Danielle Ruben is still a little heartbroken. The mother of two is just getting out of a three-year relationship, but that's not stopping her from getting out on the town to seek another outgoing, energetic and comfortable young woman she can really connect with.

Danielle Ruben is still a little heartbroken. The mother of two is just getting out of a three-year relationship, but that's not stopping her from getting out on the town to seek another outgoing, energetic and comfortable young woman she can really connect with.

"I'm looking for something long-term," she said.

The Bexley mom gladly laid down $100 to gain access to a buzzing boutique packed full of college co-eds-all trying their best to catch her eye at a private mixer last week. But Ruben wasn't looking for something romantic. She was trying to find a sitter.

Mommy Mixer is sort of speed dating-meets-Babysitter's Club. The Austin-based service claims to make finding a last-minute, reliable sitter as easy as most catalogue shopping at Christmas.

For a hefty fee, moms are granted one-on-one time at private gatherings with a slew of hand-picked sitters-mostly college kids looking for part-time work-but more importantly, they get to leave with a blue book chock full of resumes and cell phone numbers.

Last Wednesday, the Columbus Mommy Mixer held its third event at Tailfeathers boutique in New Albany. The mixers don't look like speed dating-there are no tables, chairs or buzzers, but moms and twentysomethings get a 25 percent discount at the stores while they mingle.

And although the mixers are potentially much less hellish for young women than actual speed dating-they come with the prospect of extra income-presentation does matter.

Gahanna mom Kim Dobes is looking for an outfit that screams "I will do the dishes after I make a popcorn snack drizzled in chocolate," she said.

"I'm looking for someone who is put together," Dobes said, scanning the room of more than a dozen potential babysitters. "I think Anne looks great."

Dressed in tan pants, a brown blouse and square-rimmed cappuccino glasses, 20-year-old Anne Ratcliff seemed to have all the right moves at Wednesday's mixer. A popular hit among moms, Ratcliff, a third-year finance major at Ohio State, said she chose her outfit to project a level of maturity.

"I might not be the most fashionable, but people will think 'she looks like she's pulled herself together,' " Ratcliff said. "I knew there would be older girls here trying to do the same thing."

Although the Mommy Mixer strategy has grown exponentially since its inception in 2003-the company has set up shop in 20 cities nationwide-the service wouldn't set foot in Columbus until it was strong-armed by OSU marketing and communications guru Jessica Kahan.

"I think there was a misconception," she said. Mommy Mixer didn't know how big Columbus was. "I, being the pushy person that I am, put together a proposal."

The New York native outlined Columbus's proximity to multiple universities, its large population and its wealthy suburbs full of busy, active working families. Earlier this year, the sitter service bit.

Now, the city's overworked moms can be comforted to know that the otherwise perfect stranger watching over their child has passed at least the mommy gut-check of Kahan and her business partners. The service stops short of promising a good match, cautioning that all set-ups are "buyer beware," and that background checks are not conducted on potential sitters.
"I'm a busy, working mom and I'm willing to do anything to cut corners," said Heidi from Gahanna, who prefers the service over the hassle of advertising on Craigslist, being bombarded with responses and sizing up potential sitters one at a time.

Plus, Mommy Mixer allows unhappy moms the benefit of seeking a little something on the side. "You want to keep turnover low because building trust is important," but sometimes the relationship just doesn't work out, said Heidi, who asked that her last name be withheld. She didn't want her current sitter to know she was out looking for others.