Sittercity Review from a Babysitter Turned Mom

–Disclaimer: Sittercity is a Do Not Faint affiliate. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. That said, I really do love it and have a coupon for you!–

One of my most popular posts is about finding a babysitter online through Sittercity. Since it seems to be helpful to parents (so helpful, in fact, that they noticed the traffic I was sending their way and contacted me about becoming an affiliate), I want to update it with more recent information about the site from a former nanny’s point of view. There’s an added bonus: I am now a mother, myself. We are a low-income family, lucky enough to have family nearby, so we haven’t needed to hire a paid babysitter. I can tell you what I would ask a potential sitter or nanny, and why I would use Sittercity to look for candidates.

I’m about to leave my baby for the weekend to train as a HypnoBirthing Instructor; it will be the first time I leave him for longer than a few hours. He will be with his grandmother and his dad, and this is still hard. I sensed the weight of this conflict, as a sitter. Some parents would apologize for being “neurotic” or asking lots of questions, but I would say, “We’re talking about your children; this has to feel right in your heart and your head.” I have a better understanding, now that I’m a mom. I suddenly have an urge to set up a webcam in my mother-in-law’s home just to stay in touch, somehow, with my baby! I have a wonderful mother-in-law. I know that she will respect my wishes and values. To say that I would take hiring a babysitter seriously–that would be an understatement!

But I’ll start with Sittercity’s care provider profile setup, because it’s important for you to know that it takes a lot of time and energy to set up a profile as a nanny or babysitter, or both.

  • No shortcuts: if you want to show up in babysitter searches, you have to make a profile for babysitting. If you want to show as a nanny, you have to make a nanny profile. I did some copying and pasting, but you have to think about it, when you’re signing up for a specific kind of care. 
  • Thought provoking questions: it takes a long time to fill out a profile for babysitting or nannying, because Sittercity asks many questions. I’ve been using it to find jobs for about five years, and it has come a long way. Job applicants now have to write a minimum of 150 characters for each type of job (babysitter, nanny, tutor, and more). I had to put my heart into my profile, if I wanted to get noticed. I enjoyed writing those paragraphs, because I wanted it to be obvious that my heart was in this job search.
  • Specificity: there are too many boxes to count next to attributes, past experience, training and more, that a sitter can check to provide parents with more information. Does your child have special needs? Don’t worry–the box to check under past experience asks sitters and nannies to check exactly which diagnoses we have had experience dealing with, everything from ADD/ADHD to Autism to Epilepsy to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We also have to be specific about our certifications, and they have added a bunch since I last applied for a job, two years ago. CPR and First Aid are not lumped together. More information is always better, when it comes to the person you hire to spend time with your child.
  • Availability: sitters can click on an easy-to-use, helpful weekly calendar to help us be very clear about when we are available, in three-hour chunks. There are also more general boxes to check, like “Part Time” and “Date Night.” I got email asking me to update that availability every few weeks, to make sure it stayed current.
  • Background checks: sitters decide how many background checks to list–basic, enhanced and motor vehicle. My strategy was to pay for the basic check, which verified my identity and searched databases for any signs of a criminal record. With that check, I knew I would show up higher in search results. I got a neat little badge that showed up by my photo that told parents I had been checked out. I was happy to pay for that, but the enhanced and motor vehicle checks cost more. I was never asked to drive children anywhere, so I didn’t pay for that. If I saw lots of job listings that involved driving, I would have paid for that check. I would just like to suggest that you pay for the enhanced check, if you want it. The enhanced check is not just a database search–it promises and actual person going through records. I can absolutely see how it would provide peace of mind. I just never had the cash. Babysitters and nannies don’t make that much, after all, even if it is hard for parents to find the money for child care.
  • Commitment: even to just respond to a parent’s message, sitters have to click a button that promises that they are available for the job listed. Of course, there are applicants who ignore that promise, but I always loved the website for adding that big, bright reminder to have integrity.

 


Sittercity: The best sitters are here

A coupon for you!

These are the things I very much dislike about the online job search, as a babysitter:

  • Reviews: I am not an appliance. I don’t like the idea of a number of stars appearing next to my name in search results. Call references, if you want a “review.” Most of the parents I’ve worked for didn’t have long-term memberships; they paid for the service as long as they were searching. So they couldn’t add accurate reviews for me without paying for the privilege. It’s a flawed system. 
  • “Featured” profiles: I have worked in some of the highest-paying areas for babysitters in the US, and I get angry at the idea of paying $10/month to be “featured.” That’s about an hour’s pay. It wouldn’t break the bank. But it’s lunch! And I object to paying for what is, essentially, an ad.

