Are Parents Really Stealing Babysitters From Each Other?

A new poll shows parents are increasingly taking sitters from others. Experts share why this "parent-on-parent crime" is happening and what to do instead.

Nanny with girl

Studio Marmellata / Stocksy

Imagine this. You just had a second child. You and your toddler are getting restless in the home. You decide to head to the park. To help you manage, you pay your babysitter to come along. You had done a tone of legwork to find the sitter, including an interview, trial, and background check.

You hold your newborn as the babysitter pushes your toddler on the swing. It's a sweet moment during a time of chaos. And suddenly, it gets more chaotic. 

Another parent on the playground approaches your babysitter without asking you and asks for her number.

You're mortified. The person hadn't asked your permission. But the other mom had a larger budget for the sitter, so you can probably guess what happens next. Mortifying? Yes. Common? Also, yes.

"Sitter stealing" or poaching isn't the nicest way to play in the sandbox. But new data from is shedding light on how common it is. In a poll of 1,000 parents, 41% said another parent had stolen their babysitter, with 35% copping to swiping one from someone else. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 36% of parents keep their sitter's identity hush-hush.

It's tough. On the one hand, parents need help. Two common clichés are particularly true right now: It takes a village, and good help is hard to find. Karen Aronian, Ed.D., parenting expert and founder of Aronian Education Design LLC, points out that data show that nearly 16,000 childcare providers shuttered permanently between December 2019 and March 2021. Even before the pandemic, family dynamics were changing, with more children living in one-caregiver homes than in previous generations. It's left families scrambling to find a village—and tapping into someone else's.

"In a world where…dependable resources have plummeted, how can parents and guardians get quality care and support for their kids when working, multi-tasking their brood, or needing a personal moment or day?" says Aronian.

But is sitter stealing the answer?

What is Sitter Stealing?

The meaning is in the name. Sitter stealing is using another family's sitter, often without consulting the other parents. Sitters may work for multiple families in a neighborhood all the time, though. What's the difference between that and sitter stealing?

"The competition for finding a superlative babysitter nearby is so fierce that it's natural for parents to confide in their network of friends, family members, and neighbors," says Natalie Mayslich,'s President, Consumer. "But once the word gets out that there is a stellar one in the area, parents immediately think of ways to add them to their Rolodex of go-to sitters. In many instances, they may even entice the sitter with certain perks to get them to accept their job over other jobs, such as a higher hourly rate."

Why Does Sitter Stealing Happen?

If you're a parent, you know: It's tough out there. Childcare resources are limited, and the pandemic exacerbated these issues. "Parents are stealing sitters from one another because it's harder than ever to find one that checks all the boxes," Mayslich says.

Parents aren't going to sign up to have just anyone watch their kids, no matter how much they need a date night or to stay late at work.

"It's beyond simply finding a babysitter that is available," Mayslich says. "It's also about finding one that has experience with certain age groups of children or has CPR and safety certifications. So, when there's a new phenomenal sitter on the block, it's no surprise that parents are duking it out to win them over."

It's understandable, but is it OK?

"Committing the 'parent on parent crime' of sitter stealing can often leave other parents without care for their kids when they may already have plans, such as a recurring weekly date night," Mayslich says. "For some parents, this can be an unforgivable act. If parents are interested in booking a sitter used by other families in the neighborhood, there are ways to approach the situation in a more respectful manner that doesn't burn bridges.

What are the Do's and Don'ts of Sitter Stealing?

Sitter stealing is considered unkind. But it's a bit much for parents to think they have a monopoly on a specific sitter, particularly if the sitter needs or wants multiple clients. Mayslich suggests following these do's and don't's.

  • Be transparent. Communication is key to maintaining good relationships with fellow parents. "If a parent wants to hire their neighbor's sitter, they should notify that person before reaching out to the babysitter to avoid strife," Mayslich says.
  • Consider a sitter share. A share can benefit everyone. Parents get care, the sitter makes money, and the drama is cut out of the equation. "Parents can think about teaming up with the other family to plan a double date night or outing to have the sitter watch all the children together at one family's house," Mayslich says. "Even better, a sitter share would make for a more attractive job for the babysitter, given the higher paycheck."
  • Borrow, don't steal. You're in a bind. Your usual sitter canceled, and you know your pal has a great one. Yes, you can ask to borrow a friend's sitter for one night. "Parents can opt for borrowing the sitter when they're in a pinch while they work to find their own go-to sitters, rather than completely poaching another family's regular sitter," Mayslich says.
  • Avoid schedule-busting. You know an accountant works late during tax season. Same with babysitters during certain times of the year. It's not the time to call the sitter you borrowed during the holiday rush. "Snatching another family's sitter on days when they have consistent needs for childcare, like certain evenings with late commutes or routine weekend outings, can bust parents' plans and wreck their schedules," Mayslich says.
  • Don't underpay the sitter. "Parents should acknowledge the going hourly rates for babysitters to compensate the sitter a fair rate, being sure not to undercut their payment," Mayslich says.

What to Do Instead of Sitter Stealing

There are other ways to find help without sitter stealing. Aronian suggests tapping into other resources, including:

  • Asking family nearby, if possible.
  • Asking for referrals from doctors, online groups, places of worship, or your child's school or daycare.
  • Ask neighbors who have teenagers. Some places, such as local libraries, have CPR and babysitting prep classes that a teen may have taken.

Mayslich also agrees that parents are best off if they curate their own bench of sitters. recently launched an on-demand babysitting feature that offers background-checked candidates in their area in as little as 15 minutes. Sitters have profiles where they can share their skills and availability and pay the sitter through the app. will also help parents find a backup plan if the sitter cancels.

Ultimately, Aronian says the best way to approach the temptation to sitter stealing is to lean into something you may have learned from a babysitter.

"The old Golden Rule, 'do onto others," Aronian says. "Be the example."

And find your own sitter.

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Parenting in America: The American Family today. Pew Research Center. 2015.

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