Finding Great Babysitters

As we all know, you can't work (or get much else done) without good child care, preferably that doesn't cost a fortune. What's your best advice for finding -- and keeping -- good babysitters?

My two cents: Finding babysitters is a learned skill. As a new mom I was terrible and had to use babysitting agencies, which were expensive and not very good for finding occasional sitters (much better for finding full-time nannies). I've now learned to constantly be on the lookout for good sitters. Over time, I've found teenagers and college students to be the best. The right ones take babysitting seriously and appreciate the money. When I spot someone who seems friendly and eager to spend more time with my kids, I immediately ask for their number (although I never ask my friends' sitters -- no poaching seems to be the rule here in D.C.) I've found a lot of talent at my 9-year-old son's sports teams and summer camps. The young assistant coaches and counselors are eager for more (better paid, easier) work.

Paying well is key... I pay at the top of the scale, $12 per hour, plus generous tips (despite my husband's protests). As a result, most sitters return my phone calls quickly and are eager to come back again. I keep a spreadsheet of babysitter phone numbers, e-mail addresses and schedules, which makes it easy, too. I also informally trade babysitting with other moms in my neighborhood, especially during holiday vacations. I'll watch their kids for a few hours one morning, and they return the favor the next day.

What have you learned about finding -- and keeping -- good babysitters?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 7, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Childcare , Free-for-All , Tips
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Let the sitter know you appreciate their time and energy. Stock the fridge and pantry with things they like to eat/drink. If you have not been to the grocery, order in dinner for the sitter and your child(ren) for evening jobs.
Be clear in your expectations on TV watching, outdoor play, etc. It makes things much more harmonious. If you use the same sitter for a long period of time, remember holidays and his/her birthday. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something to show you care and that the sitter means something to your family.
I kept a sitter for 18 months (she then graduated from her Masters Program) by doing all of the above. (and paying at the top of the scale)Other moms I talked to told me they wouldn't even ask for her information, because they new how well I paid/treated our sitter. Our sitter only looked for other work once she had stopped working for us.
Local colleges are a wonderful place to find sitters, the applicants tend to be more mature.

Posted by: Burke Mom | July 7, 2006 8:02 AM

I find good babysitters at my daughter's daycare center. They have already had a background check and are around children all day, so you know they have good temperments. PLus, they already know my kid.

I pay 12 dollars as well, and I keep the fridge stocked with all kinds of good stuff to eat, which is key. I tell them to use the computer, the TV and to make themselves at home.

I think the main key is treating them like family and then they will treat you and your children like family as well.

Posted by: scarry | July 7, 2006 8:03 AM

This is a very timely post for me. We've just started with a temporary sitter until our au pair arrives next month. (I've just returned to work after a 3 1/2 year stint at home.) Our new sitter yesterday parked the kids in front of the TV for 2 movies, which is more than they've seen in a month! We found out from my extremely articulate 3-year old son. After a moment of fury, I calmed down and realized that it wasn't THAT big of a deal. It was raining and miserable yesterday, and it's not like the kids went hungry or she hit them or something. Still, we addressed it this morning. I am very eager to hear what everyone has to say on this topic!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 7, 2006 8:09 AM

I would never have thought to ask, but someone clued me in early in my daughter's time in preschool that the nursery school teachers would do babysitting! It had never occurred to me to ask these professional teachers, some of whom had or were working on their Master's degrees. But, unfortunately, the pay is so low for early childhood educators, they were more than willing to babysit. Granted, as adults, I pay them more than the teenager next door, but it was truly worth it when all the teens were too busy with their social lives and we desperately needed a night out! Even now as my daughter will be starting first-grade, a couple of these women in their late-20s and early-30s, who are still working on their graduate degrees, love the extra money, especially since they get a lot of studying done on our nickel!

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | July 7, 2006 8:16 AM

I also pay well and let them know I appreciate it. But, if you set up a regular schedule that helps a lot too. My kids don't go to sleep, so we have regular 3-hr sunday babysitting so my husband and I can spend time together. We're on the babysitter's schedule and we're flexible as to time, so that makes it easy. It also makes our (young) kids more comfortable with the sitter, so generally easier for them.

Posted by: in Boston | July 7, 2006 8:23 AM

I found great high school girls (never any boys...wonder why...) to babysit by calling my church's youth director for recommendations. The youth leaders have seen these kids interact with each other and help out with younger kids during church programs. They know who is mature and responsible and willing to work. Haven't had a bad experience with any of their recommendations, I may not be able to pay at the top of the scale, but they all seem to return my calls, so I guess whatever I have in my fridge rocks and my kid is really so cute they all can't wait to watch her again.

I think it helps that I've gotten to know a few of these girls now and see them at church almost every week, so there's more of a relationship being built even if I don't use them as a babysitter that often.

Posted by: kate | July 7, 2006 8:26 AM

I babysit occassionally for a friend's son and I always get a call on their way home - Can we bring you dessert from the cheesecake factory? We stopped for ice cream, what kind would you like?

I also had a mother pay for my infant/child CPR certification when I was a younger sitter. If a couple of moms in a neighborhood chipped in and got the American Heart Association or something come teach a babysitter's class - CPR and basic first aid, I think it would be a worthwhile investment.

Also - and very important - this couple is always ready to leave on time, so I am not stuck standing there with child and parent both going through the separation anxiety. The best thing you can do for a babysitter is be ready to be gone when they get there. Do you want your boss hovering over you while you work?

Posted by: GrownOlderButNotUp | July 7, 2006 8:34 AM

my daughter, the 15 year old babysitter, loves being told that she is appreciated. Paying top dollar does help her desire to return, as other interesting activities are competing for her attention. And don't expect her to walk your badly behaved dog, especially without asking her ahead of time!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 8:38 AM

For babies we hire nannies who are full time live-ins elsewhere (or former live ins) - they are very good at what they do - but expensive. Fairfield County CT tops out at $17 an hour for the baby qualified pros. Always amused me when the babysitter would show up in a nicer car than any we own. Neighbors kids are in the $10-12 hr range but we only have just started hiring them again now that our littlest is three. My oldest turns 12 next year and he's going straight to babysitter class! Well pay him too so he can started to learn to manage his own petty cash. Any advice out there on how older sibling babysitting politics/strategies?

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 8:43 AM

Twelve dollars an hour? Are you serious? So that means if you go to a movie with your husband it costs: 18 dollars for tickets, 10 dollars for snacks and 50 bucks for babysitting? 80 bucks for a movie? All I can say is you must be loaded. (You know, maybe if you cut back on doing that, you'd be able to afford to stay home.)

Posted by: Holy Cow | July 7, 2006 8:43 AM

Just one comment about this all. As a former au pair (in europe, not the states) I had a very difficult time when mom was home. It was never clear who was in charge of the kids, which let to miscommunication and much frustration and dissapointment.

Please just be very clear on expectations from the start and then address issues as they arise.

Posted by: Frm Au Pair | July 7, 2006 8:44 AM

I have a lot of friends who refuse to hire sitters - if family isn't available to watch the kids, they won't go out. In an area like DC, where so many folks are transplants, that just won't work.

My tip for parents concerned about trying out a new sitter - especially the younger teens most likely to be interested in babysitting: Have the sitter come over on a weekend afternoon, while you are home. Pay this person for a few hours to watch your children while you get the yard work done, clean out the basement - whatever. It will give your kids a chance to know the new sitter, it will give you a chance to see how well the sitter interacts with your kids. FOr those with infants and younger kids - you will know, by the end of 2-3 hours, if this person is capable of changing a diaper, preparing a bottle, helping children in the middle of potty training, handling disputes between your kids..... Even at $12/hour, it will cost you about $36 to get some work done in the afternoon, and enjoy yourself the next time you and your spouse go out for a night without the kids.

And my biggest pet peeve as a babysitter (when kids got paid $5-8/hour) was the family with 3 kids who wanted to pay the same as the family with one kid. 3 kids is definitely a lot more work for your sitter, unless the kids are already asleep when she gets there. Just because the friend who recommended your sitter only pays $10 for her one kid doesn't mean you should pay $10 for your 3.

Posted by: Former sitter | July 7, 2006 8:57 AM

Have not had any luck on this. Would love any advice on trying to piece together an afterschool babysitter for next school year. Son hates going to before/aftercare, so husband and I are attempting to locate in house babysitters M-F from 345-6 without much success...

Posted by: VA Stepmom | July 7, 2006 9:00 AM

I have found the most helpful thing is to have an unemployed brother living down the street. :-)

We're in a neighborhood with lots of kids, so we're lucky now to have two sisters right across the street (although fitting us into their busy social schedule is sometimes difficult). When we lived out west, I used some of the women who worked at my daughter's daycare -- one left to stay at home but was more than happy to pick up some extra cash on nights and weekends. Referrals from other moms helped, too -- when I was both a new mom and new to the area, I made friends with a couple of moms who always seemed to know someone who was looking to babysit.

Finally, we also try very hard to be reasonable. We leave and come back when expected, make sure they have plenty of contact numbers, and don't pester them with 80 phone calls while we're gone. And we make it clear to our daughter that the babysitter is the boss --I once babysat two little hellions who apparently bossed their parents around all day and expected me to follow suit (not), and I will not subject our sitters to that kind of behavior. We're not in $12/hr land (more like $8), but we always err on the side of giving a little extra. And when our son arrived, we paid for two sitters until he got a little older (which explains why we went out maybe twice in his first six months!).

Posted by: Laura | July 7, 2006 9:03 AM

This may sound odd, but our favorite babysitter started out as our dogsitter before our daughter was born. She's in her mid-twenties, and a professional here in D.C. She was always great with our two older dogs and the house, so we already knew she was responsible. She and a good friend of hers are our two babysitters. We pay $15/hr., and it's well worth it for the peace of mind.

Posted by: DC Student Working Mom | July 7, 2006 9:05 AM

$12/hour!
My daughter only gets $10/hour, and her 2charges are autistic: one Asperger's, one non-verbal.
I guess she should ask for a raise.

Posted by: Wow! | July 7, 2006 9:06 AM

PS -- I second Former Sitter's idea of trying out a sitter while you're at home -- that's exactly what we did with a couple of sitters we didn't know well, and it really helped the comfort level for both us and the sitters. And even our first "night out" was all of 3 miles away, just in case.

And yeah, we definitely do pay more now that there are two. Sigh.

Posted by: Laura | July 7, 2006 9:08 AM

After I graduated from high school and got kicked out of the house, I shacked up with my girlfriend who did side jobs for one of those babysitter agencies. She made roughly twice mimimun wage. One time, she got a job to babysit a congressman's daughter for a few evenings. My girlfriend found a baggy of marijuana in one of the kitchen cabinets. Each night she would pinch a joint from his stash and bring it back to our apartment to smoke. It wasn't the kick-ass stuff that one would expect from a congressman, but it certainly did the job.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 9:11 AM

As an adult, I usually get $15 an hour when I sit for a particular family. I recognize that's quite a bit, but they're getting a responsible adult with plenty of babysitting (infant) experience who has a full-time job, so these jobs are taking up my weekend nights. I didn't ask for that amount, that's just what they paid me the first time. Honestly, I could care less. I like the family, love the kids, and really don't mind helping out every once in a while. I would do it for less if need be.

This family has kept me around by calling me way in advance (hard to say no when they ask me a month in advance!), making sure their kids know that I'm the boss, and giving me lots of good written information on the children's routines, so I know exactly what to do. The key is to leave the babysitter with lots of information on what to do if they cry, what to do if they won't go to sleep, etc. How much TV they can watch. Which books and food they like. How to get them to eat their dinner. What do you do when the infant starts to cry while you're putting the older ones to bed--stuff like that. Tips like that go a long way for me to have a successful babysitting night where the kids are happy and the babysitter isn't ready to pull her hair out by the time the parents come home.

