Advice to parents from a babysitter

Guest post today, written by reader Vanessa Steck, a professional babysitter, who writes a blog at barelycontrolledchaos.blogspot.com.

When I was in middle and high school, I was always surprised tohear people say that they had babysitters. Babysitters? Really? The
summer I was thirteen I lived with a family for a week and watched the
kids all day. I didn’t understand this business of older kids having
babysitters.

Now I do. There are the babysitters that you hire to
watch your four-year-old for a couple hours when you run to grocery
store, and there are the babysitters that you hire to manage anything
that might come up with your children through the process of putting
them to the bed, or taking them to activities, or whatever. I’ve been
both.

I started, of course, as the former and have moved into the
latter. Right now, I have 4 families that I work with. On Tuesdays I
take three boys from three different families. On Thursdays I take 2 of
those same boys and 1 girl from yet another family. On Fridays, I watch
that girl and her three siblings. It’s a great schedule. But I spent a
fair amount of time thinking about babysitting and how the connection
between babysitters and parents works.

I have chosen these four
families carefully. I’ve known them all now for years—at least four—and
one I have known for ten. This helps. But as a babysitter, I feel I
have a responsibility to work only with families that I am comfortable
with. Last winter, after much consideration, I stopped working for a
family because I was not comfortable with the parenting style. It broke
my heart, because I loved those girls. But I cannot work for people
whose parenting styles I don’t support.

This is not to say that I
must be in 100% agreement with you at all times about the ways in which
you parent your children. But as their babysitter, I need to feel
comfortable enough to talk to you about your child without feeling as
though you are going to flip out (why I never work for parents who
spank, ever.)

All this to say, I know a fair bit about babysitting. So I thought I should share it with you.
Finding
a babysitter: you’ve all probably done this before so I won’t say much
about it except this: trust your gut. If the girl who all your
neighbors rave about comes in and meets your kid and you get a feeling
that something is off, keep looking. If you find a teenage boy who
seems to have a great rapport with your kids, let him try
babysitting-boys can be babysitters too. Little known fact.

My
favorite conversations with perspective parents have been the ones in
which we chat not just about their children’s logistics—Jimmy goes to
bed at eight, etc—but about larger and broader topics. I like for
parents to ask me about discipline and give me hypotheticals. What
would I do if Hannah threw a tantrum? I like to discuss philosophy with
parents. It always makes me incredibly happy when a parent says they
love “How to Talk So That Kids Can Listen…” which is my favorite book
about kids.

Overall when I meet new parents the thing I most want
to know is that we are going to be on more or less the same page. We
certainly do not have to be exactly in line on everything, but I need
to know that parents are willing to consider different viewpoints. For
me, I need parents to be able to accept that sometimes their kids will
come home dirty. Sometimes the house won’t be perfectly cleaned
because, well, I had to have a discussion about what would happen if
Mommy and Daddy died.

This brings me to by far the most important
point. Trust. You have to trust your babysitter. Otherwise the entire
thing is a useless exercise. This is why I hate the idea of nanny cams
so very, very much. If you do not trust your sitter to take good care
of your children, then what on earth is the point in having a
babysitter? Ideally, babysitters—especially the long term ones who you
use frequently—should be partners with parents, just as teachers are
partners.

I’ve had discussions with children about some pretty
intense topics. See above re what happens if Mommy and Daddy die. And
I’ve had the experience of explaining that yes, it is possible that
Mommy will get shot, but not likely, and we hope she won’t die until
you are much older. I’ve had the experience of holding a child tight
and telling him that no, attacking his brother is not acceptable. And
it is for the fact that I am comfortable with these things as well as
my ability to play endless rounds of Zingo that people hire me.

So I guess I’d like to open this up for discussion, after I make a few final points.

1.
Babysitters are not housekeepers/cooks/dog walkers/maids. Yes, you
should expect your house to be in the shape it was when you left—when
the caveat that sometimes things happen and your sitter didn’t have
time to guide the kids in cleaning—but babysitters do not exist to cook
your dinner (making something for the kids is fine, of course), wash
your clothes, walk your dog, whatever. We are here to watch your
children. Period.

2. Be nice to your sitter! Ask her questions about
what she’s doing with her life. Find out her interests. Ask your kids
to make her birthday and holiday cards. Show an interest in her life.

3. Follow your instincts. If your kids are miserable every time you mention the sitter, think twice.

4.
At the same time, remember that kids are kids and don’t always like
babysitters. If you’ve hired a sitter that you trust you should be
comfortable leaving your screaming child with her. Yes, it’s hard to
walk out while your child screams in someone else’s arms, stretching
out his arms and begging for you—but you need to trust that your sitter
can handle it. Don’t let your child become the adult in a situation.

