My name is Emily, and I spend way too much time on Facebook. Because I use the social media monster for work, I can’t possibly give it up. Mad props to people who are able to set limits and only use it occasionally or NOT READ THE COMMENTS. I am not that person. I’m a glutton for comments, often even commenting myself. Sometimes, the decision to comment comes with the question, “Do I want the notifications that will come with this comment?” And I do often turn them off, but sometimes (okay, a lot), I like to see how things play out. Sometimes (okay, a lot) that is a big, fat mistake.
One such recent occurrence was in one of my new local groups. Move to a new town, join all the Facebook groups to make sure you’re in the know. No? Really? Just me? I have major FOMO, so I need to be in the know. So, here I was, being in the know, and I read a request for “how much to pay your babysitter.” If you think there are any topics these days that can’t get heated, well then you don’t spend enough time on Facebook. People are so divided on this topic! Babysitting! I couldn’t believe it. Seriously. Answers (and rebuttals and arguments) ranged from $1/hr to $15/hr. Now, I can see a healthy range of $7-$15/hr for our area, depending on kids, experience, etc. But ONE DOLLAR AN HOUR??? To watch your KIDS??? Here are a list of things that cost a dollar: a bottle of water, a can of beans, two apples, a king-sized Snickers bar (don’t judge). Now I want you to equate that with keeping your children safe and healthy for an hour. “Hey, Nancy, thanks so much for watching the kids today. Here’s a bottle of water and a Snickers for your trouble.” No. Just no.
But what was MORE surprising was grown-ass folks commenting, “I babysit and I charge $2-3/hr,” and “I charge a flat rate of $10, then $1/hr after that.” A four-hour babysitting job (our usual date night) would only pay $13??????? WHAT? And I was suddenly not outraged, but super-duper sad. My darlings, no matter what kind of work you are doing (as people were comparing those of us paying more to “real jobs”), you and your time are worth more than one dollar. Here is my comment on that thread (which was early in the commenting, so I had zero clue what kind of backlash I was in for):
I pay what the service provider charges. Even teens, I ask them. “What’s your hourly rate?” They should learn early to value themselves, then provide service to match that price. Not going to pick up or do the dishes? Not going to play with my kids? All these things get reflected. And sometimes that’s okay. With a 4yo and 6yo, we usually end up paying anywhere between 8-14 an hour, depending on the provider. Anyone over age 15 can make minimum wage at a “regular” job, so I feel it’s necessary to compete with that.
One commenter went so far as to reply, “It’s no wonder our teenagers are ungrateful brats if we pay them this much just to watch the kids.”
How about no wonder so many kids have low self-esteem when they’re taught their work is not valued? The whole discussion was just completely bumming me out. When I was a kid, I got $2-4/hr, depending on the family, night of the week, etc. When I was 14, I got a “real job” at a local donut shop. (I can sense your jealousy, and I want you to know it was exactly as amazing as you are imagining it was. And I still love donuts.) My pay was $4.75/hr. Not that much more than babysitting, but enough to make me really excited. Then I got my first paycheck. And I was paying taxes. So, pretty much ended up making the same as babysitting. So even 20+ years ago, this was normal and standard.
Finally a hero commenter came in with the research hammer (though we know research rarely deters a troll worth her salt), citing a care.com calculator for our area at an 11.50/hr average. (Which, for the record, is basically what I said. Boom.) The only new comment after that one was tagging some friends to tell them they should charge more. Hell to the yes, they should! The keeping of the littles is one of the most important jobs! And when you have a good, reliable, friendly, amazing babysitter, you pay through the nose to keep them. Because they are worth it.
And darlings, sweet, lovely people who “only make $10/hr at [your] real job,” yes, you might have to be more creative in your childcare. You are worth more than that amount, too, but this is not a piece about the national minimum wage. I like free childcare the most, obviously. Family, close friends, childcare swapping. But you might also barter your childcare. I’ve paid for babysitting in essential oils before. No joke. And would gladly let you pay me with a haircut or massage. Just sayin’. Or only go out without your partner, so you take turns (not ideal, but works on occasion). Or you put babysitting in your budget like any other line item and you make it a priority. But denigrating the work great babysitters do isn’t the answer. Even the 12-year-olds who watch my wee ones took babysitting classes and bring activities for them. They are worth it. I’ve had babysitters with far more childcare experience than I have. They’re more qualified to watch my kids than I am! They are worth it. We absolutely have to teach our young people that they are worth it. In every way.