Paying the Babysitter

This weekend , I tried a new approach to the guessing game of paying the babysitter.  I told them how much I was willing to pay for their help ahead of time, and I outlined what I expected to happen while I was gone.  It was a Take It or Leave It approach, and it worked.  But there was a little bit of eye-rolling when I stated that my price for three hours with two kids was $15.  Apparently I am way below the curve of what people are paying in our neighborhood.

My position is that it is not a terribly hard job: I don’t expect them to be the mom, I expect them to watch a movie with my kids and feed them a little pre-made dinner.  Probably almost exactly what they would be doing at home for free.  If I could afford to pay them more, I would expect them to do more, like clean my house, make the dinner and do the dishes.  But I know my budget, so I tell them that I don’t expect much extra and pray that it will go smoothly for them.  If I had a new baby, I would pay extra for the inevitable emotional drain and possible sore muscles from carrying the baby.  If I had really intense or difficult kids, I would pay them more because they would have earned more (and just to make sure they are willing to come back).

After the babysitter took my offer, because we are friends and I was interested, she and her brother started talking about what they get paid for other jobs.  He said that he usually earns $30-40 each time he mows someone’s lawn.  He was bewildered when a man in our ward said $20 was too much to pay for just mowing his lawn.  Then he said that regular, non-LDS people pay $50 per time that he mows their lawn!  FIFTY DOLLARS.  I believe my brother charged $50 for a summer-long commitment of lawn mowing for each house on his route.

Yard boy

So the kids are saying, “This is so great!  I am making so much money!” And the adults are saying, “Well, I guess if that is what people are paying, I had better stay competitive with what I pay too.” And the price keeps inflating higher and higher.  But what are the consequences?

First, I get a babysitter twice a year.  I can’t afford it otherwise.  Other moms feel the same way.  So the teenagers are potentially losing out on steady work and the commitment of holding a regular babysitting job because the going rate is more than many families can afford. My friends and I get around that by simply swapping kids with each other, which is fantastic and cheap.  So we aren’t the ones missing out in the situation–its the teenager who could have some money more often, rather than lots of money occasionally.

And second, we are creating an unrealistic expectation for kids in what their time and energy is actually worth.  When I was a kid, babysitting was a low-paying, under-age job, but at least we earned something until we were 16 and we could go out and get a grocery store or restaurant job and really start earning money.  Now, we are inflating teenager’s wages for babysitting and yard work and the minimum wage job at the grocery store down the street is not enticing at all.  They don’t want to get a formal job for less money than they they are used to getting around the neighborhood.  I had one teen tell me that he hated his pizza place job because “they treat me like a trained monkey.  I think they want to work me to death.”  Yes, real jobs are hard and often crummy. But they are stepping stones to greater things.  Experience is important when are applying for a better job than the one you currently have.  If they don’t want to work at the pizza place in high school, and then they don’t want to work at a college job (because they don’t pay enough or it is not the kind of work they like), how are they going to get a job out of college with absolutely no experience?  We complain about paying the mechanic or the plumber for their labor and yet we freely overpay these unskilled teenagers to their own detriment.  And it is not just teenagers that have this inflated self-conception.  Everyone does. (See comments below for further examples).

A recent article stated that only 28% of teenagers (16-18) have their drivers licenses, down from 46% of licensed teens in 1983.  Their unemployment rate is 24%–fully three times the national average.  Yes, it is getting more expensive to do things, but also many kids just don’t seem to be very motivated to chase after things.  Many of them are content to be carted around by their parents, have things paid for by their parents, and take their time reaching adulthood.  Maybe this is the same argument that has been made in every generation (starting with the words, “In my day. . .”), but from my perspective teenagers have never before been so impressive or so useless.  There are some really stellar kids out there making their way.  And there are some really pathetic ones.  Their potential spans a great chasm, and we should all be anxious to help them climb from mediocrity to impressiveness.

The Value of Hard Work and Desperation

In my day, my siblings and I would do anything to earn a little extra money. We were desperate.  Lemonade stands, selling fruit from our orchard door to door.  I even remember setting up a restaurant in our gazebo in the yard, making sandwiches with the food from our kitchen, and then expecting my mom to come and buy the food from me (so she had to buy the same stuff twice–at the grocery store, then the gazebo.  She refused, but in exchange for a free sandwich, she let us keep selling her food to other people).  If I could scrape together enough money to go to the movie, I was set.  That creative ability to solve my money problems has led me all over the work-world–to Taiwan, a mountain summer camp, cleaning college buildings, working nights in a cherry factory, doing “handyman projects” that I (and my boss) were totally unqualified to do, crocheting afghans, cleaning houses, even writing a couple of articles for a local food magazine.  Nevermind my college degree and legitimate, steady jobs.  I was willing to work almost anywhere and I have patchworked my 31 years with adventure, travel, crummy jobs, boredom and new skills.

And my level of ambition is put to shame by the previous generation’s.  My father-in-law is a remarkably tenacious worker.  When he was ten, he decided that he wanted a horse.  Period.  His parents said, “No, we don’t have any place to put it, you can’t have a horse”.  But he was undeterred.  He got on his bike and made some inquiries.  He found a stable that he could board a horse and a place to buy hay.  Now, he just needed a horse, and money to buy it.  He first saved up his money so that he could buy a lawnmower, then he mowed lawns, saved his lunch money every day instead of buying lunch, turned in pop bottles for about a dollar a day, saved his birthday money–in short, he didn’t spend a thing. (Keep in mind: he was TEN).  When he was 11, he had finally saved up about $300 in 1970 dollars (equivalent to $1,775 today).


He saw an ad in the paper for an Appaloosa for sale in LaVerkin, Utah that he thought would be a good fit.  $200.  So he called up his bishop, who had a horse trailer, and they went down to buy the horse.   He got Callie (named for her Calico coat) all set up in her stall and then went home and told his mom, “I bought a horse.”  “You did not!”  “I did.  I’ll show you if you want.”  So they drove down there together and she was blown away.  He would ride his bike across town each day after school to feed and ride Callie.  He kept working to earn the money for her hay and board.

Desperation begets creativity.  Creatively solving problems gives kids confidence to do more.  Confidence in doing more leads to success.  Overpaying kids upends the whole cycle.