Posted by: Liz | July 7, 2006 9:18 AM

to Fo4 -

I never know how big a "grain of salt" I should user when reading your stories, but I always enjoy them. :)

To the woman looking for after school care - I'd recommend the local colleges. Most high school students have many after school committments of their own. But you can post a job listing in most campus career centers, and get a college student who used to babysit, and could use the money. I did this for several years in college - made a lot more money than my friends did at their work study jobs, and got all my school work done while the kid did hers. If you need someone to get your son to various sports/lessons, be sure to list that the sitter must have a car (and check their driving record) or buy an old used car that the sitter can use. It's pretty easy for many college students to set up their class schedules so that all classes are in the morning. The family I sat for was wuite well off, and they actually paid for me to park their car on campus at GW, so that I could pick up their daughter at private school and get her to all her activities.

Posted by: Former SItter | July 7, 2006 9:18 AM

To the mom who was upset about TV- that's one of my biggest problems as a sitter. I love playing with kids, love sitting for good ones- but when they're little, not used to babysitters and just want mommy home and start to cry one of the best, and sometimes only, way to distract them is a movie or TV. Most parents who are used to sitters, and are used to me babysitting for their children are ok with it, but new parents I know have real problems with the idea. If its not acceptable, you need to tell the babysitter before hand! Btw, for all you pricing babysitters, I get $9-$10 an hour in the Baltimore area, for 2 or 3 *good* children (toddlers and older). If you're hiring someone for really young kids, lots of kids, or be honest, if your kids are a handful, pay more and be appreciative. Most people don't babysit just for the money. I have a couple families I babysit for regularly, and do it as a side job while taking classes, or full time during the summer.

Posted by: collegesitter | July 7, 2006 9:35 AM

Twelve dollars an hour? Are you serious? So that means if you go to a movie with your husband it costs: 18 dollars for tickets, 10 dollars for snacks and 50 bucks for babysitting? 80 bucks for a movie? All I can say is you must be loaded. (You know, maybe if you cut back on doing that, you'd be able to afford to stay home.)

Because we don't all *want* to stay home. It isn't just a question of short-term affordability. There are long-term benefits -- financial and otherwise -- to my staying in the workforce in a serious way. I can't speak for Leslie, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of my job. And I also enjoy going on dates with my husband. Not every weekend, no, but every once in a while. And I'm quite happy to have my earnings help pay for that treat!

Posted by: Brookland | July 7, 2006 9:40 AM

The one time I babysat was for my boss. I was working in the summer when in college for $6 an hour in a boatyard. Sanding, fiberglassing, painting, varnishing, more sanding etc. Hot work with lots of nasty chemicals. I babysat for him once for the same salary: two boys 8 and 10 yrs old. When he asked me to go again I said he'd have to double the salary or I'd graciously decline. I heard years later that the kids still answered the phone, "WHAAAAAT!"

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 9:42 AM

If you want good help, pay for it. If you are willing to pay $200 for Kennedy Center tickets and $200 for a meal out with your husband, don't cheap out and offer a sitter only $10 an hour to watch three active kids for 6 hours. You get what you pay for.

Posted by: MM | July 7, 2006 9:50 AM

A couple of suggestions from a former teenaged sitter. As for finding sitters, maybe think about some of your friends or colleagues older children. My first, and best babysitting job started when I was 13, for the grandchildren of the artistic director at my dance studio. I stayed with the kids for 5 years, through their mother's remarriage (and the addition of 2 step-siblings) as well as the birth of their little sister. I only stopped sitting for them when I left the area to go to college. I know, you all panicked when I said 13, but really, a responsible 13 year old is more than capable of watching a couple kids for a few hours. As for keeping a sitter, I think all of these have been mentioned, but these are my thoughts.
1) Set expectations. Your sitter does not know how much TV your children are allowed to watch, and the kids will lie to them. Ditto with dessert, soda, etc.
2) Make your sitter feel welcome in your home, do not set too many boundaries, but if there are boundaries you feel need to be set than do so from the start. If you really do not trust your sitter to be reasonable when it comes to eating food from your kitchen, should you really be trusting them with your kids?
3) Try to limit the number of sitters that you use. It is easier for your kids and for the sitters because they can develop more of a relationship. If you like a sitter try to schedule them in advance so that they will be available. The family I used to work for would sometimes call me before they made their other plans. If I was unavailable on Friday night than they would make their reseverations for Saturday, etc. (That may just have been because noone else was crazy enough to watch 5 kids ranging from an infant to 13 yrs. old for $18/hr., but I like to think it was because they and their children liked and trusted me.)
4) If you are hiring a teenaged sitter, do not expect them to cook. Teenagers do not tend to have much experience in the kitchen and trying to cook and also take care of the kids is asking for trouble. Have dinner ready when they get there, or leave money for pizza. (I was fine with reheating food, or taking something out of the oven, but being asked to actually cook was a surefire way to make sure I never came back.)

BTW. I am now out of college and working full time as a computer technician in New York. I love what I do, and it pays well, but I miss my babysitting days. Look for someone who likes spending time with your kids and you will be fine.

Posted by: Ex-Sitter | July 7, 2006 9:54 AM

Former Sitter -- You are so right about paying more for more kids. Now that we have three kids ages 4-9 I find some sitters just can't handle it. I probably need to pay more.

Brookland -- Thanks for answering Holy Cow. Some of us just don't want to stay home! And certainly saving $80 per week isn't going to make staying home possible for most parents.

Posted by: Leslie | July 7, 2006 10:10 AM

VA Stepmom -

When I was younger (i.e. school age) my mother had to work and always found a college kid who was specializing in early childhood education to watch us until she got home from work. There are so many top notch universities around here (if you're in NOVA - and really, almost anywhere else in VA). Maybe post some flyers. think about what qualifications you want (CPR? a certain leve w/in the program - only juniors or seniors)

We always had great care!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 10:10 AM

I am lucky to have a local mom who loves to babysit, so I have yet to hire a babysitter for my 20 month old.

That said, I have spoken with her daycare teacher about babysitting, and she has said she would be happy to. I would probably be comfortable with any of the teachers in her center, they are all great with kids and they all know all of the kids as well. I have not spoken about wages, but I have heard that most of my friends pay about $10/hour.

Posted by: Another DC Mom | July 7, 2006 10:18 AM

yeah, brookland thanks! I think with all our hard work we deserve a night out with our spouses.

Posted by: scarry | July 7, 2006 10:23 AM

My former employer found me through the college I was attending. She called both the Financial Aide and Early Education Departments who found her four great applicants. After interviwing all of us, checking our references (yes she did!), and leaving us to play with the kids for an hour, she hired two of us. I had afternoons for three years for her four children; $10/hour (around $200/week). I lived in the dorm but felt like I was part of the family and respected. If they needed me for extra hours, they'd always give me two weeks notice. Worked perfectly and even though I graduated at the same time they moved, I felt a big hole in my life for a long time.

Posted by: former nanny | July 7, 2006 10:30 AM

Oh, and they introduced me to the morning nanny and we exchanged contact info. That way if one of us had something that came up, we could try and trade hours (with approval). If you have a long-term sitter, be sure they have an option to call if they get sick, need to make a dr. appt, etc.

Posted by: former nanny | July 7, 2006 10:32 AM

When I babysat, as a teenager, I never made more than $5/hour. That was only 10 years ago. It's hard for me to imagine that prices have increased that much.

The last time I babysat, I remember the father came home as we were sitting at the kitchen table with a snack. I gave the 3 year old a bowl of dry cheerios to eat. He thought it was great fun to eat them with his hands. I figured out why when the father FREAKED OUT over the kid eating with, gasp, his fingers. I was done with babysitting after that. No pay and weird expectations.

Posted by: ceb | July 7, 2006 10:33 AM

I commented that my mother got us a college-age sitter. A good part of that (that I didnt really think of at the time) was that every afternoon we had homework time. We all did our HW, including the sitter, and my brother and I learned thta older cool people do their work too. of course, if we needed help, she'd come help us, but I think it helped my brother and I to think of HW in a different way.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 10:34 AM

I've never used a babysitter. I am lucky to have family around. I would not feel comfortable leaving my 2-year old with a stranger. When he gets older, I'm sure I'll consider it, but not yet.

Posted by: MD Mom | July 7, 2006 10:37 AM

Oh boy, do I feel old. When I was a teenaged babysitter (albiet 15 years ago), I was thrilled when a family would pay me $4.00 an hour. We haven't used a sitter yet, but I'd been thinking maybe 7-8 dollars an hour here in NC. Clearly, I need to rethink.

I have two questions for the peanut gallery: (1) how old were your kids when you first left them with a non-family sitter? My daughter is seven months old, and the thought of leaving her with a relative stranger makes me a little queasy -- am I just being overprotective?; and (2) does/should the sitter get paid less if the baby's already in bed by the time the sitter arrives, and her job is basically to watch tv and to be there in case of an emergency?

Posted by: NewSAHM | July 7, 2006 10:39 AM

Re: sitter doing homework. Same thing happened when I was growing up. My mom hired a high school girl to come to our home after school and watch us. We all sat down together and did homework. I thought she was a "cool high school girl" and so doing homework became cool by association. My mom knew we'd get our work done, and the sitter got paid to do hers!

Posted by: Monet | July 7, 2006 10:40 AM

Unfortunately our day care center (NAEYC accr.) prohibits teachers from babysitting current families, even if your kids are not in that teacher's class. The administration feels that this might cause favoritism, or somehow otherwise compromise care for all the kids at the school. I've found a great source of sitters to be the ranks of young Capitol Hill staff assistants. When I'm on the Hill (several times a week), I'll often ask the 22 year old answering the phones in a Congressional office if she babysits. The answer from these eager, responsible and poorly-paid young women is often a resounding YES.

Posted by: Elizabeth | July 7, 2006 10:43 AM

I am scared of young babysitters. Especially driving. I remember how I drove when I was 16 or 21 --no way I am going to trust my kids to a teanage driver. I prefer older women who have already raised kids. In DC and NYC (and pretty much any large metropolitan area) there are so many ethnic communities that you can draw from. It also helps that between my husband and I we can communicate in 4 languages so we can tap into a lot of different ethnicities. I also find that in these communities large families are common and everybody takes care of everybody's children. And children are expected to be attented to. A lot of immigrants bring their relatives/parents over who are still young -- 50's -- and other than having a legal residency here in the states don't have any other income. It's a lot cheaper, A LOT. They really appreciate the opportunity to earn some money. Plus, these women/girls are not lazy. If the kids are playing or occupied, they would not mind straightening up the living room, doing laundry and even cooking. Definitely cooking for the kids. The only drawback is that if something happens, their English is not good enough to call for help. And their driving always leaves something to be desired -- I would not trust them driving either.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 10:46 AM

We left our daughters with family until the oldest was about 3, and could tell us if anything untoward went on in our absence.
We found local college girls who were glad for the extra money, and that was a base to watch our children, whether they were already in bed or still awake.

Posted by: Wow! | July 7, 2006 10:49 AM

crud. I just posted on yesterday's blog. As for babysitting, DAMN! I am the world's cheapest! I paid my sitter's fives buck an hour for my two kids who were both potty-trained, etc. And that was only a few years ago!

To Liz: you SHOULD care about how much you are paid! Your time is worthwhile. Don't shortchange yourself.

We used to pay a college neighbor to take our early morning rising children to a nearby park for breakfast and playtime for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings. We would sleep in, have coffee and other things. Totally worth twenty bucks once a month.

Posted by: parttimer | July 7, 2006 10:49 AM

Leslie has 3 kids, so it's like $4/hour/kid. I have one son (9 months old). We are going to have our first non-friend sitter soon (lucky us as the first couple to have a baby, we've gotten free help!)

Since it's one kid, and he'd probably be asleep most of the time (maybe even the whole time), is $8 reasonable?

