How to Find a Babysitter
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,
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!)