Thursday, December 17, 2009

the sitter saga solved

I have a few more thoughts to share on babysitting.

But before I do, I'd like to preface this by saying what I write here and what I do in reality are sometimes two different things. When I wrote that going forward, we'll only pay a sitter $5.00 an hour when the children were sleeping, I can't say that I would actually execute that action at some point in the future. See, on Sunday night - I had it in my mind that we'd pay our sitter not a penny more than $25.00 for the entire night but when we got home, it was my decision to give her $30.00.

Because, we were running a few minutes late.

And because she was so sweet and the children had such a great time.

And even though there were dishes all over the table and pizza still on the counter and books all over the floor and no one was in their pajamas and all the children had marinara sauce on their faces, I had three glasses of wine in me and I was feeling rather generous.

But I will tell you - $30.00 for a sitter on a very abbreviated date night - in my opinion, is ridiculously expensive. Especially since we came home to a house that looked worse than when we left. I think that our date night should have cost us $10.00. Then again, I think that I should be able to buy a brand new pair of Keens for $30.00.

Oh, wait - look at this - I can!

(Thanks to the anonymous commenter that left me that link. Score!!)

When Charlie and I have gone out a couple times before (I was incorrect to say we've never left the kids) we've asked our neighbor to come over and sit with the children. While she tells us that she wants to do it for free, we've always given her at least $20.00. And we've never left the kids with her when they were awake. We consider it to be a win-win situation because she is retired and has an opportunity to make an easy $20.00 (while reading a book), and for us, we have a few hours out while knowing that the kids are home safely asleep in bed.

Going forward, we're going to tell sitters that we pay a flat $10.00 an hour. If they are expecting $10.00 and we feel compelled to give them more (which we probably will), then they'll think we're really awesome and extremely generous.

(Or at least not totally cheap.)


  1. You guys are living in dreamworld! We had to pay $15 for 2 kids this past summer... but it was with Shayna's old teacher. We were gone for at least 5 hours, bought her pizza, and have not gone out since! When I started out as a Geologist, I made $10.60/hour... and I was making sure that foundations for 2-story houses were safe! Times have changed and I should've majored in babysitting!!!

  2. Yup, perfect. I charge $10/hr for baby-sitting, I think that's fair (although again, I am 24 and a teacher... BUT... I find baby-sitting to be easy-peasy work and I enjoy it because kids are hilarious and fun, so I think $10/hr for my qualifications is slightly lower than what others might charge, and yet that way I don't feel I'm taking advantage of the people I sit for). I actually still think a high school student could do with less, but this is 2009 so I guess $10/hr is the going rate.

    But yes, generally I totally agree that $10/hr is the right way to go. Also: To compare, I charge $20/hr for tutoring, but that's totally because it involves a lot more than baby-sitting and it activates my qualifications in education. (Mind you, when I baby-sit, I typically make it fairly educational as well, it's just my nature! Last week my five-year-old and I were working on her kindergarten sight words while her three-year-old brother was practicing his scissor skills as well as learning to write his own name!)

  3. I pay $10 an hour for my three energy-filled kids in Ohio(6, 4, 1). And the house usually isn't fab when I get home, but she's happy to do it and I'm happy to get it's a win/win for me :) I'm glad you guys got a night out!

  4. I was a part-time/after-school nanny in the Bay Area (I was 13-16) and I was paid $5.00. For 3 kids. Ages 0,1 and 4. I watched the kids, took them to the park, cleaned (bathrooms, dishes, vacumned and scrubbed hardwood floors) and did laundry. All for 5 measly bucks. I came back for 2 summers and was paid $6.00 and hour (granted they let me live with them both times) and still did cleaning and laundry. And I also watched the kids while the parents went to Hawaii and was paid $75 a day. So if you ever want a cheaper babysitter, let me know =] Though I sadly live in Utah now, so it probably wouldn't be worth your money to fly me down =]

    Though I wish I did live by you because I would babysit for you for free. I know I now sound creepy, but I really do wish I could meet you in person.

  5. That's perfect and SO not cheap! :) I love when my families give me more than that but I never expect it. :)

  6. Just to preface... I really wasn't trying to be rude in my earlier comment... I hope it didn't come across as such. I just trying to offer an insight into why, at least around here, people pay more. And it really is all about paying more than min. wage to keep their good babysitters.