Posted by: NewMom | July 7, 2006 10:50 AM

Just wanted to post a little thank you for this article. I've been working as a nanny the whole time I've been in college (undergrad, and law school currently), and it's always nice to hear a little appreciation for what we do. I'm as attached to my "second family" as anyone who's actually related to them, and much like you suggest, I've been treated like family from the start. It makes the rough days, like when the children decide to let loose with the "you're not my mommy" style tantrums a lot more tolerable. :)

Posted by: Kate | July 7, 2006 10:50 AM

One other thing I do for the sitters who have to drive my daughter is because they are using their own cars I pay the going rate for mileage. This makes it easier to keep the hourly rate down and with today's gas prices they are more willing to drive.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 10:52 AM

I babysat all through high school, college, and still do it occasionally for extra cash. How did people find me? The best place was through my sorority. Contact the president of a local sorority and see if she will send an email or post a notice for you in the house, and you will have 100+ college age females who may respond.

The families I worked for most often (and for whom I would cancel my own plans if they really needed a sitter) paid well, were on time (coming and going), and MOST IMPORTANTLY: had well-behaved kids. That beats out good food in the fridge any day.

Posted by: 20-something in DC | July 7, 2006 10:58 AM

[Any advice out there on how older sibling babysitting
politics/strategies?]

Fo3, I marked out a place in my backyard where I told my kids its safe to play with matches. No where else. When my wife and I leave, I tell the kids where the matches are and remind them where it's OK to play with them. If you have gasoline or flammable materials, make sure you lock it in the shed for peace of mind.

With a 14 year old girl, we've graduated to free babysitting. The kids are more than willing to shove us out of the house for an evening as long as we order them pizza and movies.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 11:00 AM

Just a few notes based on personal experience:

-If you are worried about the age of your child, definitely do a mother's helper deal for an afternoon to let your baby become comfortable, but be out of sight for the most part to avoid distracting both the sitter and baby. Allowing this time will help the sitter become accustommed to your baby's personality and will give you and your child some adjustment time too.
-TV, junk food, favorite games/projects and bedtime rituals are as different as can be for many families, so be sure to explain thoroughly what your family is used to- also, remember food allergies and dislikes! Have emergency numbers listed!
-As far as payment goes, establish your rates early on, but remember that last minute calls and holiday weekends may need a small tip to show you understand and appreciate your sitter. Sitters usually have a price in mind, but ask around the neighborhood to avoid over/under paying. Also, more kids does mean more money, so please be fair and consider the amount of effort while deciding!
-Many colleges have online job websites that allow students and families to post and read postings for childcare, so look on nearby schools' websites- they allow you to request references, cars, non-smokers, etc. and are usually very successful- I found my babysitting family almost 2 years ago, and have now graduated and are still with them on weekends!

Good luck to anyone who is looking, hope all works out well and enjoy your nights out!

Posted by: DC Babysitter | July 7, 2006 11:09 AM

I knew it was too good to be true..

Years after the fact, my son informed me that our "best" babysitter parked him in front of the TV for hours while she had trysts with her boyfriends............

We were paying top dollar for our babysitter to get banged!!!!!!!!

Her boyfriends were bribing my toddler son to "not be a traitor"!!!!

Posted by: Marlo | July 7, 2006 11:10 AM

One thing that guarantees good behavior (and a returning sitter) is when the parent tells the babysitter, in front of the children, before they leave "And I will uphold any punishment you need to give out while I'm gone." (Insert stern look at children)

Worked wonders when I had 2 wild brothers at their house for the long weekend. However, if you have to do that for a 3hr movie & ice cream date, it's probably a bad sign! 'course if your children are hellions, it's possible that they are not afraid of discipline because they don't know what it is.

As I have no kids of my own it is easy to say something like that. If I have kids someday, I will likely come back to this post and recant!!

Posted by: GrownOlderButNotUp | July 7, 2006 11:12 AM

This is just luck but I have in the past made plans with friends whose children are in the babysitting age range (12 - 15), As the families were friends the kids all got together at one house the adults provided the movies and the pizza and the oldest was willing to settle for a reasonable, but on the low end rate (about $7 to $8 in today's market) to be the official babysitter. This worked best once all the kids were at least school age.

Also, in regards to rates and the people who are surprised at what Leslie is paying remember all wages are relatively high in
the DC area.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 11:12 AM

It's also difficult sometimes to find teen sitters if you live in an area that is well off economically. A few years ago, we had a sitter who was a senior in high school -- she had posted a sign in the local grocery store saying she was looking for work. She was great AND she only lived a couple of blocks away. One day, she told me that we shouldn't leave any messages for her about babysitting with her dad. Seems that he felt she shouldn't be working at all her senior year in high school. He said she should be having fun and he would actually pay her if she would stop babysitting! (She didn't, by the way). An extreme example, but I have found that usually unless a teen really needs the money, a little extra pocket change isn't going to be a motivator.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | July 7, 2006 11:13 AM

"My daughter is seven months old, and the thought of leaving her with a relative stranger makes me a little queasy -- am I just being overprotective?"

I would say no. We have yet to use a non-friend or non-family sitter and our daughter is 5! Mostly I think my husband is more paranoid than me but now we've moved to Chicagoland away from family so it will be even longer before we can use someone. Of course it helps we don't have any disposable income after just moving so I don't have the extra for a sitter with childcare that we're using for the first time ever. I'm hoping the oldest daughter of the family living below us will be interested as we get to know them.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 7, 2006 11:14 AM

Designated pyro zone, got it thanks. Along the same vein, we have emphasized that it is important, nay mandatory to place one's thumb outside the fingers, and align the wrist flat with forearm when making a proper fist. Bruises are preferable to broken thumbs/wrists. The gell ice-packs are in the freezer door, allow the children to settle their own differences please. No weapons, no gouging SOP.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 11:16 AM

To "also from dc":

you are exactly the type of person that immigrant advocates despise. you seem to fit the mold of those snobby, upper-class women who look at immigrant women as simple, cheap labor and not actual humans who deserve the same wage you'd pay a white college student. it's ridiculously offensive to think that just because someone is "new" to the country, they wouldn't mind also cleaning your house, doing your laundry and cleaning without any extra pay. how condescending!

you disgust me.

Posted by: md latina | July 7, 2006 11:19 AM

With two kids I have never been big on babysitters. That's partly because, at least, one of my kids can be a handful. There was a local babysitting club that I took each of them to when they were young. It had lots of play structures and activities to keep the kids busy. Neither of mine was ever asleep when we came to pick them up.

Now that they're older I keep a regular barter operation going with their friends' parents. We're open to having their friends over when the parents are out and we get that same favor in return.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 11:22 AM

We left our child with a "stranger" when he was 11 weeks old. We were at an out-of-town wedding and asked a friend of a friend who lived there to recommend a sitter. At the time my rationale was (and still is) that this babysitter had way more experience with babies than I did. We've had to get babysitters more than a few times when we were out of town, and we've never had a problem with them. We just trusted the recommendation that was given to us.
We also have a 14 year old boy pick up our 16-month old son from day care every day, walk him home, and play with him for an hour until we're home. They both really seem to enjoy it, and we treasure this sitter.

Posted by: Massachusetts | July 7, 2006 11:24 AM

Holy Cow wrote: (You know, maybe if you cut back on doing that, you'd be able to afford to stay home.)

Not everyone wants to, you know. And besides, I'm willing to pay $12 an hour just for the piece of mind that my child is with someone trustworthy and that will take good care of her. To me, it's worth not going out as often simply so that when we do, we do it right.

Posted by: Not The "Economist," but one all the same | July 7, 2006 11:24 AM

I wish you did not make assumptions. Spanish is not one of these languages, so all your compatriots are safe with us. We prefer Eastern Europeans from behind the former Iron Curtain.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 11:28 AM

forgot to address my post to MD Latina. Still I wonder why she jumped on me -- there are more than 100 languages spoken in DC vicinity. BTW, we are immigrants ourselves but apparently without a chip on our shoulder.

Posted by: also from dc -- to md latina | July 7, 2006 11:30 AM

Isn't it funny that the kids will probably remember the babystitter who let them watch 2 movies as the best, while you'll remember her as the worst.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 11:31 AM

Check their MySpace page. No joke.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 11:33 AM

as if that makes a difference! nice to know you have a preference for the nationalities of women where you draw your cheap labor. gotta keep it somewhat white, right? but i guess it's better than them being in some prostitution ring back behind the former Iron Curtain.

long live cheap immigrant labor, no matter where the women come from!

Posted by: md latina | July 7, 2006 11:34 AM

I have found the best babysitters of all and it is virtually free. I joined a babysitting co-op. There are many books written about how to start one. We require all of our new members to be sponsored by an existing member so that everyone is a bit of a "known quanitity". We earn points for sitting, based on number of kids, length of sit, and location (your home or theirs). We have medical forms for each child, as well as info on their likes/dislikes, parental disciplining preferences, etc. We pay $15 per year for copying costs and an annual party we have. It has worked well, plus my daughter has met other friends in the neighborhood.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 11:37 AM

[We were paying top dollar for our babysitter to get banged!!!!!!!!]

Marlo, the boyfriends will also nip off your liquor supply. When I was in high school I learned that playing with babies with a nice buzz going on was a hoot! I also have a fond memory of running out the back door of my girfriends client's house with my fly unzipped holding my shoes.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 11:41 AM

If you have extended family members, try this for summer vacation: For two summers when my brother and I were under 12, my parents invited our 16-year-old cousin to live with us for the summer, between school sessions. She lived in rural Virginia and we were in the District. As well as living with us rent and board-free, she was paid a weekly rate in exchange for watching over us and taking us to the pool, movies, and friend's houses. She made beds and did laundry and other household chores and supervised us doing them also. My cousin was happy because she got to live in DC and see all the tourist things (taking us along sometimes and other times going on her own) and earned some money. My parents enjoyed having her around, too, and they liked that they didn't have to send us off to camps and daycare. When we traveled to the beach and to the family reunion, of course she went along. It worked really well because she was trustworthy and mature, plus, she was "family" and we had known her since we were little kids. We still have a great relationship with her, and she has kids of her own now.

Posted by: MM | July 7, 2006 11:43 AM

md latina - thank you for calling out "also from dc" on this. When I read the first post, I was bothered. When I read the reply to you, I was furious.
also from dc - Just because you are not USING latin americans does not excuse your actions or your attitudes.

Posted by: Not Yet a Mom | July 7, 2006 11:45 AM

back to md latina. actually it's more cultural. I am trying to keep a sense of humor here. Would you find something wrong if say a French woman living in the US wanted a French babysitter for her kids? I really don't understand what riled you up? The fact that for $12/hour somebody will pick up my kids toys, make them a yummy chicken soup, and fold our laundry after they are asleep? BTW, a few times it were relatives of our friends and nobody felt exploited.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 11:45 AM

to NewSAHM -

My first post, about a trial, is for parents like you. I understand that you're nervous about leaving your baby with a stranger. Really I do. But if you don't seek out good babysitters when it's a matter of personal time, you won't have any to call if it's an emergency.

How to find someone - do you go to a church or synagogue? Are there any teenagers who are always coming to say hello to the baby? They probably babysit. Someone else suggested contacting the youth group staff at church. Even at the park - you'll see nannies, mother's helpers, and babysitters out, especially in the summer time. Talk to them, ask them if they do any other sitting in their off-hours. Ask around your neighborhood. And again - set up an afternoon trial. This is your chance to see how the sitter handles a crying baby - does she walk her around, making soothing sounds? Or leave her in her crib? When she burps the baby is she gentle, or does she pat her back a bit too firmly? When she changes the baby's diaper, does she do a good job? If you like the way this person interacts with your baby, then you have found a sitter.

