Guest post written by UrbanSitter member and parent Matt Koidin

Planning a night out on the town with your significant other should be fun, right? Yet, in the no-so-distant past I dreaded making plans because booking a babysitter caused me so much stress.

Anytime I wanted to do something with my wife, I had to do the sitter search and shuffle. Dinner date? Call the babysitter. Anniversary weekend? Call the babysitter. Sunday afternoon movie? Call the babysitter. I spent more time finding and arranging childcare, than on planning the date. I could book a dinner reservation online in two minutes, but it would take me days to find a sitter? I have to admit, there were times I declined dinner or party invitations simply because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

Of course, once I found a good babysitter, I kept her a secret. Can you blame me? It’s so stressful and difficult to find a sitter, that once I had a good one, I wanted her to be there for me … and me alone. She was after all, my ticket out. My hall pass. The one person who held the fate of a date in her hands. My friends would ask me for sitter recommendations, but I’d never dream of sharing her.

The reality is that one great sitter isn’t enough. I decided I needed to find a better sitter system, so I’d have a few “on the bench.” I thought long and hard about what I wanted in a sitter, and, what I needed to make the process less painful.

  • Trust: I needed to know the sitter was responsible and fun, and I needed a “stamp of approval” from people I know and respect. But, how could I expect my friends to recommend their sitters when I wouldn’t share mine?
  • Faster and easier: It shouldn’t take days to identify and book a sitter I feel confident in. A spur-of-the-moment outing with my wife had become nearly impossible. I needed to bring back some spontaneity!
  • More options: My rolodex of babysitters had approximately two names in it (no wonder I was so stressed!). I needed to cast a wider net.

So, I started to weigh my options.

Despite the fact that there are countless services out there offering ways to connect caregivers and parents, few appealed to me. There are lots of “sitter sites” showing babysitters in your neighborhood. But, let’s face it – searching their profiles without any context and then conducting interviews just wasn’t going to make the process faster and easier for me. As a busy working dad, I just didn’t want to put in the time. And, I know lots of people swear by nanny agencies, but that’s a lengthy—and expensive—process that I wasn’t interested in.

Then, I discovered UrbanSitter, a service new to the Bay Area that takes a different approach. With UrbanSitter, parents use their Facebook connections and affiliations (kids’ schools, sports teams, parent groups, etc.) for immediate access to a community of sitters their friends trust. Bingo!

As I said, recommendations from friends are a must when it comes to booking a sitter for my kids. Knowing that a friend, who shares my values, has hired and liked a particular sitter speaks volumes. Trust? Check.

I can login through Facebook and see which sitters are available when. Picture this: I score last minute tickets to a show. I can login and choose a sitter based on her availability and I can book her online. Faster and easier? Check.

I’ve expanded my network of great babysitters exponentially. We still have our favorites of course, but we also have a great list of alternates. More options? Check.

I realize now that sharing sitters (the very concept I was vehemently opposed to) isn’t the kiss of death. Sharing my sitters actually helped me to gain more sitters. And clearly, if you have a bigger community of sitters, it’s easier to find one, and easier in turn to go out more often and more spontaneously. Even if you’re not willing to make the leap to share your favorite sitter, it’s still a good idea to try someone new from time to time in order to slowly build your team of sitters.

So go on….open your mind and your little black book of sitters. You’ll be glad you did.

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