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What to Do if the Babysitter Cancels


Most of us, at one time or another, has had a babysitter bail at the last minute. The important thing is to always have a backup plan available so that this inconvenience doesn't cause chaos. Depending on your plans (ie., work or pleasure), there are a variety of solutions:

Have a Backup Sitter

This is the most obvious answer, one that still allows you to continue your plans relatively unchanged. A backup sitter can be anyone you can trust to fill in in a pinch, such as:

  • Close friends who leave nearby (it goes without saying that you return the favor when you can).
  • Family members (see above).
  • Drop-in daycare services are springing up all over the country, and they are a wonderful solution to last minute childcare needs. Most are open from early morning to late evening and offer up to four hours of childcare at a time. It's worth finding one in your area and signing up if you ever think you might have a need.


Depending on your plans, you might be able to reschedule for a time when you do have child care available. If you were going to have coffee with a friend, you are more flexible than if you were heading to the doctor. Use this solution when you know you can easily reschedule with few consequences, such as missed appointment fees.

Bring the Kids Along

Date night might have to become family fun night, but at least you get to go out, right? Use this solution for times you know it's OK to bring the kids along. Obviously, you don't want to use this for your biggest client meeting of the year.

Stay at Home

This solution works well for Date Night, too. Instead of heading out to a restaurant and a movie, you might end up ordering in and downloading a film on Netflix. It can still be fun, and it's still precious time spent with the one you love.

Take the Day Off

If you schedule a sitter to come during the day so you can get work done, you may have to decide to take the day off. If you go this route, go wholeheartedly and really make it a special day. Head to the zoo, picnic in the park, or take your kids to a movie. You can turn this frustrating situation into quality time with your children.

Swap with Your Husband

This solution works well if you can do your job at any time of the day or night. When Daddy gets home, he takes over completely: dinner, bath time, stories become his responsibility while you get to hole up in your office and work.

Find an Agency

If finding a reliable sitter is a real problem for you, you might want to look into a local babysitting/nanny agency. Most of these agencies rigorously screen their employees, thereby ensuring professional and prompt service.  Some also offer a cancellation refund, or provide a backup sitter if your regular sitter cannot come.

When making your plans, always have a backup strategy in place in case your babysitter can't make it. It will help you keep a frustrating situation from becoming hectic!

Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.

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