So I propose a unified approach to the question of What Do You Pay The Babysitter:

  • If you aren’t already sure of what you want to pay, try setting your price relative to the price of a movie ticket.  Everyone’s cost of living is different, so it isn’t reasonable to say $5/hour across the world.  But if it takes about two hours to earn the money to go to a 2-hour movie, that seems fair.  Movies here are $10 a ticket, I think, so I would pay $5 an hour for kids under the age of 16.
  • Lay out your proposal from the beginning so you can avoid the awkward car ride conversation when you are dropping them off. “Is that enough?  Is that okay?” “yeah, it’s fine.  Whatever is fine.”  This also lets the teenager refuse the job if they feel it isn’t worth their time.  I remember the agony of wondering what they were going to pay me–sometimes even if they were going to remember to pay me.  It gives them more confidence when they are agreeing to the job.
  • Point out exactly what you would like to have them do while you are gone.  “I need you to feed them all, and then clear up the table and put the dishes in the sink.  If you do the dishes, I will pay you $2 extra.  Then put the kids to bed, make sure they have their pajamas on and their teeth brushed.  After the kids are in bed, if you want an extra $2, feel free to clean up the house.”  Think of hiring a teenage babysitter as a training opportunity for their upcoming “real job”.
  • If kids decide that they really want to develop their babysitting skills by taking CPR courses, or making a babysitting kit to bring with them, then we ought to respect their improving skills and pay them more.  I have a friend who saved up all of her money for college by babysitting kids in the DC area, even holding summer camps in her home for groups of kids.  I’m not saying that we should underpay anyone.  I’m saying that these kids should earn their money.  So if it is an easy job, they have earned $5 an hour, if my kids are difficult, then they have earned $10 an hour by putting up with them.  If they save them from a house fire, they get a bonus! If they have developed themselves professionally to a point where they are actively engaging with my kids, taking care of the house, feeding them healthy foods and getting them to bed on time, they are earning more than $5.  But to sit and and watch a show, leave the house a mess and put the baby to bed with a saggy diaper– they haven’t earned much.  We need to require responsible, accountable employees, and they will learn skills that will make them employable out in the world.


  • Paying the “going rate” blindly or proudly isn’t doing our babysitters any favors.  If this resonates with you, please share the article with your neighborhood friends and ward members.  It will be more effective if all of the parents in your circle are on the same page.  Let’s do what little we can to reinforce responsibility and healthy ambition in these kids!

(If you dare to descend into the pit of the comment section, be warned, it’s a dirty place.  And then please check out my response to the responses.)


  1. I feel bad that she got some much hate. BUT when you have a public blog you have to know that your gonna be subjected to some negative comments. She put herself out there and can’t expect everyone to agree. If your gonna have a blog, you can’t be so sensitive.

    On paying the babysitter…..hummm. I think she is cheap and I don’t think teenagers (all) are lazy. $5 is good for a 12 to 14 year old watching two kids (I think 3 would be too much) and you were only gone for a total of 3 hours. But if its a 15 to 18 year old sitter, three kiddos, $5 is not nearly enough. I never had young babysitters for my boys, I always hired college girls that had nanny backgrounds SO in doing so, I HAD to pay a higher rate ($5 an hour per child). In hiring older, experienced sitters, they are more responsible, more mature, could drive my kiddos to fun places AND I could stay out later and not feel guilty that I was keeping a younger sitter out late.

    Do I agree with her, NO, if she going to pay $5 an hour, she’s gonna get crappy sitters OR sitters that aren’t experienced enough and then it becomes a safety issue. She shouldn’t have gone into sooo much detail on the “The Value of Hard Work and Desperation” or even wrote it for that matter. However, when you have a public blog, you can write whatever you want! She just needs to make sure she has her emotional padding on once she pushes the “publish” button.

  2. Yack! You weren’t kidding about it being a dirty place! I decided to read a few comments and wow. Like cats and dogs. It’s really shocking. Anyhow! I just found your blog and loved your post! I agree so much with what you said. I almost always just swap with friends to avoid the whole thing. This is a good idea!

  3. Jan, your article was very well written and a refreshing change from what most people hear today. I appreciated your take on how kids are overpaid. When I started out babysitting formally at age 12, our Primary teacher (back in the ooooold days) had us put together a sitter kit and then we were given the opportunity to tend her kids for free. She would then give us pointers on how we could do better. Usually, after that first job, she would hire you back for money. We got fifty cents and hour and we were grateful.

    As I got better at it, I got more jobs. My mother and grandmother informed me that a good sitter always left the home a little nicer than when she got there. If I was tending in the evening, I made sure there were no dirty dishes left in the sink, helped the kids pick up their toys and put them away before bedtime and straightened up the living room. Then I could relax until Mom and Dad got home, listening for any mischief or upset from the children’s bedroom. That meant I got to watch TV. Sounds silly, but that was a big deal to me, because we didn’t watch it much. And we only had 5 channels.

    Later, after my first child was born, I took him to a daycare when he was three months old. The sitter was not interested in my child, just the money the state was paying her to babysit for low income (student) families. When I realized how badly she was caring for him (didn’t take long to figure out), I quit my job and became a sitter for the state. I knew I could do better. We had a great time until I moved out of the area. I loved those kids.

    Now, I’m the OLD mom with a teenage daughter. When she began sitting, I wasn’t sure what the going rate was. Remember, I got fifty cents an hour and sometimes, wonder of wonders, a dollar an hour. I asked around and heard that some parents were paying $5/hour. That seemed pretty high to me, especially for unskilled labor. I had her take a babysitting course at the community school that taught CPR and other techniques for dealing with children. Then I told her to offer to babysit for free for parents who were going to the temple. I told her to keep that her policy and they would ask her back to sit for money later. That worked well and she has had some great jobs, albeit not great pay. I told her to let the client decide how much they could afford. We have families in our neighborhood where, like you, $5/hour would blow their entire budget. Others would think that was more than reasonable. I told her she was babysitting for experience with children, not so much the money and to get used to doing it. She has been a very popular sitter and would do more but her high school responsibilities (concert choir, marching band, drama club) fill up a lot of her evenings and weekends. Still, she does it when she can and she loves it.

    I figure I am trying to raise a future mother and she will appreciate it more if she has to deal with children in different homes and can see different styles of child-rearing. She has had other jobs: fruit-picking/selling, selling night crawlers for bait – there’s some fun for you, and even working at a water park. All these things paid okay, not great, but she is glad of the experience. And she loves babysitting the most.

