Sharing Sitters

by | Parent Guides

Here’s something you probably knew: us parents don’t really like sharing our babysitters. Even your most solid, selfless all round do-gooder friend that’ll drop everything for you 99% of the time can be found wanting when asked for the phone number of the amazing sitter that helped them out last week. The same one they instantly regretted ever mentioning to you as soon as they saw your step spring and eyes light up.

What’s more, this behaviour is in no way frowned upon, even by the person on the receiving end of it. “Fair enough, I’d do the same” is the passing thought you get when receiving what is the standard “sitter shun”. In fact, even asking a friend for a babysitter is a bit taboo. It’s almost up there with asking them how much they spent on the house, or whether the latest pregnancy was “planned”. Asking the question itself is seen as undoubtedly worse than the lying/dodging/ignoring that it elicits. It’s the kind of question that has a couple discussing the audacity of the perpetrator while loading the dishwasher after all the guests have left.

I recently bore the brunt of this harsh reality when trying to lay the groundwork for Bubble’s initial base of ‘launch sitters’. I had a simple idea to quickly build a contact list of brilliant, personally recommended local babysitters. My wife and I would make a list of every parent with young kids we knew, explain to them the new venture we were embarking on with Bubble and ask them for the name and number of just one or two babysitters they knew.

We managed to pull a list of 100 parent-friends together (admittedly 95 were hers, 3 were mutual, 2 were mine – both siblings) and were confident we’d get a pool of ~150 local babysitters off the back of it.

Three days later, I had three sitters to call. Three. Three outstanding friends too, right? Maybe, or perhaps they were just like our friend “Jane” (not her real name though she probably wouldn’t mind!) who unashamedly admitted just this week that when asked for sitters, she gives out her 3rd choice only – “never the sitters I actually like to use.”

Most people just flat out ignored us, while others responded with some real gems such as “I have one, but really she only likes babysitting for my Josh, she told me that, honest!”

I did entertain the possibility that rather than exposing an anthropological phenomenon, it could have been that most of those 100 or so people just didn’t like me very much.  A solid theory, although the fly in the ointment there was that Atara had done most of the outreach and she’s a really good egg and generally well liked. So instead, I settled on the notion that in the status quo, where finding a babysitter is such a pain, relying on friends to share theirs with you is naïve at best, downright insensitive at worst.

But guess what? Rather than leave me disappointed, what occurred genuinely emboldened me for two reasons:

1.     The fact that parents are so fearful of sharing their babysitters, even amongst good friends, tells you that both the value of the service is extremely high and supply is extremely low. i.e. there’s a big problem here worth solving, and;

2.     That if everyone had shared (or “networked) their one trusted sitter between their trusted friends and community, then everyone would have gone from having one sitter they could call upon, to a hundred.

Quite literally, everyone on that list would have never had any difficulty finding a trusted babysitter again. Ever.

Now wouldn’t that be nice.