What is better than a parent, super fun, has a ton of energy, and does things with your children you haven’t done since you were a camp counselor?
She is sort of like a young grandparent: your kids’ eyes light up when they know she’s coming, and she’ll let them sneak numerous snacks and play Pokemon Go with them like it’s going out of style. She is way cooler than you. Does she always clean up the kids’ toys or wash the dishes after dinner? No, because she’s not a mom. But she loves your kids, and for a few hours during the week you get to have a pedicure in peace. She’s the babysitter. And this article is dedicated to her because she is more than a title. She is another human who loves your kids and makes sure they are alive when you get home.
In a recent survey sent out to babysitters ranging in age from 15 to 25, here was the common thread: THEY LOVE YOUR KIDS. They REALLY enjoy spending time with them (for the most part). This is so hard for us to grasp as moms sometimes, because unlike our sitters, we are on call ALL THE TIME. But this isn’t the case for these young gals who don’t have kids of their own. On the contrary, they show up at our houses ready to work and ready to play, bringing the youthful energy and pizazz we once had with them. And this is what they want us to know:
It’s unanimous! How you treat your babysitter means more to them than how much they get paid. They want to be considered part of the family, and appreciate it immensely when we make efforts to do so.
What does this look like? Invite them to your children’s birthday parties, basketball games, and school performances. Tell them to come over early so you can catch up. Make them feel at home in your house. Give them free reign of your pantry after the kids go to bed. Ask them how they are doing and what’s going on in their life. They are humans, not robots, and—shocker—our sitters have feelings! Make them feel like family.
Winner, winner, they need dinner.
We asked, and they responded: The way to our babysitters’ hearts is through their stomachs!
Have dinner waiting for them in the same way you do for your kids; most likely they have just left work or school and are starving. This is how one babysitter responded to the question “should the family provide dinner for the babysitter?”: “YES, PLEASE. We are normally poor, hungry college girls [who] LOVE a home-cooked meal or healthy dinner option. I know that I usually rush to my babysitting gig after a prior engagement, so it makes it easy to eat with the kids!”
So, in case you aren’t already doing this, provide a meal. It doesn’t have to be pot roast or grilled rib eye. If you are ordering pizza for the kids, simply make sure you order plenty for your sitter. Call beforehand and find out what she prefers on her pizza. Attempt to have at least some options in your fridge. Remember, she is part of the family.
Communication is key.
Across the board, babysitters who responded to our survey insisted that communication is essential. If children (especially small ones) have a regular routine, it is helpful to write it down for easy reference. Also, verbalize your expectations. If you want toys cleaned up, tell your sitter this is your desire. If you have a “no screen” policy, let your sitter know. Set parameters for her to succeed, and don’t be discouraged if something goes wrong due to lack of expectations set by you.
Communicate pay rates beforehand. Nothing is more awkward for a sitter than getting paid less than what she normally charges. Eliminate the awkwardness and set the tone for open communication by taking the reins in this department early on. Keep in mind you are your sitter’s employer. This is a responsibility we sometimes take too lightly. In the same way we expect them to take care of our kids, it is our role to take care of them. Communicate!
She works hard for the money.
On average, the sitters we spoke with charge $11–$15 per hour, depending on their age, experience, and the number of children under their care. In general, a good rule of thumb is to start with a base rate you and your sitter are comfortable with and then add one extra dollar per hour per child. If you expect your sitter to take your children somewhere such as a museum, park, or restaurant, please leave activity cash and make sure your car is fueled up. It is absolutely not the sitter’s responsibility to cart your kids around town on their own dollar. (Yes, this does happen according to the sitters we surveyed, and we were shocked!)
What about sitting overnight? Expect to pay on average $100–$250. One sitter said, “I normally charge between $150–$250. I figure this number by multiplying my normal rate times the hours that the kids are awake. When I babysit overnight I normally go to sleep around the same time that the kids do so I don’t think it is justifiable to charge for me to sleep.”
And like everything else, communication is key. Please communicate rates and expectations beforehand.
Small gestures of thanks are always appreciated. For instance, we had one of our regular sitters stay overnight with our kids so we could get away for a night. Before we left the next day, we grabbed her a candle in the hotel gift shop to let her know we truly appreciated what she had done for us.
Find out your sitters’ birthdays and make them feel loved on those days. Have your kiddos make your babysitter a card or paint him/her a picture. Thanksgiving? Tell your sitters you are thankful for them! A small gift is more than appropriate as well as a tip or gift during the holidays.
From the mouths of babysitters…
Now, no parent is perfect. But here are some responses from our survey that blew us away:
“I want parents to know that it’s not OK to make an alcoholic drink for the car ride!! I watch parents do this all the time, and it not only makes me uncomfortable but it shows poor character.”
It’s not the ’80s anymore, people! If you want to take a roadie, take an Uber!
“Sometimes I am treated as less than, because I am ‘help.’ Believe it or not, some families see you as less because you are just a babysitter.”
I believe there was a whole book written on this subject, ladies.
“The family went out, I put the kids to bed, and I watched TV. I waited and waited. Two o’clock A.M. rolled around, and nothing. I figured I would text the mom just to make sure they were OK. I never received a response. I was exhausted and worried. Three o’clock A.M. came, and then 4:00 A.M. They finally rolled in at 4:15 A.M., informing me that they were sorry but ‘needed tacos.’”
I needed late-night tacos too, people…my freshman year in college! Give your sitter a break! Let her know what time you will be home and if you are running late. And if you’re going to stop at Taco Cabana in the middle of the night, for heaven’s sake, call your sitter and ask if she wants some, too!
Our sitters put up with a lot. Can I get a resounding “amen”? Though they help care for our families, they need to know they are more than just “help.” The Help, a 2011 film adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, is a story about black maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. It’s a comedic drama designed to give this particular group of women a voice. The theatrical release poster said this: “Change begins with a whisper.” So consider this a gentle whisper, friends: Treat your sitters well.
If you are looking for a babysitter this holiday season, don’t forget about our fantastic partners, Time Out Sitters! Use the code NEW16 to get a $5 discount off of registration.