Babysitter wages are a hot topic. I regularly see posts on my Facebook feed asking what the going rate is… or how little parents can get away with paying. A thread on parenting site Mumsnet went viral (and divided opinion) recently, started by a mother who admitted she resents paying minimum wage to someone to look after her children.
This mom said her babysitter had requested a pay rise in line with the U.K. minimum wage, and revealed that she thought the amount was too much for “just sitting and watching TV.”
I can’t relate to this at all. Of all the things you might pay people to do for you because you can’t or won’t do them yourself (clean your house, wash your windows, mow your lawn, do your laundry) surely the most important task of all is caring for your kids?
I understand that people use babysitters for different reasons. It’s a little different if you have a medical or work emergency or have absolutely no other childcare options and really can’t afford to pay more than minimum wage, than if you’re out socializing without your kids. If we’re talking about the latter, I can’t understand why some parents get so stingy with their sitters.
I definitely don’t begrudge paying my babysitter more than minimum wage. In fact, I want to. It helps that I don’t leave my children with a sitter very often, so it’s not a massive regular expense for me. For my sitter’s age, the minimum wage is £3.87 (approximately $5.63) per hour, and I pay her £6 ($8.72 per hour), always rounding up to the nearest hour. I think this is more than fair.
A babysitter’s rate shouldn’t depend on how well-behaved or demanding your kids are. It shouldn’t matter whether your kids are little angels or complete nightmares, or whether they fall asleep in seconds or want to party all night (although if they are havoc-wreaking party animals, you might think about bumping up the sitter’s rate a little or you may never see her again). All that matters is that you’re not there to watch your children, so you need to have peace of mind that the person who has responsibility for them in your absence is giving the job her absolute all.
For me, this could mean reading my daughter a dozen bedtime stories because she refuses to go to sleep, or enduring a two-hour jigsaw puzzle session with my son. When the kids are awake, the sitter should give them her full attention. That’s what I’m paying her for. But when they’re asleep, she can do whatever the hell she wants. She can spend hours watching TV or FaceTiming her boyfriend. I don’t care. I know that if the kids wake up and need her, she’ll be there in a shot, because she knows that’s what she’s there to do.
My babysitter doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of her future earning potential because I pay her more than the going rate to watch my kids. She’s a smart girl (I wouldn’t hire her if she wasn’t) and she knows that babysitting isn’t a regular job. There’s no contract, no guaranteed hours, no sick pay. She’s not working in an office or a bar — she’s working in my home and her sole responsibility, for those brief few hours, is to make sure my children are happy and safe. Effectively, she’s a stand-in parent for me, which is priceless.
I know I’m lucky to have an awesome babysitter. If she weren’t so great with my kids, I wouldn’t be paying her anything because she wouldn’t be looking after them at all. Which simply reinforces my belief that if you find a great sitter, you gotta make sure you hold onto them — and pay them what they deserve. Because if you have a sitter who thinks you don’t value her, there’s the chance she might not value your kids.