When you have children, lots of things change. The biggest thing, for me, has been my thinking. You start to value certain things more—like your time and your freedom. But this has a ripple effect; you start to value your money, your food and all your resources even more.

I think it’s because, as a mother, you’re working much, much harder than ever before. You’re doing ALL the clean-up, housework, diapers, baths, laundry, grocery shopping (maybe with a couple exceptions), bedtimes, meals and meal clean-up (don’t even get me started) and middle-of-the night feedings.

If you are lucky and privileged enough to get a babysitter or childcare worker to watch your children a couple times a month, it’s just heavenly. You can take a break from all the constant chaos that assaults your reasoning faculties—even if it’s just for a few hours.

Additionally, you’re probably looking for more educational opportunities. You know how detrimental– how disadvantageous it is to have gaps on your resume! And there’s lots of proof to back this up.

As a SAHM, you want to find ways to stay afloat in the career world once your children are in all-day school. Boring, repetitive labor makes you want to do less of it. Once you get the opportunity to do ANYTHING ELSE, you really can sink into it, value it and fully appreciate it.

You realize that your precious life is being replaced by labor. It dawns on you how valuable time is—how valuable your time is. Children are important treasures; no one ever said otherwise. Until robot children make their grand entrance, children really are our future, so I agree, we all should be investing in them!

But…it’s all the drudgery and clean-up that makes the situation different. Sure, there are some people who are quite fine with ignoring all the messes and letting them build-up for years in their homes while they instill Shakespearian prose and Euclidian geometry into their young one’s minds, but I’m not one of them. I can’t think when everything is in disarray.

We have moved a few times in the past couple years—from Washington state, To Europe, back to Oregon and now Alaska. I haven’t been able to make friends or establish a social community. I’m not part of a church. And, let me repeat, I don’t have friends in my city.

My Mother, a fervent Fundamentalist Christian whom I love dearly suggested that I “Join a church and I would meet nice ladies who would offer to help out with the childcare.”
But then I imagined having to explain myself: “So, what drew you to our church?” Me: “Oh, I’m not at all religious or a church-goer—I just joined for the free childcare”. You know how that would go–they would all embrace me non-judgmentally and welcome me into the fold without trying to convert me, or not.

The only solution I could summon was to look for a babysitter online. I needed someone for 3-8 hours each week–max and I couldn’t guarantee a set schedule. And what did I do? I first looked on Facebook but couldn’t find much there. In fact, what I did find on Facebook were TONS OF MOTHERS IN MY COMMUNITY LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE AND BABYSITTERS. Not exactly helpful.

I absolutely didn’t want to start an account like Care.com. You have to pay a monthly fee just to get in touch with possible caregivers/babysitters. And, I’ve heard they make it difficult to terminate your account. Not only that, but you’re going to pay a ton for the average sitter that you find. Some of them are asking for $15 to $20 an hour.

I’ve become a bit of a free market capitalist over the past few years. The free market is a better place to go even when finding something like a babysitter. You are probably just as competent to check references and “get a reliable candidate” as anyone else—you might even be pickier in the selection process. After all, they’re your children, you won’t be taking any chances.

WHAT DID I DO?

I posted an ad on Craigslist. Craigslist is free and super easy to use. At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m insane. “What? You posted an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter?” Yes. Yes I did.

But this didn’t happen without spending some time to think about what I was doing. Do people do this? Has anyone else thought about doing this before? I started by perusing Craigslist ads. I wanted to get acquainted with the market.

I only found one Mom who had thought of my idea to post an ad on craigslist. She was looking for someone to babysit her 3 young children. In her ad she said that she was a Christian mother willing to pay $10 an hour and expected all 3 of her little children all in diapers (because she had a set of baby twins and a 2 year old) to be taken care of as well as the bathrooms cleaned once a week and the house kept clean. She wanted a resume, 3 professional references and (obviously) to meet up first in a public venue for an interview.

I thought her ad was a bit over-the-top. What cretin would accept only $10 an hour to babysit 3 children, clean bathrooms and maintain a clean house? That’s like asking for a caregiver and a janitor ALL IN ONE—for only $10 bucks an hour. Would anyone do this? Taking care of young children and keeping things clean is an overwhelming amount of work.

