Editor’s note: This article was updated in October 2015 with new information and affiliate links.
When you’re juggling work, family, and home responsibilities just about every minute of the day, you really can use all the help you can get. And while it’s wonderful if you have parents, siblings, neighbors, or friends ready and willing to pitch in at a moment’s notice, most of us simply don’t have that luxury.
That’s why I’ve been a proponent of Care.com since they first launched back in 2007. At the time, I shared details about their services here on WMAG, declaring Care.com an “incredibly helpful, easy-to-use, and trustworthy resource for finding childcare providers, tutors, pet sitters/dog walkers, and senior care providers.” (Yes, I realize just quoted myself.)
We’ve kept tabs on Care.com ever since, and wow, they’ve come a long way—covering 16 countries and has 16.5 million members. Working parents can easily and reliably find all sorts of help for their home and family through this online resource. Their offerings include:
How to find the right person
When you’re seeking a caregiver, you can quickly create an account and post a job for free. Monica Bell, a nanny who lives in my area and has been hired via Care.com in the past, says it helps when you share specifics about hours, location, days of the week, etc. on your profile. Interested candidates will contact you within three days.
In order to view contact details and make contact with an unlimited number of caregivers, purchase background checks, and access references for providers, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee ranging from approximately $37 for a monthly subscription to $147 for an annual subscription. You can save 20% at Care.com with code 30SAVESM.
Once you upgrade your account, you can check out the caregivers who applied, request background checks, do interviews, and hire the person who’s right for you.
Side note: My friend Amy, a mom of two boys and full-time Cincinnati real estate agent, took a slightly different approach when she used Care.com to hire an in-home nanny. She posted the job on Care.com to get it in front of lots of potential nannies, but created her own Google form to customize the questions and information she collected from candidates. She took the rest of the process offline and ended up hiring a fabulous nanny.
The mother of invention
From the big picture to the smallest details, there’s no doubt Care.com is the brainchild of a working mom. Sheila Lirio Marcelo founded the company after struggling to find quality care as a mother of two who was caring for her parents at an early age. You can learn just about everything you’d want to know about caregivers before deciding to meet or interview them. (Sorry, Craig’s List, but you just don’t compare.)
The site puts you in control, sort of like real estate sites do for home buyers. It’s ridiculously easy to search and sort based on your criteria, and a snap to quickly go through search results to narrow the choices.
If you find what looks like the perfect math genius to teach your son geometry or the next Mary Poppins to watch your kids on Saturday nights, you can contact providers via the site or directly by phone. From there, it’s up to you to decide who’s right for your fam or Fido. (Before you say “you’re hired,” you might want to visit Care.com’s safety center.)
It’s not for everyone
If you ask around or search for Care.com reviews online, you’ll find plenty of success stories and negative experiences—just like with any service-oriented company. Heck, even in the comments of this very blog post (many of them from years ago), you can get a taste of the love-hate relationship people have with the site.
My suggestion: Take the anonymous reviews you see online with a BIG grain of salt.
Instead, ask people you know and trust who have actually used Care.com what they think. My blogger friend Courtney said she had a horrible Care.com experience last year (she lived in Savannah, Ga., at the time). That sucks. Two other local friends said they’ve discovered wonderful Cincinnati babysitters via Care.com, and my blogger friend Sherryl said both of her daughters are care providers with profiles on the site. That’s awesome!
Get the facts for yourself. Then, make up your own mind about the best way to find the help you need.
Care.com spotlight: Monica’s story
For an in-depth example of Care.com in action, I wanted to share WMAG contributor Monica Froese‘s experience in her own words:
“I had family watch my daughter until she was a year old. After her 1st birthday, my mom told me that she could no longer cover Thursdays, and all the daycares in the area required a minimum of 2 days. I couldn’t justify taking her away from family for two days when she only needed coverage for one day a week, so I turned to Care.com.
“I found their process to be very straightforward and easy. I signed up for a 3-month period., and immediately put up an ad with what we were looking for. We were flooded with candidates. Mainly college students or recent grads, a few SAHMs and people who had grown kids.
“We decided to stay away from SAHMs for two reasons. First, the whole point of paying more for a nanny was for the 1:1 care. As a mom, I know that a mom’s first priority is to her own child and I don’t judge that at all—it’s how we are wired as mothers. Second, I was not willing to drive her anywhere to drop her off. I wanted someone to come to our home and watch her.
“I also managed to negotiate my work-from-home day to be the day the nanny would be there, so I could get comfortable with how their interactions were.
“We interviewed a few nannies on the phone first. We picked three we liked and met them at a local coffee shop. We settled on a 22-year-old who just finished her education degree and was looking to pursue her master’s. After meeting in the coffee shop, we used Care.com to run a background and DMV check. Once she passed that, we asked her to come to the house and get to know our daughter in her surroundings.
“The biggest comfort that Care.com brought to us was the access to background checks and the DMV records. We also signed up for their payroll management, which allowed us to properly employ her and write off her income and taxes with our daycare FSA.
“There are some major legal issues that go into paying a nanny under the table, and I always prefer to give myself peace of mind and do it the legal way. Everything from tax write-offs to liability concerns are things you need to consider when hiring someone to come into your home.
“It really is the parents’ responsibility to determine whom to leave their child with. This is why I made sure I was home for the first eight months she was there. I realize that this not feasible for everyone, but as a parent this is why it’s still up to you to use your best judgement.
“You have to feel comfortable with the quality of person you are inviting into your home, and that is what Care.com helped me to do.”
There’s more to Care.com than job posting and care providers. Check out all the helpful content for working moms: expert advice about children, pets, housekeeping, workplace benefits, and more; hiring guides for finding the care you need; plus Sheila’s fabulous blog.
As Monica mentioned, you can even use Care.com to pay your care providers and manage the tax returns. Their HomePay system makes it easier for families to cover their bases, from a payroll perspective.
I would definitely recommend a premium Care.com membership to any working mom who needs some help managing your hectic home life. It would also make a very thoughtful gift for the WMAGs in your life.