Secure Your Sitter

To the list of things sometimes stolen in Westport — parking spots, investment ideas — add one more:  babysitters.

A local woman tells this story:

A friend dropped her child off for a play date.  The mothers chatted on the front porch, while the kids played with the sitter in the yard.

The friend asked about the sitter.

“Great!” the host replied.  “The kids love her, and she’s very reliable.”

The guest asked if she could use the sitter too.

Surprised — she uses the sitter all the time, and had spent a long time advertising, interviewing and testing candidates — my friend suggested the other woman get her own sitter.

Later that day, the host woman arrived home earlier than expected.  There — picking up her child — was the other mom, deep in conversation with the sitter.  She was trying to poach her.

My friend shielded the sitter from the thief.  Later that afternoon, the poacher appeared again — this time bearing gifts for my friend.  She has continued to try to curry favor since then.

“She knows I was on to her,” the first woman says.

Has she learned anything from this?

“Yeah,” she says.  “Next time, I won’t sing my babysitter’s praises so enthusiastically.”

18 responses to “Secure Your Sitter

  1. I once gave a fantastic employee recommendation for a current part-time employee to another part-time job in the same field. The job was supposed to fit around with my hours and not conflict with my office. Upon hearing how great the employee was, the employer lied and stole the employee away from me for the same hours. When I confronted him about it, he told me to “get over it.” That was the last time I gave a recommendation for an employee.

  2. Years ago, I called a so-called friend of mine to ask if I might “borrow” her sitter for a special event in the city. She was fortunate that her sitter was reliable and would sit at a moments notice. I didn’t have the need for a regular sitter – a stay at home mom – but, for the most part, I was able to find an occasional sitter for an evening out. She told me absolutely not – she didn’t share sitters – I said fine and was not able to attend the event. A few months later, I found a lovely girl and mentioned it to my friend. It was wonderful to have someone to rely on! She heartily agreed. A couple of weeks later, I called her and low and behold – my sitter answered the phone. When I mentioned to my friend that I was surprised that my sitter was at her home – she said – so what – whereupon I recited the conversation we had about my “borrowing” hers for one special evening out – she laughed – and then said she could use any sitter she wanted.

  3. I hope the nannies are reading this and now know to shop themselves around a bit more. If they’re so easily poached it’s because they aren’t being paid enough. I heard about a few nannies in Weston who were being paid under $400 every 2 weeks to each take care of 3 children, the employers thinking that room and board made up for the lack in wages. The agency that placed them here couldn’t move them to better paying jobs locally because of this problem of employers getting aggravated when they moved onto better paying jobs also within Westport/Weston with essentially their neighbors so the girls went to New Jersey and Westchester.

  4. anonymous IV

    The market works. Look at the transaction from the point of view of the nanny or sitter. People who complain about poaching are more interested in seeing the transaction from their point of view; they lost cheap labor.

  5. This is a message in three parts (to anyone who’s not so self-absorbed as to miss it):
    1. Leave the free market alone.
    2. Spend more time with your kids.
    3. Stop being so goddamned selfish!
    Happy Easter!!!!

  6. The Dude Abides

    Spot on, Buck-a-roo. Silly. Underpaid? Hell, we pay our dog sitter $100 bucks a day to sit by the pool (granted in the winter, that is tough). No need for sitters unless both parents work. Spend some time with your kid today and maybe, unlike 50% of college graduates, they won’t be living with you tomorrow.

  7. Dan's Friend

    From a mom’s standpoint….there are some places I just can’t take my young children, as much as I love them. (Certain medical appointments come to mind.) Your blanket admonitions to “spend more time with your kids'” really are off base. Stretch your imagination and accept that there are certain circumstances in which a child care provider is tthe answer, from time to time.

    No quarrel with “the free market,” and I happen to pay very well — the real issue here is the laziness of the second mom…not motivated enough to do her own due diligence, and all too happy to benefit from someone else’s leg work.

    The “story” here was the approach. (Note the first couple of sentences of the blog entry.) Had the second mom approached directly and asked “Is your sitter looking for more work?” there would have been no story!

    • Mom,
      As the grown-up child of a single mom who knew many baby-sitters, some good, some bad, my imagination was certainly stretched many times and still is. When my two kids were growing up my wife and I always took them everywhere including drs appts I had occasion to use baby sitters but they were rare and I’ll take the time I spent with my kids over the time I left them with baby-sitters any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

  8. There is always a story!

  9. Anonymous II

    How catty of them!

  10. In the late 1970s, I babysat for seven children, six of whom were boys, from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. and took home a whopping $20. Even then, when the going rate was a buck an hour, I felt like I had been underpaid.

  11. Interesting how some of the comments reflected a hostility to the use of babysitters at all. Well, even when one parent does not work outside the home, if you have more than one child, you will need babysitting assistance from time to time. It does not make you a bad parent, guys. Maybe you have one kid who still naps and one kid who needs to be taken to, you name it, soccer/baseball/musical instrument lessons/swimming/hockey/whatever. It just gets worse as the kid gets older.

    As for poaching, the problem is not monetary. The reason the poached parent feels angry or hurt is that it is hard to find someone reliable who you can trust with your baby. You find that person, and by the way, your child will bond with that person, and then a friend takes that person away from you? The outrage and sense of betrayal is because your “friend” knows how hard it is to find someone you can trust. It is, thus, unexpected when your “friend” sticks it to you by doing that. Anyway, I get it. And I disagree with most of the comments on this thread, for all the reasons I set forth above.

    • Why did the “babysitter” leave? Does she/he not have the right to leave?You were inconvenienced, but the sitter benefitted.

      • Nero, we have never actually lost a babysitter. Maybe because we pay at least market rate, we treat our babysitter respectfully and with dignity, and because we are trying our best to raise unspoiled children in the middle of an environment where they want for very little — not an easy balance to strike. So, we have never been inconvenienced in that way. And, hopefully, we will not be. We have, I believe, an excellent relationship with our babysitter.

        And does the babysitter benefit? I’m not so sure. No job change is ever totally simple and this is a job where the working conditions vary so dramatically from house to house. It is not at all like the simple cultural differences between one large law firm to another. So, just making a switch for couple of bucks more, in this intensely personal working conditions kind of job, may not make great sense.

        We invest ourselves and our time in our babysitter because we care about her as a person. She is entrusted with our children, you know. So, how could we not care deeply about her, too?

        Maybe if we didn’t care so much, and invest so much time in her, we’d be more at risk for one of our “friends” stealing her away for a small raise (or even a substantial raise).

    • Dan's Friend

      Thank you, Jeremy. Someone who gets it!

  12. I babysit and I love it. yeah sometimes I feel like I am under paid but with the way things are these days I am afraid to raise my rate. So parents, I have a question for you, how much are you willing to pay? ( Not to braggggg but)- I am an awsome sitter, I will actually PLAY with your children, the only time I sit on my butt and watch TV is when they are sleeping and everything is cleaned up. I cook, I read to them and I (at times) can act very silly with them. I am an older college grad (in may) and babysitting is my life. so again I ask, howmuch would you pay for me?