Our Babysitter Is Back! Thank All The Stars!

:: I have an affiliate account with Sittercity. They don’t pay me to write things, but I do get money from them whenever someone clicks on my link to set up a parent-looking-for-babysitting account. ::

Last year, we found an amazing babysitter. Our schedules meshed; our kid loved her. We had a harder time making our schedules work together this fall, because she’s a student and a mom, herself, but we finally worked it out! Everyone is thrilled that she’s back. Walt has a special happy “I’m ready to play so hard” look in his eyes when she comes over. And I get time to write!
How did we find her? Well, I took my own advice and used Sittercity.com to look for a sitter. Here are my tips for finding a babysitter as awesome as ours–


Sittercity: The best sitters are here

  1. Email about your schedules, needs, and basic expectations, first. If someone replied to your post in a sort of “apply for all the things!” spirit, but is really looking for 20 hours a week and, like us, you can afford about 6 hours, then it’s best to find that out before you spend any more time on her.
  2. Double check these things with a phone interview. Make sure she has transportation, is free at the times you need, and get to know her a little over the phone. At this point, you can start trusting your gut. If you get a weird vibe, put her at the bottom of the list. There’s really no need to be rational as a parent. Of course, I would never advocate going with “my gut says no!” for reasons that discriminate against race, or someone’s accent, or other things that have nothing to do with her (or his!) ability to care for you child. If you feel uncomfortable with someone who is not a pretty, young woman who looks like you, have a chat with yourself. If you’ve asked yourself why you don’t want to meet a potential sitter, and you’re satisfied that it’s just not a good fit, why spend the time and energy on an in-person interview? (Let her know when you do find someone, though. That’s just polite.)
  3. Meet in person, at your home, or wherever the child care will happen. This takes more energy than you’d think. The potential sitter is interviewing you, too, remember. She’s got to spend time in a stranger’s house, taking care of a stranger’s kid, so let’s hope that she wants this to be a good experience, too. My point is that it takes energy to meet someone new, and it can feel like a lot of pressure. But resist the temptation to be any family other than who you really are. At some point, she’s going to walk in on your chaos. It’s ok if she gets a sneak peek. I tidy up for my sitter, don’t get me wrong, but there have been days when she has seen me in the middle of a migraine, hair sticking up, eyes half open, dying for a shower.
  4. Make sure your child is there. I don’t recommend leaving the room, because you want to see how the two interact. But someone can be great in an interview with adults and seem a little stiff or bored around kids. It happens. When I was interviewing for babysitting jobs, it was important to me to get to know the tiny people, not just their parents. I would squat down to look them in the eyes on their level to introduce myself and say hi. I would sit on the floor, so that they could come to me when they were ready. I would give them time. I would usually talk to their parents before actively trying to engage them, so that they could see that their parents trusted me, a brand new tall person. You get the idea–I was thinking about the kids. It was obvious. Look for that.
  5. Ask your potential babysitter this question: “Say you’re feeling overwhelmed to the point of feeling angry, just like anyone who spends time with kids–there are frustrating moments for all of us!–what do you do, when that happens?” If she seems floored, go ahead and prompt with an example. “My kids are just like any kids, and they have their days where they just seem to want to break every safety rule. I get mad, because I’m just trying to keep them safe. I’m sure that’s happened to you, too! What did you do, last time that happened?” If she claims that she doesn’t get angry, but you really like her, ask about frustration. If she doesn’t even admit to getting frustrated, she’s lying. I don’t care why they lie–to impress you, to seem serene like Mary Poppins (who, by the way, got pretty mad a couple times) in order to get the job. I don’t like it. Honesty pretty darn important, when you’re leaving your child with someone. I have asked this question in every interview, since a great couple asked me that question, years ago. What did our current sitter say? “With my son, I tell him that I’m going to the bathroom or making coffee, or something that would be boring for him, so he won’t ask to come with me. I make sure he’s safe, obviously, and then I go in another room and let off steam, somehow. I just don’t think kids should have to deal with big, adult feelings. I can come back and explain that I feel frustrated when he doesn’t listen, but in the middle of it, it’s just better to leave the room.” <— extra points for the understanding that kids and adults feel emotion and think about life differently!
  6. To be perfectly honest, I hired our babysitter before she had met our son, because my husband had forgotten that she was coming and taken the child out. But here’s where my last tip comes in–agree on a contract of sorts, and include a trial period. PAY your sitter the same rate during the trial period, but just make sure everyone knows that during the first month or week or day, you might say “This isn’t going to work out.” We had scored a babysitter who was also a mom who was also studying to become an elementary school teacher, so I was pretty sure my kid would love her. He did. My husband thinks she’s awesome, too. We have fun chatting.

I’m so glad our babysitter is back! I think all these steps I mention really helped us get off to the kind of start that allowed for her to take a couple weeks to get used to her new, busier schedule. It’s also just really nice to hear our son’s belly laugh when he’s playing with her.

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.

Win a Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station in My First Giveaway!

The best advice I got before having a baby/creating a baby registry/buying anything for life with a baby was from my sister. She told me not to buy a diaper bag. She said she had hated all the ones she had tried. Instead, she suggested that I buy a smaller changing station that would hold diapers, wipes and some diaper cream and attach it to whichever bag I found useful for each stage of my baby’s life. At the time, hers was in a backpack; my nephew was almost two, and my niece was almost four, so their stuff took up quite a bit of space. She told me that when she had just been toting around my niece as an infant in her ring sling, she hadn’t needed anything bigger than a purse. Well, diaper bags are expensive, especially the nice ones. So I looked at some. Drooled over a few. Then, I scored a purse that I loved and realized that it was both durable and big enough for my baby’s needs.

We never leave the house without:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • A Change of Clothing for Walt
  • A Plastic Bag

I really should always have a change of clothing for me, but I never remember that. I usually have a pacifier, and often a bottle. But we can pull over, so I can breastfeed him if he’s hungry. No one has died from hearing a baby cry, and the pacifier doesn’t always work, anyway. If he has managed to shoot out all the poop in his body at one time, up the back of his diaper (every baby does this, I am told), waiting until we get home to change him is pretty awful. Putting him back in poop-stained clothing, even if his diaper is clean? Really gross. Having to store the poop-stained clothes in my purse without a plastic bag around them? Really gross. I once forgot the plastic bag and threw away the outfit with the dirty diaper rather than get deal with it. (We have a ton of baby clothes, many of well-loved by older cousins. This outfit was one of those, not a fancy new gifted outfit.) My point is that all of these things fit in my purse, for now. I don’t need a big diaper bag. So, I decided to take my sister’s advice and find some sort of mini diaper changing “station.”

Picture me and my mother-in-law at Babies ‘R Us, trying to finish getting the things on my list that we had not received at our babyshower. We wander. There are outbursts of excitement when we finally find something on the list. I have brought all the wrong measurements for everything and don’t understand what size of anything I’m supposed to be getting. Finally, I spot the portable changing stations. It’s been picked over pretty well. I have two options: the Babies ‘R Us brand without a wipes container or the more expensive (and much prettier) Skip Hop Pronto, the Queen of all Changing Stations. Obviously, I treat myself to the beautiful one. I plan to carry it every time I take the baby out, after all.

I nearly packed our Pronto in my hospital bag. I had diapers and wipes in that thing weeks before my due date. My husband talked me out of bringing it to the hospital because it is a five-minute drive from our house. In traffic. But I still worried that we would need it! Behold, the awesome:

Yes, the changing pad is an adorable surprise! (Photo from skiphop.com)

Yes, the green changing pad is an adorable surprise! (Photo from skiphop.com)

The features of this incredibly useful product include:

  • Front Zipper Pocket: For keys, wallet, phone, etc
  • Strap w/ Clip: Hangs on stroller or wrist
  • Pronto Pillow: Innovative head-cushion keeps baby safe & comfy
  • Mesh Pocket: Holds up to four large diapers, creams and other essentials
  • Translucent Wipes Case: See-through for timely reloads
  • Two-In-One: Pad zips off for independent use
  • Changing Pad: Extra-wide for wiggly babies. Wipes clean. Laminated mod design
  • Material is ideal for monogramming (this service not offered by Skip Hop)
  • Size: Closed: 8 3/4” x 11 1/2” x 1” Changing pad size: 21 1/2” x 21 1/2” (at widest point)

Did it ever occur to you that a *translucent* wipes case would come in handy? Not me! But it does–we can see how many are left without opening it. I use the Pronto, Dad uses it, three of Walter’s four grandmothers have used it. It fits in an airplane bathroom; did you know that once the changing table in one of those bathrooms is folded down, there is barely room for a parent, let alone a parent toting a big diaper bag? Oddly, Skip Hop fails to mention in their official list of features that the changing pad zips off. Yes, you can unzip it, put it on the changing table and put the rest of the Pronto on whatever counter is handy. Just in case you, too, find yourself changing a baby in an extremely cramped space. We clip it around the handles of my purse, the handle to the carseat, to the stroller. I’ll be clipping it to my baby carrier when I attend the BlissDom conference next week!

But one day, it just wouldn’t zip anymore. I panicked. Obviously, I took a picture of the broken zipper and posted it to InstaGram, because I turn to social media when I panic. (Yes, I’m aware that that is weird.) I asked Jaime, aka The Baby Guy, for help. This is what happened in the comments to my photo:

I got a real person's email. You can't see it, because I covered it up with hearts, but she was super nice and helpful.

I got a real person’s email. You can’t see it, because I covered it up with hearts, but she was super nice and helpful.

I already was a huge Skip Hop fan. It would take me awhile to list all of the things people have given us from the brand, because they know this. And because everything they make is adorable and high-quality. I am now an even bigger fan. I emailed the Skip Hop rep who left her email in that comment, and she had a coupon code for their online store emailed to me within 24 hours. After I placed my order, I discovered that she had also made sure that shipping was free and that it would arrive within two days.

The box, when it did arrive, contained not one, but two Skip Hop Pronto Changing Stations. And yes, “GIVEAWAY!” was the first thought I had. I had to get permission, of course, and make sure they didn’t want the extra one back. Oh, no, they are happy to let me give it away to one of you! What is not to love about this company? The Pronto you get will look like mine: black, with a fun green pattern on the changing pad inside. There are other colors and patterns, but I couldn’t be sure that they’d match my red purse. Here are more pictures:

By the way, the strap that's clipped around the model's wrist gets really long. In case you need to buckle it around something very large? They think of everything.

By the way, the strap that’s clipped around the model’s wrist gets really long. In case you need to buckle it around something very large? They think of everything.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Future, Revised: From Child Care Provider to Stay-At-Home-Mom

I am bound by both conscience and a confidentiality clause in my contract from providing any details. I really need to talk about one issue, though: pregnancy discrimination. There is a federal law against firing or demoting or otherwise discriminating an employee, but the federal law provides an exemption for businesses with fifteen or fewer employees. The state where I work has an even better law–you aren’t exempt unless you have three or fewer employees. Here’s the law, helpfully explained by the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid:

Q: I’m pregnant. Do I have legal rights to protect me in the workplace?

A: Yes. There are state and federal laws that protect you from discrimination because of pregnancy. If you work for an employer (private, public, or employment agency) with 3 or more workers, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions. A pregnancy must be treated the same way as any other temporary medical disability. This means:

  • You cannot be fired, denied a job or a promotion simply because you are or may become pregnant.
  • You cannot be forced to take a leave because you are pregnant if you are able and willing to work.
  • Employers (or potential ones) cannot ask you about your plans to have children or your pregnancy unless this information is directly related to a specific job.
  • In general, employers must not treat pregnant employees any differently from other employees. For example, the employer cannot provide health insurance that treats pregnancy and childbirth any differently from other medical conditions.

If I were not the only employee here, I would have a job waiting for me after a state- and federally-mandated maternity leave:

Q: Am I allowed to take a leave of absence?

A: Yes. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the state and federal Family and Medical Leave Acts (FMLA) and CT’s Anti-Discrimination Laws protect eligible employees who need to take leave during or after pregnancy (maternity leave). If an employer offers sick leave or disability leave to its employees, it must permit pregnant employees to use that leave for pregnancyrelated conditions. “Family and medical leave” allows an eligible employee (man or woman) to take an unpaid leave of absence (generally up to 12 or 16 weeks) to care for a child upon the child’s birth or adoption.

Because I am the only employee here, I have access to none of these rights. In New York City, I’ve heard, there is a union for nannies. I belong to no such union, but working conditions in New York really are awful. Access to basic workers’ rights is a problem for many nannies and domestic workers. I asked an expert once, and she had never heard of a maternity clause in a nanny contract. It seems utterly ridiculous counterintuitive to ignore the possibility that someone who loves children enough to take care of someone else’s kids full-time might want to have one or two of her own.

I’m sure you can piece together what’s happened over hear. Now, I find myself suddenly planning a future career as a stay-at-home-mom. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m already so attached to this baby; I can’t imagine leaving my child in someone else’s care while I go to care for other kids. I’m in shock, a bit.

I have no problem applying for WIC, food stamps (or SNAP, as the program is now called), or welfare/cash assistance. This is precisely what those programs are for. Unfortunately, I do not live in one of the small handful of states that offers short-term disability or unemployment insurance to pregnancy women. If I wanted private short-term insurance, I needed to apply for it before the pregnancy. And I just didn’t know that. It never occurred to me to check. We’ll make it. And it will be worth buying nothing new for ourselves and not visiting relatives outside driving distance. We can do all of that later. We will never get the first years of our child’s life back. And now, one or both of us will be there for every moment.

My mother-in-law has promised to drive up from Long Island to keep me company; I am carrying her only biological grandchild and married to her only son. But we’re friends. Dear friends. And I’ll have time to go to play groups and spend time with the friends I have met here. But other child care providers who work in private homes are not so lucky.

The discrimination I have encountered may be legal, but it is still wrong.

Today, Everything is Just Right

I’m writing this while a tiny baby sleeps on my chest. She will be eight weeks old in a few days. She is almost exactly the size of my torso, and her tiny arms are thrown around me, like she’s giving me a hug. Her sweet-smelling head rests under my chin. This? This is what I’m supposed to be doing. There is nothing else in the world I would rather be doing right now.

Today, I woke up on time after having slept through the night. My wonderful husband made me bacon and eggs for breakfast to celebrate my first day at my new job. Then, he walked me to work. Because I can walk to work. It takes about six minutes.

I can’t think of a thing that I would change. Not a thing. And for that, I am grateful.

I would put a picture with this post, but I haven’t asked yet if that would be ok and never, ever post pictures of other people’s babies without permission. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that this is the sweetest thing ever!

Update: Officially Back to Klonopin

Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Ativan experiment failed. It worked fine during the holidays, but when the stress of this month hit (insomnia while completely obsessing over possible pregnancy and TTC), the drug failed me. Since I was already on a pretty high dose (2mg, three times a day = 6mg total every day), there just wasn’t much room to tweak it. I’m transitioning back to Klonopin.

I’ve come to terms with it. I’m on the same meds and the same dosage that I was on when we started this whole journey. But I tried everything I could safely try. No one has ever tried harder, as my oh-so-patient husband will testify. So, I did what it took for me to know that these meds at these doses are necessary to keep me healthy and (more or less) happy.

I met with my regular psychiatrist last week to put a plan in place for the “cross taper.” I’ll meet with Dr. P, perinatal mental health expert, on Friday to talk it all over with her.

Speaking of, well, this, I am sharing my story on another website! The Feminist Breeder has published an article I wrote called Preparing for a Medicated Pregnancy: Psychiatric Medication and My Preconception Journey on her brand new Resource Guide. Go! Read! Leave a comment! Debates get wonderfully lively over there!

And, to anyone who is visiting from over there, you can read more about me, my family and our journey in these posts:

My thoughts about childcare, in case you ever wanted to know what a babysitter/nanny/childcare provider thinks:

 

Hired! (Again!)

I feel a thousand times more relaxed today because I just got hired as a full-time nanny for the sweetest baby girl. She is nine-weeks-old! That is tiny! Not only is this excellent practice for my imminent mommy hood, but it will also give me something to DO WITH MYSELF. Finally! I will go and focus on this precious babe every day from 8:30-6:30 while her doctor parents do important things in a lab and a hospital. The family is paying me on the books, so I’ll even have social security payments and documented work history! Phew!

I hope that, even after I have a baby, I can keep this job. I hope to bring my babe with me and watch them both. I’ll already have bonded with Baby G for almost a year, so I know I’ll still be able to give her everything she needs. Plus, she’ll have my little one to play with. That’s all pretty far in the future, of course. But caring for a newborn is a pretty good gig during the first trimester, if I do get knocked up soon–she’s bound to be pretty understanding if I want to nap with her or need to put her in her swing for a minute to be sick… TMI? ;)

I think I’m starting on Feb 1, but I forgot to nail that part down… anyway, their home is just three short blocks away. I knew that before I could take on another job/big responsibility, I had to be honest with myself about what I could do. And a short walk from my door to theirs? That, I can do. No matter what the weather. No matter how I feel. I can get myself there. Nathan is leaving for school a little later this semester, so he can walk me there on hard days.

10 hour days seem long, but it includes naps! Does your job include naps? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I am sort of in shock that I will have a full-time job for the first time ever. The same income every week. (They’re going to pay me even on holidays.) Hooray!

A Nanny’s Advice to Parents, Part 2: Looking For a Babysitter Online

There is an updated version of this post, as of August 2013!

This is a nanny’s Sittercity review (vs Care.com):

This itty picture with that yellow "Background Check" badge is what you see when I show up in a Sittercity.com search. Nice, right?

This itty picture with that yellow “Background Check” badge is what you see when I show up in a Sittercity.com search. Nice, right?

I highly recommend that you join this growing movement. In some cases, it will work better than hiring your neighbor’s fifteen-year-old cousin. Because while hiring someone who is related to your awesome neighbor sounds comforting, you still don’t actually know her yourself. If you do, that’s awesome! But what happens when she graduates from high school? I know you don’t want to think about it. But consider your online options for a moment. Chances are, you will find yourself in need of a new babysitter eventually.

The online sitter search has come a long way. The two sites I use are now both providing background check services for very reasonable fees (paid by the sitters). My favorite, Sittercity, has also just started providing a driver’s license check, too. They will tell you if the license is real and if the driver has a clean record! I love being able to prove, definitively, that I have no criminal record at all and that I have never even been given a speeding ticket. I may have a less than stellar record when it comes to parking in the right place at the right time, but I’m a very safe driver. Even if I won’t be driving kids around for a particular job, I like what that says about me. I don’t take stupid risks when it comes to safety. Not even when I’m the only person in the car. Isn’t that a nice quality in someone who cares for children? I think so. Anyway, the background checks are awesome because at both Sittercity and Care.com, sitters run the checks ourselves. They expire every nine months or so. At Sittercity, you’ll see a yellow badge right on my picture that says “BGC”! And, they list sitters with background checks first in parents’ search results.

I’m going to tell you about Sittercity and Care.com from my perspective because you won’t actually get to see what a babysitter sees when she logs in. The two halves of the sites are kept quite separate. (I have no idea what parents’ pages look like, really.)

Care.com:

I hate using this site. I use it because parents are there, but I don’t like using it at all. It’s not well-organized. But recently, they took what I consider to be an evil turn. Here, I’ll just show you:

See those “subscription” options for $20, $40 or $60/month? (If not, click on the photo to see it full-size.) That means that the featured babysitters parents see have been featured because they pay the website to feature them. I repeat: the care providers that parents see first have paid for the privilege. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. I think it’s criminal. I don’t mind paying for a background check. They run between $8-$20, depending on the site. I DO mind paying to advertise my services on a site that is supposed to already do that! It’s shady and I don’t like it.

In contrast, the only time Sittercity has asked me for $60 is to pay for their new Enhanced Background Check. And I understand that price. They advertise having an actual person sift through actual documents to make sure there’s nothing a person might find that the LexisNexus search failed to turn up. I can’t afford the Enhanced check and that doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of me getting a job. I’m still being contacted by parents and am still receiving warm responses from the parents I contact. But if a parent wanted to pay to have that done, I’d be more than happy to do it. Because they would be paying for an actual service. One that turns up actual information. One that explains where the money is going!

But there are other reasons for a parent to go with Sittercity. I hear that it’s a bit more expensive. Here’s what you’re getting, from my point of view:

A higher-quality search. I repeat: the sitters you see “featured” at Sittercity are at the top of the list because the company has run background checks to make sure that we are who we say we are and that we have no criminal records. Not so over at Care.com.

Higher-quality sitter profiles. It took me forever to write up that profile. I don’t know how much of it parents see, but they seem impressed. If my profile impresses it is because the website asked me a gazillion questions about everything under the sun, and I chose to answer thoughtfully. Knowing that something is going to take a long time anyway makes a person more likely to give a thoughtful answer when a short-answer-type question appears amid all the checkboxes. (There is a checkbox for every hobby, every “special need”, every type of experience, every type of training.)

One category for babysitters and another for nannys. When they first did this, I was kind of annoyed that I had to fill out a whole new profile before I would be able to even see any of the jobs listed in the nanny section. Why does this matter? If you are looking for someone to care for your child for, say, 30 hours a week, it’s an entirely different process, emotionally. You deserve to see only those sitters who actively choose to pursue work as a full-time child care provider. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be, especially in a college town like where I live, to fall in love with a profile only to see that she’s available for evening and weekend babysitting only. From my end, it seems like parents easily get overwhelmed while they’re looking for a nanny; I think the two separate profiles/categories might help with that. I don’t even search the nanny listings if I can’t give up to 50 hours a week and commit to a long-term relationship with a family.

There are multiple types of care listed on each site, even though both are most famous for babysitter searches. Tutoring, pets, housekeeping and senior care are both listed at Sittercity.com and at Care.com, but only Sittercity requires that you fill out a profile for each type of care. This makes perfect sense to me. Whatever I write in the babysitter profile is not going to be applicable to a housekeeping job! Probably not even for a tutoring job. And pets? Also, I find it a little insulting to seniors that I can use my babysitter profile at Care.com to go look for work spending time with adults. It seems to me that babysitting and senior care might be slightly different experience, requiring slightly different personalities, talents, etc.

Sittercity is also active on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s always a lot of discussion happening on that Facebook page. The site itself is clean and easy to use. It’s free for babysitters and parents have to pay, which makes much more sense to me than Care.com’s backwards approach. I’m looking for work as a nanny! Clearly, I do not have lots of money! Parents don’t have lots of money, either, but they are at least already budgeting some of what they do have towards this process.

One final thought: both sites offer reviews, but Care.com has been pushing this feature like crazy in TV ads. I wish the whole concept would just go away. I am not an appliance. I am not an iPhone app. Call my references if you want a “review” of the quality of care I provide. Ask them how many times I was late or cancelled. Anonymous reviews on the internet are not exactly the most reliable source of information. I don’t even trust them when I’m buying a book! I trust people I know who have read the book! And I AM NOT A BOOK. I am a person. I do not want to be summed up in a number of stars like a product. Please join me in boycotting the use of this insulting tool. And props to Sittercity for promoting the safety stuff (they offer more kinds of background checks and promote that feature like crazy) over those meaningless stars.

Well, I hope that helps! Please, if you have any questions about what these sites look like from a babysitter’s point of view, fire away!

*Note: this is an unsolicited review. I have not been paid by any service mentioned here to write anything about them ever. If, as you read this, there is an ad for one of these companies on my blog, well, that happened after. As I write this, there are no ads. There is no connection between me and the companies other than that I use their services to find work as a child care provider.

