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Talk to your sitter about appropriate dress

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. When a babysitter shows up to work in an outfit that unabashedly draws all eyes, it can be, well, really awkward.

A friend of mine described a scenario that may be familiar:

My friend and her husband were heading out for a date night. The couple was going to a cocktail party and then a dinner at a romantic restaurant. It had been a while since she and her husband had been anywhere without the kids and she was really looking forward to the evening. She had put on a flattering outfit and felt great. When the babysitter knocked on the front door, she entered the house wearing a very low-cut t-shirt and fitted, if-you-dare-wear-short-jean skirt with platform heels. She looked sexy and fabulous, a little too fabulous, actually, given babysitting tasks ahead of her that evening which included cooking and feeding a toddler spaghetti, cleaning up the mess afterwards, playing Legos on the floor, and reading bedtime stories. When the babysitter bent over to pick up the couple’s child, she managed to display that she was wearing outrageously fabulous undergarments too.

After such a display of fabulousness, Mom was feeling a little less fabulous herself when she headed out the door. In fact, she was downright irritated and angry about the lack of professionalism and consideration the babysitter – who was making a fair wage at her expense– displayed. Worse, she was concerned about the quality of care her children were going to get that evening. How could someone with such poor judgment in how she presents herself for a job be a responsible babysitter? Was she only thinking about the date she had later that night? The late-night party she was going to go to? The parents’ night out was ruined before they got to the car. Mom was angry with herself too. Was this situation—this awkwardness– something that could have been avoided?

Talking to sitters about appropriate dress is a sensitive topic. Assuming that babysitters are aware of the same nuances they are when it comes to dress has led many moms to moments of embarrassment or downright shock upon greeting a new sitter or bringing a sitter along to the pool or to the beach. I asked a woman in her early twenties about the provocative dress I had noticed on the street and on the job around town. Her response was an interesting one, “Well, if we feel comfortable with our dress, you should too. Maybe we aren’t as afraid of our sexuality as your generation is.” Huh… OK… My response to her, “It’s not about being comfortable with one’s sexuality. It’s about time and place, awareness, sensitivity to environment, appropriateness and consideration for others. “

Given the obvious fact that not everyone is going to get it when it comes to standards of dress, we are left with one conclusion: As an employer, do not be afraid to make your standards clear. A simple, “By the way, you should also know that we have a dress code for our sitters…” could accomplish a lot. If the sitter balks or expresses dismay, perhaps she is not the person you want to leave your children with anyway. Her heart may not be in the job.

If you care about how your babysitter is dressed or the message her dress sends to those around her, including your children, it behooves you to make your needs known. Who knows? Maybe you will be doing your sitter a favor simply by letting her know that not everyone views dress in the same way. It could save you a lot of irritation and maybe even embarrassment, and it certainly could help your date night get off to a better start.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

October 4, 2015

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