  4. We pay our 16 year old babysitter 10 dollars am hour because she is flippin’ awesome! The kids adore her! She plays with them the whole time. They actually want us to go out so they can be babysat (to put this in perspective, my son cries when I go out and leave him with his dad—who is a good fun dad-he’s just not “mommy”). But heck yes they want to be babysat!

    My kids are two and four and she puts them to bed as well. I mean, they are good kids, easy to babysit. But we are paying premium for premium. God has truly blessed us with a great babysitter who loves our kids. Because to me, that’s what’s most important: that she genuinely loves our children. And heck yes I will pay for that.

  5. After reading just two comments I decided to stop. I didn’t want to get heated and read hateful things. I appreciate your article. I feel for you. We are in the tight/small budget and rarely are able to go out. We do a babysitting swap with other families in the ward so that we can make time for each other. Which is important even if we are “poor”. The thing is this is your blog where you are free to write about your feelings. If people have a problem with that then why read? We don’t always have to agree but there are ways to handle things like appropriate adults. I’m sorry you’ve revived so many hateful emails. I loves reading what you had to write and appreciate your thoughts. Thank you and I hope you have a fabulous day!

    • I came up with a better solution that still lets the kids learn the value of earning money and allows me to use (sometimes expensive) Baby Sitters. I have a Baby Sitter check off list that I give to each sitter when the arrive. It contains a list of activities that the sitter can engage in with my kids. Each activity also has a dollar value indicated. i.e. Color with the kids in coloring books 1.00; play duck-duck-goose .50; review multiplication flash cards .75, etc. Every activity on the list was created by my kids and I noted the value amount. This list is presented to the sitter on their arrival and it’s up to them to set how much or how little they are going to make that night. I do have a base amount of $10 the sitter has as a starting point just for being there. At the end of the night I tally up the amount with the sitter and I have paid as little as $10 when the kids just watched t.v. all night and as much as $40 which happen to be the sitters the kids love the most because “they are so fun”.

    • So you are saying she can write what she wants but people who have an opinion in opposition to her view shouldn’t say anything? That’s very hypocritical.

  6. Making a decision and determining a budget on what you can afford to pay a sitter is a very personal thing. I really hope that one is considering not only the fact that your sitter will be ‘entertaining’ your kids but also ensuring safety and having the ability to handle an emergency situation. To me this is level of responsibility is worth at least minimum wage if not more. Especially for multiple children. I have raised 2 very successful children and if I couldn’t afford to pay a sitter a reasonable amount for their time then I knew I needed to wait to go out for another time when I could afford to.

  7. I think that this mom has summed it up well. I like that you give the kids a choice. When I babysat, my mother told me to always go the extra mile. I remember a family I babysat for were catering a dinner. When they left the house the kitchen was, lets just say not a normal messy kitchen. They had a infant that was in bed already. I could have just sat and watched TV but I rolled up my sleeves and dug into the mess. It took awhile but the kitchen sparkled when I was done. This was in the 80’s and I don’t even remember what they paid me but it was worth it because the babysitting jobs came in like crazy after that. I always left the houses cleaner than I found them if I could. About 5 years ago, I ran into this couple now grandparents and they still remember that night I babysat and cleaned their kitchen that they were dreading cleaning when they came home. I was never really paid a whole lot but I was able to save for the little things I wanted. I think $2-$3 an hour back then was normal. I think the $5 and hour to do the minimum is great. If I knew I would get an extra $2 for cleaning up the kitchen I would do it without even thinking. Way to go!!!!!

  8. Just wanted to add my (positive input) here. First of all, great article! Very well thought out and I love the examples that are given to support your reading. What I am not happy about, however, would be the comments. Give me a break, people! Are you serious? This is a personal blog and you come here to attack the author and tell them that they are “cheap” and don’t really care about their children because they aren’t willing to overpay and coddle your teenagers. I know every one of you parents who came here with insults and negative comments are doing the best that you can with your children/teenagers, but maybe sometimes we need to reevaluate ourselves and figure out what we can be doing better; no one does things perfectly, ESPECIALLY parents.
    Being a young mother of two (who wasn’t a teenager quite so long ago) I hope that when my kids are teens I will have the strength to teach my kids what REAL life is like. I know that it is very tempting to hand your kids the things they want in life rather than TEACH them how to work for it. You know why? Because it is SO MUCH easier. I have already learned this with my oldest who is only 4! I find myself doing things for her that she could learn (and sometimes even WANTS to learn) because doing it myself ensures that it will get done quickly and the right way. My brief example is putting on her shoes. I realized recently that at 4 years old the only reason she can’t put on her own shoes is because I have done it for her every time. Now, I’m forcing myself to be patient and sacrifice that extra five minutes of my day so she can struggle with the skill (sounds silly, but for a 4 year old this is a skill) of putting on her own shoes. And when she does it right, she is overjoyed and proud and that is worth that five minutes.
    Here is my point: teach your child/teen to go after what they want with FEROCITY. Make them accept the jobs that are low paying but at least pay/teach them a skill. Don’t let them sit around in the summer not working because you have enough money to fund the activities they want to be involved in. I’m saying this as a young 20 year old who had great parents that unfortunately did coddle me a little more than I should have been coddled. This resulted in a difficult transition from teen to adult where I was shocked by how little people were impressed with me (compared to my parents) .In this economic climate, employers are NOT going to throw money at your child after college, like they might have been able to in the past. Your children are going to have to compete with the thousands of people that have been laid off with actual skill in the field. Teach them to do what they need to do to compete with others and to get what they want no matter what, even if it seems like it’s “not worth their time.”
    If you let them know that you’re going to be there to financially support them through their teens they are not going to have the skills/incentive to grow up. You’re going to end up with a college or high school grad who can’t land/keep a job because it’s too hard or “not worth their time.” There’s my two cents. Hope it helps.

