Babysitting

211. When looking for a babysitter, parents must bear in mind that Yichud applies even with close relatives. For example, it is forbidden for an uncle to babysit for his niece (above 3 years old). Another common situation to be aware of is that it is forbidden for a teenage girl to babysit for her infant niece or nephew when her sister is out (e.g. she went out to a wedding and is not expected back until late) and the girl is alone with her brother-in-law. This case is most prevalent among young married couples who invite their siblings to stay with them and use them as babysitters. The wife must be vigilant never to allow her sister to be in Yichud with her husband.

212. A girl over the age of 12 may not babysit for a boy above the age of nine, unless there are shomrim or other factors which serve to permit Yichud.1

213. A boy over the age of 13 may not babysit for a girl aged 3 and above unless there are shomrim or other factors which serve to permit Yichud.2

214. As mentioned previously in the section on shomrim, a Jewish boy or girl from the age of 6 until 9 is an effective shomer. Therefore, a seminary girl may babysit for a 9 year old boy if another child aged 6 to 9 is present. One shomer is effective during the day; however at night two shomrim are required.3 Let us look at an example: a seminary girl is asked to babysit for a family consisting of a 9 year old boy, a 7 year old girl and a 4 year old girl. There is a problem of Yichud with the 9 year old boy, but it is permitted for her to babysit by day, because the 7 year old girl is an effective shomer. At night, however, the seminary girl may not babysit, since two shomrim are required and the 4 year old girl does not qualify as a shomer. In this case, to leave the door open and create a Pesach Posuach would only be effective during the early hours of the evening when people would still enter unannounced. In difficult circumstances, i.e. the parents were supposed to return by day but were delayed, a neighbor may be given the key and specifically asked to come in unexpectedly in order to prevent Yichud.4 (See next point).

215. If there are no children in the home that qualify as shomrim and a female babysitter finds herself in a Yichud situation, she should give a key to two neighbors and ask that they enter independently from time to time, hence creating a situation where she has two shomrim even at night.5

216. If a married couple employs a seminary girl to babysit, then they must make adequate arrangements for the babysitter’s return home. Most preferable would be that the woman of the house take the babysitter home. If this is not possible, then if a) they live in a large city, b) there are people on the streets even late at night, c) the way to the babysitter’s home is along main roads that are well-lit and d) there are passersby, then the man of the house may take her home. (In this case, if driving her home, it is preferable that she sit in the rear.) If, however, the house is in a secluded area (e.g. in a country bungalow colony) and it would be necessary to drive along dark roads, etc., then the man may not drive her home. In a case of great difficulty one may be lenient if one of the children who is of age to be a shomer accompanies the father.6 As regards taking a taxi, see the section on taxis.

217. When planning social events and employing babysitters, couples must take the Yichud factor into account.

218. If the babysitter is married, and her husband is in town and knows where she is and could potentially arrive unexpectedly, then one may permit the Yichud situation even at night.7

219. A married man whose wife is in the vicinity may babysit for a girl as long as his wife is expected home shortly. See Ch. 4.

220. If the woman of the house is away or if the man is a single parent, and he employs a female babysitter, then upon his return home, he must be careful (unless there are adequate shomrim present) not to enter the house until the babysitter has exited; or else, at least he should leave the door open.

221. In general, a man must be careful not to develop an overly friendly relationship with the household help or babysitter. For this reason, and certainly for tznius considerations, the main communication with the household help or babysitter should be via the woman of the house.

222. Halachically it is permitted for a boy under the age of Bar Mitzvah to babysit for a girl, and for a girl under the age of Bas Mitzvah to babysit for a boy. However, this should be discouraged wherever possible a) for tznius considerations and b) for safety.8

223. One may not employ a non-observant woman to babysit where there would be an issue of Yichud, even if she would not be bothered by the prohibition.9

224. One should not employ a woman — Jewish or not — who is a prutzah to babysit even if there are effective shomrim available. This should be avoided not so much for Yichud considerations (since halachically a child shomer is effective even for a prutzah10 ) as for tznius considerations. A word of caution — when employing a non-observant babysitter for observant children, one should give the babysitter certain guidelines: a) she should be dressed in a manner of tznius; b) she should be told about Kashrus, e.g. she should not offer the children any foods that do not have the appropriate hechsher, or if the children are fleischig (have eatenmeat), she should not give them dairy foods; c) she should not turn on the radio and listen to unsuitable music; and d) she should not go online in front of the children. Some people are afraid to give babysitters or housekeepers guidelines in case they might be offended. This is a mistaken approach. The guidelines should be given in a friendly manner and with sensitivity. That way the hired person knows exactly what they may or may not do, and both the babysitter and the parent feel more secure.

225. Strictly speaking, it is permitted to employ a non-Jewish woman to babysit a Jewish boy under the age of Bar Mitzvah and there is no problem of Yichud (See Ch. 1) However, all the points mentioned in the previous paragraph should be taken into consideration.