Unfortunately, I never found a way around those two things. They never got in my way, as far as I know. Parents never asked why I had no reviews or why I hadn’t been “featured” at the top of the page.

Here’s a parting thought: don’t use Care.com. The reason I never found a way around the reviews and the features is that Care.com introduced them to the business, and Sittericty followed suit. Care.com is hard to use. It’s not just that I find the commercials extremely irritating; it just took me thirty seconds and three failed attempts to find a way to edit my own profile. I have a profile, because I don’t want to miss jobs. But I like using Sittercity, and dread having to visit Care.com. Sittercity has always responded to my questions incredibly quickly. I once complained about a photo on the website, because it depicted a sitter putting makeup on a little girl–I would never in a million years put makeup on a child while her (or his!) parents were not home! It’s a touchy subject. I do much more fun things, when I’m caring for a child. I didn’t expect any response at all, but a representative actually called me to talk it over. We even played phone tag for a bit, so she actually called me back, too. Within a couple of weeks, the picture had changed to a sitter and child baking together! I felt pretty great about that interaction, and it raised my opinion of the company. Sittercity is great and much better than Care.com, an opinion I held long before I earned any money as an affiliate.

HypnoBirthing Training is Next Weekend!

I am so excited, everyone! I will be going to the HypnoBirthing Instructor training, Official HypnoBirthing Institute everything, on August 1st! I can’t wait to meet other people who are super into this, too. It’s four days in a beautiful private home with a gorgeous view, or so I’m told. (Three nights in a Super 8 for me! yay, budget motels!) I’m really not sure what it will be like, and I am a little nervous. I’m extra nervous because it will be my first time away from Walter, who is now nine months old! Somebody pinch me! My baby is crawling all around the living room right now, and I could swear my birth happened only yesterday.

Except that I’m actually really excited to enjoy the part of me that is loving my HB homestudy learning and to spend an entire weekend with only adults.

There will be mixed feelings. My therapist asked me if I expect that it will cause an anxiety spike, this training. That would be terribly ironic, given the emphasis HypnoBirthing itself places on releasing fears, but anything is possible. I met a really annoying hyper person at a group meditation, once.

Another surprise: I am shocking un-anxious about Walter’s eating while I’m gone. I’ll be pumping extra to store, and he’ll have some formula bottles. He’ll be fine. He’s loving solids, lately, particularly yogurt. His dad and Gram are really great at taking care of him, and I trust them while I sleep when we visit Gram.

Yes, I am nervous. But I am also just thrilled that I will finally get going on this and get started helping other women have experiences like mine. I will be joining my teacher/doula/friend Kate’s business, Joyful Birth, and that is what we are aiming for: joyful, nurturing births for loving families. We are working on a new website and everything! I am so grateful to Kate for opening up this world to me. Being a stay-at-home-mom is so rewarding and amazing and fascinating, so teaching classes that are about two hours each, five total, is a really good next step. I will have some time to be Professional, but I won’t be giving up time with him. (If someone else didn’t watch him for at least two hours a week right now, while I did anything else, I would be a big ball of anxiety!)

So, here we go! Big step! Holding my breath and jumping! Weeeeeeee!

Defining My White Privilege: “Call the Police”

White Privilege is a concept that is really difficult to define to white people who do not see it. It’s a good thing that the privilege isn’t obvious, right? I don’t want my son to see glaring examples that show him every day that he is treated better than black and brown peers because he was born to two white parents. At the same time, I most definitely want him to understand that truth. A pair of honest questions about the events that transpired before Trayvon Martin’s murder (morally, I define his killing as murder, regardless of the legal status) gave me a golden opportunity to illustrate that privilege.

“Why didn’t he call the police?”

It had never occurred to me that Martin might have hung up with his girlfriend and called the police to report that he was being stalked and ask for help.

“Isn’t that what you would do?”

Yes. It’s exactly what I would do. What is white privilege? My instinct to find the police, that they will keep me safe is a privilege that Americans with black and brown skin do not share.

In fact, I did go to the police after a stranger had begun talking to me while I walked past the park in my neighborhood and continued talking to me until we were within sight of my building. Let me be clear: I’m not making any kind of parallel between that and what Trayvon Martin experienced. I was not stalked. This guy was relatively polite. He was just a little too interested in me, and I was afraid he had seen where I lived. I was living by myself, and I wanted it on record that he was a very tall white guy with maybe, I can’t quite remember, sandy hair, who liked to hang out at the handball courts across from the Catholic school track (I know–narrows it down a lot, right?). I wanted some kind of record that something had happened, just in case something else happened. I saw all kinds of sexism at the police station, including sexual harassment of the clerk who was recording my complaint about sexual harassment, but neither sexism nor irony is the point, here. The point is that I felt safe going to the police.

