It takes a village to raise a child – that is something everyone knows. What I have learned is that when your extended family lives several states away, it’s inevitable that part of your village will be comprised of people that you hire to help care for your kiddos when you need an extra hand.
When I was pregnant, I had so many friends offer to babysit (because who doesn’t love snuggling a sweet, smushy baby, right?!). But to say that I was hesitant to ask was an understatement. I am awful at asking for help. I knew that my friends would be willing to help, but most of my friends work significant hours during the week when I needed help most, and by the time I was emotionally ready to leave Colin with a babysitter, he had settled into a 6:00 p.m. bedtime (around 3.5 months). My friends had offered to babysit, but I knew that none of them imagined that as sitting on my couch with a baby monitor. Whomp, whomp. While I knew I could ask friends if I was in a bind, I knew it was time to seek out help.
Where we live, finding a high-school-aged sitter is not an option, and honestly I wasn’t sure where to turn next. I also discovered early on in the hunt for a sitter that many people in my area are reluctant to share the information of their favorite sitter. When Saturday night is approaching, no one wants their sitter already booked to watch the baby next door. I took two approaches for finding my babysitters, both of which were very organic. I didn’t go through services, although I know many people have found great lucky with sites like sittercity.com and urbansitter.com. Before I spent money in a search, I wanted to work my network and see if I could find a great sitter on my own.
The first thing I did was start asking friends (mostly those without kids) if they knew anyone who currently babysits. Many of our friends work in middle management roles in companies that hire recent grads, and I remembered that many of my friends babysat to supplement their meager incomes when we first graduated. I was absolutely thrilled to get my first babysitter, Kimmy, this way. My friend was this young woman’s supervisor at work, and she vouched for her warm personality, competence and professionalism. In addition, she regularly babysat for another of their co-workers, so I had another glowing recommendation from a family she worked with. For months, Kimmy was our only sitter. She was available on nights and weekends, and because I was insanely protective over bedtime, she never actually had to do anything but watch the monitor (the bonus of an early bedtime, I guess).
For a long time, this was fine. Mr. C and I were still sleep deprived new parents, and aside from quick dinner dates and monthly board meetings for the nonprofit I’m involved with, we didn’t have a great need for too much help.
When C reached eight months of age, his separation anxiety had intensified to a point where we felt the need to intervene and begin teaching him about how mommy always comes back. After much discussion and assessment of our budget, Mr. Confetti and I decided to hire a babysitter for a couple hours a week (literally, two) to watch Colin while he was awake, so that he could practice being away from his mommy (and I could schedule doctors’ appointments and run non-baby-friendly errands during this quick window of time). Because Mr. Confetti and I treasured our time together with Colin on the weekends, and Mr. C’s time with Colin was (and is) limited primarily to weekends, we needed to hire a new sitter, since our friends and Kimmy were all at work during the week.
My old strategy wouldn’t work, since all the referrals I had gotten from my initial search were young women who worked full time Monday through Friday. But I was at a loss, because in my mind, most people who watched kids during the week did so full-time as nannies, and would want a fill-time gig, or at least a full day (which we didn’t want or need, and certainly couldn’t afford).
Then my mom told me the most obvious solution: college students. They have flexible schedules during the week, are always looking for extra cash and they are happy to babysit on weekends since their social life doesn’t even begin until 10 pm or later. When my sister and I were little, my mom put a flyer up at a local college with a tear-sheet of strips with her name and number on it, and she found many of our babysitters that way.
College kids these days probably rarely glance up from their iPhones to look at bulletin boards, so this wasn’t going to work. Instead, I reached out to my contacts yet again. I knew a former colleague was a recent grad from a local university, and I asked her if she knew anyone still in school who would be interested in babysitting. I gave her some information about what I was looking for (experienced sitter with references, CPR certified, available 2 hours a week, etc.), and what she did was incredible – she emailed her entire sorority listserv, telling anyone interested to email me directly. I got several responses, and after speaking with the girls who replied, I quickly narrowed it to a favorite, Carolyn, who came over so I could meet her, she could meet Colin, and we all just clicked!
Not only has she proven to be an excellent babysitter, but when we are in a bind finding someone on short notice, she has reached out to her sisters and friends to find us a back-up roster of monitor/couch/make sure the house doesn’t burn down sitters for weekend nights.
Finally, we found our third and now, most frequent babysitter through our gym. Because of our regular attendance at the gym day care, the staff there are already so familiar with Colin, so it was a no brainer to hire one of them to watch Colin at home.
This has been our process, which of course is unique to us, but in summary, you never know who in your network knows someone who is interested in babysitting. The low hanging fruit are people who are already working in a child care role (day care staff, teachers, etc.) and students in high school and college. Even if you don’t know anyone in these positions, you probably know someone who does!
How did you find your babysitter?