  9. When I was a teenage babysitter I tried to see it from the parents point of view and not just mine. Sure it would be great to make more money but could they reasonably afford? When I did this sometimes I worked for a quarter an hour because that is what the family could pay (that has been awhile ago). I figured that the people who could pay the least probably needed to go out the most because their budget made it such an occasional thing. I was trained, took stuff for the kids to do, cleaned the kitchen and the house and played games and did other things with the kids. And do you know what? While my friends who wouldn’t work for those kind of wages got few jobs, I was always in demand and had as many jobs as I needed and wanted. There was one group of 3 ladies who lived on the same cul-de-sac who would meet in the middle of the circle at the end of their street and decide what they were doing together that weekend then race each other to their homes to see who could call me first. I saved and payed for the things I needed and wanted to do and even put money in the bank for down the road. I did so well I chose not to have a job until the summer between my Junior and Senior year of high school. And you know what? Those who I regularly babysat for were great references for employment too. I think it is great to teach our children to be industrious and to get ahead, but we also need to them to be compassionate and to look at things from other people’s point of view. I taught my kids the same principles and they were great babysitters who got plenty of jobs and did right by the children and the parents. We need to teach our children that there is job than getting a huge paycheck. We need to teach them that working and compensation is a two way street, that what they contribute as an employee is as important as what they get paid, and that giving back is a big part of being a good employee and a successful happy person.

  10. I always considered that my children are precious and mean more to me than the hourly price of a sitter. If I couldn’t afford the price of a highly recommended, qualified sitter for my children, I either stayed home or took them with me if circumstances allowed their presence. My children were very well behaved. No running around and yelling allowed. Manners were the rule at home as well as away from home. Inflicting my children on anyone, including a sitter is unthinkable.

  11. I came up with a better solution that still lets the kids learn the value of earning money and allows me to use (sometimes expensive) Baby Sitters. I have a Baby Sitter check off list that I give to each sitter when the arrive. It contains a list of activities that the sitter can engage in with my kids. Each activity also has a dollar value indicated. i.e. Color with the kids in coloring books 1.00; play duck-duck-goose .50; review multiplication flash cards .75, etc. Every activity on the list was created by my kids and I noted the value amount. This list is presented to the sitter on their arrival and it’s up to them to set how much or how little they are going to make that night. I do have a base amount of $10 the sitter has as a starting point just for being there. At the end of the night I tally up the amount with the sitter and I have paid as little as $10 when the kids just watched t.v. all night and as much as $40 which happen to be the sitters the kids love the most because “they are so fun”.

    • umm wow … so here’s a thought if you can’t afford to go out … DON”T be creative (seems you are) and stay home or switch with a friend,etc but don’t gyp your sitter!

      • off-topic here, but “gyp” is racist and offensive to real, living “gypsies” (aka Roma/Romani/Sinti people). just fyi. 🙂

        • well, unfortunately they earned that reputation. Gypsies are thieves. The only good thing about them is that their tears protect against AIDS.

          • oooo the aids comment is something gypsies believe, they also believe they are entitled to steal because Jesus allows it due to them crying at his crucifixion… so they say pfffft. but they did earn the name gyp. sorry but true, racist or not, they arent even allowed into most malls in my state. sad huh? who’s fault is that, oh gypsies… because they steal everything…

  12. Love, Love, Love this article. As a mother of 4 girls who are of babysitting age I say thank you. I believe paying them too much money sets them up for failure in the real world. I have been known to make my girls give some of their money back. No 15 year old deserves $40 for 2 hours of babysitting and no 20+ year old will likely find that same rate of pay straight out of college.

  13. I think all your bullet list at the bottom were great the rest was wordy 😀 This is what I have been trying to say on my fb page today …. paying a decent wage for decent work is one thing, being cheap because you can is another.

  14. How did you derive that this is gyping the babysitter? The payment check off list teaches the value of a dollar. The harder/smarter you work the more you earn. It’s the American way.

    • I agree with “It’s expensive to go out”. While it may seem ‘crude’ or ‘cheap’ to some people to set it up that way, it shows the teenagers that doing more than what is expected of you will earn you more (just like in ANY job, where going above and beyond you job expectations earns you perks/promotions/bonuses). It’s also just a graduation of the allowance system, that for doing chores that are easy you earn little but for the harder ones you earn more. PLUS if you read the entire comment, she did say that she still pays a base wage to start with – so they can be content with the not-so-enticing base wage but don’t have to do as much work, or they can do more and have more fun to earn more, it’s the teenager’s choice, and therefore their responsibility.

  15. I agree with your article. The people who posted negatively to your article obviously, most of them, “missed the point”. I earned my money as a kid anyway possible. I wouldn’t not turn down a job, regardless of what it paid as I figured something is better then nothing. Babysitting, digging in trash for cans to recycle, mowing lawns, shoveling sidewalks, ect…. I don’t believe that most jobs pay for “risk factors”. If that was the case then I would like to see anyone out their making their comments quite their jobs because they aren’t making enough $ based on the “hazards” of the job as every job is different for risk. Bank teller, police, equipment operator. Every persons budget is different for affordability. Has nothing to do with being cheap. But I guarantee that the person who takes a lower wage for a babysitting job will earn more money in the long run than the person who feels they aren’t being “paid” enough because the lower paying earner will get more jobs as a result! I commend you for your article because you had the guts to say it the way it should be and not give in to the dictation of the nay sayers out their. This is exactly why our society is the way it is currently because their isn’t enough people out their like you! Its the people who voice their “outlandish” opinions on why society is the way it is because they were spoon fed until they were 10 and their parents spoiled them endlessly. So, I have pity for them as they don’t know how the real world operates.

  16. As the mother of 4 grown children, all of whom have been cared for by babysitters as well as have been the caregivers, I disagree. I believe that at least the minimum wage in your state should be adhered to. I believe in “you get what you pay for” and if I have an amazing sitter that my children love, I pay more. The most important person that you will ever hire will be the person who cares for your children, babysitter or doctor, you leave the most important people in your life in their hands.

      • Ah! As long as you’re LEGALLY tipping them off, all good then?

        Aside from lega,I ties what you are doing is no different than hiring illegal immigrants to fix your house so you can pay under the table cheap. You’re taking advantage of a group of people based on their age and purposely hiring less skilled sitters to care for your CHILDREN, simply so you can pay them less.
        They’re taking care of the most important thing in your life and you do not value their time.
        You sound like a terrible person.

  17. If you don’t have enough money to properly compensate a hardworking teenager Jan, then you shouldn’t have kids.

    I used to babysit for $20 an hour when i was 13.
    got a job at the movie theater for min. wage at 16.
    graduated with a BFA in 2011
    am a small business owner.
    and i don’t drive!
    it’s called public transportation. how NOVEL.