Let me take a moment to say that I don’t know the timeline of that horrible night, and I cannot bear to go over it again. I don’t know if that boy had the time to call anyone. I do know that his stalked had called the police. I doubt that yelling out “I’m on the phone with the cops!” like I was taught to do, if I felt afraid of someone, would have helped him, much. Yelling those words, I learned, might scare a criminal away. It has never occurred to me that my stalker might be on the phone with the cops, as well, and that I would be their last priority.

Contrast my lessons in how to walk home, safely, with a recent post by my friend and incredible artist/writer “addyeb” in which she expresses pain about the lessons she must teach her (African-American) son. She explains that, “I have to teach him how to carry himself, talk and express who he is in a certain way so that he’s not viewed as ‘threatening,’ ‘a thug’ ‘a criminal’….’an animal’ even.”

Over the weekend, journalist Melissa Harris-Perry said, on her show on MSNBC, “I will never forget… the relief I felt at my 20 week ultrasound when they told me it was a girl. … And last night, I thought, I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away, wish that they don’t exist, because it’s not safe.” I was watching, and tearing up.

I have no interest in “what if” speculation regarding the guy who creeped me out, on the small scale, or the night Martin was murdered, or race relations and police departments, on a much larger scale. But this is what I can do: illustrate white privilege. It’s not often that privilege is so easy to demonstrate. I’m not grateful that I have such a clear example to show. It just is what it is. This is what I can contribute. I know that not talking about race is just about the worst thing a white mother can do, if her goal is to raise an aware white male who embraces diversity without thinking of peers with different skin tones as “other.” So I’m talking. This is what I can say, right now.

white privilege police

The fact that this image says “safety” to me is white privilege.

The Friend Breakup (continued)

Lucy and I had been friends for years. Why did we let something come between us? Why don’t I know what it was, exactly, that did come between us? The first part of this friend breakup story explains that we were both struggling with our own mental health issues as well as difficult relationships with our parents. We were both lonely, living in nearly empty dorms, working during the summer, while many of our classmates enjoyed vacations or summer programs. I remember calling, and I remember that she didn’t return my calls. Do keep this in mind, though: depression, and probably, the unbearable heat in my dorm room make that whole time a bit of a blur, and I have also never heard Lucy’s side to this story. One night seems to define that summer, and it’s what got me to call the twice weekly therapy program.

I went out on the fire escape outside my dorm room window in an attempt to escape the heat; it seemed romantic, especially because I could see a slice of the Hudson river just to the left of the building down the block. It was early evening. A noise below me caught my attention, and I looked down maybe ten stories at the men working below, moving heavy boxes and crates. (Only in New York City would you find a dorm above a Chinese restaurant.) The moment I looked down, the ground was suddenly so close and just far enough. The railing on the fire escape was so easy to climb over. In that moment, I simultaneously sat there, watching the boxes and crates, the tops of heads, the tiny arms, and I climbed over the railing and just… let go. It happened in my mind. And that put the fear of God into me.

Somehow, I got back through that window. I sat on my bed and called everyone who might possibly be able to come over. I was crying hysterically. No one picked up. I left messages. I don’t know how long the list actually was, but it felt like I made 10,000 calls. I ended up talking to my mother, who was low on the list because she lives far away. Everyone called me back, eventually. Except Lucy. She never called to check on me. It hurt.

It. Hurt. So. Much.

I don’t remember how much interaction Lucy and I had over the next few months. The hurt in my heart festered. I didn’t bring it up. She had sent my things back to me in boxes, through campus mail, when we were living just minutes from each other.

The months passed. My father got worse. I finished a senior thesis on a difficult Virginia Woolf novel, a thesis that involved reading and understanding Derrida and Plato, among others. I applied to thirteen graduate schools, each with a different deadline and different requirements for a writing sample; this meant, essentially, editing my thesis, thirteen times. I was going to therapy twice a week, but I wasn’t taking medication, yet.

But I do remember a lot. Have I blocked out interactions with Lucy? Or did they just not happen? At any rate, she sent out an email to a list of friends, and it asked that we support her, because she was having a difficult time. The hurt I had let fester in my heart exploded into rage. I was so angry. I had reached out to her, personally, and she hadn’t even returned my call. That was probably around June. By December, she was including me in a group email about supporting her?

I didn’t trust myself to respond.

I never responded. In my defense, I was spiraling down into a depression that would land me in the psych ward by spring break. But why didn’t I ever respond?

