One quarantined mom had a genius idea for parents at their wit's end attempting to entertain and watch the little ones while simultaneously working from home. That's how the idea of virtual babysitting was born.
Renee Flores, a Florida mom-of-three, came to her 21-year-old daughter Sarah with a brilliant idea for her while she's stuck at home. "You babysit. What if there was a way you could do it virtually over FaceTime or something?" she said.
Sarah immediately tested out a virtual babysitting session with one of her mom's coworker's kids. Erin Butler, the mother of 5-year-old Colin and 3-year-old Sean, was shocked to see her little one entertained while the other took a nap. Butler was able to get work done in another room while Sarah kept her child busy, Today reports.
"I was on conference calls while he was on with her," Butler said. "He walked around the house with the iPad and was showing her his room and different areas. They talked about creatures like whales, squids and turtles and were drawing together while Sarah told him all sorts of interesting things about whales."
Butler peeked in at her son for long enough to take a quick snap and posted the results to Twitter.
"It's the most entertained I've seen him in weeks," Butler wrote. The two stayed on the video call for 90 minutes.
The virtual babysitting session was so successful that Butler was quick to book a second after the initial one ended. "We booked the next session right when we finished the first. There's not a lot we can do these days - no playdates, no parks and it's still cold in the northeast - so it was nice to see him interacting with someone," Butler said.
She continued, "He's already drawn a picture to show Sarah on their next session."
Meanwhile, Flores explains that the idea came to her when thinking about all of the working parents out there who feel torn between entertaining their children and getting things done for their jobs.
"You're so torn because being a working parent in a dual-working family, you're missing the scaffolding that normally supports you, whether it's school or in-home support or family members or other kinds of childcare. That's the only way it works - it depends on that incredible level of support," she explains.
And it's not lost on Butler how creative Sarah had to be to keep her 5-year-old virtually engaged. "I think it's harder to keep a kid engaged on the iPad than if you're in person with them," Butler said. "You have to be really creative and Sarah definitely was. It was super helpful and it was nice to see Colin excited about something."