Friday, March 2, 2012

Sitter Poaching

It takes a lot of hard work to find a good sitter. First, you've got to post all over the place. Then, you've got to interview the sitter, check references, confirm availability and hope they actually show up when they say they will. So, it's sometimes just a bit tempting when you hear a friend raving about her sitter to think just a bit about finagling some time of your own.

Are friends' sitters always off limits? I think about sitters as folks who are generally looking to earn a bit of extra income by providing childcare. If the sitter has additional hours available that a friend is not using, isn't it OK to fill up that time? I like to think that a sitter who can meet her extra income goals is a more stable sitter which is why I generally don't mind sharing my sitters with friends. Yes, there can be the occasional scheduling conflict but, overall, it seems to work out well.

Is it better to approach the friend or sitter about some extra care time for your family? Again, I generally consider sitters to be free agents so that I can speak with them directly. However, if I know the sitter's schedule with the other family, I'll make a point about not asking for that time (for example, it's OK to ask a day sitter for some extra time in the evenings but not to ask an evening sitter for every Friday night when she's committed to another family).

What about the sitter who is looking for "a new situation"? That can be really tough (you don't want to end up ducking around corners to avoid your friend). In that case, I generally don't want to be the one to "break-up" the relationship.

All in all, I consider sitters to be free agents above and beyond any long-term commitments that they might have. It's OK to ask them for child care when they don't have any other obligations and, as a friend, I'm comfortable recommending my sitters in that regard as well.


  1. This is an interesting post. I've been on both sides. I find that one sticking point in sitter sharing is salary: a few years ago, I had put in many hours of searching for a sitter, including hiring six of them to come in for two hours each to play with the Duchess. I gave the name of my second choice to "Debbie," a friend of mine, who purposefully decided to overpay the sitter in order to remain the sitter's first choice for Saturday nights. About a year later, I was totally stuck in finding care so I could go to a wedding, and Debbie said I could have the sitter for what would normally have been "her" Saturday night, as long as I paid the sitter the inflated rate that Debbie paid her. Since I was going to have the sitter look after the Duchess and another wedding guest's child, I was planning to pay more anyway, but honestly, even the sitter herself asked for less than Debbie wanted me to fork over, as if it were any of her business. (Note: For several other reasons, I'm no longer friends with control-freak Debbie!). Another friend, "Marilyn," asked to borrow my sitter and then paid her several extra dollars per hour than I did, even though she knew the rate we had agreed upon earlier. Another sticking point is personalities: My current sitter looked after the daughter of my friend "Marcy" a couple of times, but recently confided to me that Marcy's husband is totally obnoxious and that she didn't want to sit for them anymore. (Note: I had always thought her husband was okay). Meanwhile, Marcy was over telling me how much she liked my sitter and wanted her back. Awkward!