This Mother’s Rant About Paying Babysitters Strikes a Chord for All the Right Reasons

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(Babysitter Gif via Giphy)

There is no shortage of online rants from mothers who don’t want to pay the babysitter. “Ten dollars just to watch TV?! Why are these kids robbing me? In my day–20 years ago–I did it for half that.” So when I heard that a mother’s rant about paying babysitters was going “viral,” I prepared to grit my teeth and start a rant of my own about how young women deserve to get paid for their labor, even if the baby sleeps the whole time and their whole job is just being the person who will call 911 if your house burns down. But Andrea Owen’s rant wasn’t about entitled Millennials at all! It’s about how kids need to be taught to expect to be paid for their labor, and that it’s OK to determine one’s own value

She’s totally right. Teenage babysitters are providing a service, and they have every right to charge for it. Too many girls are still being taught that they have to be nice and polite and that if they just work hard and smile politely and never, ever point out their efforts, successes, or general awesomeness to anybody, their efforts will be observed and rewarded. I still do that as an adult, and it has certainly never worked out for me.

As an aside–It was totally messed up that Nancy Drew did her detective work for free. Apparently it was too aggressive for a girl to be a detective for money, but if she did it for free as a hobby, it was safe and acceptable and even a bit charming. Eff that. Nancy Drew should have been getting paid. (I seem to remember reading a Nancy Drew book in the 80s in which she was hired by a mall to solve a mysterious series of crimes at the stores. That’s not some lady with a missing kid, it’s the fucking mall. The mall does not need your charity. The mall can effing pay you.)

I feel for these teenage babysitters who are too embarrassed to state an hourly rate upfront. I used to do the whole, “I’ll take whatever you want to pay me,” thing, and it was ridiculous. Sure, my clients were all nice people who generally paid well, but I would have been better served in life by just saying that I charged $8 or $10 an hour and then learning to stick to that. But I don’t think I would ever have had the nerve to actually say that to a client when I was a teenager. It would have felt so presumptuous! I could practically hear a voice in my head saying, “Who do you think you are, assessing the value of your own labor, as though you know more than some adult who wants to go out to a fancy restaurant for a few hours?” (Insert eyeroll emoji at my diffident teenage self here.)

Babysitting is a job, even if the kids sleep the whole time, and babysitters deserve to get paid. Most babysitters are young girls, and it’s their first experience with employment.  We should be encouraging these kids to set their rates, state them confidently, and be willing to negotiate like professionals. $5 or $10 tonight is good, but those skills are the kind of thing that pay off a lot in the long run.