I was in fifth grade at the height of The Babysitters Club book craze. My friends and I were so into Ann M. Martin’s series that we adopted individual characters as alter egos. Our assignment criteria were clumsy: the pretty blonde in our group got to be Stacey McGill. We gave our Philapina friend Claudia Kishi, on the basis that both were Asian. I was Kristy Thomas, because I had brown hair and liked to talk.
For those who weren’t into the books, the fictional club for which the series is named was the Kristy character’s brainchild. One evening, she watched her single mother spend an inordinate amount of time working the phone trying to line up a babysitter for the following evening. Kristy realized she could save parents a lot of time–and facilitate her and her friends scoring babysitting gigs–if she could cause a group of sitters to be reached with a single phone call. Following a mailbox-flyer marketing blitz, she and her friends gathered in Claudia’s bedroom (on account of Claudia’s private phone line) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. Parents called during the scheduled meeting times, and the girls staffed upcoming jobs on the spot.
Unlike our literary counterparts, my friends and I never did anything enterprising like operate a small business matching responsible and experienced tweens with families in need of childcare services. We mostly just bickered over who best corresponded to each character and moved on once the matter was settled.
Flash forward twenty-five years.
A few months ago, I found myself on the other side of the transaction, needing someone reliable to watch my Claudia (no relation) and Thomas on short notice. My husband and I did not have a regular sitter, so I asked a colleague with children whom she used. She gave me a name, but the sitter wasn’t available. I asked the sitter if she had friends who sit. She did, but they all had plans. One of the friends had a little sister, whom we were able to book at the last minute. I trust my colleague and, transitively, the sitter she uses. But even I–not known to be risk-averse–recognize that we’d gone pretty far down the chain from the “known” to the “unknown.” Plus, it took a lot of time to run down all those leads.
Imagine my delight when I learned about Time-Out Sitters, which–like my beloved Babysitters Club–allows parents to access a network of sitters with one call. The business is run by owner/local momtrapreneur, Katie Rakowitz. All of the sitters were referred by an existing Time Out Sitter or were recruited by Katie from a local college/university Education or Nursing Department. For safety purposes, Katie does not recruit sitters online.
According to Katie (and consistent with my experience), all sitters are:
- 18 and older
- CPR trained and First Aid certified
- Nationwide background and sex offender checked
- Personally interviewed and reference checked
- Fun, interactive, and love kids
The Time-Out Sitters rates are reasonable and in line with what I’ve seen on the market: $11/hour for one child, plus one dollar per hour for each child in the family. I pay $12/hour for my two children. All jobs are charged a modest ($5) travel fee. Clients also pay a one-time $35 registration fee. The registration fee makes your startup cost a little high, but it amortizes to pennies on the hour over multiple bookings. And, it’s absolutely worth it for the service Katie provides. Girl’s gotta make a living!
Once they are “in the system” clients can request sitters by phone, email, or through Time Out Sitters’s brand-new on-line request form. I have used all three formats, and each time I’ve been assigned a sitter within 24 hours. The notification includes background information about the assigned sitter and a photograph. The assigned sitter calls the client the day prior to the job to confirm.
Every Time Out Sitter we’ve used has shown up on time, looking professional, with an upbeat attitude. They engage with our children the moment they arrive, which makes our departure easy and almost unnoticed. And, Claudia has so much fun with her Time Out Sitters that she looks forward to (rather than dreads) nights when my husband and I go out.
The convenience of booking and the peace of mind that comes from Katie’s oversight are great, but my absolute FAVORITE part of Time Out Sitters is the itemized receipt that a sitter provides at the end of a job. The receipt shows the calculation of your hourly bill, plus the travel fee. The bottom-line total takes the guesswork out of what you should pay (Can I pay pro rata for partial hours, or does that make me a cheap mother who no one will want to sit for again?) and saves you from having to do mental math at the end of the night.
In addition to typical babysitting, Time Out Sitters offers overnight care, corporate/group sitting, and pet sitting. My fingers are crossed that Katie will develop a rate structure for multi-day jobs over school breaks.
Since we discovered Time Out Sitters, I’m much more excited to accept invitations and plan nights out, because I know I don’t need to worry about lining up child care. And, I like knowing that I’m supporting another mother’s small business and putting some jingle in the pockets of local students.
You can learn more about Time Out Sitters at the business website and on the Facebook page. If you are in need of child care, particularly in light of the upcoming holiday festivities, I definitely recommend that you give Katie Rakowitz and Time Out Sitters a try!
I am a regular paying user of Time Out Sitters. Time Out Sitters offered ACMB a night of free babysitting so a blogger could review the service. I took advantage of the offer, but all opinions are my own.