I started babysitting when I was about 13 years old, first for my siblings, then for some kids down the street. I parlayed that into a high school career of camp counselor-ing and watching other people's kids, and frankly, today, I can't believe that parents left their tiny humans in the hands of a high school sophomore with braces and bad acne.
Childcare is a chronically underpaid area of work. It's skilled labor most often reserved for women, so of course, people don't want to pay much for it. But that makes little sense because childcare is exactly what it sounds like: caring for children. Kids can't take care of themselves. They're like little, accident-prone buckets of snot, and it's no small feat to keep them alive and entertained. People who care for children are on their feet all day long and constantly on alert. They deserve a nice paycheck. And yet, for some reason, so many people are opposed to paying childcare workers what they're worth.
There are stories all over Reddit of parents trying to scam babysitters out of their money. One woman wanted someone to take care of two twins under 4 years old and a 2-year-old for eight dollars an hour. In 2019! I'm not a mom at the moment, but I would pay top dollar to make sure the person who takes care of my kids is actually going to, you know, take care of them.
One recent post in Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" again illustrates just how undervalued childcare is. A young woman wrote that she is a full-time software engineer who freelances on the side. Between those two jobs, she makes $40-$60 an hour. "So that's how I value my time," she wrote. Then she explains that, over Christmas vacation, she was staying at her parents' house. So too was was her cousin and her cousin's spouse, who share three young kids — an 11-year-old boy and twin 6-year-old girls.
She was going to do some freelance work over the vacation, but the cousin and her husband asked if OP could babysit for three days in a row so they could invite some friends over and hang out with just adults. When she told her cousin she'd planned to work during that time, her cousin offered to pay her.
You would think the cousin would agree to pay at least close to the freelance rates she'd be giving up to watch the kids, right? Even so, this potential babysitter knew she probably wouldn't get away with charging $60 an hour, so she asked for $35. Reasonable, right? Well, not according to her cousin.
She writes, "She went crazy at me, saying that's a ridiculous rate for babysitting, that I was entitled and being selfish, that I'm trying to take advantage of how she didn't have other options, etc." Then, her husband got mad, saying she "was a 24-year-old girl...that my time is not worth that much and it's childish to say that it was." Remember, she would have been giving up her $60 an hour freelance work to do this babysitting!
They refused to pay her $35 an hour to care for their children, saying they expected to pay no more than $15, so she told them to find someone else. Now her mom says what she asked for was offensive.
This is obviously crazy. It would maybe, maybe be a little high to charge for family members if there was only one kid and she wouldn't have to pass on much higher-paying work to do it. But it's three kids, for three days, and she'd still be losing money by giving up the higher-paying gig. This is clearly a case of parents trying to exploit people to care for their kids for little to no pay.
Reddit commenters luckily came out on the side of the poster. "Three kids all day, for three straight days? Even real babysitters would charge more than $15 for three kids. Obviously, they wanted you to do it as a favor and got upset that you treated it as an actual job."
That seems to be a theme in these stories, doesn't it?! People don't view childcare as an actual job because mostly women do it and aren't women just naturally inclined to care for children? The answer is no. They deserve money for caring for children because caring for children is work.
Several other commenters pointed out that the cousin's husband statement about her being a "24-year-old girl" is incredibly condescending and sexist. Last anyone checked, a 24-year-old person is an adult! Who deserves to make money for her work! This is obviously a much bigger structural issue that has to change, but we can all start with valuing our own time and paying people what they deserve to babysit children!