    • and I’m sure they are going to pay taxes on that, too? No? You don’t think? Then subtract 30%, because that what they’d pay in the taxes that they won’t be claiming, so about $5.

  18. I think that the bigger picture is being missed here. I’m a father of two youngins. My wife is in basic training for the army. I’m a disabled vet and have a job that pays 15 dollars an hour. The babysitters, whom I haven’t bothered to interview now, all seem to want 10 bucks an hour to watch my kids. I’ve got some dang good kids. Easy too. So explain how it’s fair that because someone wants 10+ dollars an hour to just make sure my kids dont stop breathing and can get a bite to eat. Seriously? 10 bucks an hour to watch cool disney movies that I actually enjoy, play with my children, which is fun, eat my food, watch my tv, use my internet, etc etc etc… while I break my back and mind for 5 dollars an hour more than that without even the opportunity for a smoke break? I don’t so much blame the teens either… I mean, everyone wants to earn as much X as possible for the least Y work. It’s what determines efficiency. I should just find some sap to agree to taking 30% of my yearly wages. To me that’s a ton of money… To someone living with mom and pop… well apparently that’s not good enough… They need 75% or they walk.

    • Just to expand… If your kids are just little devils… I can then tolerate the hard work comment… “Oh their hard working… you don’t even know!!!” So let’s do a comparison… Watching the Disney channel and sharing a bowl of fruit loops/w marshmellows OR chopping lumber?
      Now which one pays absolutely nothing, which one pays a ton, and which one pays barely enough to pay for the axe?
      There’s only two choices you say? Nope…. Well obviously watching your own children isn’t monetarily compensated, even though it’s the most rewarding thing you do… So that leaves chopping wood and watching disney….

      Chopping wood, if you’re good and want work: 30-40 bucks a rick (2-3 hours HARD labor)

      Watching disney: 10bucks an hour, or if we’re being “fair” because there are two munchkins in the same operating space 12 bucks an hour… I’m sweating already.

      People please adjust what you consider to be HARD work…

      Hard work:
      Military. Policework. Lumberjack. Ninja.

      Monotonous work (Also hard)
      Burger flipper (depending on which business this could also fall into disgustingly easy work). Postal worker. Computer programmer. Animal Psychologist. Security Officer, Nurse (may also fall under Brainwrenching)

      Brainwrenching exciting work (Moderate in mental or physical intensity)
      Nuclear Physicist. Novelist. Doctor.

      Professional Couch Potato. Babysitter. Morgue Nurse. Professional Gamer.

      Babysitter is on that list because… well… some of us parents don’t mind that while you are with our children you will have a perpensity towards becoming a Professional Couch Potato Gamer.

      Your responsibility to my kids:
      Keep crayons out of ears, nose, etc,..
      Check to make sure child is breathing/ not choking (mostly necessary around feeding time)
      Don’t burn house down.

      If that’s hard work…

      I’m available any day of the week for any hours you want! And I want “Fair” Compensation ™

    • And what if something did happen to your kids? Babysitters have to deal with the unexpected and are mostly prepared. If one of your children has an asthma attack let’s say and your babysitter has to take immediate action and deal with all that are you going to come back and be like “well thanks for babysitting…here is the bare minimum if money”. Those babysitters are temporarily your children’s guardianship when you leave. Respect that.

    • You do not pay by how easy/hard the job is. You value another human’s time, you pay them a decent wage. End of story.

  19. It is my feeling that if you are using anyone under the age of 17 to watch your children you are hiring a child to watch your child. I will admit I did babysit by the age of 15 (still a child myself) and cannot remember what I was paid at that time, however, that was over twenty years ago and I am sure I was paid at least 5 an hour. That being said, it does not matter how good you think your kids are, or if you think that the sitter is doing exactly what they would be doing if they were at home, it is a matter of paying for the persons time! It is 2014 and no one in the United States should be paid less than Minimum Wage for their work, whatever the work is. If you cannot afford the extra 2.00 and change an hour, then maybe you can’t afford to go out either. Here is an idea, sacrifice all your Dunkin Donuts coffee’s for the week leading up to when you would need a sitter. Then you could pay a person fairly.

    Having children, or participating in the act that impregnated you, was a conscious choice that you made, not a licence to rip someone else off.

  20. Only $15 for 3 hours (or only $5 per hour) is way below standard dear.

    For current national babysitting rates go here:

    Click on ‘Babysitting Rates’ on the right hand side. Then look for the city nearest you.

    Hope that helps! 🙂

  21. Thank you for posting this. I agree with your sentiments completely.
    I’ve noticed that a lot of those commenting seem to be forgetting something: cost of living varies widely across the nation. I went to high school just outside Washington, DC. And while working as a baby-sitter there, I made significantly more money than I did in Wisconsin, or Utah, or Missouri, or any of the other states I lived in as a teenager. Why? Because people there made more, and could therefor pay me more. I like the idea of a movie ticket being the yard stick against which to measure.
    There were some folks who paid me significantly more than that, but I also worked pro bono on occasion. For a semester in college, I worked nannying an 18-month-old for $50 a week. Way below minimum wage, but I was grateful for it. And no, the little girl’s parents weren’t goofing off. Mom was in school, Dad was working and finishing school himself, and they had four hours or so each weekday where they just needed someone else to watch their kid, because they both had work/class at that time. Their budget was so tight, they were spending every spare penny on me.
    As a starving student myself, I completely understood. And while there were days when I would just put on her favorite movie while I studied, I also tried to play with her, teach her things, and take her on outings as often as I could.
    Honestly, I would have done it for free, if it weren’t for that pesky need to eat. Because they NEEDED me. They treated me with respect and friendship, and were grateful for the service I provided. They didn’t just throw money at me and shoo me out the door. They also recomended me to everyone they knew, and I got lots of other business thanks to them.
    Sometimes it’s not about money. Sometimes it’s about having compassion for another human being.
    So please, stop assuming that someone who can’t afford your outrageously inflated prices doesn’t deserve a helping hand occasionally.

  22. I know my comment is a little late, but I just have to say that I completely agree with you. I also read your response, and I thought it was great. The comment sections can be so terrible. Shows how idiotic and/or mean people can be, and I hate thinking that others are that way.

