We all need a quiet dinner with adult company once in a while, but it can seem impossible to find both the time on your calendar, and the right sitter to care for your children.
A caregiver doesn't just include your go-to choice for date night. You have to think about anyone who cares for your child, including day care providers, friends, and family members. Even a short time with the wrong person can put your child in danger. It can be scary to consider the "what if's," but choosing carefully and setting rules will help you to feel better when you drive away from home.
Spend time making the right choice, and have a few options so you aren't forced into a rushed decision, if your first-choice sitter is not available. Choose caregivers who are patient and understanding, and have experience with different ages.
If the caregiver has a short temper or anger issue, choose someone else.
Never leave your child with an adult who has been drinking or using drugs. Do some detective work and look online at the caregiver's background, including Facebook and sites like www.familywatchdog.us.
Make sure your caregiver knows first aid and CPR. Talk about safety rules, such as safe sleep practices, closing the pool gate, and keeping a close eye on your child near the stairs.
The sound of a crying baby can be so frustrating. We see far too many cases of shaken baby syndrome, and about 20 percent of the time, the perpetrator is the mother's boyfriend. Talk to your caregiver about soothing techniques that work best for your baby, and also about putting the baby in a safe crib and walking away for a moment, or calling you for help.
If you take your child to the caregiver's home, make sure it's safe and clean. The crib should not have bumpers, soft toys, blankets, or pillows. The pool should have a childproof fence. The front door should lock securely so your child can't wander outside and into the street. Make sure there aren't too many children for your caregiver to watch at the same time.
Watch how your caregiver interacts with your child, and how your child reacts to him or her. Always leave information about how you or another acceptable caregiver can be reached. When you come home, ask questions.
Finally, trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, choose someone else. And re-evaluate the choices you make. I once had a sitter who was terrific at first, but as she got older, seemed more interested in her cell phone than the kids. I called someone else, and don't regret it. We have enjoyed many years with the world's best babysitter, and treasure the role she plays in our life.
• Tiffaney Isaacson is the injury prevention coordinator at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Reach her at (602) 546-1712.