As to pay, even if the baby is still asleep - yes, you still have to pay the same rate, whatever the going rate is in your area. Consider this insurance- you are paying for someone to be there, and be capable of handling any emergency that comes up. It's an insurance policy. And it won't be long before your 7 month old is running all over the house, and once you find a good sitter you don't want to lose her.

And don't worry if someone recommends a 14 year old. I started babysitting when I was 11. SOmeone else pointed out the same thing - many young teens are very responsible, and are often more likely to actively play with your children. Don't let age determine if someone is responsible - we all know real life doesn't really work like that.

Posted by: Former Sitter | July 7, 2006 11:46 AM

I'm in a babysitting co-op as well (as I posted about several times yesterday during the nanny discussion!!) LOL

We're a small group - 8-10 members usually - and we all know each other very well. We used the Smart Moms Babysitting Co-op book to get started over 5 years ago, but have modified it to our liking. We used to "charge" a $5 annual fee for copying and etc. but we never used the money, so now it is literally free.

The co-op is built around a weekly playgroup so the children all know each other and all of the moms well, and we're all comfortable with each other. We also have about 3 family get-togethers a year, moms nights out, and meetings every other month, so it goes far beyond just babysitting.

I haven't hired a teen babysitter (other than my 14 year old, and he's only sat for us in the evening twice) in almost 7 years. Before that, we very occasionally hired a teen from the neighborhood or a student my ex-husband met when he was substitute teaching.

Posted by: momof4 | July 7, 2006 11:47 AM

forgot to mention to md latina and I think these women (in their 50's) were too old for the prostitution rings.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 11:48 AM

I forget who was considering paying their oldest kid to babysit the younger ones.

From my experience - bad idea. Your children, in general, do not regard their older brother/sister as an authority figure. So no matter how many times you say "listen to your brother/sister" while you're out, the response from the younger kids will always be "why should i? you're not my mom!", or some variation on the theme. I'm not saying it absolutely can't work, but I'd be cautious. (I'm the oldest, and trust me, it never worked well at our house.) Plus - now that everyone has cell phones it's even easier for the younger kids to "call mom", instead of just threatening to tell mom when you get home.

What may work is to get some of your oldest kid's friends to babysit, especially if they also have younger siblings and are basically trading families. Younger siblings tend to want time with their big sister/brother's friends, and rarely get it. Having this person as a babysitter, when your older sister isn't there is like a special treat.

Posted by: former sitter | July 7, 2006 11:55 AM

I used to babysit for a couple who would come home staggering drunk at 2:00 - 3:00 am every night I sat for them. The kids were precocious little snips (2 girls) who could be sweet as pie one minute, little *itches the next. They liked to imitate Britney Spears and cable TV was on ALL THE TIME. Fortunately, bedtime was early so I watched Discovery Channel until the 'adults' came home. I consider myself a very good babysitter -- a mature woman, former EMT on ambulance so I could handle emergencies, have own transportation, can stay out after midnight, non-smoker,non-drinker, no boyfriends hanging around. This couple was the only one I could find to do occasional weekend work. They only paid me $5 per hour per kid.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | July 7, 2006 11:55 AM

having babysat and nannied (two different things!!), i think it's ok to have "lower expectations" for a babysitter, especially if you don't use a babysitter often. if your children are with a parent or nanny every day and have lots of basic household rules like limited/no TV, no junk food etc, and the parents rarely go out on the weekends/evenings, having a babysitter can be turned into quite a treat for the kids - so what if they watch a movie and eat popcorn all night? it becomes an event for the kids, too, and the evening isn't all focused on the fact that mom and dad are leaving (seperation anxiety), but that jenny down the street is coming and we got to rent a video! and get pizza!! woohoo!! when parents of kids i babysat for had things kind of attitude, it was great! the kids always looked forward to their evenings with me which meant behavior issues were less likely to come up. now, if you go out a lot, i could see this being an issue. but still, if you look at it like "how to make a fun night at home for the kids" instead of parent's going out, it seems to work best for everyone.

i also look back and realized two things: i never set a price for my services and always told people to pay me what they thoguht i deserved. usually got $5/hour (10-15 years ago), but sometimes got a LOT more. sweet! and, at the age of 13, i had a regular gig with a 2 year old and a 2 MONTH OLD. i know i was a responsible kid and all, but yikes! i wouldn't leave my daughter with a kid as young as i was!!

Posted by: nat | July 7, 2006 11:56 AM

MD Latina, I agree. I was ok with the post about hiring immigrant older women until Also From DC made the comment about it being "A LOT" cheaper. Then I realized she is just exploiting these women.

Also in DC, if you think their English is not good enough to call for help, find them a free English class (often held in local churches) or PAY for them to attend a basic class. If you are asking these women to do household chores, then you should pay a dollar or two more per hour. Are you proud to be teaching your kids how to exploit immigrant labor?

Posted by: clover | July 7, 2006 12:00 PM

Also in DC, well you sure fit the stereotype of a cheapskate, money-grubbing person from the former Iron Curtain countries.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 12:07 PM

"We prefer Eastern Europeans from behind the former Iron Curtain." "It's a lot cheaper, A LOT"

Like my father's "peasant" parents?
Watch out, it can all change in one generation...

I thought the topic was about finding good babysitters, not low paid servants.

And since you have no qualms about exploiting these women/girls, I have no problem pointing out the fact that your original post included a number of MISSPELLED WORDS!!!!!!

Posted by: Marlo | July 7, 2006 12:07 PM

"We prefer Eastern Europeans from behind the former Iron Curtain." "It's a lot cheaper, A LOT"

Like my father's "peasant" parents?
Watch out, it can all change in one generation...

I thought the topic was about finding good babysitters, not low paid servants.

And since you have no qualms about exploiting these women/girls, I have no problem pointing out the fact that your original post included a number of MISSPELLED WORDS!!!!!!

Posted by: Marlo | July 7, 2006 12:08 PM

For several years I needed full or part time care in my home. It is work to screen sitters and get good ones who will stay. I found older high school girls or young college girls to be best. I did try some moms (some brought their kids along, some didn't) -- these people never lasted. They were far more interested in their own kids, and I don't recommend them. I don't think they really wanted the job that badly.

I never looked for a male sitter, so I don't know who the best kind would be.

One tricky point -- the taxes. I did register and pay taxes for one sitter who worked lots of hours for me. All I can say is the state doesn't make it easy to "do the right thing."

Posted by: Montgomery County, MD | July 7, 2006 12:16 PM

Nat, I also would not leave an infant with a babysitter under 16. My first babysitting job was when I was 12 and I sat for my neighbor's 4 month old daughter and 5 year old son. Thank god that little boy knew everything about taking care of a baby because I sure didn't! He was a wonder. Looking back, I guess the parents knew that and figured I'd be ok. Their parents lived next door and mine were up the street, in case of emergency.

The best thing was that the son even changed his sister's diapers and I didn't have to! I still remember that kid and how much he loved his baby sister and how gentle he was with her. Basically, I got paid to supervise HIM babysitting.

If you hire a young person to take care of a child under 2, please make sure to demonstrate diaper-changing and other techniques, including bathing and feeding. Don't just assume every teenaged girl knows these things!

Posted by: GVa | July 7, 2006 12:17 PM

I was 11 when I started babysitting back in 1980 somethin' in very rural southern Ohio and only made $1.50/hr. It was in a neighborhood where everyone one knew everyone one. My sister lived in the house across the street and my mom's house right behind her. One kid was cute, one was a hugely spoiled brat, the neighbor boys were always bugging me to let them in, and the parents ALWAYS came home drunk. I hated every minute of it except for the HBO I watched after the kids went to sleep that my mom would not allow in her own house. I did this for 3 years about once a month until the parents got divorced.

Posted by: Way back when | July 7, 2006 12:17 PM

my daughter was an excellent babysitter at age 11. She was good with babies when she was 5 years old, did bottles and diapers (on the floor, for safety's sake.) She's a natural. She was paid $5 to $8 and hour to babysit when she was 11 and 12. Her sister is now almost 13, and is terrified of babysitting, not interested at all. Please stop making generalizations about age groups.
I've had nightmare babysitters of all ages. I agree that a regular gig with a college student is a great idea, we had one when my kids were small, and she kept me sane!

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 12:23 PM

I am glad to have served a fodder for today's post. I actually pay $12/hour, which includes picking up the toys requirement. Last I checked it is the going rate in DC now. I used to pay $10 couple of years ago. The chichen soup was offered by the babysitter herself, she also folded laundry without my asking. When I asked her why she did not just watch TV when the kids were asleep she said that she can't sit still and do nothing (hence the non-lazy comment). So, I made a "huge" generalization. Marlo, I agree --I saw my misspelled words after I already submitted but other posters sometimes misspell words too. A lot of nasty comments thrown my way -- "keeping it white" and "peasants" and "expoiting immigrant labor". This particular babysitter was not a peasant but an engineer who came here to help her daughter to raise her child and when the girl went to elementary school she looked for other babysitting gigs. She is the only one willing and able to work Saturday nights that I was able to find. Now somebody is going to jump on me to say that I have to pay more for Saturday night. Actually, the comment about the prostitution ring is extremely prejudicial and offensive to all Eastern European women -- those countries are members of the EU and they have economic opportunities other than the world's oldest profession. Clover, I hope you are satisfied that nobody was exploited.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 12:25 PM

i thought the prostitution comment was a joke.

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 12:26 PM

In CT the homeowner is liable if underage drinking takes place in the home. If care has not been taken to restrict access to your booze - BEWARE! You may end up with a fine and a nice big headline in the police blotter.

Underage dating is not yet illegal in CT, so I figure a simple call before heading home after a nightout, on the pretense of offering to bring an extra dessert or whatever will give future Fo4's enough time to clear out with fly in high position. Avoids any awkward teen talk while driving the sitter home.

- from the Seargent Schultz School of babysitter management

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 12:28 PM

I tried to turn it into a joke in my reply to MD Latina b/c I thought that MD Latina did not read my post correctly when I wrote about older women babysitters. I did not think she was joking.

Posted by: also from dc | July 7, 2006 12:30 PM

Am skipping to the bottom of the thread here, so forgive me if someone has already said this. I wanted to describe my experience as a babysittee, which is more memorable than my experience as a babysitter.

My advice for parents who are going out for an evening (as opposed to having, say, an after-school babysitter every day) would be to let things be a little bit loose. Safety first, of course, but it doesn't hurt to allow the kids to stay up a little later, watch a movie, or do something else that is a treat for them--something that's not part of the usual routine.

You are having a night out, and they'll miss you less if they are doing something special too. I remember my high-school-age babysitters well because they fun to be with. I can't remember, of course, what went on when we were really small (my parents might not have had the money to go out!), but by the time I was five or so we had babysitters on weekend evenings fairly often, and I never missed my parents a bit!

Posted by: THS | July 7, 2006 12:33 PM

In the early 70's, when I was 13, I babysat one night for 4 children who lived on a farm. I did not know them, the parents were friends with my neighbor who referred me. The children were completely incorrigible. They refused to listen so I allowed them to play follow the leader which included jumping on beds and other furniture. At least this kept them occupied and kept them from fist-fighting with each other which they had been doing. I was asked to cook dinner, fresh pork chops (on a farm). While I was cooking, there was a grease fire in the pan that I put out with salt. After the fire, the oldest boy who was about 12, decided to show me where the pork chops came from and actually chased me around the house with a pig's head. The parents paid me less per hour than any of my regular jobs, and also were angry that I let the kids jump on the furniture. True story. Still can't believe that the parents accepted a sitter (me) who didn't even know where she was. I wouldn't have been able to give the address to the fire department if I didn't put the grease fire out myself.

Do not hire a teenager for children who have behavior problems.

