Finding is a babysitter essential for parenting happiness! But it’s also hard. When you live far away from helpful family (like many of us are in the Bay Area), here are some good options:
1. Free or Cheap Listings: Craigslist and Care.com are only okay in quality (you have to do a lot of screening to find a winner - not ideal for a one night babysitter hunt), but they’re easy. Craigslist is free. Care.com has a small membership fee (something like $25).
2. Expensive agencies: Town & Country and Aunt Ann’s Staffing are great, but kind of snobby feeling (at least to me) and expensive - fees can range from 1,000-5,000 dollars! That may be appropriate if you don’t have time to hunt for the perfect permanent nanny, but a lot of fuss for a night out. (I will however plug Amy Osborn’s more down to earth agency, Genuine Nannies - we used them and love our nanny!)
3. Babysitting Exchanges (The New Old-Fashioned Way): The best option is to join and nurture a local network of parents who live near you, then trade nights.
- How it works: Put your kids to bed, then your friend comes over and their spouse stays home with their own kids. You go out. (In some babysitting exchange groups, the friend babysitting earns two nights of babysitting if the kid wakes up while they’re on duty, and one night if they don’t.) The friend babysitting gets a relaxing night reading, catching up on emails, or just watching TV at your house, and you get a free night out with your lover! (Remember those?)
- How to find the network? Most cities have one you can join. BigTent.com hosts a lot of them online. Palo Alto has PAMP (the Parent’s Club of Palo Alto & Menlo Park). SF has GGMG (the Golden Gate Mothers Group) which charges a membership fee but offers a lot and is usually worth it - you’re paying high rent anyway and live one of the least family friendly cities in America! Treat yourself! (I’m lucky - SF’s Potrero Hill has it’s own free neighborhood group which totally ROCKS - email me for details.)
4. Use an online babysitter service: Great for when all of your friends are busy, your mom lives far away, your whole neighborhood network is on vacation, but you really need a night out! Here are three I know about:
- WonderSitter.com…I’ve heard great things from several friends who use them. SF only I think. How it works: They screen and interview everybody for you, so you just tell them when you need your sitter and if there are any special needs or qualifications (e.g., driving, pets) and they send somebody. $15/hr plus $15 booking fee. You can book in advance or even try last minute.
- UrbanSitter.com. My friends in Foster City use it and love it - they’re nationwide.
- SitterCity.com also works in Palo Alto but I haven’t heard much about them except in articles (it’s a husband and wife startup; cute story).
Good luck with your search, have fun, and when in doubt always remember - DATE NIGHTS ARE CHEAPER THAN DIVORCE ATTORNEYS! BABYSITTERS ARE CHEAPER THAN THERAPISTS! You hereby have permission to enjoy. :)