5.
This is somewhat voided if your child is having specific serious
emotional problems or going through a really rough time. That may
necessitate that you take special measures.

6. If something is going
on with your child, please tell your sitter. You don’t need to divulge
every detail, but your sitter does need to know if your son is worried
about death a lot, or if your daughter is feeling especially needy.

7.
Please, please, please honor your commitments. If you say you need a
sitter on Saturday from 5-9, please be gone from 5-9. If you need to
cancel on short notice, it’s polite to pay your sitter anyway. Many
babysitters work out what they can and cannot afford based on the work
they have that week.
8. If you are going to be late, call for heavens sake.

9.
And on that note—please, please leave your cell phone on, at least on
vibrate. There is nothing more terrifying than having an injured or
sick child and not being able to reach his or her parents.

10.
Understand that accidents happen. I’ve had two serious injuries in my
ten plus years of babysitting. Once I was holding the hand of a young
boy, about 2, and tripped, pulling him over. Poor boy needed stitches
in his forehead: when his mother arrived, he was burying his head in my
chest and we were both a bit bloody. Another time, a 3 year old was
climbing a shelf—just as I turned to tell him to GET DOWN, he fell,
naturally, and sustained a HUGE black eye. I felt horrible. But things
do happen.

11. However, if things happen ALL the time to your
children, or if an accident that is just common sense happens—baby
falls off the changing table, for example—rethink your choice of a
sitter.

12. Listen to your babysitter. Sometimes people who don’t
know your children as well as you do or who don’t have the same
connection can see things you can’t.

Most of all, remember that
ideally, you want this to be a working, dynamic partnership. If you
find a sitter that you and your children love, consider yourself lucky,
and hold onto her.

49 thoughts on “Advice to parents from a babysitter”

  1. Re: the link – yours spells “chaos” with the vowels reversed.Very interesting post, thank you. I’m impressed that babysitters will prepare food for the kids and clean up after them! I would have assumed I had to prepare all the food and then deal with a messy house when I returned, but I’ve never hired a sitter yet. My particular worries are that I live in a non-anglophone area, and don’t know if I could judge a potential sitter’s suitability when my communication skills would be so poor.

  2. @HappyMama: Do you not speak the local language, or what are the barriers that you encounter with finding a babysitter where you live?I am in Denmark, and though we have a very trustworthy and experienced babysitter nearly next door (next door in rural terms!), I know she won’t always be available.
    I guess I’m wondering if it’s going to be difficult to communicate that gummy bears and movies all night won’t be my idea of babysitting.
    Thanks for the guest post. Very interesting!

  3. ‘If you find a sitter that you and your children love, consider yourself lucky, and hold onto her.”Amen! I have a finally found a wonderful person who watches my kids (I can’t call her a ‘sitter’ she is more than that). She just connects with kids … she doesn’t act all sugary sweet either .. she picks on them like … well like they are real people. I like that. I won’t say my kids don’t cry some when I leave – but with my oldest son, I finally realized he only wants to be at home. Period. And my other two just go thru stages of only wanting me (which I admit, I do like … sometimes!)
    Anyway, I am glad to hear ‘from the other side’ … it should be a working relationship … you are both raising the kids. If moms feel jealous of that or have problems with seeing that? They should make the choice to stay home. Not to be harsh, but it is the truth.

  4. @Claudia: I don’t speak the local language well. And I have always been very bad at picking up subtle social cues in my own language, so my ability to judge the responsibility of a French-speaking teenager is pretty poor!Luckily we live in a socialist utopia where daycare is subsidized to cost only $7/day, and we’ve found a really lovely woman with a family daycare. She speaks Czech and French only, but we’ve come to trust her completely. Maybe she can help us find a babysitter some day.

  5. What a great post! I had a summer babysitter for my 2 boys for 10 hours a week and let me say…it was not the best experience. Vanessa-you sound like a fantastic babysitter and if you lived in the Toledo, OH area (which I assume you do not!)-I would be begging you to babysit my boys! It’s good to hear the babysitter’s perspective on their job-I do want to bring in someone to stay with my boys who loves kids but can also keep some order and as you said-work with me as a partner. Thanks for your input.

  6. Thanks very much for your post Vanessa. You have helped me to feel like my own choice for my son is a good one. I really appreciate hearing from the caregiver’s point of view.

