“It’s like Uber, for babysitting,” is something that sounds vaguely like a joke and is one of the ways that I make rent every month. This could be an essay about the horrors of the gig economy and how you can have two master’s degrees and a full-time job and still not quite enough to comfortably afford groceries and buy a new sweater every once and while, but I’ll spare you. I used to be a full-time nanny, and when I transitioned out of that job into a part-time one (and, eventually, a full-time one), I found myself dabbling in the world of babysitting apps, of which there are a few in New York. Now, a few times a week, my phone pings with notifications for booking requests, which I frequently accept, trekking all up and down Manhattan and, if I’m lucky, closer to home in Brooklyn.
The people who hire me to babysit have enough disposable income to book me on a whim, sometimes with only a few hours’ notice. Usually I am greeted by a beautiful mom who has mastered the art of styling her hair. She gestures toward a monitor and shows me where the remote is before quickly absconding with her partner (equally as beautiful, these men with the expensive watches) and returning a few hours later in the dark. “Everything go okay?” they ask as I put my shoes on. In the elevator, I confirm on the app that the job is over and edit the end time if I need to, which is often. (“Take your time!” I say cheerfully as they leave, hoping for a bigger payment and to pocket the cab fare that gets added automatically past 11 p.m.) A few days later, a small sum — I make between $17–21 an hour, depending on how many kids are present — shows up in my Venmo account, and I spend it on lunches the following week.