Finding the right person to look after your children isn’t easy (think of how much mileage Hollywood has gotten out of that predicament, from “Baby Boom” to “Mrs. Doubtfire”). For families that aren’t choosing day care, entrusting their children to a reliable, responsible sitter is the kind of challenge that keeps parents up nights. Here’s one alternative: Rent-a-Grandma, a franchised employment agency that matches older women to families seeking caregivers.
Todd Pliss, founder of the company, had been working as a studio teacher in Los Angeles on movie and television sets, when the idea occurred to him. He founded the company in September 2010.
“I’d hear complaints from moms who hired local kids that they were not too happy,” said Pliss. “I thought, ‘Who has the most experience? Who’s reliable?’ Grandmas have the most experience.”
While the women don’t actually have to be grandmothers, Pliss said that about 95 percent are. The agency does a complete screening of each prospective worker, including screening for sex offenders and other criminals, and charges a one-time fee to the families seeking a sitter. The hourly rate for the sitter depends on where the family lives, and the sitter’s responsibilities—all are paid above the minimum wage, said Pliss. At present the company has a corporate office in Los Angeles. Franchises in Virginia and Dallas are scheduled to open soon. In the meantime, prospective sitters can post their resumes on line at the company web site where clients can find them.
Unlike teenagers who are often distracted by schoolwork, socializing with their friends, or portable electronic devices, Pliss explained, “our grandmas don’t text or tweet.”
Having a mature woman was an important factor for Anna Caldwell, a mother of three from Valencia, California, who has hired a Rent-A-Grandma for occasional help.
“I’m not opposed to using teenagers,” said Caldwell. But especially for situations when “you have a longer commitment”, like when Caldwell and her husband need to be away for a weekend, “ we feel more comfortable. We have had the same one and been so happy with her. Todd pre-screens them, and that’s a relief. She’s a mature woman with grown kids. She was great. She acted like a grandma would.”
Given the high unemployment rate for older workers, the service has attracted many women who had professional careers, often as teachers, although some have retired from careers as lawyers or business executives.
“There are a lot of women who are laid off from their jobs,” said Pliss. “We see a lot of age-ism.” With Rent-A-Grandma, maturity is considered a marketable asset.
The service focuses on women who are 50 and older, although some are younger. Besides childcare, many are willing to do light housekeeping, cooking, party planning, pet-sitting and even elder care.”
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