  7. This was a great post especially since I’ve been on both sides (lots of childcare pre-kids and now using home-based daycare and babysitters.Something I would like to see addressed is how you work out pay. I know it should relate to responsibilities and possibly(?) age. I’m sure it also relates to locale as well, but I still am never sure I’m paying enough. (Of course, I don’t think I can afford what my babysitters are really worth. See below).
    I am definitely fortunate in that one of my babysitters (and her family) loves my son as if he were a relative, and I completely trust them. We’re not going to discuss what happens when she goes to college as it will probably involve tears from everyone.

  8. Great post, Vanessa! Thanks for sharing your perspective! In high school, I babysat a lot, including once a week or more for one family. Everything you say rings so true from my time babysitting!We found a fantastic babysitter when my daughter was a baby, and when we needed to change our childcare arrangements, we asked her to nanny full time. Now, she watches my 3 month old and my daughter is in pre-school–I even worked out the start of pre-school and my returning from maternity leave with her so that we could ensure she could stay with us without gaps in work and that everything was timed well for her too. It’s really priceless when you find someone who you trust your children with.
    I do have a question I want to put out there, because this has come up for me and others I know. How do you discuss with the babysitter/nanny changed you would ideally like them to make? Like not letting the kid(s) watch too much TV or not insist they finish the food on their plate or other little things like that? I try to let the things go that I do myself (I’m totally guilty of too much TV at times). And I usually let it go when my mom/MIL/family member pushes the “clean your plate” mentality.
    But since the babysitter/nanny is watching the kid(s) all day, every day and being paid to do so as a job, what is the best way to discuss how you would like them to do things differently? Can you give them an annual assessment with areas of improvement(haha-just kidding)?

  9. I’m with Sarah. . .unless it’s a total threadjack, could we hear more about how pay is determined? Number of kids, ages, experience of sitter, etc.I’m also interested in whether it’s correct to include travel time when calculating hours worked, and whether people tip on top of the hourly wage.

  10. I recently hired someone two days a week for my toddler, and my little girl is literally bossing the woman around! She’s a lovely woman, but unfortunately I may have misjudged her level of assertiveness as she is confronted with my “spirited” 2 year old. I have started leaving notes and suggestions as to how things should be done, because otherwise my child will take control and watch TV all day, not to mention eat enormous portions of food. I tried to be passive at first, but I realized that I need to be clear about my expectations. I am ALWAYS appreciative, I try to praise and thank repeatedly, but I’ve also started to become direct when it comes to things I need. For example: “Please wash hands when coming back from playground or library and before eating, whether the little girl likes it or not.” You’d think I wouldn’t need to say these things, but some people need explicit directions. It’s a job, and I hope folks can handle take constructive criticism.

  11. In subarban Chicago, I was trying to use a nanny agency for a full-time live-out nanny (50 hours/week) for two kids ages 10 months and 4.5 years (who would be in part-time pre-school). I was willing to pay up to $10/hour for the “perfect” experienced candidate (no benefits, 2 weeks vacation, not grossed up for taxes), and I could not get anyone willing to interview through the 3 agencies I tried to use. I probably could have gotten someone from craigslist, sittercity, or the newspaper, but I was much more comfortable having a background check, drug test, driving check, physical, training, etc provided through an agency.To see what people are expecting in your area, browse the listings at sittercity.com. You can see full-time, part-time, occasional, etc.

  12. I’ll say two things about pay from my own days as a babysitter.1. Know what the going rate for babysitters in your area is. You can ask other parents around you how much they pay to get an idea. If you find a really good babysitter, pay them on the high end of the range. I stopped babysitting for one family because they paid me half of what I normally got from other families, and I did not feel that I was being paid for my time what I was worth.
    2. Ask them how much they charge. If they regularly babysit, they probably have a rate they expect to get.

  13. If you are taking in several kids from different families (I assume in your home) is that really babysitting or is that more of a home daycare situation? It seems more like the latter to me but maybe that is just semantics. But I do know that I would have very different expectations from someone who comes by for a few hours so you can go to a party or something which is what i think of when I hear babysitter. I never called our home daycare provider a babysitter because she was a professional and it seemed to kind of belittle what she did for us. She was a true partner in everything from troubleshooting behavior issues to helping us get my son on a nap schedule. I would definitely expect a different level of professionalism from someone watching my child in their home on a regular basis, ie. no TV, some planned activities, professional record keeping, etc. and I would expect to have a minimum amount that we paid in advance, including for days we didn’t use.Whereas with an occasional sitter in my home I would be fine with watching some TV, coming home to a somewhat messy house, I would expect to give much more explicit instructions, I always provide some activities they could do but wouldn’t expect her to provide any supplies or plan activities but I also wouldn’t expect to pay for days if there was adequate notice or a cancelation (24 hours).
    I am curious what other people pay. We paid 8/hr for home daycare where she watched 2 other children in her home with 1 more occasional drop in. So usually 3 kids total, very occasionally 4. For the occasional college student babysitter we’ve paid 12/hr for daytime hours, 14/hr for evening hours and we pick her up and drop her off, provide meals and snacks and let her do her laundry at our home once the kid is sleeping. She’s never worked more than 4-5 hours at a time.