For a week I thought about her ad. What a greedy BIT—um, person. If I post an ad, I won’t be greedy. I’ll say, “I’m giving you $14 an hour to take care of 2 children and you don’t have to do any cleaning.”

But I kept thinking about this woman’s ad. It was a very bold. After a while it began to dawn on me. What if she wasn’t (necessarily) greedy but just understood economics better than I did? I realized that when you post an ad its probably better to start at a LOWER hourly rate than a HIGHER one.

You want to test the market—see if anyone responds. If no one responds to the ad, there’s your answer: you’re low-balling and no one will be interested in the offer. That is, there is no one in the market who will don their services for the price you’re offering. Alternatively, if you offer too much $$ you’ll be slammed with responses. Sorting through them will be a labor in itself.

I decided to start with a very simple ad for a babysitter: “I Will pay $10 an hour for a babysitter. If interested, please contact me and we can plan on meeting at a public location for an interview.”

Once I posted the ad, all hell broke loose

I received an overwhelming number of interested candidates. I had no idea SO many people were looking for work. I received a surprising number of male candidates which I promptly dismissed.

I only respond to female candidate because I tend to trust them more around my children.

I wanted to zero in on the best candidates, so I looked at female candidates with resumes, references and descriptions of what kind of childcare experience they had. I kept these in my inbox and thought about it for a few days.

I had my first interview with a lady whom we’ll call Molly. I met her at Barnes and Nobel. She was there right on time with her resume and references in hand and pressed and polished for our meeting. It felt very odd being the one to “hire” someone.

I thought she was a good fit until I learned that she didn’t have a car and would depend on public transport. The bus stop closest to our house was over 3 miles away. So anytime she babysat, I would have to pick her up from the bus stop. We both decided that she wasn’t a good fit.

I few days later, after being slammed by yet more interested candidates, I met with another young lady at a coffee shop. She was very sweet, professional and ready for the interview. She, too, had references and a resume. After our meeting, I knew she was the one. It’s just one of those gut feelings. I would still go and check up on her references before I decided to have her start.

Would I Recommend Finding A Babysitter on Craigslist?

Absolutely!

All you have to do is:

1. Meet any/all your prospective candidates at a public venue before you decide to exchange phone numbers or even emails.

2. Have your candidate come with a printed resume and a printed list of references. You will also come with your own 6th sense, intuition and brain as you interview your candidate.

3. Always ask your candidate if they have reliable transportation.

4. Ask your candidate about the last place they worked, how long they have been looking for work and if they plan to find other jobs in the meantime (I was only looking for a few hours of sitting each week, so I encourage my candidate to continue to look for work and that “I would work around her schedule”)

5. After you’ve met your candidate and you think you have a possible fit, go home and check references and review the resume with your husband/significant other.

6. Interview at least 2-3 of the best candidates you come across. You want to get an idea of the different kinds of personalities out there and which ones might work best with your children.

7. Have your preferred candidate come over to your house for a test-run. Let them babysit your children for 1 hour, maybe 2 (at most!). You can even be in another room in the house working on another project while she babysits.

8. Ask your children what they thought about the new babysitter.

We found a terrific candidate (FOR FREE) using this process! Craigslist is free. Care.com is not. You’re going to be much more selective for your children than ANYONE ELSE.
We found an amazing babysitter who is real Alaskan—3rd generation—not some recent transplant like ourselves. Her father is a native fisherman and she even brings us FREE seafood—crab, halibut and salmon.

We are so lucky to have found her! She is the ultimate baby whisperer.

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If you use the method I’ve delineated above, you won’t have trouble finding a good, reliable babysitter.

What did I learn from my Craigslist Post?

The major thing I learned from my post was that there are TONS of people willing to work for $10 an hour. LOTS. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I had advertised the position for $14 an hour, my computer would have blown up, truly.

I learned that you trust your intuition when reading through all the (anonymous) craigslist email responses. Only respond to the few that seem to stand out as “good” and “honest” candidates. In addition to a resume, references and a cover letter, my babysitter went to the trouble to send a link to her personal Facebook page so that I could get to know her and see her activities there. She came across as very transparent and honest.

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