We sat down with babysitter Hassanatou Barry of Staten Island, NY. We were excited to get to know her and hear about her experience as a child care professional.
How did you get into becoming a babysitter?
I have been babysitting for 7 years now. I come from a very big West African family, so It began as a bonding experience with close cousins, nieces, and nephews. I would watch them when their parents would be in town. It eventually turned into a source of income throughout high school and college and I was instantly hooked!
If you’re not taking care of kids, what would we find you doing?
I love to be outside! I live in Staten Island—which is the “rural borough” of New York City. I take advantage of exploring all of the different city activities with my friends and taking in all the beautiful sights.
What She Thinks
When it comes to the relationship between the caregiver and the family, always always always: form open lines of communication.
In your words, what’s the difference between a babysitter and nanny?
A nanny is someone who is full-time and on a regular schedule with the same family. A babysitter is part-time and on an irregular schedule with a family. You can be both a nanny and a babysitter—they’re terms that define the function of the specific job. Nannies typically have contracts, salaried pay, negotiated benefits and holiday bonuses whereas babysitters typically don’t.
Tell us about your process of getting to know a new family/kids.
It’s really important to me to schedule one-on-one time with the kids and the parents separately. Even if it is just for a few minutes while the parent is in the other room. This gives me a chance to see what the children are like when their parents aren’t around and the connection between us. Also, setting aside time to have an undistracted conversation with the parent is important in forming clear communication from the start.
What is the most important thing in maintaining a healthy working relationship with families?
When it comes to the relationship between the caregiver and the family, always always always: form open lines of communication. If an issue arises due to the lack of communication, you should use your best judgment and walk away because it’s not worth it.
Have you ever had to “break up” with a family?
Yes, but it was because my schedule changed. I was transitioning from working at my local mall to starting school again and an internship. I told the family about this shift in my schedule and how I wouldn’t be available on the days that they would need me anymore and they were completely understanding about it. I gave her a little more than a month’s notice because it’s hard for families to find reliable and trustworthy care. To help offset the transition, I offered to help find my replacement by reaching out to the babysitters that I know.
What has caring for kids taught you?
Professionalism and responsibility. Being a babysitter is a job—you’re being paid for your services so you should treat it as a job. Whether you’re a babysitter, nanny, or au pair. While the environment of being a babysitter can seem informal or casual (in someone’s house), that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be professional. This includes having a resume, what you wear to the job, your demeanor with the kids, how you talk to the parents, etc. As a caregiver, someone else is trusting you with their child. Responsibility is so important when being a babysitter. Additionally, the more I’m with children, my love for them continues to grow. Whether I know the child or not, I always feel a strong attachment to them.
What is the most frustrating thing that kids can do while in your care?
Not listening to you or showing respect. The family culture that I grew up in made sure that we understood to always respect our elders. It doesn’t matter if they are a few years or a few months older, you should respect them at all times. If I notice that listening and showing respect is becoming an issue with a child, I would approach the parents about it. And if it becomes an ongoing issue, then I would talk to the parents about resigning from my position. You’re not there to judge the parents on how they are raising their child, but if you’re not able to do your job comfortably because the child is talking back or isn’t listening to you, then that’s a huge concern.
What would the worst day on the job look like for you?
This is a true story. I had been caring for this particular family for a couple years now. The typical situation had been that the youngest (2 years old) would cry when the parents left, but I’d be able to calm him down after about 5 minutes or so. But on this particular day, I couldn’t seem to calm him down—he’s just crying and crying. Sometimes having his sister (5 years old) next to him helps, but she refused to help because she was occupied in playing with her new lego set she was gifted. I then tried food. I know the youngest loves to eat, so I let him pick out whatever he wanted out of the fridge and that seemed to work. All this while I’m going back and forth between floors of the house to make sure the sister is was ok, but keeping the small lego pieces from the brother at the same time. It’s now dinner time and the sister decides to bring her tablet with her and out of jealousy, the brother starts crying again and throwing food on the floor. As dinner time finished, I’m trying to care for the youngest, clean up, and still keep an eye on the oldest. Before you know it, it’s bath time, but there’s a surprise! For the first time, the sister refused to take a bath. After a long conversation going back and forth, she decided to finally make the bath happen. The youngest has always been challenging to get to sleep, but it was even harder this night. And even after I finally make it happen, the oldest goes into his room and wakes him up! The parents finally get home around 10pm to find me in a state of stress, sitting on the floor within the bedroom still trying to get both of kids to bed.
There are a lot of babysitters who are passionate and want to work, but aren’t able to land jobs and they’re not sure why. We talk about how each family is different and the importance of resume building, conflict resolution, pay negotiation, establishing healthy communication, and so much more.
Let’s talk about The Babysitting Guru—how did it all start?
I live in Staten Island, so my commute to get to the city is 2 hours. When I was working full time, I was commuting 4 hours per day, Monday through Friday. I was working for an amazing non-profit, but the work demand was really high. So I wasn’t sleeping very much, feeling over-worked, and not eating well. I was living with my parents, so thankfully I didn’t have many expenses, but I was still just too stressed out for being a 22-year-old. I couldn’t sustain this. I’ve always love babysitting and talking to people, so I wanted to find a way to combine the two. I started doing some research and found all of these organizations that were for nannies, but nothing for babysitters. I found this odd because even though they might be part-time, there’s still a large volume of them. From the teenagers looking to have their first job to the college kids trying to figure out their next steps after graduation. So that’s when The Babysitting Guru came alive—I wanted to create a platform to educate babysitters. There are a lot of babysitters who are passionate and want to work, but aren’t able to land jobs and they’re not sure why. We talk about how each family is different and the importance of resume building, conflict resolution, pay negotiation, establishing healthy communication, and so much more. I also wanted to partner with brands that are related to the caregiving profession to give a face and personalize the work that we do.
What have you learned along the way with The Babysitting Guru so far?
When people think about babysitting, they don’t think of it as a serious job. I know I am creating a pathway for something that’s never existed before. There’s no rulebook or guidebook on babysitting. I’m finding connections in all sorts of places: Facebook groups, LinkedIn—I am a proud babysitter on LinkedIn! This is how I can make this job be seen as a profession and taken seriously.
What is your favorite kid snack?
Chocolate Granola Bars
What is your favorite book to read with kids?
The Cat in the Hat, Curious George, and The Hungry Caterpillar
What is your favorite movie to watch with kids?
Frozen—I’m not sick of it!
What kid-related thing are you obsessed with right now?
Legos! All the sets are so creative right now.
What is a kid-related thing you never want to see/hear again?
What is your go-to rainy day activity?
Hide and go seek
What is your favorite nickname that a kid has given you?
What is the most interesting reason a parent has needed you for child care?
A trip to Target to get Halloween costumes for the kids.
What’s the most annoying thing kids do?
Touching my hair. It’s natural, so it changes often and they’re fascinated by it.
What’s your one magic wand wish for child care?
Making it affordable for and accessible to any and every parent.