On the Park Bench: This babysitter sets her sights on helping future generations
As many sitters know, being the weekend babysitter can be a bit like being the special guest on a long-running show: You show up, smile, do your best… and you hope everyone likes you. More than anything, you hope to make a positive — even if it’s small — impression on your audience.
Karin Oberlander, a babysitter from Long Island, New York, with a decade of caregiving experience, knows the feeling well.
“A decent amount of time can pass between when I've last seen the kid(s) and it can be hard when enforcing discipline,” she says. “It's also hard not seeing the parents on a regular basis, where that open line of communication is established, like it is with nannies.”
But being the weekend sitter — as opposed to a nanny — certainly has its benefits, she says.
“I’ve found sitting is really good to see different parenting styles from various people…,” she says. “And just becoming used to so many different kids’ personalities and figuring out things that work and may not work — I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned so far.”
Oberlander has known since she was a child that she wanted to help families.
“I’m an only child, and I always enjoyed going to church and being around kids,” she says. “I always felt motherly growing up and as an only child, you tend to mature at a faster rate, so I always wanted to be involved and create connections with families outside of my own small family.”
Oberlander, 29, got Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in health care administration and is currently working toward her doctorate in business with a concentration in human resources.
“My long-term plan is to become a full-time professor, teaching business, human resources and law at a university,” she says. “I want to impact future generations."
Between work, school and watching little ones so local couples can hit the town, we asked Oberlander 10 questions about her approach to caregiving — and the smart, effective tricks she’s swears by.
1. Favorite go-to snack?
I love gummy fruit snacks. Sometimes, as an adult, you feel like you shouldn’t be able to enjoy those types of things, but I love indulging in the kid’s snacks with them! They’re like, “Oh, you’re also enjoying our snacks.” It’s nice to be able to experience it with them.
2. Favorite kids’ book?
I love “The Story of Ferdinand.” I just love the whole storyline of it. It’s pretty funny, and kids tend to have a few laughs.
3. Funniest thing a kid has ever said to you?
It was right after Christmas, I said to one of the kids I was babysitting, “Oh, so what did Santa bring you this year?” We went on and on about all the different things they got, and they said to me, “I can’t believe all of these gifts are free! This man brings these gifts, and they don’t cost us any money!”
4. When all else fails…
Laugh it out and be silly! When a kid is having a meltdown or it’s a difficult situation, make a joke and be silly with them. I think kids really appreciate when adults can be silly, and it deepens the connection you have with them.
5. What’s your favorite outdoor activity to do with kids?
I love going to farms. I loved going to petting zoos since I was little, so I love getting right in there and petting goats or [other animals].
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Acting like a kid! Getting down on the floor and playing with them and just being silly and just having fun.
7. What is always in your bag?
Definitely wipes. I like to keep a small thing of baby wipes in my bag. Even as an adult, I find that you can get something sticky on your hand. It’s good [to have them] to clean up.
8. What’s one thing about kids you wish every adult knew?
You have to have a fine line between wanting your kid to like you and enforcing rules. It’s not just focusing on making the kid happy all the time and being their friend but also knowing you’re a role model there.
9. OK to wake a sleeping baby or no?
Definitely not. When they’re asleep, you don’t want to wake them. I even found as kids get older… and for me personally, if you try to wake me, I’m going to wake up really in not such a good mood. I tend to find you have a crazy monster on your hands when you do wake them from sleep.
10. What’s your magical superpower that always seems to do the trick?
Patience. And just always remaining calm in any crazy situation. In the blink of an eye, a kid could get into something or get hurt, and it’s just being aware that kids are kids, and just remaining calm because they’re going to feed off of how you’re feeling… You literally are molding this little person, and your actions will maybe affect them when they become adults. So, patience is really key.
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