Gone are the days when you'd ask that nice neighborhood guy or gal to come over and watch the kiddos for a few hours while you jetted off to do errands and get your hair done. (Were those ever really the days we lived in?) The point is, there's a new kind of baby-sitter out there. These totally modern sitters charge $25 an hour, come with a "lively personality, top-notch references and refined English accent," as well as "first-aid training, a college degree and the word for diaper in four different languages," according to Jane Ridley's description of a few of them in the New York Post.
They are classically trained musicians, actresses, former camp counselors, writers and editors, the "super sitters," hired by the "super parents" of TriBeCa, Park Slope, and the Upper East Side. Such sitters are frequently found on the Web site UrbanSitter, "the baby-sitting equivalent of OpenTable." There, they can be both background checked prior to hiring and, afterward, paid with credit cards. Demand for them is high, writes Ridley, with "rates of $20 to $25 per hour ... becoming the norm. If you want to keep the sitters sweet — and, more importantly, stop them from being spirited elsewhere — consider throwing in a tray of sushi, a generous tip and car service home," she recommends. If you give them a sushi boat, definitely get them a car home, because sushi on the subway is good for no one.
These are their stories:
Koa Beck, sitting for 3-year-old Caleb in Brooklyn, says one mom paid her $20 an hour to watch her toddlers, and speak only French to them....
Another couple paid $300 for five hours of work helping to organize and chaperone at a birthday party....
Sheryl Berk, an Upper East Side writer in her 40s and mom of one, is delighted with her daughter’s sitters, whom she pays an average of $20 an hour. Nevertheless, she has heard horror stories from friends who regularly face mandates for high-end sushi and sandwich deliveries.
As you'd expect, the baby-sitting services (and interview processes) are cropping up to keep pace with the sitters themselves. Sometimes sitter skills are marketed to parents via "baby-sitter/parent 'speed-dating'” sessions (okaaay). There are sites like UrbanSitter, but also, parents with the means can hire people to outsource their babysitting for them, handling interviews, doing background checks, setting rates, scheduling (all for a medium-sized, say, $300 membership fee, with a referral).
From the service Lucky Li'l Darlings, run by 29-year-old Lindsay Bell, “All of my sitters are wholesome, dependable girls, mostly from the Midwest and Texas, who completed national criminal background checks, CPR- and first-aid training,” she explains. “They are smart, sophisticated and bring their own list of trophies to the table.” These are not your grandma's babysitters—not that she needs one, of course.
But wait, there's more. As is the inevitable, parents who want their baby sitters to offer language training and CPR and all of those other bells and whistles are getting a wee bit cranky about having to pay so much, and provide so many delicacies, for their super sitters:
“It is getting a little ridiculous,” says Claire, the mother of two who met with the super sitter after reading her references on an online parents’ group notice board. Asking The Post not to reveal her last name in case it deters future sitters, she adds: “When a date night with your husband costs $125 on top of your restaurant meal or movie tickets, you really have to think twice about going out.”
And so it goes.
Image via Shutterstock via Zvonimir Atletic.