Because I didn’t want the friendship. It was heavy. It was hard. It was a relief to be free from it. My hurt over the phone call and the email was my excuse. I felt manipulated. I felt like we had been locked in a competition, for years, over theater and music and talent, and I had never wanted to compete in the first place. I felt like we were in a competition over who our friends liked more. The friendship had begun to feel like something out of middle school, maintained so that we wouldn’t rock the boat of The Group for fear that one of us would be left out in the cold. I didn’t respond to the email, because I didn’t have the energy to support Lucy.

I never got in touch with Lucy again, because I didn’t want to be asked to support her ever again. I’m sure that she has felt pain and rejection. I am the one who got to make a choice about that friendship.

We still have two friends in common, and it’s still awkward. The last time I saw Lucy, we were both bridesmaids in our friend’s wedding. We made conversation. It was fine. In the meantime, I had a baby. She sent a card, through the same friend. She got engaged. I sent a congratulatory message through LinkedIN (really). She got married. The second mutual friend had been fighting with her and spent the weekend with me, instead of going to the wedding. Their disagreements have nothing to do with me. But it is awkward that I saw our friend on the trip that was supposed to be for Lucy’s wedding.

I am alright with the awkwardness, because the alternatives are, at best, bizarre and, at worst, petty. Asking friends not to mention her name? It’s something my father would do, which means I know it wouldn’t work, even if the idea were not totally gross. Pretending that I don’t know that she got married, or that I didn’t get the card? Weird and kind of creepy.

I can’t figure out why my heart still hurts, or why my feelings are still hurt. I call this a breakup, because that is what it is. Ex-boyfriends: I don’t invite them over, but if pictures come across my newsfeed on Facebook, I click. Sometimes, I feel smug about my baby and my husband, if it looks like they’re still single. It’s less harsh with Lucy. I wish her joy, and with my whole heart. I do feel jealousy, when a friend is with her, and not me. Is that petty?

Breakups are messy. Often petty. If there’s actual love in a relationship, it never really goes away. The same is true of friendship. But it’s hard to call for a girls’ night out and a tear-fest when “the girls” are stuck in the middle and no one ever said the words, “It’s over.” The end of a romantic relationship has a script built into it.

When a long friendship ends, it’s just people in a mess with no script to follow and too much in common. There is nothing to say, except maybe, “This sucks.”

The Friend Breakup: We Need To Talk

I’ve been listening to a lot of “breakup” music, lately. In part, this is because we listen to CDs when we’re driving, and we drive, a lot, when our son refuses to nap. The car puts him to sleep. It has no iPod/Phone hookup, so we pulled out the ole CDs, and it turns out that my high school collection remains in tact, in its 90s-style book case. I have this music to thank for reminding me to write this post, about friend breakups; it has been on my to-write list since the BlissDom conference. This may be the first of a few posts, because you know, breakups have a tendency to overflow any container we try to keep them in. This may explain the way we all have beloved albums almost entirely dedicated to breakup feelings.

Author, blogger and speaker Annie Downs challenged us at BlissDom to write the difficult topics we know will be uncomfortable, because someone out there needs to read our thoughts on those topic. Ms. Downs, a person I wanted to hug about thirty seconds into her speech, because her personality came across as so warm and kind, confessed to us that she wished there was more out there about friend breakups. We’re not talking about friends who lose touch, here. This is the friendship that has a terribly sad ending, with sad and awkward repercussions for  everyone within a social circle. There are many tears shed during these friend breakups, and they are important. They matter. But we don’t talk about them. Well, Annie Downs, here is the story I promised you that I would tell.

image (3)

For most of the time I was in college, three female friends and I formed a sort of core group. Our friendships solidified during our first year, in part because of proximity. Lucy (not her real name) lived down the hall from me, and is, in fact, accidentally in the background in one of my photos from move-in day at Barnard. My dad and I are standing at the gates, and there she is, walking out the gates, right behind me. It was like some kind of gravitational pull. We had similar interests in music, theater, musical theater. She had had real voice lessons (unavailable in my small Minnesota home town) and seemed to have more experience, and therefore, more confidence, than I did about auditions. The four of us had fun. The two of us had fun. There are some great pictures of all of us giggling.

Lucy was good at talking us into stuff, like the First-Years’ Ball. Why get all dressed up and go to a dance at a university with a 3:1 girl:boy ratio? I have no memory of any actual argument in favor of going, but I think it was just the sheer force of Lucy’s will that got us to go. We even had an ok time, somehow, despite disappointing food and, as we predicted, not a cute (or straight) boy in sight. (I’m not much of a dancer.) She taught me to enjoy bad, but fun, romantic comedies. She told me to go for it, when I was unsure about taking a voice class. I can still sing an Italian aria from La Bohème, thanks to that class. I sing it badly and in a much lower key, but I did pretty well with it at the time. It was fun.

