By Britni Miltner
There is so much to do after a PCS, and if you have children, finding a great babysitter is somewhere on that list. After research, frustration, and informative conversations, I realized that finding a reliable babysitter isn’t as difficult as I was making it out to be.
Just three days after we arrived to our new home, I began looking for an occasional babysitter. We still had several things to unpack and organize, but I was already on all of the sitter sites, creating profiles and posting jobs, in addition to scouring Facebook groups.
I didn’t have any specific dates in mind, I just wanted to have a few sitters “on deck” who I knew I could rely on if needed.
My daughter was born in April 2015, and I’m learning something new every day about being someone’s mother. Some days are better than others, as I’m sure all moms will agree. I’ve come to discover that I have pretty quick reflexes and am a decent toddler wrangler. While I love my little sweet pea, kid-free time is so valuable no matter what I’m doing during that time frame.
Part of the adventure of being a military family is moving to new locations, which I’ve become accustomed to. I’ve done it lots of times actually. But with a kid? Just a few more challenges than I’d previously dealt with in the past had been added to my already full plate.
After we moved in, I arranged 15 babysitter interviews (yes, you read that right, 15) at the same coffee shop. I’m not sure what the coffee shop thought I was doing. I’m not sure I know what I thought I was doing. These brief meetings were over a span of a few days, so at least I wasn’t there all day long, utilizing the coffee shop as my personal office.
If the potential sitter wasn’t able to meet in person, I did a Facetime interview.
I’m an organized person, but even I couldn’t keep up. I ended up confusing myself even more than I was before the interviews began, and became even more frustrated and overwhelmed.
I quickly learned that there are several ways to find childcare, but how do you know that you’re really finding a quality babysitter?
After my interview marathon and narrowing down my list of acceptable sitters (which half of them I couldn’t remember what they looked like, let alone what their names were), I decided to reach out to seasoned military mom friends for help.
Why I didn’t do this initially, I have no idea. The system that I was trying to create was failing, and I was just over it. I reminded myself to take a deep breath, and rely on my ever growing, always knowledgeable military spouse network.
It turns out that while it can be challenging and time consuming to find reliable childcare, it’s not impossible. I promise.
From my own research, experience, and conversations with several fantastic moms, here are some effective ways to search and find reliable babysitters in your area (and keep your sanity while you do it):
Child care swap
One of my friends, an experienced mom, uses a child care swap with other moms: you watch mine and I’ll watch yours. This is especially helpful if you already know other families when you PCS, but if you don’t know anyone, this one could be challenging at first.
If your child has a friend with older, responsible siblings, they are good built in babysitters. Helpful if you already know folks at your new location.
Teen children of your friends
One of your own friends may have children who are old enough to babysit. Once again, this only helps if you know others already in the area.
Typically, there are multiple Facebook groups for each area, and most of us join a group (or more!) prior to arriving to start familiarizing ourselves with our new area. Facebook groups offer a fantastic word of mouth platform. I have found that those regularly referred sitters are used by several families and their availability is often limited.
Teachers and coaches
Any teacher or coach, dance teachers, gymnastics teachers, and karate or swim instructors make good babysitters, and the children are already familiar with them. My friend, a mom of two, explained that she has peace of mind knowing that there is accountability in hiring a teacher or coach.
Websites to try:
BorrowShare is a new, rapidly growing military community platform. It is marketplace for buying, renting and borrowing items. BorrowShare also offers Facebook groups in several locations to connect with your local community.
You can list and search for services such as: pet care, lawn services, handyman service, and babysitting. It’s really easy: the sitter lists their service on BorrowShare, and their listing comes up when you search your community for babysitters. Communication, booking, and payment can all happen on the site (no need for cash!).
There is a two-way rating system, so you can see feedback from other users. And as you move (as a sitter or as a user) it is easy to transfer your location as you PCS.
I love Urban Sitter, because you can post a job for a specific date, and interested sitters will apply for the position – even last-minute gigs. This has been helpful as daycare backup; our regular sitters work full-time, so they aren’t available during a typical work day. I post the job and literally within minutes, I have hopeful sitters applying. UrbanSitter has a rating system so that you can see what your neighbors have rated them. No need for cash with UrbanSitter.com. There is no military program with UrbanSitter.com that I am aware of. They do charge a monthly fee to use the service.
Care.com is well known as they have commercials on TV. I have used it successfully. There is a free military program available, but you do have to pay for more extensive background checks, which are optional.
Sitter City has a discounted military program. I have not personally used their service, but it is similar to Care.com, and I’ve heard positive feedback about SitterCity.
During my discussions with other military moms, it is clear that word-of-mouth seems like the most preferred method, then Facebook groups and sites like BorrowShare.com and UrbanSitter.com are the go-to places.
Once again, my network of amazing military spouses didn’t disappoint when I reached out for advice. If I would have contacted them prior to my 15 interviews, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and effort. (Thank you to my awesome #MilMomSquad – you know who you are!)
And the answer you’re probably dying to know: After all of that, did I find a reliable sitter?
Yes, I did. I found two amazing babysitters that I can rely on!
A Navy spouse since 2007, Britni runs MilSpouse Resource, a site that provides information, support, and inspiration for military spouses. The motto is “Let’s Support and Inspire Each Other”. Britni is a Scout with Millie, a social media ambassador for BorrowShare.com and a volunteer mentor for Military Spouse Advocacy Network’s New Military Spouse Support Program. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the MilSpo Project. Yoga (and wine!) is good for her mind, body and soul. She graduated from Auburn University in 2004 with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Family Business, and she’s originally from Atlanta, Georgia.