  23. I’m just now reading this, but I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed it. In my community, the going rate seems to be $5-$6 per hour per kid. In my case, that could add up to $18/hour, which is more than I make in an hour. It’s very hard to pay *more* than my salary to a teenager who – regardless of what she or he says – will probably text with friends the whole time while the kids play Minecraft and leave dishes in the sink. The cost has absolutely become inflated. I think $5/hour is too low for multiple children, but I realize the exact amount isn’t your point. Federal minimum wage ($7.25) would be fair for two kids, and another couple bucks for a third. If there are more children, or stated expectations related to housekeeping duties, homework help, etc… then add on a couple more dollars. Like you, I pretty much just trade with my fellow parent-friends now. I’m not going to pay over fifty bucks to go on a three-hour long outing, on top of whatever the outing itself costs.

  24. I am an older sitter and have been babysitting since I was 9. I would always bring what I called a “babysitting bag” which was essentialy a backpack full of fun things. I would always do a craft with the kids and leave a treat and note on the counter. I never just plopped the kids in front of the tv… Therefore I was Never paid less than 7-10 dollars when I started to drive to their homes I expected to be reimbursed for gas. I found the article kind of insulting to sterotype all teens as being lazy, mindless people. I am the oldest of 8 kids and I know how hard kids can be to take care of. I respect your opinion but disagree with the pricing most teens who wouldn’t do a good job or just stick them in front of the tv don’t babysit because they are to lazy.

    • I totally agree. I am also a babysitter, and it kinda hurts to know that people think that all we do is watch TV and sit there. I run so much while watching children that I am exhausted when the parents finally get home. If that is lazy then I want to know how I can do better

  25. Firstly I would like to say that I have been a nanny and babysitter for most of my life. I was trained at an early age by the Red Cross through their childcare course. I was and still am an amazing babysitter/childcare provider. As a teen I got paid well because I was an amazing sitter and word of mouth got around. I wouldn’t ask for a specific amount but I got paid well. I did things without asking like cleaning and picking up, when the parents came home they were always happy to see that I took as much pride in watching heir kids almost like they were my own and treating their home like it was mine. Jumping forward I’m soooo beyond disappointed with your article for so many reasons. You want to know why you get babysitters that stick your kids I front of the tv? It’s because you deem them practically useless besides watching your children. When others watch your children they assume responsibility for your children. Also what makes you think you can understand teenagers in this day in age? Their struggles? Their challenges? Are you saying pay them less because they are worth less? You pay them less you put that impression in their heads, that they are of no worth. No wonder they roll their eyes at you. Cheapskate. Moving on to adult babysitters/caregivers. We get paid so little it’s a joke. I at one point took a job for less than $2 an hour for an infant that needed breast milk and had acid reflux, I felt bad and accepted that but it was a slap in the face. Not to mention the mother made me walk down 4 floors of apartments to get her kid from the car and hike up with the baby and the supplies. Was I being treated fairly? No. On the topic on mothers swapping childcare. I want to personally thank you for being ignorant. What about those childless mothers who have potentially far more mothering skills than you do? When you swap child care you leave good caregivers out and create a club which excludes and makes childless mothers feel even more worthless. Shame on you. So what about the motherless women who have so much to give, wanting to help? You and your thinking about swapping are excluding women who are unable to have children of their own and are excluding them and pushing them away. This article us so full of crap. You get what you pay for. When your children grow older and get walked over because they get paid nothing to do something we both know you’ll get upset you won’t just let it go…no there will be an article about how kids are not being appreciated enough. I agree with what someone said earlier. If you know you need a babysitter suffer for a week and cut back on your lattes, don’t be cheap and underpay deserving people.

  26. I just read this post today and had to laugh. I made one dollar an hour when I was a babysitter in high school – minimum wage was $2.35, I think. Yet I saved enough money to buy a 35mm camera and a bicycle.

    I had one horrible experience babysitting for a family that paid me ten dollars for the whole day but left we with four kids, two in diapers (not disposables), and a kitchen that was a disaster:

  27. I am a babysitter, and one of my families started paying me less because of this article. I’m not the type of babysitter that does it all for the money, but if I babysit your 4 children all under the age of 8 from 6pm-midnight I would really enjoy being paid more than $15. I do not just sit there the whole time like people think babysitters do. I play with the kids, I run around, I feed them dinner then clean the dishes, I clean up the house, and I get the children to clean there messes. I put them to bed and then I never turn on the TV. I sit there and make sure if they cry I can get to them. If for everything I do I still only deserve $15 then what do the babysitters that just sit there get. You cannot pay me off of what you come into the house and see. If you are going to pay based off of what I did then ask me what I did and what the children did. I just do not think that you can randomly start paying less for the same job. It’s just nonsense.

    • Kameryn, I am so sorry that happened. That is a horrible rate for 6 hours of work. You should stop babysitting for them, or–even better–say, “Actually I charge $7 an hour for my services. If you want to pay less, then you’ll have to find someone else. I’m worth at least that.” My intention with this article wasn’t to devalue babysitters, but to encourage people to not spoil teenagers with exorbitant rates (like $50 for a few hours). And, at the same time, encourage teenagers to evaluate their performance and their worth and decide what they charge. There is just so much weirdness when it comes to paying a babysitter. You sit in the car and say. . . hmm, how much do I owe you? And the babysitter says. . . I dunno. And you give them some money. I think laying it all out ahead of the job is the best way to make sure both parties are happy. Again, I am so sorry that they used this article as an excuse to pay you so horribly.

        • Minimum wage is intended for people who have actual expenses! It’s a “living wage” because it’s supposed to be enough for people to LIVE on and support themselves and a family. Teens don’t do that! They’re babysitting. They’re not adults, and they could have refused the job if they thought it was unfair.

    • Sorry, this happened to you – you should definitely demand more respect and pay. My husband of 16 years recently brought home a homeless woman he met that day to babysit our children while I was away for a retreat (I’ve only been away overnight 2 times in my children’s 5 and 3 year old lives). I found out from my 5-year-old. I’ve had to file for separation ($2000 legal fees for me $2700 so far on his part), start working full time to support our household because he would rather pay his lawyer than me. Sometimes the cheap is expensive.

