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Plans for the Ball, But in Search of A Sitter Who Fits

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Julianna Caplan's inauguration plans were coming together: hat and gloves, swearing-in tickets, ball gown.

But she lacked the most important piece: a babysitter.

Caplan, 37, a mother of twin 2-year-old daughters with her own public relations firm, had been scouring neighborhood e-mail lists for child care -- and no, she wasn't going to tell The Washington Post the mere handful of sitters she had found who might be available.

"This has been on my mind forever, and now it's days away. How is this possible?" said Caplan, a Georgetown resident.

Area parents, eager to take part in the historic moment so they have stories to tell their children and grandchildren, are scrambling to find inauguration child care. Meanwhile, babysitting services and freelance child care providers are trying to meet the demand.

Kate Taylor, 25, who lives in Arlington County and lists her services on the Sittercity Web site, is working almost every night around Inauguration Day, for four of her eight regular families. But she kept getting so many other queries that she updated her profile: "Already booked for inaugural events." Sitters.com, a Leesburg-based company, said it has had a 20 percent increase in child care postings for inauguration weekend.

The confluence of facts and what-ifs -- many schools closed Monday and Tuesday, millions of people expected to pour into the city, nighttime social plans, wildly varying traffic and crowd population estimates -- are throwing even the most think-ahead parents into a tizzy.

Northwest Washington parent Aisha Wilson Bond, 33, has had babysitters on the brain since election night, when she wanted to take part in the spontaneous celebrations around the city.

"But it was incredibly meaningful to hold my daughters and tuck them in knowing their world had radically changed in ways they may never be able to fully understand," Bond said.

That was then. For the inauguration, Bond bought some dresses and shoes, "and I fully intend to step out looking fabulous on behalf of my new president and celebrate." Her cousins and a neighborhood teen are taking care of Nande, 3, and Safi Jhet, 1, during inauguration weekend. But Bond still can't find a sitter for inauguration night, so she and her husband, Jermane, can go to the Public Defender Service ball.

Meanwhile, Caplan is breathing a little easier. Her regular sitter, Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, a 26-year-old graduate student, agreed to sleep over starting Monday night and work Inauguration Day and into the evening so Caplan and her husband can attend the swearing-in and evening parties.

Caplan is weighing another party invitation for Saturday and is awaiting final word from a college student she found online who might be available. If she's not? "We'll just stay home," Caplan said.

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