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How to Find a Babysitter

Apr30

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Dear sweet, brave, clever, wonderful Amalah,

Having been a long time reader of yours, I know that you and your other readers are just the cleverest beings on this earth, so I am writing to you hoping you can offer some advice. You have all helped me in the past – I’m the stupid Australian who was told her jeans would stick to her legs in the cold of a New Jersey winter (they didn’t, although I did cry when we were in NYC because it was ridiculously cold – how do you cope??) So, on to my question/quandary this time…..

In 2 weeks time, my husband and I will be relocating to Las Vegas from Sydney, Australia with our 9mth old daughter, as my husband is an entertainer and has a residency in one of the casinos on the strip. We do not have any family or friends in Vegas – which is not a problem – but because of the nature of my husband’s work, there will be times when I will need to use a babysitter.

My question to you and your readers, is how do you choose a sitter and know that they are safe in the US? Here in Australia we have used a wonderful agency that provides Mothercare nurses or Midwives that have had criminal checks, and provide several references that you are able to read. You are told in advance what their exact qualifications are, how old they are, if they have any children of their own etc etc, and you have the right to request another sitter if they do not appeal. I have used this service a few times when my husband has performed interstate, and have felt perfectly confident leaving my precious girl with these women. Do you have something similar over there?

Out of all the things to worry about when relocating OS, I am finding this aspect the most stressful, so if anyone has any advice about this topic, or some simple tips, I would be so grateful.

Thanking you all in advance,
Justine

PS – If anyone knows a good hairdresser in Vegas…. !

I admit the way we’ve found several (okay, two) of our (wonderful, most-favorite-ever) babysitters would horrify most of you: through my blog. Other local bloggers who contacted me, like, hey, uh, I live near you and babysit all the time, have references, would love to meet with you in person so you can establish that I am not entirely crazy. And we met in person and called their references and all had an awkward laugh at how random it was…and used them each exclusively for ages, until they each got new jobs and loves and moved out of the area. (And BROKE. OUR. HEARTS. If either of them happen to be reading this. *shakes fist*) Our last sitter was kind enough to recommend a friend of hers as a replacement and brought her along one night to show her the ropes. And when THAT sitter’s schedule turned out to be a little more crowded than we thought, SHE recommended a friend and brought her along one night. And everybody is lovely and more than capable and trustworthy and Noah adores them (once he stops the abandonment dramatics two seconds after we walk about the door). (Dear Noah: WE CAN HEAR YOU LAUGHING BY THE TIME WE GET TO THE CAR.)

I also must say that if there’s ONE benefit to being in an area with an insanely high cost of living, it’s that you don’t have to go with teenagers for babysitting if you don’t want to — all of our sitters have been in their 20s, living and working good jobs on their own, but who still need more money than a typical DC-area entry-level job will pay. Thus, they babysit a couple nights a week.
But. Summer is coming, and that means it’s almost time for me to hire a mother’s helper a couple mornings a week. Exactly when our current sitters, you know, WORK. The last time I did this, I used Craigslist, and the response was insane and overwhelming and it seriously took FOREVER for me to sort through all those hundreds of emails of various literacy levels and set up interviews and gaaaah. That was over two years ago and I’ve yet to try it again, even though the girl I hired ended up being quite lovely, if not ENTIRELY honest about her availability and when she would be returning to college in the fall.

This time I will be turning to a service. Yes, we DO have babysitting/nanny agencies here in the States. You can find them with a little simple Googling, looking in the phone book, picking up a copy of one of those free local parenting magazines and flipping to the classified section. They’ll provide all the services you mentioned, although you will certainly pay a little more for them. I looked into a couple local ones a few months back and got the impression they made more sense if you’re looking for a full-time, long-term nanny rather than a nights/weekends/occasional sitter (although they certainly offer those services as well). But if you need someone at the last minute, they’ll do all the legwork for you and the person who shows up at your door SHOULD be thoroughly vetted and trustworthy, which is beyond valuable.

