The other day, in the comments on this post about phone calls, an interesting side-conversation about babysitting started up. It got me thinking about the current state of babysitting.
At our house, we haven’t had to hire a babysitter in ages. Instead, our kids have become babysitters themselves. Maude and Olive babysit for other families regularly — and they have for years. Beyond local babysitting, Maude was an Au Pair in Paris for a year, and Olive has traveled with a family during their spring breaks (to Mexico one year, and DisneyWorld another year) as the nanny. Oscar started babysitting this year too. Little kids LOVE hanging out with Oscar and he’s a really fun babysitter. Betty just turned twelve last month, and I imagine she’ll start getting asked to babysit as well.
That leaves June, who just turned 8 years old, and probably has no memories of any babysitters beyond her siblings. : )
Babysitting in the Bay Area typically pays $10 to $15 per hour depending on how many kids are involved. Maude has one family in the city who pays $20 an hour. That’s a higher rate than I’ve heard in other areas, and is definitely reflective of the insane cost of living here. As Oscar started babysitting he offered a discounted rate for the first few times because he wanted the practice.
In order for our kids to start babysitting, we’ve required them to take a Red Cross Babysitting course (which includes CPR), and to practice changing a diaper. That was easy to do for our older kids, because they had younger siblings to practice on. But it’s been harder to figure out how to help Oscar or Betty practice diaper changes. We started with dolls.
What are responsibilities while babysitting? Mostly it’s playing with the kids and keeping them off screens. My kids say one of the best strategies is thinking up or introducing new games. Or adding new stuff on to basic games — like you play soccer but every time you get a goal, you have to run around the net twice. I know Maude will often teach the kids how to play guitar. And if she’s in a walkable neighborhood, she’ll take them on outings to the library or park. Oscar likes to bring a babysitting bag with stickers and coloring books and other activities.
Beyond keeping the kids active and entertained, the next priority is feeding. Our kids expect to make dinner (or heat up the dinner the parents have made), and take care of snacks throughout the day. Cleaning is more flexible. Olive says she generally cleans up dinner if she made it, but might not clean the kitchen if it’s already messy when she arrives. For her, It depends on the kids and how much attention they need — giving the kids attention takes priority over cleaning.
Oscar (age 13) doesn’t have a cell phone yet, and Olive didn’t either when she started babysitting here in Oakland. Most families they babysit for don’t have a landline, so that can be tricky. Olive has a cell phone now, and Oscar has an iPod (an old phone without a sim card), that he can text with if there’s wifi. Once in awhile, we’ve sent them with one of our cell phones. And sometimes, the parents of the house they’re babysitting at will leave a cell phone.
I’d love to discuss the current state of babysitting with you. These are the questions I’m curious about when you hire a babysitter:
– At what age would you let your kids babysit for hire? And what age is the youngest babysitter you’ve ever hired? Do you trust young teens to watch your kids, or only adults when you hire a babysitter?
– If you don’t have a landline, or your sitter doesn’t have a cell phone, how do you handle communication?
– How much are babysitters paid in your area? Do you feel like it’s a fair rate? Do people pay cash to hire a babysitter? Write checks? Send payments via Venmo? (Our kids have received all three.)
– Is it hard to find sitters where you live? Do you have a regular babysitter that you rely on? If you have a full or part time nanny while you’re at work, do you hire them to do other babysitting too? Like date night or over the weekend?
– Are you uncomfortable with sitters altogether and basically only let your parents watch the kids (and rarely that)?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!