as well: When it comes to minding the brood, we’re equal opportunity.
That said, most of our babysitters are Jewish. Why, you ask? We’ve always had great success hiring quality babysitters through our synagogue’s youth group, and teachers or staff in the JCC Early Childhood Education department. These are great places for you to start. Call your local youth director or ECC director for leads.
I—and my daughters—have a particular affinity for the high school students who are shul regulars. Let’s face it: Mostly, they run with the “safe” crowd. Extra points if you find a responsible high school student (AP and IB students, please!) who drives and has siblings to fill in when they’re not available.
If you keep a kosher kitchen, it can be especially handy to have a Jewish babysitter who knows his or her way around a kosher home—and your wacky array of fleishic (meat) or milchig (dairy) dishes. However, a great babysitter of any faith can learn their way around a kosher kitchen, too. If you trust a babysitter to learn your child’s food allergies or picky eating habits, kashrut should be no problem.
One more point while we’re on the babysitting topic: I find it crazy and oh-so-Minnesotan when teenage babysitters won’t name their rate. To a one, they shrug and say shyly, “Whatever you want to pay me.” At this, I scold them and tell them to act like smart businesspeople—specify their hourly rate per child in advance. They should make at least minimum wage ($6 to $7), more if they drive and pay for gas. College-aged and adult babysitters will charge more, accordingly.
(Photo: el clinto)