  28. Hi I just read your blog. I’m 44 and when I was 12 I would have been thrilled at five dollars an hour -32 years ago. I don’t think you are being fair or thinking about the safety that you are paying for. When I couldn’t afford to pay a sitter decently I stayed home. It’s ok to miss out on things when your children are small. Mormins always paid me considerably less per hour for more children. It’s a part of our heritage that I don’t want to be a part of- consider that you are paying for peace of mind not someone to watch a movie. I also switched out with friends like you say it’s a better option than devaluing the baby sitter. I concede your point that at times kids are coddled. We don’t let our son accept more than $25 per lawn even though he does as good of a job as a professional. Also echoing others its a public blog. If you can’t take the heat you may want to make this private

    • And I just realized that you have ads on your blog so by writing this controversial piece and getting Deseret news to highlight it you are receiving a lot of traffic- now you’ll have enough money to pay a sitter.

      • Kareena, WordPress puts the ads on my site. I don’t see a cent. And why do you think I can’t take the heat? Just because something is published publicly doesn’t automatically give license to people to abandon civility. Your snarky comments are a great example of that.

  29. I wish I could say I was surprised by the comments on this blog, but one of the most unfortunate things about the internet is that people remove their filter because they don’t have to see the change in someone’s facial expressions or body language when they say something rude or intentionally hurtful. I appreciate rational debate, but comments such as ‘you shouldn’t have children’ does not qualify as rational debate- only as rude and hurtful.
    About the post- this was SPOT ON, in my opinion.
    People need to learn that just because someone does something different doesn’t mean that one person is right and the other is wrong. Often, it means that my choice is right for my family, and your choice is right for yours. When it comes to babysitting and the cash involved, if $5 an hour isn’t right for your family (whether yourself or your child), then be clear with your ‘clients’ and move on. Just like those clients may have to suck it up and change their rates, you might find that you have to suck it up and lower yours. It all depends on the area and the level of work a sitter provides or parents expect.
    We (as adults) need to be role models the young men and women we invite into our homes. Showing the value of a dollar and the value of hard work is part of that. Paying more for more work is a good way to do that. I love the point you made about being clear about what you were paying up front- this gives the babysitter the opportunity to say ‘no thank you’, either before taking the job, or the next time you ask them to sit (after seeing how hard the kids are, what is expected of them, etc.).
    Fantastic post- keep up the good work and don’t let the naysayers get you down.

  30. I think your next article needs to be entitled, “The Inability of Most Americans to Comprehend a Basic Blog Article.” It seems that so many people completely missed your point. I loved your article. It was thoughtfully and honestly written. I’m not sure why the blog-reading public is so quick to take offense and jump all over people. Good for you for being brave enough to express your thoughts and feelings in this world of defensive, quick-to-lash-out internet commenters. 🙂

  31. I just have to stand up for some babysitters. I am a babysitter. I have been since I was 10 and I am now 18. But I always take/took activities and lessons for the kids. I would spend hours finding or creating a craft or worksheet for the kids before I would even go over to babysit. I hardly, if ever just sat them in front of the tv. I cooked dinner, cleaned up the toys and dishes, and often bathed th kids and put them to bed. I work hard when I babysit and expect to be paid for my hard work.
    However, I do understand that everyone is in a different situation and can afford different amounts. I had one family of three kids that I was paid $10 an hour for but that also included a lot of things a nanny might do. I had a different family of 5 children that I was paid $6.50 an hour for. I love watching kids and wasn’t in it for the money. I do expect to be paid more after years of experience though. I realize that everyone’s budgets are different. Because of that, when I babysat and the parent asked how much I charged, I would always ask what they thought was fair and we would decide a price together.
    So what I’m trying to say is, I see where you are coming from. But there are also sitters out there that treat babysitting seriously and work their butt off. I treated it like a real job.
    I’m sorry you got so much hate! It wasn’t necessary at all. I think it’s awesome that you outlined what you wanted the sitter to do and the amount they would be paid before fact. I would have loved if some of the parents I babysat for were that specific. Awesome blog by the way!

  32. Hi Sr. Francisco. I really appreciate the time you put in to write this article. It is an affirmation of what my wife and I have advised our daughter that the occasional babysitting does not come with the expectation of high pay. Your article has inspired me to help my daughter come up with a simple rate card so when she is asked to babysit, the agreements are in place before she begins.

    With that said, however, we have also advised her if someone in the ward is going to a church meeting (not church sports – that’s different) or to the temple, she should not be charging anything, and to accept those opportunities above all others. There will be a time in her life when she grows up when she will need that support to also go to the temple, and attend her church meetings, event those associated with her future callings. What she helps go around will come around for her.

  33. I’m way past being or needing a babysitter, but thought your article was great! I liked the way you talked to the babysitter before you hired her/him and had the list of things they could do to earn a little more. Your article would be helpful to a lot of young moms who haven’t had the experience of dealing with babysitters. Why you would ever get negative comments, I don’t understand. No one has to read your blog. No one has to work for you. If someone doesn’t want to work for you, that is their decision. I think there would be plenty that would be willing to go with your list, knowing ahead of time what would be required and what they could earn.

  34. AMEN!!!! Don’t be discouraged by all the haters. They haven’t been taught the meaning of work and EARNING their wages. Where else can a tween even get a job besides babysitting and yard work. Have they gone to school to acquire any of these skills? Do any of them use their own gas to get to the job? There is absolutely no cost to them to accept these jobs, because even if they are watching difficult kids they are getting PAID tax free to do so. Most of them watch movies, eat your food, leave a mess and basically keep your kids alive. I also have very easy children to watch. Yet, I have had very few girls that play with them or even put the food away after dinner (pizza and mac and cheese). Most of the time my 9 year old was the one that took care of everyone. The babysitter was there so no one would call CPS.
    It is refreshing to hear others believe that as well. I truly struggle that some of the more well to do people in the area feel the need to pay $10/hour for weeding. I am not a struggling financially. I can afford to pay that rate. THAT IS NOT THE POINT!!!! The point is are they even earning that money? I am sure there are sitters out there that are fabulous, but the large majority of the girls I have had sit for me have not earned their pay.

    • This teaches a different lesson? Can’t afford the going rate? Find a group of people that the law allows you to discriminate against, or will will allow you to break the law, and pay them less than fair wages! Can’t afford a contractor? Find a laborer at Home Depot and pay him $5/hour! Can’t afford a sitter? Find a 14 year old and pay her $5/hour!