  14. Pay is definitely a big issue. I’m in DC and charge 15 dollars an hour or 9 if sharing with multiples families. This seems fair to me because I’m pretty good. That said, I don’t expect to be tipped or paid for travel time. I do expect to be reimbused for gas if I take the kids far away.I do think pay is influenced by experience, for sure. I charged a lot less wheni didn’t have as much.

  15. I would not DREAM of paying my sitter (HS student) any less than minimum wage for daytime work with no meals. If she feeds them a meal or has to do any part of the bedtime routine, her compensation reflects that. If she has to stay past 9pm, her pay increases then, as well.For an experienced sitter in an urban area, Vanessa’s rates seem totally reasonable.
    [:/rant]I think those who can monetize the respect and reliance we have for our sitters should absolutely do so since as a whole, our culture does not (think minimum-wage daycare workers, poorly-paid teachers). Childcare is the absolute last place to scrimp for those who don’t have to. I firmly believe that in the US, childcare is ‘you get what you pay for.’ I don’t believe it’s necessarily just, but for now, it’s the way it is. [:/end.rant]

  16. Just to weigh in on the pay question — I have two daughters, now both 6. In both Philadelphia and Northern California, I have paid adult babysitters $15 an hour and teenagers $10-12 an hour. For long-term, regular babysitters I also give an end of the year bonus (in the range of a week’s pay) and when it was more of a nanny than a babysitter (distinguished by more hours per week), pay for weeks when we are on vacation. I pay at the high end of the local range, and have felt like it was worth every penny for the love I see between my kids and their caregivers.

  17. Great post! We just entered into a nannyshare and is this the first time the situation really feels like a partnership (a three way partnership between the nanny and two couples). It’s working beautifully, because we don’t think of the nanny as a “babysitter” but as a partner-caregiver. While there are definitely things we prefer that she wouldn’t do left to her own devices (adhere strictly to schedule), we are able to talk everything out respectfully. @caramama, I think if you would like to change something, you just sit down with the person and open a conversation about it, in a respectful way. While you trust your nanny and have respect for you, you ultimately have the last say in what happens with your child. It can be a simple, “We’ve been trying to cut out TV – we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t let her watch it even though she asks.” etc. A professional won’t respond to a request like that defensively. But I would definitely add to pick your battles. I’m sure you’d do this anyway – hold firm on what’s important but don’t micromanage.It’s so upsetting how often people treat people who work for them in their home (babysitters and housecleaners in particular) like glorified servants. The first thing we said to the nanny is that we do NOT expect her to do any cleaning, except if she has time to clean up after the children’s meal. We (the two couples involved) are also very conscious about trying to pay the nanny a good wage even though we don’t feel like we’re paying her enough. We wish we could afford to pay more, but we can’t even expand the hours because it’s costing us $1200/month (each family), and that’s basically our financial limit. We pay for sick days and unexpected unused time, with two non-paid weeks per year.

