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Service Uses 'Speed Dating' to Link Babysitters With Parents

By Emily Frost | October 2, 2012 7:05am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Finding childcare, like finding a mate, can be hard work.

But a new babysitting service, UrbanSitter, has translated the workarounds and shortcuts of the dating world — from online dating to matchmaking to speed dating — into helping parents find their ideal caregiver.

On Oct. 3 at Finger Painted Hands Montessori School on West 83rd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus, 10 of the website's best babysitters will pair off with a line of eager parents for five minute increments before a bell rings and they move on to the next set of rapid fire questions.

Lest the babysitters and parents feel too anxious, with thoughts of CPR and hourly rates weighing on them, UrbanSitter will start the night with relaxed mingling.

"It will be a little bit of a cocktail party, with a few bottles of wine and some food," said Meg Pryor of UrbanSitter.

Then it's down to business, with parents and babysitters facing off along a long table.

"The idea is more that it gives parents the chance to really efficiently meet a good number of babysitters that they can reach out to," said Pryor. 

The event is still open to interested parents, who should email scotusevent@yahoo.com by Tuesday evening for a seat at the table.

Among the all-star sitters expected to show up is Abby Berger, who the Wall Street Journal dubbed the "Queen of All Babysitters" after she racked up the highest ratings on UrbanSitter. The sitters will be from all over the city, but are all willing to work on the Upper West Side.

"UrbanSitter is a little like Open Table," said Pryor, "it’s a convenient thing, but the features set it apart."

UrbanSitter launched in New York City this past March and has really taken off in Brooklyn, as well as Manhattan, said Pryor. The service currently has 700 sitters listed in the two boroughs.

On the site, which uses Facebook Connect and is currently free to join, parents can see who their friends have recommended as a babysitter and book them online instantly.

They can also see which sitters are getting top-rated and have badges for responding quickly, accepting credit cards or having a background check, among other things. And, if you can't book all-star Abby, you can check out which of her friends are available.