      And if the sitter is 16+, it is NOT tax free. For either of you, you pay taxes too. Unless you’re into breaking to law to save some money.

  35. I know this post is older but I believe it is honest. I am barely into my twenties and until a year and a half ago my only job was babysitting, and I did it because I liked kids and the money was just enough to cover some of my gas and coffee dates with friends. I will admit that I got paid well compared to others in my area but I started with low expectations. 8th grade looking after 3 kids from 18months to grade 2, getting about $7 an hour, so since I was very involved in entertaining them, dealing with diapers and potty training as well, it was busy with 3 kids, a dog and a cat. For 2 kids That were school age the going rate was $5 at the time but then I didn’t feel I was earning it. As you said you pay for what they do; if I do the barest minimum to keep your kids alive until you get home, I don’t deserve to be paid regardless of tantrums. But if I make pancakes with the kids, go to the park, do a craft, clean up all dishes, and appropriately handle your child’s tantrums I have proven that I can work, and hence have earned more which is what I love about how you outlined it. I just so happened to later on look after kids for a family that offered to pay more because getting a high schooler was rare in my area and they knew if I had left a mess it was because we got too carried away having fun (who has the heart to tear down the awesome fort that takes up the whole living room?) or their had been behavior that was more important to address.

    • The other part I meant to add is that even though the last family mentioned paid about $10 for only 2 kids they raised it with out any request or indication from me but I believe they were trying to compete with my “real job” for my time.

  36. This is disgusting. Regardless of age or how “easy” you think the job is, you should never hire another human being and pay them under minimum wage. Ever. Shame on you.
    Doesn’t matter what your budget is. You can’t go to a restaurant and say, “Well this isn’t in my budget so I won’t be paying the usual price, or I won’t be tipping.”
    Can’t afford a fair wage, CAN’T AFFORD A BABYSITTER.
    it’s also disrepectful to say what you will pay instead of asking what the babysitter charges. In NO other industry does the consumer get to do that. You’re only doing it because teenagers can’t be easy to walk all over, and you get away with it. You’re getting away with it because the people you are hiring to take care of the most precious things in your life are easy to take advantage of.
    Hope you feel good about that.

  37. As a teenager, I found this article very offending. The point of your article was to give moms ideas about how to approach the paying of babysitters, but instead, it became an article to bash on teenagers. I am a 16 year old in high school, and I am very busy. Early morning seminary, AP classes, sports practice until 5 pm everyday and church events frequently fill up my days and weeks. In this article, you make it sound like teenagers are lazy and don’t make employment a priority. I speak for MANY teenagers when I say that adding a job their already grueling schedule is would very burdensome and sometimes virtually impossible without putting their mental and physical health at risk. This is why babysitting is such a good option for many teenagers. It caters to both the employer and employee, and both parties are able to adjust it according to their schedule.

    Another thing is: why would you ever criticize a youth for not getting license as soon as they turn 16? You said that youth don’t get their license because they don’t mind “being carted around by their parents.” correct? Well, that is completely false. I didn’t have the opportunity to take drivers ed until later in the year when I turned 15 for these reasons: 1) It is expensive. I was trying to save up money in order to take the class and 2) I simply could not fit it in my schedule at the time. I turned 16 a few weeks ago, but do not plan to get my license until the summer because I have not had much driving experience, and I do not want to put myself or others at risk, because I haven’t had much experience driving yet. Also, if you didn’t know, many regulations have been put in place making it harder for 16 year-olds to get their license, in order to keep everyone safe. More hours are required, more adult supervision is required, you must log all of your hours, and sometimes more behind the wheels are required. So, please never ever criticize a teenager for not getting their license right away.

    This is not a hate comment, I am simply trying to show my point of view as a teenager and babysitter. Please be considerate and try to see all points of view before you post.

  38. I think many of those commenting missed the point you made about how it is a WIDE RANGE. For a younger sitter, easy older kids or already in bed, watching tv, and no other responsibilities, you would pay less. For an older sitter, or a sitter who has taken several courses, or younger children/babies, or difficult children, or some cleaning up, or some sort of emergency happening, (or… I could go on), you would pay more.

    I was surprised to hear that some people don’t tell their sitter ahead of time. With any usual job (even for young workers), you agree beforehand what the rate will be, so why would you not tell your sitter ahead of time what you will pay them for the night? I can understand if the night went badly and they didn’t feel it was worth coming back, but they should be aware of the price before saying yes to the job. I do remember when I was a young sitter not always knowing ahead the rate, but I didn’t agree with that.

    Also, when I use a new sitter, I usually start with just an hour or two where I can be called back at any moment, for a low rate, as a trial basis, which I also discuss with the sitter ahead of time too, so they are aware it’s not the usual rate I will be paying them. Also, that way if my kids are difficult with them, we can adjust their rate should I hire them in the future. This also parallels jobs in the real world when you are usually hired on a probational basis.

  39. I recently began babysitting with my friend and someone asked me how much I was going to charge. I’ve been looking around the internet and asking my friends and heard everything from fifteen dollars to thirty dollars per hour. That’s per hour. I was completely blown away that someone would charge so much. I’m planning on charging four or five dollars instead. I really like this article and think you bring up some good points.

  40. I enjoyed reading your article. It looks like our expectations are different which is why what we pay is different.

    I will continue to seek out well qualified trained babysitters. My expectations are high for my sitters. I expect my house to look the way it looked when I left, which is clean. (No toys out, no dishes in the sink, no crumbs on the table, etc) I expect homework completed and checked. I expect “screen time”, bed times and other rules followed. At times I even expect them to drive my children places.

    So I pay in general $15 to $20 an hour for 2 children, additional gas money or activity money if needed. I really can’t imagine having my sitter watch a movie and there is no way I could tolerate coming home to a mess. Most of the time my sitters exceed my expectations in which case i tip.

  41. I think it’s a little naive to compare the situation in which you grew up in to the one that kids are now growing up in. Most kids, if not all, wish to get their license. However, it is hundreds of dollars to be able to go through all of the training and then to also pay for a car on top of that. I know many whose parents did not allow them to get their license because they simply could not afford it.
    I appreciate the spirit of a debate on this topic, but it seems that you used your personal feelings to put down a generation younger than your own. There is plenty of hard work that i have seen. I have also never seen so many students work so hard to be able to afford university, with the costs increasing at an alarming rate.

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