For normal children, a teenager who lives in the neighborhood is great. When my daughter started to babysit for the neighbors at age 13, I made sure that I was available to help her if needed. She did call me for advice in the beginning and only asked me to come over to help one time with an especially fragrant diaper.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 12:36 PM

ceb, I stopped babysitting about 6 or 7 years ago, and I still would have been thrilled with $7/hour (and yes, this was in DC). Hard to believe the rates have gone up this much. Maybe I should stop correcting the mothers on the bus who think I'm a teenager and come out of retirement.

Posted by: fs | July 7, 2006 12:36 PM

To also from DC:

I explained to you that since you feel no qualms about exploiting workers by paying them "a lot less", yes, I am going to jump on your spelling errors. I am cutting you the same slack you give these girls/women. How does it feel?

Posted by: Marlo | July 7, 2006 12:37 PM

md latina, I happen to be from behind the former Iron Curtain, and I find your post utterly tasteless. Somewhat white? Not that this is at all relevant to the current discussion, but East European nationalities *are* white, and the last time their whiteness was questioned was during the Third Reich. Prostitution ring? So we're all prostitutes now?

How disgusting.

Posted by: Bosnian-American | July 7, 2006 12:44 PM

I don't quite see the exploitation here. If the sitter is receiving $12/hr, that is almost twice minimum wage. Granted, maybe other sitters charge more, but that doesn't automatically make it exploitation. If you are paying for a service, and the worker accepts the price you are paying, and it is a reasonable price, I don't see the problem. Isn't it common practice to request several estimates for work orders, car repair, etc?
If you like what you are getting for the lowest cost, do you offer to pay more because other people are getting more? Should the babysitter get $35 - $50 per hour because some nannies make $100K per year?

I thought the relevant part of the post was that the sitter was an experienced mature woman who just might bring a little diversity to the child's life.

Posted by: to Marlo | July 7, 2006 12:47 PM

To Also in DC: So, when did doing laundry, cooking and cleaning become part of the babysitter job? I think that would be the 'housekeeper' category. BTW, I've witnessed children out with non-English-speaking keepers. I don't know if these women were nannies or housekeepers or sitters, but chattering away in Korean or Chinese doesn't do much when the kid can't understand it.

Finally, it's illegal in Maryland to leave children in the care of someone younger than 12 years old, no matter if it's a relative or not. I called the police on a family above me who left an infant in the care of an 8-year old who invited her friends over for a roller skating party while mom and dad were working the night shift. Go figure.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | July 7, 2006 12:51 PM

Actually, in Maryland a child 8 and older can be left by themselves but a child must be 13 or older to care for a child younger than 8. For example, a 7-year-old needs a babysitter who is at least 13, but an 8 and 12 year old can be left home together.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 12:54 PM

Marlo here:

From the original post of also from DC:
"It's a lot cheaper, A LOT"
doesn't sound like $12/hr to me....

Posted by: Marlo | July 7, 2006 12:55 PM

Margo,

Let it go..

Posted by: Please | July 7, 2006 1:00 PM

You got her, Marlo. That's what bugged me about Also's post. She was clearly saying that she does not pay these women the going rate.

Posted by: Clover | July 7, 2006 1:04 PM

As I type, I'm trying to call my sitter. Pray she's home! I'm trying to paint the living room and the baby is screaming!

Next I'll try the 10 year old across the street, I only use her as a mother's helper (I'm home) but she's great. We're cultivating her now so we'll be first on the list when she's old enough to solo. THat's maybe 13 if her folks are home and she can call them if she hits a snag, older if they're out too.

We've also had luck offering that two teens can watch our kids. Prefer no boyfriend/girlfriend unless they're in college with private space. My boyfriend and I used to babysit together in grad school. We lived together, so htere was no need to do the dirty deed while watching kids. He passed the kid test then, so now he's my husband and we've got two of our own.

Posted by: in Boston | July 7, 2006 1:11 PM

We live in a DC suburb and pay our very capable 15 year old babysitter $7/hr plus about a $5 tip. She seems thrilled and is eager to babysit whenever we ask. (She has taken "babysitting classes," knows CPR and the kids love her.) We've paid other teenagers similarly with no problems.

Maybe competition among the parents is driving the price up to unreasonable levels (unreasonable for the average family, that is).

Posted by: Chausti | July 7, 2006 1:16 PM

It astounds me how people who normally pay top dollar for the best, will turn around to cheap out on who WATCHES THEIR CHILDREN. The money you pay is the LEAST important thing--does the sitter have good judgement? Are they intelligent? Do they know basic first aid and/or CPR? Do they enjoy being around children? Bragging about getting sitters for "A LOT" less and getting housework thrown in seems...very misguided. Do you really want a bargain basement sitter? For your CHILDREN??

Parents can be incredibly cheap sometimes. It's the same thing with daycare--most of those workers aren't paid much either. You get what you pay for, and if you want a trained professional, you have to pony up. Sometimes I think *some* parents believe it's just such a privilege to be asked to watch their little darling, they're justified in cheaping out. Don't kid yourself.

Posted by: From DC originally | July 7, 2006 1:28 PM

Off topic, but it's not necessary to point out other people's misspellings. I an editor and I misspell stuff too, everyone does.

This isn't a job it's a blog.

Posted by: scarry | July 7, 2006 1:29 PM

also from DC, you did say in your original post, "It's a lot cheaper, A LOT." Since Leslie's column says she pasy $12 an hour, your new claim that you also pay $12 doesn't really jibe with your statement that its soooo much cheaper to hire immigrants, and I suspect that's why people are getting on your case.

I don't have any problem with someone seeking out new immigrants as babysitters because they want to have a connection to that community or something along those lines, but if they're not paying the going rate, I definitely have a problem with that.

Posted by: ya know | July 7, 2006 1:30 PM

Marlo and Clover:

THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING WHAT I MEANT! The "It's a lot cheaper, A LOT" comment is what set me off too. It just seemed so condescending to immigrant women...like they were sub-human and didn't deserve a fair wage.

To the Bosnian woman, the prostitution comment was a joke. I see now that it was in poor taste but i wrote it to demonstrate how ridiculous it was to say that someone from an Eastern European country was somehow more acceptable than a woman of color to care for this woman's children.

You're right, you are white, but frankly, there are evolving definitions of what "white" constitutes, so i won't go there (i.e. the Irish and Italians were not considered "white" in the early 20th century in the U.S.). Didn't mean to offend you, so i apologize.

Posted by: md latina | July 7, 2006 1:31 PM

and i'm done for the day.

good chatting with you all and the best of luck in finding good babysitters!

Posted by: md latina | July 7, 2006 1:36 PM

Some people don't consider the Irish and Italians "white" now, including the Irish and Italians. I consider myself an Irish American and a lot of my Italian friends consider theriselves Italian Americans, not "white. "It's really easy to offend on this blog, so let's cut also in DC a break.

P.S. I love my babysitter from Bolivia. Her rate is 12 dollars an hour, plus all my magazines in the house because she is trying to learn popular culture!

Posted by: scarry | July 7, 2006 1:40 PM

Our next door neighbor was 17 years old when we had DD and 19 when we had DS. She had a ton of babysitting experience, lifegaurding experience (so CPR trained etc). She is now 22 and the best babysitter we could have ever found. She truly is a member of our family. She comes over for dinner just 'cause. We pay her $15 an hour but I think part of that is to help pay for expenses at college. We also slip her some money just 'cause. And right before she goes back to school, we just "happen" to have her favorite foods in the cupboard that she takes back to school with her. She complains about other families that she has babysat for mainly for treating her like a servent, not a respected human. I dont understand it but she says there is a lot of that attitude going around. My recommendation is to treat people with respect (and pay a lot) and they will bend over backwards for you. She has actually cancelled good plans just to help us out in a pinch (that is worth some extra money -- AND we dont ask her to do that unless we are desparate).

Posted by: Maria | July 7, 2006 1:41 PM

I used a brother and sister team from my neighborhood to care for my 8 and 11 year old boys last summer. They were great! The brother was 16 and could drive. The sister was almost 14. I think it would have been hard for them to keep up with my rambunctious and energetic boys alone, but together it worked well. The brother could drive while the sister occupied my kids. They went swimming and to the movies, and they played soccer in the nearby park with other kids. It cost more but I did ask them to do a few "chores" such as dishes and clearing the yard (and the boys were expected to help out).

Sadly, the pair have more social obligations this summer and aren't available as often, but it's also easier for one only of them to watch the kids since they are "old pals".

Posted by: Tag-team sitters | July 7, 2006 1:42 PM

to MD Latina,

I think DC's point was that she felt more comfortable with women from her own cultural background. There is nothing wrong with that, not for minorities or persons in the majority population.

Posted by: irish-america | July 7, 2006 1:43 PM

Maria,

That's so thoughtful of you to give her extra money and food. You are right, you should treat people like family.

Posted by: scarry | July 7, 2006 1:43 PM

Good Lord! I want to babysit for some of you mothers! $12 an hour for one or two children? I guess I'm the only one who thinks that is terribly high for a teenage babysitter. I can understand if she's a college student, but a 15-year-old?!? Wow!

I'm here in the DC suburbs of NoVA and for the past three years, I paid our regular babysitter $6 per hour to watch our two girls. She returned quite often, with nary a complaint about the pay. When she was not available, I would hire other girls in the neighborhood (also 15 and 16 year olds) and pay them the same. No one ever complained, and they all returned when I asked.

I think, in the end, it's not the pay so much, but the children and the atmosphere. I let the babysitter know that she can help herself to anything in the kitchen, give her plenty of options for activities, and also tell the kids (in front of her) to mind the babysitter and that she is in charge. I remember as a teenage babysitter back in the 1980s (yes, I'm THAT old) that I loved watching the kids whose parents were not too demanding and whose kids were not too wild. The pay wasn't the real issue. My favorite family consisted of five incredibly well-behaved kids and an grumpy old dog -- I was paid $5 per hour to babysit them and it was as if I had struck gold, since my other families paid me $2 an hour. We're now talking about $5-$6 per child? Egads! Talk about inflation ...

Now that we've moved to a "ritzier" neighborhood in NoVA, I've asked around re: babysitting rates, and moms are telling me it's still around $7-$8 per hour for two children. So I dont know where this $12 per hour is coming from, especially if it pertains to teenagers. I mean, we pay our extremely experienced FT daycare provider $6 per hour for each child -- shouldn't a less-experienced teenager earn less?

Posted by: cheap mom | July 7, 2006 1:45 PM

My husband has 3 sons (my stepsons), now in their teens, so when our friends had kids, we volunteered to babysit so they could go out every so often. I don't have kids and wouldn't be comfortable with a baby, but my husband loves them. Our friends are so grateful, and we get the pleasure of giving them something they really need and getting to know their child. The only downside is that my boyfriend made me learn how to change diapers.

Posted by: T.A.M. | July 7, 2006 1:49 PM

"So, when did doing laundry, cooking and cleaning become part of the babysitter job? I think that would be the 'housekeeper' category."

That sure seems to be the case with the people I have found to babysit of late. But back in the dark ages when I babysat, I was taught that that was all part of the job -- the kids were the top priority, but you took time to make dinner, and once they were in bed, you picked up all the toys and did the dishes. It was sort of a work ethic/guilt thing -- I was making $3-4/hr (more than minimum wage), and just sitting watching TV felt wrong when there was stuff to be done. And most of the parents I babysat for took the cooking and cleaning up for granted, although I do remember one or two who were just flabbergasted. But I did LOVE the parents who ordered pizza for us all!

Now I don't count on babysitters doing any kind of cleanup (I usually tell them that if the kids are breathing and we've avoided any emergency room visits, it's a good night). But boy, I sure tip well when they do (and those are the first people I ask back)!

