When our twins were brand new we didn’t dare go anywhere. With two older kids and two newborns, a babysitter felt out of the question. Still, sometimes it was just plain necessary. Once we hit the twins’ 14-16 week mark, we even felt comfortable enough to go out on a date. The amount of effort it takes to get out the door feels like it is too much hassle to go anywhere sometimes, but it’s always worth it in the end to spend some uninterrupted adult time. So here are some tips to make it a little easier on you and the babysitter.
Preparing Your Babysitter for Twins
Prep, prep, prep
Do whatever you can before the sitter comes! If you’re like me, a total control freak, prepping everything I could before we left made me feel a lot better when I walked out the door. It wasn’t easy — and I usually had to start getting things ready an hour before I needed to get dressed to leave — but it did make me feel better. We would make enough bottles ahead of time for the twins so the babysitter didn’t have to balance a baby and measure formula. We would feed them right before we left and change their diapers. We would put them in their pajamas or at least put their pajamas out on the changing table. We would put pacifiers in their cribs with their sleep sacks so the babysitter didn’t have to look for them.
Have the sitter come later
When we first started leaving our four kids with a babysitter, I’d have the sitter come later, 6:30 p.m. or even 7:00 p.m., so we could feed, bathe, and get them all in pajamas. That way the babysitter only had to get their teeth brushed and put them to bed. When the twins were very young (when they hadn’t yet reached that, “YOU aren’t my mom, so I’m going to scream” phase), we’d put them down for the night in their cribs before the sitter even arrived. That way, she only had to manage putting the big kids to bed. We would let her know what to do if the twins woke up also.
I was always very careful to explain the priority to the babysitter: Twins first, because big kids can go to bed later and watch TV if they need to while you’re taking care of the babies. I’d also let her know if we got home and the big kids were still awake (unless it was, like, midnight!) we wouldn’t be too upset about that. With four kids, and twins, sometimes you just have to be flexible.
Orientation for a New Babysitter
Have the sitter come over for 30 minutes one day when you won’t be leaving the house. Show her the diapers, wipes, cribs, food, how to make a bottle, etc. where everything is and how you like things done. That way, when they show up as you’re trying to find your earrings and a matching pair of shoes to leave, you aren’t also explaining where the towels are and whose room is whose.
Write it all down
Write out doses for medicine, cell phone numbers, preferred hospital, next door neighbor’s information, number of formula scoops, etc. Put it on the counter. You may tell them how many formula scoops, but two hours later, will they remember? Also, if you have passwords on your WIFI and streaming devices/cable box, make sure to write it all down for her.
For infant twins
Have everything the sitter needs all in one space. For a few months our living room looked like a daycare, but it just made it easier on everyone. We had diapers, wipes, swaddles, pacifiers, lovies, bouncers and pack n’plays downstairs in the living room so the babysitter never had them out of her sight for a second (our kitchen overlooks the living room).
For toddler twins
This is a whole new ballgame. I explain the baby gates and that even though they mostly work, the twins are big enough to take them down. I make sure the sitter knows the twins can open the front and back doors (if you hear the door chime, they’re escaping!) and that, yes, we have found them in the driveway once or twice after they managed to sneak out. I show them the gates in the backyard and tell them how my boy twin can lift the latch. I show them the marker on the wall and the stickers on the furniture and the table my son likes to climb on. Basically, I scare them into never taking their eyes off my kids. But, so far so good.
I also make sure they know what they can do with the twins: supervised coloring, swings in the backyard, ride-on toys, chalk, blocks, books, Duplos, and games. I also show them the snacks, water bottles, potty training treats and where the Pull-ups and wipes are (still in our living room!) I also show them how to unlock the doors we keep locked (with a quarter) to keep the twins from destroying the bathroom or their big sister’s room.
Find the RIGHT sitters
Easier said than done. For a long time, there were only three people I’d let stay with all four kids, especially when the twins were infants. Some nights, or if we were gone for a long period during the day, we’d have TWO babysitters (two sisters we were fortunate to know) – one to watch the twins and one to keep the big kids busy. Our sitters have come to us by way of our church nursery and our preschool. They are usually adults, and since they are working in the childcare field I felt a lot better knowing they’d had CPR, first aid, and were used to watching multiple small children at a time.
As the twins got older, I found reliable older teenagers (children of people I worked with) who were able to manage all four kids. There were a few other teenagers we tried and they just did not give me the confidence I needed to ask them back again, and that’s okay too. I always started someone new out during the day for an hour or two. First with just the twins or just the older kids, then, if I thought they could handle it, all four during the day. Then I’d feel better asking them to come in the evening. The hardest part of my day as a mother is the dinner-bath-bed-books-sleep evening marathon, and so I usually make sure sitters are used to my kids, my family, and our rules on a few Saturday mornings before we try an evening out.
Tell them it’s ok to text and call you
I did this more for me than them – I’d say to each sitter, “It can get really hard with twins and having four kids. It’s hard for ME, and I’m their mom and I love them. So if you need us to come home, don’t be embarrassed! We won’t be upset. We GET it.” Then I felt better knowing I’d given them permission to text and call, and I’d also given them permission to be like, whoa, this is HARD, I need help. We live near a lot of great places to eat, so usually we were never more than a mile or two away on a night out. But so far, no one’s actually called us to come home!
Try to have a good time
You’re out! Without kids! Maybe in a nice shirt without snot on it! Try to enjoy it. Some nights, we are gone four or five hours. Some nights we’re gone for two and get home and put our big kids to bed. Whatever makes you feel comfortable is what works for now, and that’s okay. Enjoy the time you do have out. Being a mom of twins (plus more) means you need time to talk to your partner uninterrupted, enjoy eating a meal without little people sticking their fingers in it, and maybe a glass of wine. Even if all you feel comfortable with, can afford, or have time for is an hour or two, it’s still worth having a babysitter!
Meg Sacks is the mother of four – including boy-girl twins. She is an office mama with 19 years of corporate communications experience and is also a contributor to Jacksonville Moms Blog and the MOPs International blog. She loves writing about her kids and learning over and over again how to be a mom – especially to twins!