Part of what attracted the four of us to each other at the time was that we all needed financial aid at a very expensive college and, as we would later learn, we all needed therapy for anxiety and depression. Not just in the way that every college first-year student could use some therapy, but in a genetic, this is too heavy, I need help, sort of way. Given the nature of those struggles combined with other, more ordinary, transformations, the group dynamic was bound to change.

The first test came during the incredibly stressful hunt for sophomore housing; three of us would be living together, but Lucy would not be invited. She had said that she wanted to live with friends, because she needed people to “take care of me.” It’s hard for me to separate what her behavior was like before she was diagnosed and medicated with a serious mental illness, and this was nine years ago. I don’t remember what it was, exactly, that needed taking care of. I do remember that none of us wanted to be responsible for taking care of a roommate. That was a separation she had not anticipated, and I don’t remember hearing her air her feelings about it. It may have been good preparation for all of us, though, given that we would be separated from the group we relied on and our individual friendships, in some pretty bizarre ways.

By the summer between my junior and senior years of college, three of us had lived in Europe, one as an au pair during a leave of absence necessitated by failing grades and alcoholism. Lucy had been left behind and, although I can’t remember exactly when, been diagnosed with bipolar disporder. I don’t know which kind (there are several). I remember that she was taking lithium, but not eating properly. She struggled with her weight. She fought with her family, who lived not far away. That summer, I returned to New York City after an entire academic year in Scotland.

I came back from Scotland depressed. I had made fast friends and left them behind, but many of my New York friends were gone for the summer. Lucy was one of the few friends who was also living in the dorms for the summer, but instead of leaning on each other, we broke our friendship. I still feel so guilty about the fact that I don’t know what I did to upset Lucy, but I must have done something. One day, I got a slip in my mailbox indicating that I had a package. As it turned out, I had many packages. The cardboard boxes contained everything that Lucy had ever borrowed from me. I was stunned. It still seemed possible that we could save the friendship, because we still had two close friends in common.

But we didn’t connect. I was working three jobs, seven days a week. I was so miserable that a friend recommended an intensive therapy program. After I had been deemed depressed enough to benefit from therapy twice a week, I could see a Columbia/Presbyterian hospital psychology intern for free.

Healthy Sleep and Mental Health

When I visited my psychiatrist’s office this week, I was just not sure if my high general anxiety level lately was a sign that my medication needs to be adjusted, but I did feel strongly that it had begun before the rather dramatic events of my son’s illness, mine and some bizarre and hurtful behavior by my father. As I was talking to my (awesome!) psychiatrist, I realized that I had been having trouble falling asleep, even before anything particularly stressful had happened. The Plague that descended on my household (Hand, Food & Mouth Disease) extended that stretch of wakefulness. Anxiety about my relationship with my dad didn’t help. We don’t have a lot of room to go up on my Klonopin dose, so if we do, we want to be sure. She asked me how I could ensure four consecutive nights of healthy sleep (at least six hours in a row). At first, I didn’t think it was possible.

Why wasn’t I taking benadryl to put me to sleep? Well, my son began waking up to nurse a few extra times each night again recently, and is again refusing to sleep in his cosleeper. That means that I have a sweaty, clingy, hungry, growing baby interrupting my sleep, and it means that any sleep aid I take puts us in dangerous co-sleeping territory. Could Nathan take over and give him a bottle for one of the night feedings? Well, no, because it takes so much noise to wake Nathan that I would most definitely be awake, by the time he got the bottle to the baby. Could I sleep in another room in the house? My “house” has four rooms. Total. Including the bathroom and kitchen.

But wait…

Friends and family have stayed over and slept on a comfy, queen-sized air mattress that we keep for just this purpose! It fits in the living room! And if I leave a bottle of breastmilk in the bedroom, with the sleeping males, Nathan could feed the baby before said child woke me up! It was worth a try!

Last night, it worked. I slept for over eight hours. Over EIGHT glorious hours. And do you know what today was like? It was much less anxious. Tonight is a very anxious night, so I’m really sold on this “four nights in a row” thing. Did I mention that my husband is awesome? He is so on board with this idea. And he does not get enough sleep. But a sleepy Nathan is, even to Nathan, much preferable to a super-anxious me. Here goes Night #2! Wish us luck.

Nope. Sleep is necessary. (Also, A Beautiful Mess iPhone app is fun.)

Nope. Sleep is necessary. (Also, A Beautiful Mess iPhone app is fun.)