On another topic, one other thing that occurred to me is that some community centers/YMCAs etc. do "parents' night out"-type of things. My daughter's daycare did those once in a great while, and she LOVED it -- it was her regular caregivers, all her friends, and pizza and movies (which she never got at home). And at $20 for 4 hours, it was a deal for us, too (and all of that $$ went to the caregivers -- probably more than they made during the day). Our local Y does similar things here periodically, but since I don't know the people there, I haven't tried it yet.

Posted by: Laura | July 7, 2006 2:05 PM

"Twelve dollars an hour? Are you serious? So that means if you go to a movie with your husband it costs: 18 dollars for tickets, 10 dollars for snacks and 50 bucks for babysitting? 80 bucks for a movie? All I can say is you must be loaded. (You know, maybe if you cut back on doing that, you'd be able to afford to stay home.)"

Yes, Mr. Wizard, save $100 once or twice a month and you could lose the second income, if the second income is a lemonade stand! I'm quite sure in addition to paying for trusted babysitting, many second incomes are also being used to cover other items you would probably call frivolous....like retirement savings, long-term investments, college savings, major home repair and upkeep....you know, all of that silliness.

Posted by: Holy Cow, Holy Cow | July 7, 2006 2:20 PM

As someone else posted, if local kids who are old enough seem interested in your child, ask if they want a job! My daughter is 5 and when we were at the local pool some pleasant young girls struck up a conversation with her and seemed to really enjoy "playing" with her. I asked if they were interested in babysitting. Two were 13 but never had done babysitting and wanted to try, so I had each one come over for two hours while I was there to explain Kate's routines, and then graduated them to watching my daughter on their own for a couple of hours and then an entire evening or afternoon. Now I have two girls in the neighborhood who really like my little girl -- and she loves them -- and I feel they are completely capable of doing the job. I make sure they have snacks and sodas they like, and they are allowed to watch movies (PG or PG13 only! I hide the R ones) if my daughter is napping or we plan for them to watch movies together.

I pay them $10 per hour since it's one (quiet) child but I'd pay $15 for two kids. I also give the girls gifts from time to time, such as extra Clinique makeup from the samples I get (their moms approved this) and Amazon giftcards. They deserve it!

Be generous in paying for childcare. They are your CHILDREN.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 2:21 PM

to cheap mom -

I've got news for you. Odds are, the 16 year old babysitter spends a lot more time actually PLAYING with your kids than the 22 year old, who you think deserves more pay. This blog has spent a lot of time discussing equal pay for equal work, then we get someone like you who apparently doesn't believe in it.

Beyond that - I got paid at least $5/hour in the early 90s - you're not even matching the rate of inflation. I'm glad you've got sitters willing to come back, but if their parents read this blog, you'll probably find them requesting a fair wage next time you call.

Posted by: former sitter | July 7, 2006 2:24 PM

I agree that it's best to treat the person who cares for your children as a member of the "extended family", especially if this is a person who is often around. Kids like stability and are more comfortable with people they know, and so it's best not to use a bunch of different babysitters. Try to stick with 1-3 that your child is familiar with.

I grew up in the late '70s. I don't know how much my mom paid our sitter/ housekeeper (an older immigrant woman) but I do know that she often gave her our gently worn clothes and shoes to give to her granddaughter. My mother also asked us to pass on toys and books we'd outgrown. Sometimes our sitter brought her little granddaughter with her and WE were the babysitters. Sadly, this woman passed away when I was in my early 20s, but her granddaughter and I keep in touch -- and she decided to my college on my recommendation!

Posted by: Widen your family circle | July 7, 2006 2:29 PM

Wow, the sad thing is at $12/hr you're paying more than they would get working FT at a day care center. When I started teaching, 3 years ago starting salaries were $34k for certified teachers dealing with over 100 kids,, or 30 ES students.

-l.

Posted by: ljb | July 7, 2006 2:30 PM

What are ES students?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 2:35 PM

My daughter is beginning to do some babysitting gigs and she runs into rediculus expectations. This one mother gave her a timetabled list of things to do as if mom was super organized and efficient. only 1 cookie for dessert, 1 half hour of TV, feed dog, read book, brush teeth at 8:00, bedtime at 8:30. My doughter wasn't fooled. The place was a mess, open box of poptarts on the dining table, out-of-control brats for kids, and the kids didn't even know where their toothbrush was, much less the dog food. I think that since Mommy was paying for a sitter, she thought at least she should be able to get better childcare for her kids than she could provide herself.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 7, 2006 2:35 PM

I ask teenage daughters of neighbors. I have them come over while I'm home a few times to get to know the kids and our routines, then I do one or two short excursions before heading out for an evening with my husband.

I actually prefer to have them bring a girlfriend or sister over -- power in numbers (I have 3 kids) and all that. Plus that way I know the kids get their needs met and the evening will go smoothly instead of mayhem.

I don't actually believe in spending through the nose for occasional babysitters. I think spending $12 dollars an hour for a 15 year old girl is preposterous.

Posted by: MI3 | July 7, 2006 2:46 PM

There are a couple of posts that address the TV issue. I generally don't let my son watch a lot of TV, but when we have a babysitter over, we leave a collection of approved DVDs that he likes. Watching a lot of TV one night isnt a big deal, I just want to make sure he's not watching something I dont approve of (he's 3 1/2).

Also when setting the price, I usually just ask, how much do you usually charge. And then go from there.

My husband and I are in our 20s so we've had are friends offer. I've taken them up on it, but its kind of awkward because, I'm not sure when they do, if they ask as a favor or for employment. So I try to compensate. For example, I had a friend go out of town and she asked if I can feed the cat, check the mail and take in the paper, in exchange she watched my son one night while I went out.
The best are the teachers helpers at my son;s schools, they're yong women usually who work part-time while in school. My son already knows them (and knows them as a teacher so he listens to them), and they get paid more than they do at school.

Posted by: new to DC | July 7, 2006 2:58 PM

So you'll pay $50 or more for an evening out (3 hours) with your husband -- dinner and movie -- but you won't pay someone $35 to take care of your (three) children and ensure that they are safe? Hmmm...

And people complain when they don't get raises.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 3:00 PM

When my husband and I sit for our friends, we've made it clear to them that we WANT to do it so they can go out for an evening and have a break they couldn't otherwise afford. I don't want a child of my own, but my husband and I enjoy a few hours with their child. Once she's in bed, we settle in to watch a DVD from our friends' porno collection (just kidding!).

Because there are two of us, it's much easier if one wants to check out for a few minutes and honestly, it's a fun and free different thing for us to do on a Saturday night once in a blue moon.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 3:06 PM

From the age of 13 to 18 all of my money came from babysitting. I was an afterschool nanny, 3:30 - 6 for my whole senior year of high school. I didn't play sports, so I had no after-school activities. It was great. Note that I also had emergency gaurdianship to make medical decisions if needed, I also drove the kids to appointments, picked up dry-cleaning and made easy dinners. The mom always left money for errands and simple recipes. I was always at the house before the kids got off the bus.

I sat for alot of other families regularly and enjoyed it. There were a few families that were my "favorites" the ones that treated me with respect or like a member of the family. I would also do alot of "Mother's Helper" type things like go with mom and the kids to the community pool and had a great time.

One note, if you have to drive your sitter home, do NOT drink while you are out with your spouse. One time the parents came home drunk and I had no way home but to ride with the father. Hindsight I should have called my dad..but it was 130 am and I thought it would be ok...thank god it was.

Posted by: former sitter | July 7, 2006 3:11 PM

That's a very good point about parents who get drunk or even "tipsy". If you are going to drink, please plan to pay for your sitter to go home in a cab. And parents of sitters should tell them that it's ok to call for a ride, no matter what time it is, because they'd rather get a call from their child than a police officer.

Posted by: Good advice | July 7, 2006 3:26 PM

We were lucky to have a number of friends like the poster at 3:06 - couples who wanted kids but didn't have them yet, or single friends who enjoyed kids and were happy to spend an evening with our son, and they always completely refused payment, so we'd treat them to dinner another night or something like that. I also paid a good friend who had a son the same age as mine to watch my son when I was doing homework, and this was fabulous bc the two boys were such good friends as were she and I.

On the issue of teenagers and cleaning/cooking, I think the younger the sitter, the less one should expect them to do in addition to watching the kids, as young teenagers simply aren't likely to be as experienced at multitasking. I remember when I was 12 or 13 I used to babysit for two little girls in our neighborhood. One day, I had fed them lunch and their dad came home and was simply furious because I hadn't wiped off the counters and washed the dishes. I still remember all these years later how upset I was because the two girls were such a handful it seemed completely unfair.

Posted by: Megan | July 7, 2006 3:32 PM

My brother and I both babysat when we were teenagers in the 90s. One piece of advice I can give is that little boys LOVED being babysat by my brother. They played video games, played guns in the backyard, played silly pranks when the parents got home, you know, fun boy stuff. I was a total tomboy, so I liked those games too, but I don't think that other girls my age did. So keep in mind that if you have sons, they'll have way more fun "hanging out" with an older boy than an "icky" girl. I'm sure it's harder finding a teenaged boy who's willing to babysit, but it might mean the difference between "but I don't want to spend the night with the babysitter" and "leave already!"

Posted by: Meesh | July 7, 2006 3:37 PM

I agree with everyone here that have said young teenagers can be great babysitter. But of course that depends on the teenager and the children. I started babysitting when I was 11-12 yrs. old. At first it was mostly for families in the neighborhood, for an hour or two in the afternoon while the parents ran errands. My mother was usually home just a couple of houses away as well as many other families in the neighborhood so there were always adults around if there was a problem. During this period I also watched the neighbor's children at my house. My mother was always home but I was the one responsible for taking care of the kids. I think the parents liked this option since there was an adult in the house and my mother didn't mind since she knew it was a good way for me the get experience and earn some extra money. The kids usually liked it as well and they got play with my younger sisters and I and all of our new (to them) toys.

I had my 1st "full-time" during the summer babysitting job when I was 13. Unfortunately this didn't work well for a couple of reasons. The girl I was watching was 8-9 at the time and just saw me as another kid so she never wanted to listen to me. It also didn't help the she was extremely spoiled, use to getting her own way, and willing to lie to get it (My mom lets me do it! Swim practice was canceled. etc.). I had similar experiences when I babysat for other older children (ones around the 8-12 range), especially kids I grew up with in the neighborhood. They just tended to see me as another kid...one they didn't have to listen to. So parents might want to consider that when hiring teens to babysit older children.

Right after that summer I started babysitting regularly (2-3) times a month for a family I loved and stayed with for several years, after which my younger sister started babysitting for them. They had a 2 yr old boy and a 6 month old girl when I started. 13 seems young to leave a toddler and baby with but I have younger sisters and cousins who I watched all the time so I was already comfortable changing dippers, knew how to heat a bottle, how to keep a toddler safe, all of that. The children were pretty well behaved, knew how to listen, and were generally happy easy kids. The parents paid well, always treated me well, came back when they said they would, etc. They made sure the kids knew that I was in charge and trusted me to enforce the house rules. Once when I brought my younger sister along, because I was suppose to be watching her the same night they needed a babysitter, they even tipped her for "helping with the kids". I also really appreciated that they trusted me. Once when they called home to check on us, I answered the phone with both of the children in the background screaming. I though for sure that they would cancel the rest of their evening, rush home, and never call me again. I explained that no, neither of their children were really hurt (the boy had hit his little sister because she was playing with one of his cars. She was screaming more because she was mad then hurt. He got sent to the "time-out" chair and was crying because he hated being punished. I had just about gotten the girl calmed down when the parents called). They listened to me explain what had happened and what I was doing about it and pretty much told me to carry-on. I really liked feeling responsible and trusted and this made me work even harder to be a "good" babysitter. So, no not every teenage is a good babysitter but some are really good at it. I'd look for teens who have younger siblings and are use to being around small children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 3:39 PM

Good advice about getting sitters with younger siblings. Due to a family emergency and lack of local support, I'd had to watch my siblings from the time I was younger than I am willing to admit because I can hear the howls if I specified. By the time I was 12 or 13 and really babysitting I knew how to keep control of younger kids, entertain them, and not let them bully me because I could do it with my younger brothers. I knew how to change a diaper, too.