  18. just to chime in on pay: we pay 10 an hour to watch one and 15 to watch the both (her request, which we agreed was reasonable). we don’t pay travel time, but to be fair, she lives pretty close to us. also, my boss doesn’t pay my travel time to and from work, either.we love our sitter, lovelovelove her and can’t believe how lucky we are that we found her and that she is so wonderful- we have absolute trust in her, and even asked if she could check in on our house when we went away over the summer (and paid her for it- thus, she didn’t miss pay that week). i throw her extra cash when warranted and try to be super reasonable with her schedule- luckily she is flexible for our crazy schedule and we have found a really great routine.
    i would respectfully disagree on the whole “don’t ask your sitter to clean up” thing- first of all, when you hire your sitter, you need to be clear as to what your expectations are for them- if that includes ‘mother’s helper’ duties and you are both ok with that, then ok. my sitter is kind enough to offer to fold a basket of kids laundry if the baby is sleeping and the pnut is at school. she also makes the kids snacks or lunch (ie. mac and cheese) etc.- again, a mutual decision.
    i try to check in with her frequently to make sure she’s ok with what’s going on and so far we seem to be on the same page. i have no idea if she agrees with our parenting philosophy or not, since she’s 23 and i’m not sure she has one yet, since she doesn’t have kids of her own. we do agree on discipline (time-outs for being rude or physically harming someone) and i would say she lets my daughter run the show as far as “what do you want to do today” is concerned, which i am ok with. they play fun things that my daughter wants to play and that i usually don’t have the time to play- and i want her to have fun since she’s four.
    every so often i’ve had to clarify what is/is not ok when we’re not around, but that is to be expected. what i was not prepared for was my daughter (who again, is four god help me) to be mean to the sitter sometimes! the way she is to us, like when we tell her to do something and she freaks out and slams the door, etc. that i feel terrible about since i love this sitter. my son adores her and cries when she leaves.
    also, sittercity has an option that you can choose sitters with background checks completed.

  19. Just FYI there is a Canadian equivalent: http://www.canadiansitter.ca/I haven’t used it, but I’ve read the press releases so it must be good!! Just kidding but it seems like a decent idea.
    We paid our nanny $15/hr, as a price point check – and one reason we now pay for Montessori. We found her on craigslist and she was great. We didn’t tip but we did provide two weeks’ paid vacation and a Xmas bonus equivalent to one week’s pay.

  20. I’m with A. Adult sitters get more. Also, though, I have two boys who are best described in the words of their beloved uncle (who might see himself in them a bit): They’re not bad, they’re just busy! Unlike other kids we know, they are both constant motion machines and one is not especially “coachable.” So compared to, say, their only-child-girl-cousin around the block, they are more work and ergo, more pay.AND, when my plans change unexpectedly, I still pay the sitters for the full time (or try to, they often refuse and we compromise at halfway). If I didn’t have time to cancel, they didn’t have time to say yes to another job.
    Great post. Thanks.

  21. Great post as always! For all those living abroad, I sure would like to hear your input on this matter too! We live in Sweden and after over a year without a sitter, we now have two on hand. I just kept reading the noticeboards (everywhere!!!) and getting my husband to talk about it at work ( I’m a big believer in if you want something, tell everyone you’re looking for it!) Sure enough, within a week of each other, I found a teenage sitter (12 years old) and an adult sitter. I pay 100SEK an hour which is about 16$ CDN. I know the going rate is lower, but I offered more because I felt it was right for the age of my children. I also have said that I pay extra because I would like the courtesy of them calling me first to see if I need them before accepting a job elsewhere…I have very little expectations in terms of babysitting, basically as long as I come home to three happy people (babysitter and kids), then it’s all good with me!So far we’ve been extremely lucky and all of us are happy. The kids enjoy both sitters for different reasons, and I also enjoy having options as it has been very hard finding sitters here and working around my husband’s travel schedule
    How have others living abroad gone about finding sitters? How do you know it’s the right person as I can’t readily do back round checks on my own, it truly is a leap of faith!

  22. We live in suburban Chicago and pay our sitter (a graduate student) $14 an hour for three kids (although she is only watching my child in K for about 2 hours every afternoon). We also give one week’s paid vacation of her choosing, and about four more weeks of paid vacation for when we go out of town. We also have her drive our car (she’s on our insurance) so that there isn’t a gas issue. We give her a week’s pay as a bonus at the end of the year.Caramama– I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a “check-in” with your sitter on occasion– to find out if she has any concerns/is happy and for you to express any of your concerns. Despite the closeness that develops with the babysitter, it is still a professional, working relationship and there will always be things to work through!

  23. In Michigan, we pay $15 per hour for our terrific nanny (just gave her a $1 raise after a year) for one kid. We haven’t discussed what we will do pay-wise when kid no. 2 arrives this winter. It is a lot, especially compared to day care, like, more than our mortgage. But we have absolutely NO concerns about how our kid is spending his time. He is happy and busy and he’s with a person who likes him and cares about him.After two craigslist duds, we used a nanny agency (expensive, but worth it) to find her. We will keep her with us as long as she will stay! I think that will even include paying her to watch the baby at the same time the older one is in preschool, which is going to be damn expensive. But a caregiver you trust is worth almost any amount of money! We had one really bad experience and I never never want a repeat of that.

