Evolution of the babysitter

Remember the good old days when your babysitter was the neighborhood kid down the street, mom, dad, or aunts and uncles? I’m sure you do. I do too, but those days are gone; with teenagers increasingly having lives at an earlier age due to planned activities to keep them out of trouble, parents paying their teenage kids to do chores, etc, plus the re-location of so many families to places that they don’t have family around; the role of babysitter has become much different than it used to be.

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Back in the day I was babysitting at the age of 12 or 13, and most of the time for free for neighbors that needed a break. I remember babysitting entire days through the summer for, I think, $3/hr (I thought I was rich). Not much was expected of me then accept to keep the kids fed, and out of trouble. That was it. I wasn’t expected to play with them (I did), putting them in front of the TV to watch “Gilligan’s Island” was pretty much the extent of it or telling them to go outside and play. I really didn’t do much else and I wasn’t expected to.

Bring the job of babysitter forward to today. Family life is much more complicated than it used to be, and so is the job of a babysitter babysitters and childcare is much more expensive then it used to be also. Babysitters are asked to take kids to activities, museums, and playgrounds. Babysitters also are asked to pick-up kids from school, help with homework, keep them safe and entertained, be flexible, prepare meals, take care of them when they are sick and can’t go to school, administer medicine if necessary, adhere to discipline techniques parents utilize, and problem solve behavior issues due to autism, sensory disorders, etc. The job of babysitter is so much more than it used to be. 

With the increase of responsibilities for babysitters in this day and age babysitters need to be treated as professionals. Expectations and not as lax as it used to be. Babysitters should be expected to be dependable, on time, and engagement with children must be a requirement along with keeping the home neat and tidy. I hear too many stories about parents expecting so little from babysitters, and allowing all sorts of behaviors from the babysitter including bringing other children with them, changing plans on the family or not showing up, telling parents what they will and won’t do as far as taking care of the children, being on their phones while babysitting and letting the kids do whatever, or simply allowing the babysitter to plant the kids in front of the TV while the babysitter is on their phone. 

As a Babysitting agency I talk to potential babysitters about what I expect, and that I expect professionalism from them when dealing with families. I treat them, once they are hired, as professionals and make them responsible for their availability schedule, and responsible for covering assignments if they can’t make it. They are aware from day one in working with me and my agency that I won’t tolerate flakiness, that they are there for the family and their children, and that they won’t work long with me if they prove they are not reliable or they’re simply there for the paycheck , and they don’t plan on really being there for the kids. Part of childcare IS being on time, showing up, being flexible, and working on gaining the trust of a family. 

One more thing I’d like to mention is in today’s market of childcare parents are no longer paying $5-$10/hour, and with that increase should come increased expectations; don’t you think?