Occasional babysitter woes -- could use advice and maybe the BSC

Dear fellow Berkeley-area parents,

I'm feeling pretty frustrated right now and could use some advice. I'm the parent of a 7-old-old and an 11-month-old. The 7-year-old had a wonderful, amazing part-time babysitter from age 2-6, approximately. At that point she left to pursue a full time journalism job. We're still in touch and think of her like extended family. We miss her terribly! In the past we used Urban Sitter to find people to fill in at times when she wasn't available.

Well, fast forward through the pandemic and having another child. Now that we're vaccinated and hoping to maybe leave the house again, I'm back on Urban Sitter and remembering just how frustrated I've been with it, and with trying to find decent occasional sitters in general. It's not that there aren't good sitters on the platform. There are, and we've even had some of them sit for us. But inevitably as soon as we think we've found a great one that sitter either gets a full time nanny gig and stops doing part time sitting, or leaves the area, or is just constantly booked because other parents realize what they've found. And we've had a lot of sketchy experiences, too. Lately I have felt like bay area babysitting rates are SO high and the demand is SO high that a lot of these people don't have to try very hard -- and don't. 

And lest you think I'm just stingy and don't want to pay a fair wage, let me assure you that is not the case. I was a babysitter as a teen and a nanny all through college. Not to mention I'm now a mom -- I KNOW it's hard work! For someone whom my kids love and that I trust implicitly? Highest bay area sitter rate, no problem. But I haven't found that. Instead I'm paying very high rates for people that aren't awesome, out of desperation. 

I'm starting to think it would be better to hire someone with much less experience, like a teenager. Because I'm absolutely willing to train someone, and a lot of my child care needs these days are for help when I'm going to be nearby either working remotely or working on home projects. Back when I was a teenage babysitter I worked for my neighbors. Well, I have no immediate teenage neighbors. Nor do I know anyone with teenage kids. Is there a local chapter of "The Babysitter's Club" I should know about? How does one find the babysitters who are just starting out?

A second approach I've thought of is to commit to a certain amount of hours a week, find someone to fill that role and hope that that makes them more amenable to taking on more hours occasionally when stuff comes up. Obviously I couldn't expect that person to always be free. The hope would be just that they'd be more likely to say yes given that they'd know the kids and their routines rather than being at the other end of the Urban Sitter connection reading a profile. 

Any of you going through something similar? Or do you have a list of awesome sitters you rotate through? Tell me your secrets, please!

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Writing just to sympathize.  My kids (2 years apart) are in school now, but when they were young I worked at home part time and it was so hard to find any kind of babysitter.  Basically, most people available during the day are understandably looking for full-time nanny gigs.  Or are they are between things - looking for their "real" job, in school, etc. etc..- so they end up disappearing.  We had a very bad experience with Urbansitter and really good experiences with the now-defunct Swiss Cheese Childcare.  Both your ideas are good - hopefully if you put the word out during the summer you can find a teenager that you can train, but remember that school around here starts in mid-august; a college student might be a better bet.  I think your idea of guaranteeing a number of hours is a good idea too but I don't know what the market/demand for part-time nannies is like these days.  Good luck! 

When my son was younger, we had a "nanny" for one summer who was a recent college grad. She was super sweet and ended up staying with us for a week or so in between apartments and then I got her a "real" job with a friend's nonprofit. We loved her. I think we found her via NextDoor. You could also try to post to the UC Berkeley job board.

I would suggest that you post on Nextdoor for a teenager. My teenage daughter found several families close by that she babysat for throughout high school. She generally responded to parents who posted, as I was worried about letting her post and then sending my 15 year old to a stranger’s house, but I know some teens post for themselves that they are available.

I'm using SitterCity and it's simple, easy to use (frustration-free). Just set up a profile describing your needs, necessary availability to  start getting applications.  It's possible to request an interview with the push of a button. Though we're still in process of deciding who to hire, I have to say the selection is wide.   The only downside is the steep membership fee ($12/mo. for annual,$36/mo. for quarterly,$35/mo. for monthly). You can cancel the non-refundable subscription by downgrading to basic in the settings; if not cancelled the subscription auto-renews.

We had the same struggle. We ended up biting the bullet and hiring someone regularly, two weeknights a week, whether we need it or not. This allows us to have planned time to work late, take a business trip (they're back!), or run errands. It also gives us some options for ad hoc weekend nights, etc. Good luck!