    Also. You mentioned about the plates and dishes and pizza still being out and the kids faces being dirty and such... to me that is not acceptable... but probably because I'm now 27 and I've worked with children for 13 years. I can't stand dirty faces, I wipe noses constantly, and by now I know my way around any toy room, kitchen, dishwasher and bathtub enough to put away toys, dishes, leftovers and give baths, brush teeth and give a number of medications. But I'm sure... nay positive, that there was a time when I would have been unsure as to what was expected of me outside of just getting the kids through the night alive.

    My suggestion, make sure you give yourself a short window (10-15 minutes) that you know you can run through with your sitter what you expect to have done when you get home... (Ie: "You can just stack the dinner dishes here in the sink, don't worry about loading the dishwasher. The leftovers can go in the fridge and this is the rag we use to wipe the children's faces)... that allows the sitter to know that those are things you expect to be done and you're not doing it in a manner that sounds like you're asking them to do your household chores or anything, because you're not.

  7. Blogger Jennifer Jayhawk said...

    This is really sad to admit but I worked in the floral industry for over 20 years. I never made $10.00 an hour unless I was working overtime.

  8. Blogger jessica said...

    Jen - I'm laughing out loud at the $5/hour thing! I think I did better than that in 1980. :-)

    No. Seriously. I know - it seems like a lot of money - especially when kids are asleep.

    Just for a point of reference. Sitters in my area get paid $15/hour for 3 or more kids - regardless of sleeping v. awake. The neighbor's nanny who sometimes sits for us in a pinch left me a card with her new rates - $20/hour for 4 or more . . . .

    Yours in the insanity,

  9. Aw, Andrea - you're so sweet. I love Utah and have very fond memories of that beautiful state. Except the time we were almost stranded on I-70.

    Rachel - I didn't think you were being rude. No worries. I think you've got a good point about paying someone less than minimum wage. But when I read your comment to Charlie, he said, "We can pay people whatever we want!! We don't have to abide to minimum wage - we could pay them $0.25 an hour if we want!!"

    I'd like to draw your attention to where the decimal is in my husband's quoted rate. It's not $25.00. Nor is it $2.50. Naw... it's $0.25, which is much less than what even I suggested.

    OK. Then. Moving On.

    Jessica - well then, that seals the deal. We won't be going out any more. Or, at least not moving up to Cardiff!

  10. If the sitter is "busy" the next time you'll know you didn't pay enough.

  11. PS - The going rate in my baby-sitting days was $.50/hr. (I'm OLD) I had one couple who paid $1.00/hr and they went out once or twice a month. If someone else asked me to sit I would always call them to find out if they might need me before I accepted another job.

  12. I could not agree with you more about the cost of babysitters...this is one of my biggest pet peeves as a parent!!! $10+ an HOUR to babysit??? REALLY??? I have a huge problem paying the teenage girl down the street MORE per hour than I was making in my first full-time job after graduating from college. Completely ridiculous.

    I have 7 year old twins and two younger kids and I can count on 1 hand the number of times we have paid a babysitter...that's how much it ticks me off! I'd rather NOT go out.


  13. I think 10.00 an hour is very reasonable for four children.

    I hope you'll give this sitter another chance and let her know what you'd like to have done when you get home. I'm a little surprised she didn't clean up. When my daughter started babysitting, I always reminded her to clean up whatever dishes she saw (even if they weren't from her shift) and wipe hands and faces, and make sure the house was reasonably tidy. Maybe her mother never babysat as a teen, so wasn't sure what advice to give her. It is something that parents remember if they come home to a tidy home. Also, it's something to pass the time once the kids have gone to sleep. Really, though, it's just good to know that the kids had a great time and were happy and safe with her. I remember the days when our children would say "Will you leave tonight so Miss Laura can come stay with us." Just one more person in their life for them to love.

  14. Our pay varies depending on who babysits. Some family members do it for nothing and we give them a nice "tip" and some only charge a small amount (thanks to my 17 year old cousin) and my friends daughter who watches them we pay $10 an hour and she is worth every penny. Clean house, kids fed and bathed, in pajamas and bed, dishes washed and last time she even took our trash to the curb for us. But now that you've solved my shoe shopping habit with the Keen link, maybe we can afford to pay her even more and entice her to stay in the area and babysit instead of going to college 5 states away :)

  15. You and Charlie have the ONLY marriage I know of that can sustain prolonged periods (i.e. 5 years) without a date night! By my estimation - its far cheaper than marriage counseling (running up to $150/hour per my sources!) Derrick and I would have been done by now FOR SURE!