That said, my folks were insane for leaving us alone at that age, and I would not do it now.

$12-15 hour? Wow. I started babysitting in the early 80s and at $2/hour I made more than the going rate.

Posted by: Historian | July 7, 2006 3:48 PM

I babysat for one family for 5 years--they were great and welcomed me back when I was home on breaks from college. It's been fun watching the kids go from tiny babies to elementary school! Time flies!

$12 an hour is what I charged for 2 kids, $10 base and $2 more for every additional child. So when I sat for 5 kids, it was $18/hour. Better than I'm making now working my first entry-level job!

Advice for parents: Tell your sitter what time you'll be home and if you're going to be late, CALL! It's just inconsiderate to not let your sitter know what time you'll be home.

Also, don't call and ask to talk to your child. It can get kids, especially younger ones, really upset hearing their parents voice before bed and not seeing them. Unless there's an emergency or extenuating circumstances, it usually just makes it harder on the sitter to have the parent calling every hour.

Posted by: Gaithersburg | July 7, 2006 3:48 PM

Meesh, you're right on about teenage boys working well with younger boys. That's why I love my sister and brother babysitter team. My sons like both their sitters so much, and they look up to and admire K., the brother. He is a kid who enjoys teaching my kids soccer and baseball and being "rough" with them. J., the sister, is right there in the action most of the time, too. K., however, seems to know more of the kinds of things boys like to do and so they have a blast together. I think he has more patience when they are "wild" and simply too energetic.

And hey, I pay better than the fast food places.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 3:51 PM

$12-15 hour? Wow. I started babysitting in the early 80s and at $2/hour I made more than the going rate.

And when I worked in a bookstore in the early '80s, I made $3.15 per hour. It's called inflation. The '80s were 25 YEARS ago.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 3:53 PM

To the parents who won't leave their children with a "stranger" - I can understand not leaving a tiny baby with a young sitter (although I started babysitting for one family when the youngest was 3 months and that continued for several years), but at 5 years old?!? What are you going to do when your child wants to go on playdates with a stranger (i.e., a parent you don't know)?

I think some people are too overprotected. It's not like you're letting a stranger off the street into your home with your child; presumably it's someone you've met and used your judgement with.

Posted by: Ex-sitter | July 7, 2006 3:57 PM

I was somewhat bothered by the posters who expressed surprise at the rate of $12 and claimed that they only paid $6 or so an hour and their teenage sitter never complained. I would like to point out that for a teenager, it can be quite uncomfortable to "complain" to an adult when you feel you are not being paid a fair price. This is especially true when the parent who is paying you is a neighbor or friend of the sitter's parents. In my day, I babysat for several families who did not pay my going rate, but I felt like it would be rude, as a 15-year old, to demand more money, so I kept my mouth shut. Additionally, young teenagers have limited options for earning money, and are likely to take a babysitting job even if they are not paid enough, because it is better than nothing. Everyone seemed very concerned about exploiting immigrants, but what about exploiting teenagers? Everyone should be paid the value of their services, not what they are willing to accept.

Posted by: Charlottesville | July 7, 2006 4:01 PM

Just wanted to say for the most part this has been one of the most helpful blogs I have seen so far. I'm getting great ideas on how to look for a babysitter and feeling more comfortable about leaving my daughter with someone other than family.

Thanks everyone!

Posted by: Dlyn | July 7, 2006 4:06 PM

I babysat for two kids for years while their single mom went out on dates and during the summers. They were really good kids who usually went to bed without any fuss or muss and she had cable, which my mom wouldn't pay for, so it was like a win-win to me. I also babysat for the kids of the woman who babysat me when I was little. Again, great kids. No problems. best story: I babysat my little cousin often when I was teenager, for free. That was fun, cause we would play dress up and do photo shoots and make cookies using grandma's recipes and other stuff that I didn't always feel comfortable doing with the other kids because they weren't family. Once I had my license my uncle would leave me a car with her car seat strapped in it and I could drive as far as the mall down the street (literally around the corner and down the street) with her. I remember being scared the first time I tried it and after pulling out of the garage/driveway I drove down the street a bit then turned around and came back home. LOL! She and I are still close now, by the way. She is 23 and I'm 36.

Posted by: babysitting memories | July 7, 2006 4:08 PM

"Everyone should be paid the value of their services, not what they are willing to accept."

Did you read yesterday postings? $11.41 per hour is the equivalent of $100,000 per year. 24/7 Hmmmmm.

Sounds like anybody paying >$12 an hour has an $100,000 nanny! hahahahah We're all super rich! hooodathunkit.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 4:12 PM

If you think $10 an hour is too much to pay a 15 year old, consider this. My daughter pays for her own entertainment and clothes. Movies are $12, cool jeans are $60, shoes are $100, etc. And she doesn't even shop at abecrombie and fitch!
Furthermore, she may be more qualified that some day care providers. She has taken a baby sitting class, lifesaving and CPR, and has helped raise her younger siblings and cousins.

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 4:22 PM

I agree that this has been a very helpful blog. I've gotten lots of good ideas on how to be a great "employer". Thanks, everyone!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 7, 2006 4:22 PM

Wow - I guess I am WAY overspending on our daughter's babysitters. Apparently we're paying more than anyone else on this blog - $15/hr. to our twenty-something babysitters (we have two we use) for our 21 month old daughter. (Although, I have to say that children are a handful at this age!) No wonder they're always willing to babysit! LOL. Still, like others have said, quality babysitting is something that I am absolutely willing to spend the money on.

Posted by: DC Student Working Mom | July 7, 2006 4:32 PM

$18 = $157,680 Fairfield Co. CT pros
$12 = $105,120 DC pros/CT Teens
$10 = $87,600 Nova High
$ 6 = $52,560 NoVa low

Peak hours, weekends, evenings, hard labor, dangerous conditions, combat pay, ferocious beasties, er tax frei>?

Big bucks no whammies!

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 4:33 PM

Fo3, you're assuming a sitter is working 24/7. Even if they are working 8 hour days, M-F, that's only a little more than $20,000 a year.

Posted by: Ex-sitter | July 7, 2006 4:40 PM

*if they're making $10/hour (forgot that above)

Not trying to attack your math, but most sitters aren't working nearly 40 hours a week.

Posted by: Ex-sitter | July 7, 2006 4:42 PM

Au contraire, I assume they are surrogate parents who work 24/7/365 or 59,808 hours per year. Equal pay for equal work. If your $100,000 nanny works less than 24/7/365 then your getting a raw deal! But then you must be super rich so easy come easy go.

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 4:44 PM

Babysitters are not "surrogate parents." Mostly, they're teenagers or adults trying to find some part-time work. I would classify them as different from nannies. Maybe you have the luxury to stay home with your children all the time, but some of us need a break!

You can pay your sitter whatever you want--but when I was a sitter, I had enough jobs to choose from that if a family offered to pay less than I wanted, I had the power to say "no."

Posted by: Ex-sitter | July 7, 2006 4:47 PM

As a parent of kids in the new century, I am using the new new investigative math system from the 4th grade! Like it?

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 4:49 PM

Agree to disagree? :) As long as the kids are safe, happy and healthy, none of this really seems to matter.

Posted by: Ex-sitter | July 7, 2006 4:54 PM

Yes, of course the price of babysitting has increased in 20 years. It's outstripped minimum wage considerably, though. I'm not complaining, just impressed that people are willing to demand more than a lousy buck an hour for taking care of children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 4:55 PM

Assuming under the table in a 35% tax bracket, 40hr work week, 52 weeks a year:

@hr @week tax adj @week tx adj yr
$18 $720 $1,107.69 $57,600
$15 $600 $923.08 $48,000
$12 $480 $738.46 $38,400
$10 $400 $615.38 $32,000
$8 $320 $492.31 $25,600
$5 $200 $307.69 $16,000

there ya go!

Posted by: Fo3 | July 7, 2006 4:58 PM

"Yes, of course the price of babysitting has increased in 20 years. It's outstripped minimum wage considerably, though."

As well it should! It's a demanding, important (to the parents and to the sitter if they love children and take it seriously) job--it's a lot harder than asking "you want fries with that?" People who shrug and say "it's ridiculous to pay more than $5-6/hour" are CHEAP--these are your CHILDREN, I don't understand wanting to skimp on that. We all know how loudly you'd be screaming if, God forbid, something happened to the kids--Megan's story of the demanding father who expected the dishes washed and the counters cleaned is a perfect case in point. He wanted a sitter AND a maid, but was too cheap to pay for both--luckily Megan made the right decision and watched the kids instead of being distracted.

Posted by: zzz... | July 7, 2006 5:40 PM

We used www.Student-Sitters.com when we lived in the D.C. area. We had some o.k. sitters and some great ones that we used again and again. The review system really helped with evaluating potential sitters.

Also, we paid anywhere from $6-$10 an hour for a sitter depending on age and experience. We also always tipped well.

You can find a basic sitter information sheet that you can update for your use at www.romanticantics.com/SitterInfoSheet.doc
It's case sensitive so make sure you capitalize appropriately.

Set expectations, make sure everyone is informed, and show your sitters that you appreciate them.

Posted by: Kevin Decker | July 7, 2006 5:44 PM

"Yes, of course the price of babysitting has increased in 20 years. It's outstripped minimum wage considerably, though."

Right, and the price of everything else has outstripped minimum wage too. The U.S. minimum wage has not been raised for nine years. Is there anything that stayed the same price for that period?

Cities and states have begun to implement minimum wage requirements that exceed the federal standard, and well they should!

Posted by: THS | July 7, 2006 6:41 PM

If you find a sitter you like, be sure to remember periodic raises. I baby-sat for neighbors starting at age 13. By the time I was sixteen, I wanted a raise. At 13, I was only missing out on a night at home if I were babysitting. At 16, I had to turn down a few dates, parties, and school dances because I had already committed to babysitting. I talked to my mom who agreed that it was reasonable to ask for a raise (especially since the neighbors were usually out to dinner with clients on an expense account). Well, I mustered the courage to ask for the raise, and felt very grown-up by taking this step. The woman told me that she understood, but that she would just ask one of the other neighborhood kids and not ask me anymore. So, she turned to a different 13 year old who jumped at the first opportunity to make some money and dumped the 16-year-old with the three year history. Go figure.

Posted by: bjt | July 7, 2006 7:35 PM

most day care providers make their employees get trained in CPR and they have training, so I doubt that your daughter has more experince than they do, even though you are an experinced know it all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 7:35 PM

I forgot to mention that she started out paying the *going rate*. It's not like she was giving me super pay to start. There was really no reason that I could think of to explain why she refused a raise.

Posted by: bjt | July 7, 2006 7:39 PM

--- *It's a demanding, important (to the parents and to the sitter if they love children and take it seriously) job--it's a lot harder than asking "you want fries with that?"*

Well, that depends on the families and children involved. When I was a teen babysitter, it was important, but not demanding. Generally, the girls I watched (4 sisters aged 3-10) were fed and bathed before I arrived. They played together with dolls or board games very nicely. They were allowed to stay up 1/2 hour past their bedtimes, so there were no arguments when bedtime arrived. I cleaned up the toys, ate whatever I wanted, watched t.v. did homework, and talked to friends on the phone. My friends who had fast-food jobs had it much harder.

With smaller families today, it may be harder because I think parents interact more with their children rather than letting them play together or by themselves, and the kids may expect more interaction from the sitters. Not saying this is good or bad, just maybe different from the days when kids were left to their own devices a little more.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 7:48 PM

I'm not sure exactly what is meant by babysitter here. My definition is someone who cares for the kids while parent(s) has an occasional night out. Others seem to be speaking of teens/students/young adults who provide after-school care and shuttle services for their children's activities.

