When the struggle of looking after her two children started taking a toll on her relationship, Alexis Simon looked for babysitters to let her spend some time alone with her husband, Matthew.
Not being from Atlantic Canada originally, she "didn't have that village that everyone talks about" to help her look after her children, Simon told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax.
She had to hire babysitters through Facebook and on the advice of neighbours.
The results could be unpredictable. One sitter didn't know how to change a diaper. Another was terrified of dogs after assuring Simon it wouldn't be an issue.
While on vacation in Toronto, Simon said she wanted to see a Blue Jays' game with her husband. She searched on Google for babysitters and found several agencies.
She booked a babysitter in 10 minutes and said she was pleased with the results.
"I felt comfortable leaving her because I knew that she had her background check, her references, she had recommendations from other parents that had used her in the past, and it was a great service," Simon said.
Inspired by the experience, Simon set up her own agency — the Atlantic Babysitters Club — at her Halifax home.
She said she interviews all the sitters and does the reference checks.
Prospective sitters are required to submit to a background check and provide CPR certification.
The agency currently has nine babysitters on its roster.
According to Simon, the agency charges clients $24 an hour. Sitters make between $15 and $18 an hour depending on their previous experience.
Simon said the cost may be a bit higher than parents normally pay, but she hopes they understand that she wants her sitters to earn a living wage.
In addition, she said, the ease of booking and the fact her sitters are vetted should make the service more attractive.
Simon said she would trust all of the babysitters on her roster with her own children.
The agency's website has a four-hour minimum booking for sitters in the Halifax area and Moncton.
Lucy Sharpe of Halifax said she has been babysitting for about 10 years. She is taking online classes at Lakeland College in Alberta to become a child and youth counsellor.
She said she learned about the idea of the agency through a Facebook advertisement before Simon even started the business.
After an interview and background checks, she said she started by babysitting Simon's two children.
"The perks of working for Alexis with her babysitting company is that I don't have to go out and find the parents," Sharpe said.
"Instead, they will come to Alexis, go on her website and choose me if they want to, and I will just get the booking and be able to start working for them."
Sense of relief
For most parents, having the freedom to know their children are with someone they trust for a few hours gives them a big sense of relief, she said.
It's a belief echoed by Jocelyne Perry in Moncton. She is another babysitter working with the agency.
She said she babysat for a family on Saturday. The family had moved to Moncton from a different province and it had been difficult for them to find someone they could trust.
Perry said people are going out more now and the demand for babysitters is increasing. She already has bookings into December.
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