Babysitters give peace of mind

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 July, 2010, 12:00am

Being a hands-on mother with a full-time job is not easy in Hong Kong. When they want a night off, it is difficult to find a babysitter who lives nearby.

This is when Rent-A-Mum comes in handy. Instead of having mothers running all over the city trying to find the perfect babysitter, the company does it for you.

With hourly rates starting at HK$144, bookings must be for at least four hours. Parents need only call about 30 minutes beforehand to book a babysitter.

Mainly targeting the expatriate community, the company makes sure that all babysitters are from similar backgrounds to its clients and understand how expats raise their children. 'There are three requirements for babysitters: they must be a native English speaker with a similar background to our clients, they must be at least 19 years old and they must have high moral standards so that they can be a positive role model for the children,' says Shirley Robinson, owner and manager of Rent-A-Mum.

There are about 120 babysitters in the company, including British, northern Europeans, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans.

Overnight stays are also available, but parents have to provide transport costs, or set up a room for the babysitter. Charges are also more expensive, starting from HK$1,000 per night. The babysitters can do more than just stay at home with the children for the entire booking.

They can also act as tour guides and take children, whose parents may be in Hong Kong for business and don't have much leisure time, around the city on fun and educational trips.

Professional nursery or maternity nurses are also provided for children aged 16 months and under. Although the cost of hiring these nurses are more expensive than those for normal babysitters, with the hourly rate set at HK$180, all nurses are highly qualified and possess certifications, such as Britain's National Nursery Examination Board diploma.

Apart from taking care of the children's daily needs, Robinson believes that nannies also act as a 'proxy parent' and play a positive role in a child's upbringing. Permanent nanny placement is also provided by the company.

'For a full-time certified nanny, clients should expect to pay about HK$36,000 to HK$40,000 per month,' Robinson says.

'Each year, we place about seven to eight permanent nannies with different families in Hong Kong.'

Full-time and part-time helpers are commonly seen in Hong Kong.

However, Robinson believes there is a difference when hiring a babysitter or nanny. 'Full-time or part-time helpers have other obligations, such as cleaning and washing, besides taking care of the children.

'But for babysitters and nannies, their sole purpose is to concentrate and play with the children,' she says.