Virtual babysitting helps parents juggle double responsibilities during pandemic

Virtual babysitting helps parents juggle double responsibilities during pandemic

For 40 minutes at a time, parents can be free of the kids for whatever they need

Alla Tanasyuk has found help juggling parenting duties and work responsibilities during the pandemic since stumbling upon virtual babysitting.

The Montreal-based French language teacher, 34, was surfing the internet one day when she came across SOS Sitter, a service that connects groups of six or seven children with a caretaker by Zoom for around an hour. Looking for a way to keep her four-year-old son, Adam, occupied over long days in lockdown, she gave a few lessons a try and quickly becoming hooked.

Tanasyuk now has Adam enrolled in a few hours of virtual care each morning, time she relishes to get her own work done.

“When I’m working, he’s busy too,” Tanasyuk says.

She’s one of many young Canadian parents finding solace in creative solutions to the sudden lack of childcare ushered in by COVID-19. Virtual babysitting is one of the solutions for working parents grappling with the double demands of a day job and parenting duties.

RELATED: Federal government commits $625 million in child care funding

RELATED: Companies get creative to help parents juggle work and kids during pandemic

Though Tanasyuk’s son is not yet old enough for kindergarten, she doesn’t plan to send him to daycare any time soon because Quebec’s daily coronavirus infection rate remain higher than she’d like. She’s grateful to know she has other options that work, and plans to use SOS Sitter to keep her son busy for at least part of each workday.

As an only child, it lets Adam can socialize with other children and adults — which has been a strugle for many kids with no siblings during social isolation.

“He likes to listen to others,” Tanasyuk says. “[The lessons offer] a lot of conversation from every kid, and he likes to hear his name. He wants to hear his name, he wants a teacher to call him, ask him if everything is good.”

Everyday, Tanasyuk sits him in front of the computer with materials SOS Sitter childcare providers have instructed her to prep in advance such as books to read, crayons for craft-themed sessions, or comprehension tools for Spanish-language lessons. Adam prefers to take his courses alone, Tanasyuk says, so she lets him enjoy his time independently while she works from another room.

Since pivoting SOS Sitter’s services online at the start of the pandemic, company founder Paulina Podgorska says she’s heard from a number of parents who are grateful to have pockets of free time.

“For 40 minutes at a time, parents can be free of kids and can organize the time to have that important meeting, call the client, talk to the boss … whatever they need,” Podgorska says.

Her company currently offers group sessions at $12 per time-slot, with discounted rates for sessions bought in bulk, but she’s working on orchestrating one-on-one sessions at a slightly higher fee.

Virtual care rates are slightly more affordable than traditional in-person babysitting, which typically hovers at around $15 an hour, primarily because the time and travel are cut from the equation, Podgorska says.

To Tanasyuk, the cost is worth it for parents who have the extra budget.

“I would recommend it,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to continue to learn while being at home.”

Though it’s too soon to say whether school reopenings across the country will affect demand for services like SOS Sitter, Podgorska remains hopeful that parents will continue to rely on virtual babysitting to break up evenings, weekends or days off.

“There are so many situations when [school is not necessarily] closed, but the child is at home today,” Podgorska says. “This service covers the need.”

Elize Shirdel, founder of Toronto-based virtual daycare platform HELM Life holds a similar views. She sees her service, which offers virtual daycare sessions for $9 each, as “a component of a rounded childcare strategy.”

A working parent herself, Shirdel admits she was originally skeptical about increasing screen time for her children. But after realizing that time spent learning via computer has a far different effect on young minds than recreational activities, she eagerly recommends remote learning to other millennial parents.

“When I put my kids in front of YouTube, or Netflix … that gets me back grouchy kids,” Shirdel says. “But when they do an online activity it’s different. They spend a little while drawing and creating and talking and playing, then we get back happy kids.”

Podgorska, too, believes technology can be an advantageous learning tool; she recalls the early days of the pandemic, when SOS Sitter had just launched its online services. She was surprised to learn quickly that Zoom came intuitively to even young children.

“We were so new to this whole thing: I was new to the virtual babysitting, my teachers were new, parents were new, and kids were new,” Podgorska says. “Guess which one took [it] on the best and the quickest? The kids.”

— Audrey Carleton, The Canadian Press

ChildcareCoronavirusInternet and Telecom

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

Black Press file photo.
Interior Health: 6 new deaths and 67 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend

An outbreak has been declared at Kelowna General Hospital

Janet (left) and Karen Johnson. (Shelley Woods Boden/Facebook)
Petition to keep Wells Gray murderer in jail garners 39K signatures and counting

Family and friends compiling victim impact statements to keep David Ennis behind bars.

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read