Finding a babysitter can be tricky. We live abroad which means that we don’t have family to lean on, but we do have brilliant friends who have been very generous in offering to watch Daniel.
This is our ideal solution, we trust our friends and often the location is convenient. But this isn’t a viable long-term solution. And it certainly doesn’t help us while travelling.
Locally, we’ve lucked out – when our friends down the road moved back to Canada (we would prefer that they were still here), they gave us their weekly babysitter. Having a friend’s recommendation made the decision easy and Helen is incredible – Daniel loves her, and once he’s in bed she even goes the extra mile and tidies up. As a bonus, she’s lovely, and we’ve really gotten use to having her around. No matter who else sits for us, we’ll need to manage our expectations as she is truly one-of-a-kind, class A sitter.
Unfortunately, she has a day job, and a social life, which means there are times when she is busy, or like the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, when we are actually away at the time we need someone to look after Daniel. Enter Sitters.
I had heard many good things about sitters.co.uk, but I was still nervous about leaving Daniel with a stranger. I hummed and hawed about contacting them (I’m not really sure what magical solution I expected to occur in the meantime). That’s how it came to be that with just a few weeks to go we signed up for their hotel service. The process was quite simple. We needed to provide the full address of the hotel, the date required, and some details about Daniel. And as a bonus: at around 8 pounds an hour, it was cheaper than the rate we pay in London.
A few days later we were told that Alison would be sitting for us, that she currently worked at a nursery, and we received reviews from other customers. All of this sounded and looked good.
We were told she would call the night before, and we were given a number to call in case that didn’t occur, in which case Sitters would attempt to arrange alternate care (this redundancy made me happy). It wasn’t required; Alison called the night before and she showed up on time the next day.
This is the part where managing expectations becomes important. Helen usually comes directly from work and looks impeccable, Alison on the other hand was very casually dressed: perfectly appropriate clothes for watching a small child mind you, we were just used to Helen.
We mentioned that she could take him outside in the pram, we welcomed her to eat with him at the restaurant downstairs, and suggested the pasta (no phase is too picky for Daniel to refuse pasta), we mentioned that he liked bananas, and we left money in case of emergency. We had left some milk on ice for his evening bottle and we went off to the show feeling mostly confident that we were doing the right thing.
We came home to a dark room; Alison was concerned the room lights would unsettle Daniel, and she sat in the dark, near the TV light watching a show with no discernible volume. We were pleasantly surprised and touched by this effort to make it a comfortable environment for Daniel and we really felt this was an example of her going the extra mile.
Dinner unfortunately had not gone as we’d expected. The restaurant and room service were both busy and there was quite a wait for food, so Alison had given Daniel two bananas for dinner, followed by a bottle before bed. We didn’t quite know what to say and we were not wholly pleased by this part.
I genuinely believe she felt it was more important to maintain the schedule than it was to feed him a diverse meal. And it wasn’t as though we hadn’t had a lot of mono-meals-due-to-picky-ness recently (I think he survived solely on yogurt and milk for several days). Plus, on the bright side he had some solid poops the next day! But even still, we felt disappointed.
At this point we were afraid to hear more – there was a problem with the pram, and an attempt to go outside which was squashed by both the pram riddle and the rain. Not much seemed to go to plan.
And again we checked our expectations. Considering we couldn’t get much to go to plan recently either; a stranger in an unfamiliar place had an uphill battle ahead. Daniel was sleeping peacefully in his cot, the next day he was no better or worse than usual, and we chalked up the experience as ‘not ideal’ but ‘reasonably good’.
We would definitely use the service again, it’s a great way to get a sitter in places within the UK that are away from home, and I have also heard some great reviews about the local carers as well. Allison was capable and caring, and once we reset out expectations, we realized that is what we really needed for a few hours away and a night out.
But we would make a few changes. We would recommend that the food order be put in earlier – or pre-order some food for Daniel. We would leave the pram fully unpacked (the Stokke isn’t that intuitive) and ready to use.
We followed our evening out with a fantastic family day the next day in Edinburgh – no rain that day , and we had a lovely train ride back to London (unlike the solo ride up – see previous post!)
Have you had any experience using a babysitting service? Please share them with us.