  24. I am in DC and i pay $15 for two kids. We’ve had our sitter since our older son was about 6 months old and we love her. Her rate was $12/hour and then I bumped it to $15 when our second was born simply because I did want some help staying on top of kids laundry and some light housework since she came and helped me the first couple of months after my son was born. And so that is what we pay. She no longer does the housework since the kids are older and these days she is simply here to watch the kids but I still pay her the $15 for 2 which is pretty on par with the area. We have had other sitters who have charged upto $16 for 2 in the area.@Mrs.Haley I completely agree about scrimping on childcare. I hate reading/hearing when people are trying to pay as little as possible to get as much as possible when it comes to their kids. This is the one area where we shouldn’t be doing this.

  25. @auburnlocks I actually don’t take kids to my house, unless they want to pet the dog or something. I live in DC where there are lots of things to do, so we usually go out. In nice weather we go to different parks or the zoo and when its cold or gross we usually do nature centers, museums, libraries, etc. Back up plan is one of this kids houses. Not a daycare situation at all.@ erin you sound like a great person to work for. 😉 i think sitters don’t always get enough respect…for me, and most of the babysitters I know, the kids I see on a regular basis are really, really important to me, and I genuinely love them.
    @pnuts mom–definitely checking in a good thing! I often talk to the parents of “my” kids about how we’re all feeling about things are working on a weekly basis, just casual conversations about how everyone is doing.
    @caramama I think honesty is the best policy, cliche as it sounds…but that said those conversations can be awkward. if you think it might be a really hard conversation, I’d try sending it via email–that gives everyone a chance to think calmly.
    @someone whose name i can’t find but who said their babysitter is 23 and doesn’t have a parenting philosophy–I just turned 24 and I don’t have a parenting philosophy, but I certainly have a childcare philosophy. it goes something like this:
    -say yes as often as possible
    -be willing to admit to mistakes and change my mind
    -help teach manners and accountability, with the understanding that
    sometimes children are just too grumpy/tired/etc for this to hold up.
    –have respect for kids and their feelings and opinions, which are just as valid as mine
    etc

  26. Amen to what Vanessa had to say about the true role of a babysitter: “Babysitters are not housekeepers/cooks/dog walkers/maids.” I also happen to take the same view of at-home parents (I’m a WAHM w/ a perpetually messy house). Just forget the housework and be present & engaged with my children, folks! ;)But I don’t agree with Vanessa’s wholesale endorsement of teenage male babysitters: “If you find a teenage boy who seems to have a great rapport with your kids, let him try babysitting-boys can be babysitters too. Little known fact.” Um, there’s a Very Good Reason this is a “little known fact.” Most of the survivors of sexual abuse I happen to know (way too many people…) were either abused by a male relative or a male babysitter – who had great “rapport” with the kids early on, as most pedophiles feign in order to win their trust.
    The excellent book recommended to me by many wise pp here, “Protecting the Gift,” talks at great length about & provides statistics to show that males are more likely to sexually abuse kids. Not all males of course, and sadly women are sometimes sexual abusers, too, (and BTW I’m not trying to be some alarmist man hater here or anything).. just keeping it real.

  27. As someone who has been babysitting since I was 12 and has worked as everything from a special occasion sitter to a full-time nanny, this is a great post – especially the discussion of pay in the comments!I also want to chime in on the “salary” aspect of a nanny’s pay. If you expect to pay $10/hr for 50 hour weeks, your nanny is not going to have time for another job. If you are not paying benefits and she will have two weeks of unpaid vacation, you are saying that $23,000/year is a liveable wage where you live, and is enough to cover this person’s housing and food needs, healthcare expenses, etc. Many people don’t officially do the tax thing with nannies, as well, so it’s important to remember that although she’s saving money that would be taken out by taxes, you’re also reducing the amount that she’s paid into the social security system (if you’re in the US).
    I think this was a very long way of saying “Yes, $15/hr for childcare is very expensive to consider as a parent, but less than that may leave you with a very financially stressed employee!”
    And I’m very curious about the idea that in “real jobs” pay doesn’t increase with difficulty. Isn’t that what promotions and raises are for? As a grad student, I will admit to being very insulated from the world of “actual work” so far!

  28. @hushtotally true, and I also know many victims of sexual abuse. However, I dont think that means discounting all male babysitters ever. I have known several fantastic ones myself.
    This is where references could be helpful!

