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Saturday, December 11, 2010

What do you charge for babysitting?

So I have these three children, and they're pretty young, which means when my husband and I go out for the evening, we need to hire a babysitter. With one exception (a really nice boy who was extremely tall and who used to babysit my oldest son, which was basically the cutest thing ever), all of our babysitters have been teenage girls. And let me tell you, they are the most patient, loving, generous girls you could ever hope to meet. I know this to be a fact because never once have we returned home to find all of our children tied to their beds with no babysitter in a sight and a note tacked to the front door that reads, "You have GOT to be kidding. I am SOOOO out of here," which is what always almost happens when I am alone with my three children.

My point is not how...challenging it is to be with my little angels. It is that our babysitters are miracle workers. They are evidence (to me) of god on Earth. But despite the fact that every single one of our babysitters is worth her weight in gold, whenever a girl comes to watch our children for the first time, she and I have the strangest conversation you can imagine. It goes something like this:

Me: (slipping on my coat) We never talked about what you charge.
Babysitter: (shrugging, smiling awkwardly) Oh, you can pay me, you know, whatever.

Now, I don't think these girls really mean I can pay them "whatever." Like, if I came home four hours later and handed over a quarter and said, "Thanks so much," I think they might complain. Or maybe their moms would. Or maybe they'd just never babysit for my children again.

But here's what I'm wondering: Why won't they set a fee?

These girls are performing a service. They are doing a job. (A really, really, really hard job). They deserve to get paid a fair wage for doing this job. But they don't feel comfortable demanding it.

Because I am a teacher (and therefore forever in search of "teaching moments"), I used to respond (when the girls told me I could pay them "whatever"), by saying, "Can you tell me what you were expecting to be paid?" But after a few awkward exchanges thus begun, I realized I wasn't exploiting a teaching moment so much as I was completely embarrassing the poor girl, and that she would prefer to change a million of my children's dirty diapers than to talk about money with me. Now I just pay the babysitter what I think is a generous amount and hope she's not counting her money on the way home and rolling her eyes at how cheap I am.

So I'm wondering, all you babysitters out there. How do you handle talking about money with your employers? No need to tell me what you charge, but I'd love to know how you settled on the amount, and if it was you, your employer, or some combination of the two who made the decision.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if you're interested in hearing an answer to this question with regard to pet sitting instead of babysitting, but here it is. Because I do sort of equate the two, and would apply the same logic were I babysitting. When I was pet sitting on the side, I always had a ballpark figure in mind, but very much tailored it to the impression I got of how much the client could afford to pay. Now that I'm a DBA, licensed, insured and bonded and Red Cross Certified (all of which both demonstrate commitment and professionalism and cost money), I have set rates. They are fair rates (on both ends, although leaning slightly toward too low) which reflect the market value of my services. There's a LITTLE bit of wiggle room here and there and, of course, I will take as little money from friends and family as I can convince them to pay. But, for instance; there are sometimes ads on CL for pet sitting gigs. I have yet to see one where the client isn't offering pay that's a FRACTION of the going rate. I won't touch those. When I was just pet sitting on the side, for some extra cash, I may have.

December 11, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Miranda said...

I don't babysit anymore, but when I did. I never had a set rate. I did, however, have a favorite family to babysit for because they paid me the most generously and their kids were the most well behaved. I did have friends who had their set fees, but I always felt like it depended on the family, how many kids, how long they'll be gone, etc. Also, I was paid more than my friends who weren't CPR certified. I any certifications/liceses they have should maybe add a little to their cost. Most families I know pay anywhere for 7 to 10 dollars an hour. The young teenage girls are probably too shy to commit to a rate, so sometimes I think it may be better for a family to commit to a rate. Like when you ask someone to babysit say "I need from X pm to X pm and I'll pay X amount an hour. Will you be able to work for me?"

December 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM  

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