How Do I Find (and Keep) a Great Babysitter in My New Town?

Posted in: I'm Moving, Money Saving, Neighborhood Advice

People who move to a new location often immediately find themselves with this super under-appreciated problem:

“Hold on…where am I supposed to find a babysitter around here?”

Considering realtor calls, landlord visits, emergency hardware trips and much, much more, there is no doubt this usually falls under-the-radar until maybe even after you’re already moved in. And if you’ve moved away from friends and family who used to keep an eye on things, good luck.

This is why learning about all the different babysitting options goes hand-in-hand with moving. What kinds of sitters are out there? Where and how can I get them? And is there anything special I should know about?

Who exactly can I get to watch my kids?

When you’re searching for options outside of typical daycares, there are two broad categories of people who most typically watch children as a job. Within these two categories exists a wide range of age, skill and expectations, as well specializations.

The Babysitter

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The tried and true babysitter comes in all sorts of different packages, but the one element that all babysitters share is that they are only employed on an as-needed basis – whether it’s a last second emergency or a planned date night. This flexibility fuels the many different types of babysitter options: good, bad and everything in between.

The “OMG!” babysitter: Do you have a pulse? Can you physically be in the same place as my child? There are certain expectations of anyone who would watch a child, and those include considerations such as basic CPR, first aid and set hourly rates. These things need not apply here, as all expectations are out the window. Even though this is popular enough of any option to merit a mention, consider this only under extreme emergencies.

The Average Babysitter: If there is such a thing as an “average” babysitter, the minimum expectations are such that they understand emergency procedures or they know who to immediately contact if there are any needed. Babysitters will likely have an hourly rate, although it’s also common for them to be a family friend or a relative as well. Just know that when we say “babysitter”, we are referring to someone who is available in a pinch that you can trust enough with your child’s wellbeing. You should think of a babysitter in those terms too.

The Nanny

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A Nanny is a true profession, and with that comes separate considerations from your typical babysitting options. Nanny’s can be part-time, full-time, or even live-in, and are ultimately much more integrated within your family’s life.

Au Pairs: Literally French for “equal”, an au pair is typically a live-in foreign national who takes on the role of a nanny in exchange for room and stipend. Often, these are students who are taking classes abroad, often a year at a time. While au pairs are not nanny’s by trade, they take on much of the same permanent role and responsibilities at a great, comparable cost. This can be an attractive arrangement for families that have the extra room and love the sociability.

Part-time to Full-time Nanny: Those looking for someone to watch their children on a more permanent basis will want to invest in a nanny. Like babysitters, nannies maintain a basic knowledge of safety skills, but also have a background in childcare and/or many years experience. Because both parties are looking for greater commitment, nanny’s typically go through an interview process with you and maintain expectations of most full-time to part-time employees, including sick days and vacation time.

Note: Does your child have special needs? Some nannies and even babysitters specialize in children with certain diagnoses, ranging from autism, speech training and more. Always seek out someone with relevant experience to fit a special need, but consider finding a nurse or therapist if your needs require a professional in order to ensure your child’s safety!

Help! Where do I get these people? 

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Sure, you’ll get to know your neighbors, but setting down new roots takes time. When you’re freshly moved you want to know your options right now, and the good news is that there are lots of solutions for childcare – both immediate and long term. These are your best bets.

1. Craigslist

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Much like the OMG! Babysitter, you never know what you’re going to get on the internet’s favorite bulletin board, where world class professionals and sketchy, random people share the same space. Again, due to its popularity, it gets a mention and it may work wonders in a pinch, but first consider some of the more consistent solutions below.

2. Download an app

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Virtually all of your options have some version of an app, but none take app functionality more seriously than Urban Sitter. Their website boasts: “50,000 caregivers in 60 cities and an average response time of 15 minutes or less“, creating that “Uber-like” experience you always wanted. It costs $14.95 per month/$99.95 per year to utilize their review-driven database, plus the cost of whoever you call over.

3. Scan your suitors online

babysitter_logoIf vetting your sitter is most important to you, the two most longstanding options online are your best bet. Sitter City and Care.com are both invaluable resources for finding babysitters, nannies and even au pair’s. Both Sitter City and Care.com implement strong background checking, and they allow you to read up on the profiles of hundreds of potential candidates. This gets you a match based on price point and hours available (while setting up an interview ahead of time.)

Sitter City costs $35 a month to access their site, plus the cost of the hire. Care.com offers $39 per month, $26 per month for a three-month package and $13 per month for 12 months, all billed up front – plus the costs of any caretaker hired. Extended background checks can also be purchased from both.

4. Start putting those roots down – join a playgroup.

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If you have the time to invest in your community and to meet people, attending playgroups in your area might be a good chance to scout out new friends that you can soon exchange sitting favors with. Meetup.com is one of the most versatile options with thousands of people using the site daily, creating a strong potential for playgroups to already be arranged somewhere near you. And if not, hey, you can start one yourself!

Anything special I didn’t think about?

There are plenty of interesting considerations for families on the market for a new sitter or nanny. Everyone will likely discover something they never thought about almost every time, so here are just a few extra things to consider.

How much should we pay them, exactly? 

In terms of babysitters, a rough estimate would place a proper hourly wage at $12-16 an hour. From a portion of an infographic curated by Care.com:

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The ceiling for how much you pay will ultimately be correlated with where you live. If you still have any questions, use any of the previous resources listed throughout this article and glean how much babysitters cost, or simply ask someone you’ve scouted yourself!

In terms of nannies, rates typically range between $18-20+ an hour, or roughly around $36-40,000 yearly, with consideration for vacation time and so on. Here is one resource for additional information on nanny wages.

Au pairs can vary in their costs based on length of their stay and which agency you select them from. There are often application and placement fees, which can range anywhere between a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars. But an au pair’s weekly stipend may only be around $150-200 a week, depending on agreed upon arrangements, thus spreading around the cost.

Bilingual?

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Research shows that between the ages of 0-7 are the best times to acquire language. If you are taking advantage of a more long term solution like a nanny or have an au pair coming from a new place, consider scouting a caretaker that is able and willing to speak a second language with your child. After that natural window is up, it’ll never be as easy again!

Should I monitor my babysitter?

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The issue of a “nanny cam” – hidden or otherwise – to watch your caretaker is a personal one, and searching online yields a wealth of differing opinions. People on both sides of the issue express concern for the child, but professional sitters sometimes admit a feeling of breached trust if they are monitored secretly.

What’s more important to know with this issue, however, are your state’s laws regarding home surveillance. While it is legal in all 50 states to use nanny cams, it is illegal to install a simple audio recording in several states. And obviously, all recording equipment can only be installed in non-private areas. If you do in fact opt for the nanny cam, do consider discussing this with your caretaker ahead of time for optimal transparency. For a primer on this issue, check out this resource from Care.com.

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