  29. I used to be a full-time nanny — this is a great post!On figuring out pay : definitely ask around and check online to see what the rate is in your area. Also, if you’re looking for someone full-time, bear in mind that even if you only have one child, your nanny still needs a salary. She is still working 40+ hours a week and needs to pay bills. I earned $14/hr for one child, which might seem high, but I lived in a very expensive city, had to get and pay for my own health insurance policy, and I didn’t have any sick or vacation time. If the rate seems too high to you, maybe consider a nanny share?
    As for communicating problems to your nanny, I liked just to be told in a straightforward, non-dramatic way, i.e., “hey, we’d prefer it if you didn’t take Z to the sandbox unless you have time to give him a bath afterwards, thanks!”
    Also, as someone said above, I was 22/23 when I nannied, and though I was not a parent, I definitely had a childcare philosophy! I read lots of parenting books, and hey, that’s how I discovered Ask Moxie! (I think I was struggling through naps with a five-month-old at the time…)
    Last thing: cleaning up. I think this is something that absolutely needs to be discussed upfront at the very beginning. My policy was that I left the house in the condition I found it, always, but told them at the interview that my hourly rate increased for any additional cleaning. If that sounds obnoxious, it’s because the first family I nannied for asked me upfront if I would mind helping out with occasional errands and so forth, and I said sure! Well, that turned into doing ALL their laundry (they wanted their sheets washed every single day. I kid you not), doing the dishes, taking their cat to the beauty parlor (again, not kidding), and running all kinds of errands that I thought were really ridiculous, considering that I was schlepping an infant and a preschooler around with no car, and they both drove to work. So from then on, I was pretty firm about my limits. If your sitter seems unusually resistant to the idea of doing anything but childcare, that might be why.
    Also, if you have a full-time nanny and decide to stay home from work or take a vacation and give her a day off, *please* pay her for that time. (This should be discussed upfront, but again, I learned that from experience). Yes, days off are nice, but when you’re only making so much, a day without pay is devastating.
    Sorry for the length! Apparently I had a lot to say on the topic. 😉

  30. I know I should have e-mailed you privately about this, but I couldn’t find a link to do so. It’s “prospective”, not “perspective” parents. As in, prospects. I’m sorry to sound like a language snob, but you write so beautifully, I hope you’d like to know about a mistake such as this.

  31. I have always wondered why the hourly rate is higher for two children rather than one. I do understand that it can be more work (although I wouldn’t say that was always true). I feel that I am paying for a caregiver’s time and experience. It doesn’t make sense to me to pay more for a perception that the work is harder. I get paid the same hourly wage at my job regardless of the workload or the difficulty of the client. I didn’t get paid more just because my caregiver expected a higher wage once I had a second child.We actually are unable to hire a babysitter for evening because in my area (San Francisco) most babysitters want $20/hr for three children.
    This is such a common wage structure, that I know I must be missing something. Could someone help me understand?

  32. @momofthree–I used to charge more for more kids and then I decided that’s just silly. I don’t know if people have the misconception that one child is easier-it definitely is not, at least not all the time! I finally decided that parents probably need my experience whether they have one child or four, so it doesn’t make sense to charge differently.

  33. Laura – You make excellent points. I guess I looked at my budget, and said, I can keep the kids in day care center care or I can get a nanny, but my budget is really the same regardless. So….I figured if we really stretched it (and we refinanced the house to a lower interest rate and a longer term), we could afford $500/week with paid holidays and two weeks paid vacation. That’s $26,000/year. That’s a huge chunk of money for me (considering I already had to pay taxes and everything on that money it’s more like $35,000 gross for me to net that). For northwest Indiana (suburban Chicago), $26k is certainly a living wage for someone living at home with parents while going to school or for someone who is married and gets insurance through a spouse. It would take the right combination of the candidate’s circumstances and ours. I was really hoping to be able to poach someone from the day care who was married with school age children if the nanny service thing didn’t work out. I haven’t given up the dream completely, but I’m deferring it since my big kid just entered kindergarten and our lives have been thrown into upheaval by that.

  34. Laura – About “the real world” and jobs with increasing pay…well, yes, to some extent pay increases with increasing difficulty, but it’s more complicated than that. I’ve been in a salary freeze for a few years here and I’ve been promoted during that time to more difficult positions with longer hours and more responsibility. But, no more money due to the freeze on pay. Some weeks my job is more hectic than others, no additional pay there. Once I got a “lateral” transfer that was really more like a promotion in terms of responsibility and wound up taking a pay cut because of a tax situation related to the location of my desk in the city local taxing zone.In most respects, I think it does make sense to give a raise to a nanny when a second child comes along just to show that you are aware there is added responsibility (even though my pay at work doesn’t necessarily go up with added responsibility and didn’t go up when I had a second child). I’m not sure how much. Certainly, I wouldn’t double the pay. Maybe a dollar an hour.

