Finding great babysitters is a high priority for many of us parents. As much as we love our kids and enjoy spending time with them, we also relish our grown-up time and getting out sans babes in tow now and then. There are also those the non-leisure occasions that we might need quality child care for our most precious little people. Either way, we want to know they are in good hands when we’re not around, and even better if we can come by that conveniently.
So, when UrbanSitter contacted me recently to tell me about their service and offered an opportunity to try it out, I happily took them up on it. UrbanSitter, which is relatively new to the DC area, links parents and babysitters through a convenient online interface that’s also available as an app. But what makes it unique from other online babysitting services is its social feature that connects users to sitters through people they know using Facebook connect. You can also see sitters’ availability on a calendar, read reviews from others who have hired them, and pay using a credit card. That last part was especially appealing to me — I can’t even count the number of times we’ve gone out of the way to hit an ATM on the way home to get cash for the babysitter or wasted checks because it took a few tries to write ledgibly after a fun night on the town (you know I mean).
While we have a regular sitter who we love and trust, she’s not available every single instance that we need her, and we’ve found ourselves scrambling for other options or even foregoing plans to go out. UrbanSitter sounded like something that needed to be part of my life.
My foray into the service started out easily enough. I signed up for free, connected through Facebook, then simply followed the very clear instructions on getting started — as in, there’s a distinct toolbar at the top of the home page that says “Find a sitter for…”, and I just inserted my area, the date and time I needed, and number of kids. After hitting the search button, the results page came up displaying a list of babysitters. Since it was my first time using UrbanSitter, a fairly lengthy list of all of the area sitters came up. However, as you use it more, there are options to view them by sitters you know (either from hiring or corresponding with them), sitters your friends know (which includes your friends signed up on the site as well as babysitters you’ve hired), and sitters you might like (based on similarities to other sitters you’ve hired).
You can sort the list by a number of different criteria and check off preferences such as languages they speak, experiences with specific ages, and even whether or not they accept credit cards. I sorted my list by number of reviews, so I could read about others’ experiences with sitters.
Their profiles include a paragraph with general background information — child care experience, education, jobs they’ve held or currently hold (some work full- or part-time and babysit on the side), and their babysitting philosophies (activities they like to do with kids, how they approach the job, etc.). You can also view more information at a glance such as rates, whether they’ve had a background check, languages spoken, whether or not they smoke, locations where they prefer to work, and more.
I made my first selection based on positive reviews and because it sounded like she might live close to me. However, it turned out someone had booked her just minutes before, so she was not available. The next sitter I tried (for the same reasons) was also not available. The third sitter, Meghan, did not live as close, but had many great reviews, and she was available. I clicked a button to request an interview, she responded almost immediately, and we exchanged messages and phone numbers online, then had a nice chat on the phone before officially booking the sit.
One thing to note is that you can schedule to interview or you can go ahead and book right away. Apparently, I kind of did both… I scheduled the date and time I wanted her to babysit, but asked for the phone interview first. Little did I know I was actually blocking that time for an interview. But Meghan was very gracious and pointed it out when she came to babysit the next evening and helped me correct it.
As for the sit, all went very well. She was friendly, asked about everything I would have expected — evening routine, bedtime, allergies, contacts — and made us feel like the kids were in trustworthy hands. We checked in during the evening and got a nice report from the home front and an offer to load the dishwasher. And when we returned later that evening, she confirmed the hours on her phone app, and I simply went on the website and paid with my credit card. (All checks intact, thank you very much). The kids gave a glowing report the next morning, too.
If you, too, are looking for a convenient and efficient way to find quality child care, whether it be the occasional sit or a full-time nanny, I highly recommend UrbanSitter. And tell all your friends, too… the more that are on it, the more you can share sitter experiences and get recommendations conveniently through your own social network.
So, who’s ready for a date night?
GIVEAWAY: Want a chance to win $80 in credit to use on UrbanSitter? Leave a comment below telling me your favorite place to go for a date night. To be eligible to enter, you must sign up with UrbanSitter and you need to “like” KidFriendly DC on Facebook. This giveaway will run through the weekend, and a winner will be drawn and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!