What We Discovered by Using More than One Sitter
We are parents of four – at one point we were four under four with all of them born consecutively with no twins. In those early days of no sleep, 180 nappies a week, and the static from multiple baby monitors permeating the house we didn’t get much of an opportunity to go out on our own.
We didn’t benefit from either sets of parents living nearby, so when we eventually did start to reclaim our lives and get out to see friends we used a local babysitter, a mother of older children that we found through a local babysitting agency.
Ray was fantastic – she gave us the confidence to go out, she even looked after the other three when we went into hospital to have number 4! We came to depend on Ray and we’d only have considered going out if Ray was available – which wasn’t always the case – as she sat for a number of families in the area.
A couple of years on and we moved house, out of Ray’s area, and realised that we had no childcare network to rely on. It was for this reason that we set up Kowalah as an on demand childcare platform to help connect parents with great local childcare (but that’s not the purpose of this post…!)
In setting up Kowalah we put safety as the top priority – we wanted to know that we’d be confident that any sitters that worked on the platform could look after our own children. So whilst we interviewed every sitter, checked written references and relevant documentation, we also started to book them to look after our own family.
Over the last 2 years we’ve deliberately booked a new sitter each time we go out – this can be three or four times a month, and is not just evening events – we’ve used sitters to help with kids parties, school pick-ups, or just helping out with one or two of the kids while we have a sports match or parents meeting at school.
What has changed?
When we first started this exercise the children were hesitant around babysitters arriving – the boys would even head off to bed early and forgo ‘movie night’ if they knew a babysitter was coming. The girls would not have the confidence to introduce themselves or show the sitter around. All in all a bit awkward as you are trying to get out the house!
But each sitter had their own unique way of bonding with the children – we had sitters arrive with books to read to them, we’ve had a couple arrive with ingredients for baking cookies and muffins, we’ve seen board games, and the boy’s favourite – when Calvin arrived and they were able to play football outside.
Over time the kids learned that having a sitter is not mum and dad palming them off so they can go out, but is an opportunity to meet someone new and engage in a fun activity. We started to get asked “When are we next having a Kowalah?” (that’s what we call the sitters).
Now when the kids know we are going out they are unfazed by us letting them know a new name (they understand about the Kowalah business as well so our eldest takes it upon herself to be lead interviewer/interrogator!) They have the confidence to show the new sitter around, engage in conversation and ask questions.
Building a sitter network
Our situation is a little extreme, and I’d not suggest everyone uses a new sitter every time – kids also love a familiar face! But I think there are huge benefits to having a network of 3-5 local sitters that you can rely on rather than 1. Firstly it gives you the confidence that you can definitely get some extra help at short notice – but you’re also going to help your children’s development and confidence by exposing them to more people from different walks of life. And if you have boys – they are going to love including a male sitter that can talk lego and football!
We’ve also found it useful to get the kids involved in the process of choosing the next sitter – they get to see the profiles, read a bit about them, see their photo – and make a choice (with our guidance!) We’ll then ask the children the next morning what they got up to, what they thought about them and any feedback! They love being asked their opinion.
When I think back to our first days of seeing sitting as a necessary byproduct of us trying to have a night out – it’s brilliant to know the children now see it as a highlight of their week!
An Endorsed Guest Blog from Candy Cowan, Director at Kowalah
Kowalah is a mobile app delivering On Demand Childcare by connecting parents with local babysitters and providers of childcare. Parents are connected with up to 5 available Kowalahs in 15 minutes giving them speed and flexibility. All Kowalahs have been interviewed and referenced providing parents with peace of mind.