Sitters in demand for Friday

Augusta mother Julie Menger is planning a night in with her men on New Year’s Eve.

“Our parents and sitters have social lives, too,” Menger explained.

She said she doesn’t feel the need to go out anymore, so she is planning a fun evening Friday of finger foods, ginger ale in champagne glasses and watching the ball drop with her sons, 7-year-old Nate and 10-year-old Jackson, and husband, Richard.

Most parents wait until Dec. 29 to find sitters, according to Chicago-based SitterCity.com, one resource for finding a baby sitter.

“It’s definitely the most requested night of the year. You’ll see a significant increase in job postings,” spokeswoman Melissa Marchwick said. “Obviously the sooner you book, the better because there’s less competition.”

With the average hourly rate at $9.25 for Augusta sitters, according to the site’s rate calculator, it’s a night for sitters to rack up cash. Sittercity suggests offering a 50 percent increase over average rates.

“Sitters want to go out, too, so you have to sweeten the pot,” said Marchwick. “You have to make it worth their while.”

The site, which began in 2001, offers parents an option to find a sitter when regular sitters aren’t available. All sitters on the site are 18 or older, and most include references listed. More than 800 sitters offer listings in the Augusta-Aiken area.

“When families post a job on our site, it goes up immediately. In large cities you’ll get possibly 25 applicants in the first 24 hours, so Augusta parents are likely to have close to 10 applicants and could conceivably find a sitter so close to the big day,” Marchwick said.

She said that although the cash seems like a big investment for one night, parents can pool resources and share a sitter with another family. Whether staying in or going out, Menger said, making the evening fun for children is a priority.

“New Year’s is about a time of celebration, and it’s really easy to create a party atmosphere by buying a few sparklers and making a toast,” she said.