I’d imagine, in a city like Las Vegas, you will find a TON of options. It’s full of hotel guests who want a grown-up dinner out — or only want to pay for two show tickets — but need someone to watch the kids back in the room, so the hotels and casinos likely have a slew of babysitting agencies on speed dial. This could either work in your favor (so much competition keeps prices low) or not (hotel guests willing to pay exorbitant fees means it’s essentially another part of the rip-off tourist trade).

There’s also Sittercity, a nationwide database of babysitters, nannies, petsitters, you name it. The sitters upload a profile, experience, references, schedule, etc. It’s free to search, but you do need to pay a membership fee to actually contact any of the sitters, if you find a listing that appeals to you. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Sittercity.com sent me a free one-year membership when Ezra was born.) Quite a few of the sitters offer background checks and boast CPR certifications, but not all. The membership fee is cheaper than what the local nanny agencies around here charge, however, but that probably depends on where you live.

And of course, you can just ask people. Even if they aren’t your *friends*, you can ask where they found their sitter or if they’d mind passing along her number. (Don’t be surprised if they won’t share, though. A dependable sitter is valuable, hence the high agency fees, so some people prefer to NOT be competing with you over who calls and books her for Saturday night. Oh my God, it’s more drama than Showgirls!)

Related Babysitting Articles:
* How To Find a Babysitter (when grandparents aren’t an option)
* How to Interview a Teenaged Babysitter
* How To Keep Your Favorite Babysitter From Being Poached By The Joneses
* How to best manage your child’s caregiver

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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17 Responses to “How to Find a Babysitter”

  1. beth Apr 30 at 11:37 am Reply Reply

    Don’t forget local universities… contact the school’s career services center and ask if they have an online job board or something similar. They should be able to help you out.

  2. lauralaylin Apr 30 at 11:43 am Reply Reply

    I use my mom’s group to find all of my babysitters. Lots of moms do it for extra money on the side. My mom’s group has lots of chapters throughout the country, including one in Vegas (http://www.themommiesnetwork.org/locations.php), but you can easily find another if you just search and ask other moms you meet once you get there. Some advertise on craigslist as well.

  3. Adrienne Apr 30 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

    You know, I’d bet there’s a good chance that whatever hotel you’ll be living in will have an on-site (possibly even free) child-care. It is Vegas, after all, where hotels generally come with lots of freebies (since they’re making the majority of their money on the casinos).
    There is probably a website for the hotel where you can find out what kind of services they offer. And a hotel child-care center would most likely be very careful in terms of hiring practices and maintaining insurance, especially here in the sue-happy USA. It’s probably worth looking in to, at the very least.

  4. HSW Apr 30 at 12:07 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve been in Vegas since July 2000 — best hairdresser for me is Jason Jamiel at the Hotbox Salon (2185 East Windmill suite 106. Las Vegas, NV, 89123. Phone 702-671-4000). I’ve been going to him about 8 years.
    My mother in law sits for us when she visits from Phoenix so I have no tips there.

  5. Darcey Apr 30 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    Like Beth said, local universities can be great places to look. I’m a LV native (now living in Atlanta), and there are plenty of local colleges (Clark County Community College and UNLV being the two that I have experience with) to look into — my mom, when she was in nursing school, said a lot of her fellow students were babysitting on the side, and as a bonus, they generally come with CPR certification and basic first-aid… being nursing students.

  6. Jess Apr 30 at 12:44 pm Reply Reply

    Might also want to look into a babysitting co-op. Where you don’t pay any money but trade a night of babysitting some other poor sap’s kid. That’s if you don’t mind returning the favor. They’re set up all over and that’s how I was babysat as a kid. Google can help you find one in vegas. :)

  7. Melissa Apr 30 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    Just my $0.02, but I’d really advise moms not to discount teenage babysitters for non-infants and kids that don’t have separation anxiety. I babysat from age 12 to 22, and I really think I was a better babysitter when I was younger, with the exception of infants (they made me nervous, and I’d stress a lot easier if I couldn’t get the baby to stop crying).
    The younger I was, the more energy I had and I was much better about really *playing* with the kids. When I got older, I had much more going on that left me tired and busy (eg, classes with lots of homework, another job). Of course I never neglected the kids, but I was a lot more likely to try to steer them towards walks in the stoller, reading stories, etc. rather than a game of tag or hide and seek. Also, my schedule was a lot lighter so I was way easier to book, plus, since I didn’t have other job options, the babysitting jobs were really important to me, so I’d make more of an effort on extra things (like doing dishes if the kids napped, rather than doing my homework). I was never a bad babysitter at any point, but when I was younger, I was a REALLY good babysitter. Just some food for thought.
    PS – If you do hire a younger sitter, please don’t only hire her for day jobs and then get someone older for the cushy night ones where the kids sleep most of the time. That used to really drive me nuts.