    Off to see Mickey at Sea tomorrow. I'll be back with lots of stories. Are we going to meet you at the Parade or what?

    XO - Jessica

  16. I pay about $5/hr for my one (really easy going) 3 1/2 year old son. We've paid a babysitter twice in his life.

    Also, thanks for that link for Keen shoes! That's awesome! How do they have them so cheap? I have one pair of Keen's. I love them! I got them free when I won a contest on a blog around Christmas last year. I'm not one to spend much money on shoes, but with that website....I think an order will be in my immediate future. Thanks!

  17. I've heard of families making a trade arrangement with neighboring families: Once a week, one set of parents babysits all the kids while the other set of parents gets a date night. The next week, the first set of parents gets to go out while the second set babysits all the kids. Or every two weeks, whatever. With this deal, the parents get time away without having to hawk their car to pay for babysitting, they don't feel like they are taking advantage of neighbors because the favor will be returned in kind the next week, and the kids get to play with their friends for a bit then hang out and watch movies. Sweet!

    Not that I know where you'd find a neighbor family crazy enough to make that deal with you, though. ;p

  18. Babysitters are expensive, but we look at it as an investment in our relationship and sanity. As someone noted in your original babysitting post, in the DC area, $15 is pretty standard for evenings. We pay our p-t nanny more during the day - $16.50. We also come home to a clean kitchen and tidy house.

    Some fellow twin moms and I are starting a babysitting co-op - to exchange free babysitting services so we can all get an occassional date night with our husbands without paying $50+ for babysitters. We will base it on a point system - everyons starts out with 10 points and it costs 1 point per hour to have a sitter. You earn points by babysitting. Since our kids are all still under 2 and have early bedtimes, we'll go out after kids are tucked in to make it as easy as possible for the sitter-mom.

    Maybe something for you to consider?

  19. Jen, we adopted our girls this past summer and have yet to schedule a babysitter. Thanks for posting your experiences so now we'll know what to charge. Having been a former babysitter and part time nanny, the babysitter will be happy when you slip her some extra money. I once watched twins and a singleton, in my 20's/30's for a friend of a friend (easy money for gas, food out, etc., when I was single and living on my own. I liked babysitting and the kids were cool) and even though they were busy I always tried to pick up the house and leave it as neat as I could. But when I was younger and in my teens I probably didn't do that as much (it was only as I got older and realized, hey the parents might like to come home to a clean house, etc., LOL).

    Anyway, I got $10/hour and I think that's fair.

    Glad you and Charlie got a little time to reconnect. I understand that now, having our two girls (they are older) and not enough time to spend together, etc. Hope you get a few more evenings out. :-) your blog and I personally do not think you need to sugar coat it. I read and think about some of the issues you post and get great laughs looking at the antics your kids get up to (loved the Santa photos!).

    (found you through CB)

  20. Now wait just one minute!! Did you have any ---any expectations of the sitter and tell them that when you left the house? To come home to a mess is not being a responsible sitter. I would call the girl immediately and ask for a refund. Give me here number and i will call her and her Mother.
    You have to ask for what you want.
    I have done this with guests staying in my home and they flodded the bathroom and left the place a mess---WOW! They closed the door on the mess and left it for me to clean up!
    Donna French was a super babysitter, and I trained her as to what I wanted for my family.
    It is not the money, it is the quality of care and you do not want your children, my grands, to be subject to such poor quality of work. I am mad.

  21. One of the things nobody seems to be commenting on is the behavior of the children being babysat... though we'd all like to think our children are angels, more difficult, more than 2 kids, or "busy" kids command higher per hour babysitting rates.
    -$10 hr. minimum these days no matter how many kids for an experienced non-family member
    -Don't overlook appropriate teenage boys in your neighborhood, sometimes they make great sitters
    -Outline expectations BEFORE you rush off to your date (we had this written in note form on the fridge not to be missed)
    -NEVER ever be late returning home
    -Tipping when appropriate means a sitter that's in high demand will put you at the top of her list

  22. Dear all of you parents who pay babysitters. If I was rich, like say...Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I would jet set around the United States with my husband in our new Leer Jet (he IS a pilot) and babysit for FREE.

