Parents struggle to find baby sitters
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY” There’s a pretty white dress with big yellow flowers on it, perfect for an adult night out, hanging in Monica Herbst’s closet.
She can’t remember the last time she wore it.
Her husband Brian said he remembers “easier days” when he would call home at lunch time and say he was taking her out that night without worrying who would be able to watch their two daughters for the night.
“I love the mountains, but there are some things about living in a city that I really miss,” Brian said. “Baby sitting is an industry in the city, and we never had trouble finding one.”
Since the Herbsts moved to Edwards in March they have not yet found a baby sitter, he said. Their only option has been to consider calling a professional service, which they can’t afford, he said.
“I’m starting my own business and we don’t have $100 laying around to pay a sitter for the night,” Monica said. “I remember when I was a teenager I charged like $15 a night to watch my neighbors’ kids.
“Where are all the affordable teenage baby sitters?”
There are four professional baby-sitting services listed in Vail Valley with hourly prices for watching two children starting at $20 an hour.
“I realize it is expensive, and I have had a couple of people approach me about how much it costs,” said Jodi Link, owner of Activity Sitters. “I do give a local discount of a couple of dollars, but I have a $2 million insurance policy and bonding that I have to pay for.”
Parents are encouraged to split the cost of the sitting service, Link said.
If two families had four children cared for at $24 an hour, they would each pay $12 an hour, making it much more affordable, she said.
“It’s not just baby-sitting, it’s child care,” Link said. “You will get a lot more from our sitters than you would from other sitters who aren’t trained or invested in what they do. I know it seems expensive, but it’s quality, and with the discount why not get more for your money?”
The majority of sitters who work for Activity Sitters have other day-time jobs dealing with children, Link said.
Even with the discount for locals, it’s too hefty a price to pay, said Valerie Wollshleger, a single mom of twin 4-year-olds.
But Wollshleger has other ideas about how to have a fun night out without paying a fortune.
“I would love to start a co-op of parents in the valley for free baby-sitting,” Wollshleger said. “It’s already expensive enough to live here, we working folks need a break from the Vail dreamworld where everything is expensive and we just have to deal with it.”
Parents would swap baby-sitting services in exchange for points that could then be traded for someone watching their children for earned points ” instead of hard-earned dollars, Wollshleger said.
“It’s a dream right now, but it would be nice if I could get other fed-up parents on board,” Wollshleger said.
Right now Wollshleger said she has relied on her neighbor’s daughter to watch her children on the rare nights she goes out.
“I love watching Valerie’s kiddos, but she always seems a little nervous about me watching them,” said 15-year-old baby sitter Amie Lewis. “I always get a list of instructions and she calls throughout the night to check in on us, but I can understand how she would be nervous about a teenager watching such little ones.”
Wollshleger is nervous about a teenager watching her kids, but said Lewis is the best option she has available.
“I know she is capable and they’ll be fine, but it’s hard not to worry about someone who is only 15 watching two toddlers,” Wollshleger said. “But at least I can afford her.”
Lewis earns $12 an hour and the money is split between college savings and spending money, she said.
Just being able to finding a teenage baby sitter would be a dream for the Herbsts, Brian Herbst said.
“Twelve bucks an hour must be nice for a kid to earn, but it would be a lot better than paying a stranger $20 to watch our kids,” Brian Herbst said. “At least you can get to know them and call on them as needed.”
“We could probably swing $60 much easier than we could $100 to go for dinner and a movie,” Monica Herbst added. “Now all we need to do is find (a baby sitter). Easier said than done.
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.