You have an important meeting or a special date with your partner that you've been planning for months, but your babysitter has canceled at the last moment. What are your options?
What can you do if you can't find a babysitter? Your best option is to reach out to your family and friends for a favor. If they aren't able to help, you might need to consider more creative options or use a professional babysitting service.
In this post, we'll look at some options you can try if you're not able to find a babysitter.
What Should You Do If You Can't Find a Babysitter?
Here are a few sticky situations where you’ll need to find alternative childcare arrangements fast:
- It’s a work day, and your child is sick at home.
- You and your partner crave some time together without the kids.
- An elderly relative needs your undivided attention and care.
- Making self-care a priority is way past due.
Ask yourself: Is this voluntary or mandatory?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether the activity you planned to do while a babysitter looked after your children is essential or not.
Going to work is required, and it’s hard to get out of. Other things, like helping with a school bake sale or seeing a movie, can be canceled or postponed to another day.
14 Babysitter Alternatives
Babysitter bailed? Never fear. Here are some other ways you can make sure that your child is supervised while still getting things done.
1. Ask your partner to help
If both of you were going to do something but their activity is less important, see if they're willing to stay home. If you go with this option, it's best to schedule a time to repay the favor. You watch the kids while your significant other has the freedom to do their thing. It's only fair.
Obviously, this one won't work if the reason you got a babysitter was for a date night. Of course, you could take your toddler along as a third-wheel to that fancy restaurant...
2. Ask a family member
Get out your phone book or the contacts app on your phone and start making calls! Try your brother, your parents, an aunt, an uncle, your cousins. Any relative who lives in your city and might be willing to help will do.
3. Call your friends too
If you can't find a willing and available family member, you can call in a favor from a friend, preferably one who already has kids and knows your child so it won't be traumatic for either party after you’ve left. If your friend has two kids, it's not really that much more work to add a third kid to the mix, especially if they're all about the same age and can play together.
4. Try your place of worship
If you're part of a religious community, see if someone you know there can help. You can either contact some members of the congregation that you're friends with or the church / mosque / synagogue itself. Some places of worship offer babysitting services on a donation basis.
5. Contact your gym
This one sounds like a bit of a stretch, but it can work! Some gyms have dedicated childcare services where they'll watch your kid for a few hours.
6. Use practice, lesson and course times
You can create a small window by scheduling your outing during your child’s dance lessons or sports practice. Make arrangements with another parent to keep an eye on your child. If you’re comfortable with the option, they could take your kid to their place afterwards.
Another possibility is to enroll your child into some kind of day program or class just for one day or evening. This is an especially good option in the summer when school is out and there are all kinds of summer camps running.
7. Put your kids to bed earlier
Okay, now I'm definitely not suggesting that you just put your kid to bed and leave the house. That would be awful. They might wake up and need you. But if you were getting a babysitter to watch the kids while you study for a university test or catch up on a project at work, you might be able to stay home and do it.
If your child goes to bed at around 8 p.m., that's a solid three to four hours of work that you can get in before bed. To make the time wholly devoted to your important task, consider putting off cleaning or other tasks that you'd normally do at that time.
8. Make it a day date
If date night with your partner got canceled because of a lack of a babysitter, you could reschedule it during the day. If you can both book a day off or call in sick, you can enjoy spending a whole day together while your kid is at daycare or school. You won't get to watch the sunset together, but there are lots of things couples can do together during the day. It can be refreshing to go for lunch, catch a movie, go to the art gallery, or just hang out around the house together.
9. Have a fancy dinner at home
If your dinner date got canceled, it doesn't mean you have to miss out on an elegant dinner. Just bring it home to you! Break out the candles and fancy wine glasses. You can do this with your kid as well, but to make it more special, wait until they go to bed and order some take-out from your favorite high-end restaurant.
10. Take the day off work
The worst case scenario if your childcare falls through during the day is that you'll have to take the day off work. Depending on how flexible your manager is, you might have the option to work from home or make up the time later. If all else fails, you might need to use a vacation day or call in sick.
11. Have a backup
If you're desperately scrambling for a babysitter as you read this, it's already too late for my next option. But if you're preparing in advance, it's good to designate a backup replacement for your babysitter in case they're sick or unavailable. Usually, babysitters will have friends who can fill in, so ask the babysitter if they have anyone they could recommend.
12. Go to a drop-in daycare
Search in Google to find a drop-in daycare in your city. They have reasonable prices that are comparable to what you'd pay a babysitter. The downside is that most of them close around 5 or 6 p.m., so they're only an option during the day.
13. Is your child sick?
Your regular daycare or babysitter might not want to watch an ill child. Local hospitals in bigger cities normally offer specialized drop-in services for sick children. They're more costly because you'll have a nurse or other medical professional caring for the sick child, but the additional cost might be worth the peace of mind.
14. Bring your kid to the office
Your boss may or may not be okay with this idea, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I’ve worked at jobs where employees occasionally brought their kids into the office when they couldn't find childcare, and it was never an issue. Normally, the kids played games or watched videos on their phones for most of the day. If your child is well-behaved, there probably won't be an issue putting them in a conference room to do some arts and crafts for a few hours.
Can your employer fire you if you have to stay home to take care of your kids?
It depends on where you live. In the US, labor laws are harsh, and an employer can fire an employee for anything that makes them unable to work when they're scheduled. Exceptions include the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you or an immediate family member has a serious health condition. However, it doesn't apply if your child has the flu or an earache.
Should I just take the first replacement babysitter I can find?
Even if you're desperate for a replacement babysitter, it's still critical to do your due diligence and follow up on their references, background check, and make sure they're reliable. After all, it's your child's safety and well-being that's at stake.
To streamline the interview process in sticky situations, check out my tools and checklist. See my intiview guide and ask these good interview questions to quickly learn about candidates. Make sure you still do a quick babysitter background check before hiring.
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The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder