You need a kid-free night out in a serious way. Problem is, you don’t have a reliable Saturday night sitter. Here’s how to find what you need, get what you want – and still be home in bed by 11pm.
What To Look For
The first step is to decide what you’re comfortable with: Is a local high school or college student okay, or do you need a professional nanny who moonlights for other families on the weekend?
This is obviously a matter of personal preference, but we do recommend broadening your horizons – and your child’s – by opening yourself up to solutions you may not have initially imagined.
Whatever you decide make sure you are on the same page as your partner.
Where To Look
First things first, use your social network. A quick post on Facebook is likely to yield some parent friends willing to pawn their teenagers or neighbors off on you. Encourage your partner to also post. You both have different co-workers and circles – the wider the net you cast, the better.
Next, shop local. If there is a college in your community, post an ad on their job board or call specific organizations (think sororities) and give them your details. Share your request with your local mom group. Spread the word at your gym daycare or kid’s gym class. Often teachers, coaches, and developmental specialists are interested in picking up extra work after hours.
Finally, you really can find everything online these days. Some of our favorite national websites for childcare:
URBAN SITTER: The most “social” of the resources. Your profile layers over your Facebook network so you can see sitters that your friends have used. You can also see which sitters are recommended by local family businesses and who has repeat families. Rates are $14.95 a month or $99.95 a year.
SITTER CITY: The largest national database of sitters, they’re the OG for finding sitters online. Memberships are $35 for one month, $70 for three months, or $140 for the year.
SENSIBLE SITTERS: Sitters are pre-screened and vetted before being accepted into the exclusive network. Not available in all cities. Rates start at $22 an hour per child with a $150 annual fee.
SITTERS STUDIO: Available only in NYC and Chicago, these sitters are fully vetted and come prepared to do more than just sit on their iPhone. Each sitter is also a college-educated artist who arrives with a tote full of activities. Rates are $18 an hour in Chicago, $25 in NYC with a four hour minimum. There is a $20 booking fee for one-off visits. Or pay a monthly $50 fee if you plan to use multiple times.
What To Ask
- Get the obvious out of the way before you invest time: What is their availability? Do they have other weekend commitments? How early could they start? How late are they comfortable staying?
- Do they have transportation to and from your house? If not, do they need you to pick them up and drop them off? Or are they comfortable taking public transportation or an Uber/taxi? Note: We enjoy a cocktail or two on our night out, so a sitter who needs a ride is a no-go for us.
- Are they comfortable doing more than putting the kids to bed? Are they willing to make dinner, wash dishes, or – gasp – unstack the dishwasher (the sign of a real gem).
- Do they have infant and child CPR certification?
- What do they like to do with kids while babysitting? What are some of their favorite children’s books (this will give you a sense of the last time they read a bedtime story while sitting).
- Request multiple references.
Note: We were once interviewed in person by someone looking to use our nanny. While at the time we thought it was an imposition, in retrospect we realize how very smart it was. If you do not personally know the reference, don’t be afraid to request a coffee. It will give you a much more intimate picture of the caregiver.
Money talks. But depending on where you live, it says very different things. As a generalization, city sitters expect more than suburban sitters. Older, experienced sitters or professional nannies get more than the neighborhood kids down the street.
According to UrbanSitter’s 2014 National Childcare Survey, here’s what it’s going to cost you on average, per hour for one child:
New York, $15.34
San Francisco, $14.99
Los Angeles, $13.53
Dotting I’s & Crossing T’s
If it’s a sitter’s first time at your house, ask her to come over for a 30-minute meet-and-greet with your kids before the actual night.
Give a call or text mid-week to confirm their availability and remind them of the arrival time; ask them to come at least 20 minutes before you plan to walk out the door.
When it comes to dinner, we either leave money so the sitter can order in after the kids are asleep, offer them a full run at our pantry, or ask if they’d like to be included in the kids dinner. Whichever path you choose, just remember to make the offer.
On many of the above sites, you pay through your account (bless them). Otherwise, ask ahead of time how your sitter prefers to be paid. Some younger ones will request payment via apps like Venmo. Others will only want cash. Be prepared.
When it comes to tipping, most parents we know “round up” to the full hour instead of giving a formal tip. We’ve also been known to cover gas money, taxi fare, or an Uber home – especially if we’re later than initially promised.
And don’t ignore that mom instinct: Always ask for a text from the sitter once they’ve safely arrived at their final destination.