**Update in the interest of full disclosure: As of 6/27/2013, I now receive compensation from Sittercity for any parent who signs up for an account using the links in this post. This lovely company (they are always so nice!) contacted me, because so many of you are heading over to their site after reading this post. I wrote this over 18 months ago, and would never have known about the affiliate program (getting paid when people sign up) without the email from their representative. That means that the opinions, which I have not edited since I published this originally in January 2012, remain 100% my own.

Questions You Should Ask A Potential Babysitter

The lovely and amazing Diana over at Hormonal Imbalances just wrote up a hilarious (and sad because it’s so true) list of inappropriate questions parents asked her when she was interviewing to be a nanny. I saw that a parent commented, essentially, that while extremes like “Are you planning on getting pregnant in the next two years?” are, indeed, crazy, it’s really hard to know what to ask a potential babysitter.

You want to get to know this person before you leave your children alone with her! Of course you do! The questions a HR rep might ask, though, won’t help you. Well, some of them might. But how do you know what to ask? I’m going to try and help. Here are five questions that I was impressed with parents for asking. Oh, and my first tip? Do not be afraid to write down your questions, but ask us in person. Write them down, read them from your paper (so that you don’t forget exactly what you wanted to say), and then look us in the eyes as you listen to our answers. Yes, you should be worried that she might be lying. No, you shouldn’t assume that she is.

  1. “Our kid drives us crazy at times, and we expect him to drive you up the wall at least once. Can you tell us what do you do when you’re really frustrated with a child? Can you give us a specific example?” Hands down, best question anyone has ever asked me during an interview. These parents were concerned about toddler behavior. Yes, toddlers are particularly contrary. But babysitters get frustrated! I’ve gotten frustrated with infants because I couldn’t figure out how to soothe them or help them stop crying, already. Ask us about a time we were frustrated and what we did. Because don’t you want to know? And by the way, if a potential babysitter says “I don’t know, that’s never happened” then she is lying. Do not hire her. She should be able to think of ten frustrating situations off the top of her head and tell you exactly what happened. If she’s so afraid to tell you what happened, be worried. She may just be nervous. She may also be someone who yells. Ick.
  2. “Can you tell us a little bit about each of these references you’ve given us?” Getting her to talk about other families might give you some good ideas about questions to ask her references. It’ll also give you some stories about her interactions with other kids/families. This is a question that sets her up to give you an informative and honest answer.
  3. If you are hiring a full time nanny and don’t know how to pay her legally: “We want to pay you legally, but we’ve never done this before. Do you know how we should go about this?” Yes, we want to be paid legally for full-time work. Yes, this is how you should ask. Avoid any awkward “So, do you usually get paid in cash, or…” (Don’t worry so much if it’s just a couple hours here and there!)
  4. “Can you tell us about how you dealt with a difficult or tense situation that cropped up between you and former employers?” You want to know how she deals with parents when she’s not interviewing. This is a bit like the discipline question I mentioned above–she should have some effective strategies in mind to deal with tension. Let’s face it: you’re inviting someone into your home to spend time with your kids while you’re not there. Some awkward, tense, difficult stuff can come up in such a close, personal environment. It’s not a problem, as long as she can deal. A good answer should show you that she won’t mind coming to you if she feels uncomfortable about something and that she knows how to articulate that discomfort in a way that is helpful and leads to a peaceful resolution.
  5. “What made you decide to look for work as a nanny/babysitter?” There should be something resembling a story in her answer. “I just love kids!” is not good enough. Lots of people love their own children and don’t want to spend time with other peoples’ kids for a living. Before I did this full-time and had a whole I-left-grad-school-to-do-this story, my answer was something like this: “I’ve been babysitting since I was a teenager, but it’s still the most rewarding job I’ve found. I tried other part-time work and thought about retail, but even though working with kids takes a lot more energy and concentration, I get to laugh and spend time outside. I feel like I’m doing important work, even in my part-time, spending-money job.”
Well, I hope that helps! Good luck finding great babysitters and nannys!
Which questions would you add to my list?