I'm surprised that some get upset over the babysitter plopping the child in front of the television for a few hours, but others think it is OK for a 16-year-old to drive their children. I didn't allow my 16 year old to drive her younger sister without an adult in the car until she had been driving for at least 6 months. In MD, the requirements for driving have changed to a graduated system. I think that the teens now have to have their permits for 6 months before being granted a provisional license, and then have further restrictions regarding passengers for another period of time.

My recommendation is to only use a sitter age-18 or older with at least a year's driving experience if you are also expecting the child to be transported anywhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 7, 2006 8:06 PM

'most day care providers make their employees get trained in CPR and they have training, so I doubt that your daughter has more experince than they do, even though you are an experinced know it all.'

I guess the unsigned poster directed this at me. How very unkind.

regarding my daughter, I said 'she may be more qualified that some day care providers' That means some, not all daycare providers. I meant her overall attitude and experience, along with her training.

Since you don't know me, you don't know that my mother worked at a name brand daycare center for over a year, with no first aid or CPR training, and she didn't do very well with the children. She was ultimately fired.

So I am positive that my daughter is a better child care worker than my mother!!

And if that center kept my mother on, because they needed workers so badly, that may be happening at other places as well.

Posted by: experienced mom | July 7, 2006 9:35 PM

It took me a long time to hire a sitter (way too long.) My sister lived near by and was happy to watch her neice but then she went off to get an MBA and we had no one for 2 years. I found our current sitter on Craig's List. I checked her references both local and from her home town. At first we stayed home. Our basement was in a state of distress. It is now a lovely yellow with organized toys and closets and my husband and I have seen a movie and gone out to lunch without our kids! My duaghter is thrilled she was always jealous of her friends' nannies and my son seems happy to see the sitter when she comes. I pay $12.00 always cash and I always round up. For 3 hours I just give her 2 twenties. It just seemed odd to ask for change.

Posted by: Raising one of Each | July 7, 2006 9:58 PM

"So you'll pay $50 or more for an evening out (3 hours) with your husband -- dinner and movie -- but you won't pay someone $35 to take care of your (three) children and ensure that they are safe? Hmmm..."

I pay more than $50 to go out with my husband to dinner and a movie in D.C.

And no, I won't pay someone $35 to take care of my children. But thats because the babysitter sits there and watches TV - that's pretty much the extent of her duties.

She comes while I'm cooking dinner and plays with the kids while I'm doing so (added bonus). So I cook dinner, then my husband gives them a bath while I get dressed, then I put them in their pajamas, nurse the 18 month old, and then kiss them goodnight. They say goodnight to the babysitter. And I put them in bed.

So our babysitter watches TV for a couple of hours.

And that's when I go out in the evening.

When it's something during the day like I want to (gasp) go grocery shopping by myself the babysitter sits in the sandbox and plays with the kids.

This is definately not worth $12 cash an hour.

Posted by: MI3 | July 7, 2006 10:41 PM

hey experienced mom,

I tend to let things go from blog to blog, but if you remember correctly you assumed something about my daughter on the breastfeeding blog that was rather unkind too, so if the anonymous posters assumes stuff about you and your daughter I guess that is unkind but fair.

And when I said the "you don't know me it started a whole blog dedicated to how bad Scarry is"

Not trying to start a fight, jut pointing out that you did the same thing to me.

Posted by: scarry | July 8, 2006 7:34 AM

As far as babysitting rates go, it's better to figure out the going rate of your local area. Most these comments read like the DC rate is universal and it's not.

Consider for a moment that folks are paying a 1/2 million dollars for a 1000 square foot house in California but that same amount of money will buy a palatial mansion in Texas.

Just ask the sitter what their hourly rate is, then what it will be with any extra kids. Our consistent rate (for teenyboppers) has been $6-$8 per hour. And more has always been based on the sheer *volumn* of children. Tipping is just rounding up to a convenient round number.

Even if doubling the sitter's rate is affordable for some parents I think that could create some uncomfortable dynamics between the two parties in the way of unspoken expectations. Even though it's personal family work it's best to keep it as professional as possible.

Posted by: Tracy | July 8, 2006 9:29 AM

i'm with tracy - i live in a nice suburb of philly, and i pay $6 an hour with a nice tip. the work is cake: the sitters come when my one son is asleep for the night, and can just sit around and watch tv, or whatever.

also, i used to teach at an all girls' high school, so i have a seemingly endless supply of sitters. the kids literally beg me to sit, and are disappointed if i don't call them.

i know i'm lucky in this regard, but if you have friends who are teachers, they could b e great references.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 8, 2006 2:23 PM

$12-15/hour? I have to pay $20 for an adult here in northern CA--you DC-ites thought you had it bad! I have 4 kids under age 9, so I don't even usually leave her with all four at once, so she's really more of a mother's helper. By the way, the going rate here for 3 kids is $15/hour.

Posted by: momof4 | July 8, 2006 3:00 PM

$12-15/hour? I have to pay $20 for an adult here in northern CA--you DC-ites thought you had it bad! I have 4 kids under age 9, so I don't even usually leave her with all four at once, so she's really more of a mother's helper. By the way, the going rate here for 3 kids is $15/hour.

Posted by: momof4 | July 8, 2006 3:01 PM

I've had good success with finding sitters on both student-sitters.com and sittercity.com. But, our favorite sitter is a 15 year old girl from our church. We'd gotten to know her whole family through some activities and then asked her to sit for our 1 and 2 year olds. Recently she wasn't available when we needed so she recommended a friend who also sits a lot.

Regarding rates, I generally pay $12/hr for an experienced college student for two toddlers (that's in NoVA). Our high schooler originally quoted us $5/hr but we felt that was too low so we pay $7/hr. I feel that's appropriate because 1) she's less experienced than the college students and 2) we need to pick up/drop off since she doesn't drive. I expect to give her a raise of $1 or so each year so by the time she's in college she'd be making what we pay college students.

I agree with the other comments about treating sitters well, being ready to leave, returning on time, etc. Also, with our teenage sitter I make sure we can pay with cash not a check since I assume it would be a hassle for her to cash it. Also, with our favorite sitter I do my best to schedule time with her a month in advance so we can get a couple nights per month. It works better for all of us to have things scheduled. She is sometimes available last minute but will also help us find someone else if she isn't.

Another bonus of finding a sitter with younger siblings...the younger siblings can be groomed to take over sitting duties when the older one goes off to college. Our sitter's sister is 11 and I hope to start using her some this year as a "mother's helper."

Posted by: Anne | July 8, 2006 3:11 PM

I am in the military and live in New Orleans, LA and my 40 yr old babysitter charges me $3.50 an hour for a 1 yr old toddler. She runs a certified day care center and those are her drop in rates. It is competitive with the drop in rates for the child development center here on the military base where I live. Other child care providers on the local provider list charge about $5 an hour, more if it is on a drop in basis. She works from 7AM to 11PM, 7 days a week. In some military families, both parents have to work and sometimes have to work on weekends standing duty and she provides a much needed service. Granted, if she goes to a ball game or needs to go grocery shopping, she lets us know that's what her plans are and if that is not okay then she cannot watch our kid. Fair enough if you ask me, and I don't mind my child doing those things with her (except if it is going to be past her bedtime).

Some sitters/child care providers seems to treat watching children like a job, (ie set hours, don't you dare call at the last minute, and I can't help you otherwise) instead, she seems to treat her charges like her own family. I think it is odd to work such long hours and charge so little and feel guilty paying her so little. I plan on giving her a large bonus before I depart and have given her some of our leftover items to help with her expenses (ie, new diapers that my daughter has outgrown, the case of formula that my daughter didn't like and is taking up space in my cupboard, etc).

Should I be concerned about the low price? We had another sitter (17 yr old teenager) who lives across the street and refuses to take our money when we try to pay her $8 an hour (the going rate in the area for college students based upon my research). Should I just chalk it up to being lucky that military families try and take care of each other since we usually have no family nearby?

Posted by: TLAWRENCEVA | July 8, 2006 9:26 PM

"'My daughter is seven months old, and the thought of leaving her with a relative stranger makes me a little queasy -- am I just being overprotective?'

I would say no. We have yet to use a non-friend or non-family sitter and our daughter is 5!"

It goes both ways too! When I was in high school, I was only allowed to babysit for kids whose parents my parents trusted. My parents had heard about girls getting raped by the dads of the kids they babysat, and so didn't want me posting babysitting ads and babysitting for strangers.

Posted by: Maria | July 9, 2006 10:03 AM

I love to baby-sit! In fact as my daughters started age and were no longer available and parents called for them to sit I volunteered in their place. It is fun to be around little one again. The work is so different from my normal day job (computer software work). And yes $10 to 12 is the going rate. But then you get a mature mom watching you children. I live in NOVA!

Posted by: Ell | July 10, 2006 12:04 PM

as a current babysitter and childcare worker at a church, here are a few things parents should know:
1) it is important to ask around when it comes to paying your baby-sitter. I'm kind of a push-over and take whatever I get, and sometimes for 4 unruly little kids, $24 for 4 hours just really isn't enough!
2) PLEASE tell us when the kids should go to bed and eat-and which food items are off-limits. It really helps us out!
3) Unless it's rainy and gross outside, please encourage your kids to play outside and not sit in front of the TV for 8 straight hours! (I had a mom and kids get mad at me for not letting her kids watch tv all day and having them go play outside!)
4) generally, (this is just my opinion), but I would think that a baby-sitter should be paid more for infants and toddlers than school-age children, due to potty-training and things like that. some people may disagree, but most of the time school-age children know where things are and can really help the baby-sitter out!

Posted by: mary | July 10, 2006 12:27 PM

As a recent college graduate, I've done my share of babysitting. I paid to stay in D.C. for two summers by way of childcare. A great source for reliable sitters is the AU Job Corps. I posted a profile there with my information and got dozens of emails of prospective families. You can also post an ad for child care. I'm sorry to those of you who think $12 is outrageous, it really is the going rate-- its expensive for us to live here too. Also, ask your friends about their sitters-- its not always 'poaching/stealing', in fact many sitters have friends who are sitters-- and responsible people like to surround themselves with the like. I hope this helps!

Posted by: Jessica | July 10, 2006 3:56 PM

I used a Virginia agency which at the beginning was very good, but the last person they sent me was mentally ill. And I still had to pay for her. So agencies are not the answer to all situation, especially if they do not know the person they are sending you very well. There's a very good chance they don't. Every body that walks into their office is potential revenue for THEM. Whether the person they send you will treat your child well and with respect is a crap shoot.

Posted by: MdMom | July 10, 2006 6:28 PM

Mary, good point #4. I also think that those babysitting for infants and toddlers should get a higher rate than for kids who are older than, say, 5 years. As any parent knows, it is HARD to care for infants and active, inquisitive, needy toddlers. After age 5 or so, kids tend to settle down and can be distracted more easily with a game or a movie or even household chores ("let's pick up your toys!").


Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2006 2:34 PM

I've been sitting for a family for the past 3 years, after moving to DC for my first post-college job. The kids are the sweetest, most well-behaved children I've ever met, which is why I'm still with them; at this point, I don't really need the money, so if the kids were trouble, I wouldn't bother. I'll admit that when they recently had a 3rd (making 3 kids under the age of 5), I had a moment of panic. But the parents are so grateful for time away, and the kids are so cute and loving, I can't say no!

Posted by: StillSitting | July 13, 2006 11:04 AM

re: AU Job Corps -- does anyone know what's happened to this great resource? I find I am directed to a very generic looking web page, not at all local and with no ties to DC -- called Studentconfederation.org. Anyone in the know on the disspearance of the AU student government sponsored site??

Posted by: Mystified | July 18, 2006 12:01 PM

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