Welcome to summer, the most relaxing time of year. Okay fine—who am I kidding? From swimming pools to barbeques, you’re as busy as ever. Parents: don’t let the chaos of the summer season sweep past you without getting your fair share of the fun. Maybe you’re invited to an adults-only wedding, or want to relive a first date at the Buccos game. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a sitter.
- Sittercity.com makes it easy to find a qualified and experienced sitter in your area. You can test out the website for a week for free, which allows you to post the details of your job (the date, hours, and rate you’d like to pay). Then you get to sit back and let the offers come pouring in. You can read the profiles of potential sitters, compare experience and certification, and decide on whom you’d like to meet. The website has its own internal messaging that’s easy to use and can send updates right to your email. They also have listings for nannies, pet care, tutors, and other household help positions. Most applicants choose to undergo a background check, so you can be sure you’re getting a trustworthy sitter. If you were to join Sittercity after your free trial, it’ll cost you $30 a month or $70 for a year.
- Care.com is similar to Sittercity, as it gives you access to a ton of sitters with background checks and various levels of certification and experience. Instead of having a week to try the site, Care offers a free “Basic Membership” that gives you access to limited profiles. That means you can’t see the background check or contact information, but if you find a sitter, or a sitter finds you, you can exchange information or join for a monthly, tri-monthly, or yearly subscription. That means you can’t see the background check or contact information, but you could decide to purchase a full membership for $35 a month, $70 for three months, or $140 for a year. (Warning: all subscriptions are automatically renewed until you cancel them! I found this out the hard way, as Care was charging me for a few months before I wised up and cancelled my membership). Of these first two, I’d personally recommend Sittercity as it’s cheaper and more user friendly. However, I do know several people who have had success on Care, so you might want to check out both and find what appeals to you.
- East Wind Nannies: Perhaps you’re looking for a long-term sitter (a nanny) to come for a certain number of hours each week. East Wind Nannies has branches in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and has a much more personalized process. First, they do background checks and reference checks to ensure that all their nannies are adequately prepared for the job (they also offer CPR training if needed). Then they interview the parents and the potential caregivers to make sure you get a perfect fit for your family. Finally, they offer a 90-day guarantee: If your nanny were to leave for any reason, they’ll help you find another free of charge. Naturally this is a more expensive option, costing anywhere from $500 to $2000, but you can be confident you’re hiring someone trustworthy and professional.
- Using Facebook as a tool to find a sitter has both positives and negatives. It’s nice to find a babysitter by word of mouth, especially if it’s from one of your good friends or coworkers. You might simply update your status, and then get recommendations of several quality babysitters. Also, Facebook is free—although you will have to double-check experience level and references on your own. On the downside, there is no guarantee that your friends know a true childcare professional. They might recommend younger family members who are more interested in their iPhone than ensuring your child has a safe and fun time.
- Craigslist: Approach Craigslist with caution, but don’t necessarily rule it out because of some of the absurd stories out there. Before I found out about Sittercity and Care, I successfully used Craigslist to find babysitting jobs. Craigslist is free, and more people are likely to know about it than some of the smaller websites. Just make sure you take precautions: exchange emails first, then check their references and clearances to make sure that they have a clean background. (Clearances are required documents for anyone who is professionally working with children; i.e. teachers, secretaries, nurses, various college majors.) You might even consider meeting at a public place for a pre-babysitting interview.
You deserve to enjoy the summer too, and will be able to truly relax when you know that your children are in good hands. There are a ton of great sitters in Pittsburgh—you just have to put forth a bit of effort to find your perfect match. Best of luck, parents!
Jeannie Scott worked at Duquesne University's Child Development Center for three years before graduating in May with dual degrees in English and Secondary Education. She lives Downtown, and has nannied and babysat for families all over Pittsburgh.