Keep calm and leave it to a babysitter: Perspectives from the founder of domestic help app Agent Bong

Singapore, 15 August 2016 – As the cost of living in Singapore continues to rise, it comes as no surprise that the number of dual-career couples has increased, reaching a new high of 53.8 per cent in 2015. With this growth, there has naturally been a greater need for childcare services. In order to cater to the demand, the Ministry of Social and Family Development targets to add 20,000 childcare places between 2013 and 2017.

Alternatives for Family

If you and your spouse are dual-income, your child may already be in a childcare centre, or is perhaps taken care of by a foreign domestic worker. If you are lucky enough, you may have your parents or relatives to help out. For others like me, who lack family support in Singapore, there are limitations to current options, requiring alternatives.

Childcare centres, for example, require sick children to stay home. The centres also have the occasional closure for cleaning or training. This means that parents need to take leave, whatever work demands they face. If the centre is my only source of childcare for my son soon to be born in August, I’m wondering if I should fly my parents in from Hong Kong to help me out.

A domestic helper may be heaven for some, but not for parents on a budget as minimum wages for domestic help continue to rise. The domestic helper also needs to tend to household chores; so what happens if the baby refuses to sleep? With these issues in mind before the baby arrives, I see babysitters as a great alternative, and it seems I’m not alone.

Finding a Babysitter

Data from the Agent Bong domestic chores mobile app shows that babysitting services make up 10% of the job requests in Hong Kong, with a greater preference for caregivers who can communicate in the mother tongue. With Singapore’s diverse culture, mother tongue and cultural sensitivities such as halal or vegetarian requirements, are even more important.

While babysitters are a feasible alternative, finding a good one is usually a challenge. The age-old method of personal references could result in little success, since more are relying on other childcare options and therefore lack contacts. Parenting forums are one of the ways to locate babysitters, but it is almost impossible to verify the babysitters’ identities or capabilities.

Babysitting with a Click

To address these issues I introduced babysitting services into the Agentbong app. With Agentbong, all helpers listed on the platform are professionally verified and matched with families based on their needs. Information on the helper’s experience is also available and only those experienced or certified in childcare are approved as babysitters. Parents can be assured that the babysitters have the ability to look after their children.

Engaging an ideal babysitter is only the first step; the next step is to observe how the babysitter interacts with your child. Also, provide clear instructions to the babysitter. If medication is required, specify the dosage and timings. Highlight allergies, likes and dislikes, tantrum triggers and sleeping patterns. Refer to our tips for identifying a good babysitter.

As a parent, our top priority is our children. It is our responsibility to provide them with the best form of care. At the same time, we are not always able to attend to their every need without stressing ourselves out. Lets also not forget our partner who we once romanced, before parenthood interrupted. I will schedule regular dates with my wife even when my son arrives and plan to book babysitters for those days. Let’s leave it to the professionals when the situation calls for it. The goal? Happier families.