  35. Sitters and nannies are two different things to me. So as far as sitters go – the people you use for an evening out – we’ve had a really tough time finding a good one. The one before last came with good references, was an adult, charged the most and ended up leaving the two year old to play in the front yard with his older brother unsupervised while she sat inside and watched television. I mean really. The girl we use now we got through a friend who uses her and she is awesome! She is really, really good with the two year old. Very friendly, very interactive, totally comfortable with him and since I just want her to hangout with him for an hour and then put him to bed – the comfort factor is huge! She leaves for college in January and I’m so bummed about that.Pay – $10 an hour and we round up if it’s less than the full hour.
    In the same boat as @sarcasticarrie – can’t afford a nanny at the going rate in the area. It’s true – I can’t afford to pay 30k a year out of pocket for childcare. Just can’t, so to daycare he goes. At three he can start going to Montessori and I’m really looking forward to that!

  36. I’m really just a lurker, but had to post. Growing up our BEST babysitters where guys – well the lady whose mom owned a bakery was probably the best, but you get the point. (I still love those yellow smiley face cookies.) My mom was a college professor and she used to get students to watch us. She’d usually hire one person for FT summer care, but for weekend nights often two or three people would come over. Mom would let them bring their laundry, let them eat anything in the house, etc. There were some accidents, but those things happened even on my parents’ watch.Q – Why do people pay more after a certain hour in the evening? That seems crazy to me.

  37. I’m in the Bay Area. In our neighborhood, it’s $15/hr for 1 child, and $10 per child for multiple children. We give the nanny 2 weeks paid vacation (which we pay out if she doesn’t take), 4 days of paid sick leave (which she’s never used), and various paid holidays, and we still pay her if we don’t use her. And we give a Christmas bonus. She makes the kids’ food, washes up their plates, and if she has time she folds their clean laundry and sweeps the floor. But we’re very clear that it’s only if she has time. She’s awesome and worth every penny, and we all learn so much from her.I don’t know about teenage babysitters.
    For those with language issues, a local non-profit has produced a piece of paper with graphics so that childcarers can easily communicate the child’s schedule. I remember that it had pictures of child sleeping and waking up, with a blank clock so that the child carer can quickly draw in the time the child slept, woke up. Times for eating etc.

  38. I’m in the Boulder CO area and here, “babysitters” are occasional hires on a sporadic basis while “nannies” are regularly scheduled help. Nannies are working “real jobs” that should be reported for tax purposes, whereas sitters may be teenagers too young to work in “real jobs” (e.g. twelve-to-fifteen-year-olds) who work on the occasional evening or weekend. If they’re on a regular schedule, they’re probably not considered a “sitter” here.As for pay, we paid a minimum of $7/ hour for 1 child and now that we have two we pay a minimum of $10. I agree with the earlier post re: never going below minimum wage, and also with the posters who mentioned that more than one kid does equal greater responsibility.

  39. Wow…I must be REALLY far out of the loop because even *I* do not make $15/hr at my full time job and I work a decent job. Then again, I live in Nebraska and the cost of living isn’t nearly what someplace on the east or west coast is. I agree that a sitter is not the same as a nanny or daycare provider in that a sitter is just for a few hours here and there vs all day or all night care. Are the costs mentioned above for an actual sitter or for a childcare professional?

  40. Hmmmm… When I babysat occasionally (nights and weekends) as a college student in Boston, circa 1998-2002, I charged $8-$10/hour. I never charged more for more kids and never heard of anyone doing that! Although one time, I did tag-team with a friend (for a family with four kids, aged: 5, 4, 3, and 1). And my sister and I tag-teamed for some kids and their cousins one New Year’s Eve (I think there were 6 kids total).My most traumatic babysitting experience was at the playground with a toddler (1.5-2 years old, maybe? can’t remember), who was climbing on some equipment. I was maybe 15 or 16, and had been babysitting for a few years already. I was standing right there, watching her, when she fell and hit her forehead. She cried for a little bit and then went back to playing, and I kept a closer eye on her after that. (It seemed like a perfectly normal age-appropriate mishap.) When I brought her home, her mom flipped out and all but accused me of abusing her. Is that normal? If a kid comes back from the playground with a bump or bruise? Will I do that to babysitters when I (someday) have kids?

  41. *that was the reason I had been sick to the point of nearly quitting eating prior to going vegan. Being able to eat again was/is fabulous.I try to avoid anything with added sugar, gluten and dairy. I can’t eat nuts or seeds, which makes snacks for lunch difficult.

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