The following draws from my and my fellow mom friends’ general experience over the course of our parenthood and does not describe or draw from any one specific person. It is not intended as a criticism of anyone who has watched or is currently watching my children, but merely for blog fodder…. as is typical for mommy blogs.

I expect certain things from the person who stands in for me at home – aka, the “sitter.” I expect them to mitigate all negative consequences that would result from leaving the children alone.

First and foremost, they must prevent harm, either self-inflicted by foolish children who have no sense of danger or inflicted by others – angry or clueless siblings, strangers, etc.

Second, but only by a hair, they must provide necessary daily care:

  • meals
  • a clean home
  • clean bottoms (changing diapers in a timely fashion, cleaning up accidents, wiping bottoms on children still learning this crucial-but-difficult skill, making sure children put on clean underwear in the morning)
  • physical and mental activity — don’t just plop them in front of the TV or plug in the gaming system.  Interact, engage, play, read books, cook dinner together, etc.

What do I mean by “a clean home” you ask? I mean clean up what you get out. And if my children are old enough (and they are now), have them clean up their messes, too.

These things are the bare minimum, essential to repeat business from me.

Everyone gets the concept of preventing harm and feeding the kids, and most get the concept of keeping the TV off

The clean-up bit? Not always.

Are you surprised? I certainly have been.

In ten years, I have only found that holy grail of childcare once (and she left for college last fall): the babysitter who knows The Secret. This Secret to Successful Babysitting was passed down to me when I came of babysitting age, and I will teach it to my children (once I figure out how to teach them to clean up after themselves — if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!).

(OK, so maybe I’ve figured out the root of the problem…)

Leave the place better than you found it.

Translation: tidy up the messes others (that would be me) have left behind, not just the ones you make with the kids.

It’s the whole concept of going the extra mile. I’m not the only one looking for it, either. Everyone who hires anyone these days would LOVE to find employees who do more than the bare minimum. Their coworkers may hate them, but their bosses will love them. I digress.

Every mom knows how difficult it is to keep a house in a semblance of order when you share the space with rabid dis-order-ers. It is rare for me to get all the dishes washed before my own bedtime, and getting clean clothes into people’s drawers is nearly impossible. The floors are always in need of a good mopping, the carpets in need of vacuuming.

My dream babysitter is someone who sees the children’s books all over the kids’ floor and puts them away, sweeps up the bits of dried flowers crumbled into the carpet, washes or at least rinses all the dirty dishes in the sink, and gathers into one place all the school bags and coats and shoes strewn to the four winds.

Every mom who has ever helped me with kids gets this. Of course. They know how overwhelming and discouraging it is to return from an evening out or a day at work to find the house a wreck. But they aren’t usually the ones available for babysitting jobs, since they have their own kids to look after.

But it shouldn’t take experience with your own kids to practice the extra-mile concept. So, my search continues. If I ever find this wonder-sitter, not only will I pay them more but I will totally take over their babysitting schedule.

How would you describe your dream babysitter? If your children are old enough to babysit, what have you taught them about it?