  8. Melissa Apr 30 at 1:19 pm Reply Reply

    I also live in Las Vegas and will definitely look into HSW’s hair dresser because I have been looking for a while.
    For childcare, I used Craigslist and then checked the references myself. If you live on the Southeast side, I highly recommend her! TC has been going to her since he was about 4 months old. She’s been doing childcare for 25 years, was certified in the state of California where things are more stringent and I looked up her CA record online. We love her organic, no TV, generally hippie ways (even though we are not so much the same) and she’s potty training TC (he’s not even two until next month, I love her!) this week which is AWESOME. She is just awesome, have I mentioned that?
    I didn’t have any luck with the local colleges, the students that applied to us were not what we were looking for. And the only hotel/casino that I know that offers employee childcare is the MGM which is pretty expensive. We found that anyone we found through the agencies were also very expensive. But it’s always worth looking because your situation is likely different than ours.
    Definitely take the time to look around though and find out where you will be living vs working…makes a huge difference here! Even though it is all one big town. :) And welcome!

  9. Rachel Apr 30 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    http://www.nannies4hire.com
    I’ve used this site to find families to babysit for. Loved it.

  10. Jenn May 01 at 11:07 am Reply Reply

    I don’t know what hotel you’ll be living/working with, but I love the salon at the Golden Nugget. That’s where I usually go when I’m there. :)
    No help with sitters though, no kids. :(

  11. EH May 01 at 11:38 am Reply Reply

    Seconding Rachel’s nod to nannies4hire.com. We found our nanny there, and she’s great. It is more nanny focused, but there are babysitter listings on there. It’s the same setup as sittercity — you can look through the listings for free, then pay a monthly fee to be able to contact the people.

  12. jasmineN May 02 at 1:32 pm Reply Reply

    I second the babysitting co-op, if you can find one. We had one when I was a kid. Not only did my parents get free babysitting, my mom made good friends for life with other moms. This could be a great way to make friends after moving to a new city.

  13. Stacy May 04 at 9:40 pm Reply Reply

    Another trick: check with the local university’s job placement center. They likely keep a list of university student who want to babysit. In entertainment towns, this is pretty common (I went to college in Los Angeles and grad school in Nashville) and I’d bet some cash money that UNLV keeps a list.

  14. Melissa May 05 at 11:32 am Reply Reply

    Several of my friends with children turn to local daycare centers. A lot of those folks make extra money babysitting and you can be sure that they have experience and on-site references.

  15. Meredith May 05 at 8:13 pm Reply Reply

    Another great place is to find a Recreation Center or YMCA that does a babysitter training class. They go over basic first aid, ways to entertain unhappy kiddos, and proper etiquette (like picking up toys before parents get home). The graduates are usually a little younger, but their enthusiasm more than makes up for it. And, if they sit for you regularly for long enough, you can basically train them to do anything you need (i.e. baths, dinner, etc).

  16. Abby May 06 at 7:56 pm Reply Reply

    Just to second what Melissa said…don’t discount teenagers, especially for once or twice a week jobs. Often the YMCA or like organizations offer babysitting classes and can refer you to a recent graduate.

  17. rachel May 11 at 11:08 pm Reply Reply

    ok, just to say again what others have said, there’s nothing wrong with (most) teenage babysitters. i started babysitting when i was about 14 or so and it was a good source of income until i got my first “real” job at a drycleaners when i was 17. i was an honors student, didn’t drink or anything until college, and was active in church, which is where i met most of the families i baby sat for (and a lot of them were good friends with my parents and had known me practially since i was born, so they trusted me). plus, you can probably get away with paying a teenager less, back in those days i thought $25 or $30 for a night of babysitting was good income. just my two cents.

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