    Like ALL of my family and friends do here. As a matter of fact, last night (on a SCHOOL NIGHT) I babysat an extra kid, so her parent would not have to get her up extra early to catch the morning flight, she could just sleep until 7:30 and go to school with us. FOR FREE.

    Also, my sister is AGAIN watching four extra kids this weekend so their parents can go out...FOR FREE. and mind you, there are TWO 3 month olds and THEY ARE exclusively breastfed. (Well, breastmilk in a bottle, but still, when you're out, you're out!) And she watches them OVERNIGHT, so the drinks can evaporate!

    Sigh...I don't even pay my son $10 an hour to shovel dog crap, find ducks, or clean the yard...he's lucky to earn $20 a week for doing all of that every day. AND watching his sister and cousin every day from 3:30 until 6. FOR FREE.

    P.S. If there are any high schoolers out there reading this blog and comments, I'd highly suggest you scrap your plans to become an engineer, and take up babysitting instead!

  23. Mom - YOU WAIT A MINUTE!

    Whenever you call and I'm cleaning the house, you'll tell me to STOP cleaning and go spend time with the children. How is it any different with the sitter??

    I'd prefer coming home and knowing that she spent time playing with the kids as opposed to cleaning the house. I KNOW how difficult it is to clean and take care of the kids and I'm their MOTHER. More often times than I can count, I'll come home to breakfast dishes still on the TABLE because Charlie is too busy with the children to clean it up.

    How can I expect someone that is less qualified than US, as the PARENTS, come in and do something that even we struggle with?

  24. Thanks for the Keen link! Just bought a pair for Santa to give me!

  25. In our area, one of the local Methodist churches runs a "Parent's Odd Night out" which is great. On odd # Friday Nights, barring holidays, they keep children in their nursery from 6 to 10 for a flat fee. I believe it was $20 for one, $25 for two, and $30 for anything above three. It isn't a perfect arrangement, since it's only on certain Friday nights, but it is lovely when you just need an hour or three away from them. We're even guilty of dropping the kiddo off when she was about three months old, and going home to clean and nap. Ahhhh, now that was a great night. You might see what is offered in your area for the future.

    As for babysitters, we've only had one, she was lovely, but I still felt we overpaid at $10 an hour, most of which was after bedtime. Back in the good old days, I made $1/hour/kid!

  26. I think this is a fair solution. Telling the potential babysitter up front what they will be paid is better than asking them what they'd expect. They can either accept the job or politely decline. Either way you both can avoid the awkwardness of "What would you like to be Paid/"I don't know, whatever you think is best", which always ends up in a unintentional stalemate. $10 an hour is fair enough that I think most babysitters will be happy to get it.

  27. Hi,
    Just had to leave my two cents even though it is a little late. I have 3 kids...ages 8,8 & 6 and I pay my babysitters $10 an hour. I WILL NOT pay more...if they want more than that they can babysit for someone else. There are many girls who are fine with that rate. The kids are asleep 1/2 the time they are there. I mean how can anyone even go out if you pay more than that. I am not a follower of the increase the rate per child thinking :o)

  28. In November, I helped out a friend (for a fee) by watching her two boys, 4 and 2, while she was between sitters. I asked that she pay $10/hr whether they were both with me or not. She thought this was ridiculous, we agreed on a lower rate, but when she said her new sitter couldn't start until January & wanted me to sit again for December, I declined.

    I am a thirty yo mother of two, soon to be three smaller children. I homeschool (in which her children participated), provide field trips, organic snacks & meals, baking, crafting and community involvement opportunities. To say $10/hr was ridiculous was an insult. I thought asking this amount was very generous.

    I think if someone does a magnificent job with your children & your house is clean, despite his/her age, you should be willing to pay them more than $5/hr even more than $10/hr (depending upon what is involved). However, the sitter you hired sounds a bit irresponsible & I wouldn't have even paid her $10/hr. I also would have kindly (but sternly) pointed out how HUGE of a mess my house way & that my children should have been wiped up & in their jammies. I think this will help her with other sitting jobs & know your expectation if you choose to use her again.