Advice for Expectations of Babysitters

Updated on January 22, 2009
J.L. asks from Lehi, UT
4 answers

I need some advice overall when it comes to childcare. I am frustrated.

First of all, I need some feedback on what is considered acceptable pay for a babysitter. I work part-time and pay my friend $5/hour for my 1-year-old. I take my daughter to my friend’s house, work around her schedule, and provide all the food for my daughter. I also get her ready in the morning. So basically she just needs someone to put her down for her naps and feed her in the day. I feel this is quite generous. Am I paying too much? It’s starting to feel that way, particularly since I am beginning to feel that it’s an inconvenience to my friend. She only watches my daughter two days a week and I know she needs the money but I feel like she’s bothered by it.

Secondly, I need some advice to calm my nerves about what should be expected of a babysitter. I have a friend who asked me a few weeks ago if she could watch my daughter to earn a little extra cash. The timing worked out great since we were in need of a babysitter. So I told my friend I’d pay her $8.50/hr. I spoke too soon and really felt the sting of it when I forked out nearly $50 for the evening. My daughter was asleep half the time and my house was clean before we left and required no upkeep.

So then again last week my friend contacted me about watching my daughter since she just lost her job. Because I feel that my other friend who has been watching my daughter is bothered by it, I thought it might be nice to have someone else share the burden for a couple weeks. Last night when my friend arrived, we had dishes piled high in the sink—it’s been quite a week. Again, my daughter was awake for about two hours in the evening and slept the other 2 ½ hours we were away. I was disappointed when I got home to see that not only was my friend sitting watching a movie, but she hadn’t bothered to wash her own dishes and pots, my daughter’s high chair, or put away any of the toys my daughter had taken out while we were gone. Furthermore, I had a silent expectation that perhaps my friend could pitch in (since we were paying her pretty well again) and do our dishes.

My frame of reference is when I babysat I was loved by everyone because not only did the kids love me, but I would always clean the house to better than it was before the parents left. Are my expectations too high?

I am not in a financial position to pay a lot and consider these scenarios a boost to my friends and just want some additional help in return.

So here’s my dilemma. My second friend will be watching my daughter this week at my house while I go to work. I’d like to ask her to help with sweeping, dishes, etc., especially if the mess is generated during the day. But I also think that if I’m paying her $6.50/hr. for one easy-to-care-for child that she could go the extra mile. She'll also be eating my food. What do you think? Am I being unrealistic? How could I go about asking her to pitch in? Is this acceptable to ask the babysitter to also help with the house?

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answers from Provo on

Dear J.,

As a frequent babysitter I would tell you that it is not acceptable to ask a babysitter to clean your house. A good babysitter has the same creed you had, “Leave the place better than you found it,” and should not have to be told. I would clean out of consideration, to help out, and to do something extra- but it is not required of a babysitter, and once in a while I’m just not up to it.
What you tell a babysitter you will pay is a “base pay,” unless you have prior arrangements with the sitter. If I tell a babysitter I will pay $5.00 p/h and they straighten up and make the house look a little better I pay $6.00 because they exceeded my expectations (just looking after the little one). If I come home to brownies on the table, a clean house, she’s reading to my son, and he’s begging her not to leave- $7.00- $8.00 per hour.  Keep her. However, a good babysitter also understands not being able to afford to pay that much- especially consistently. A parent should also understand the value of such a sitter.
Note- just because you pay a babysitter $8.00 an hour once or a few times does not mean that you must continue at that rate. What you told her is what is expected. If you can’t afford to pay her more, even if she does clean up, clean your house before she comes.
If you feel you are paying her more than she is worth right now, you may leave a list of expectations along with the emergency numbers and baby’s schedule. A checklist mixed in with the schedule that includes something like, “Please make sure dishes are rinsed and washed after meals,” and “help little Arianna put away her toys before nap time.”
IF this person is your friend as well as your sitter, you should be able to sit and talk with her as a friend, about needing a little extra help around the house and feeling like you are helping her out too, not just the other way around. I would never do this with just a sitter, but probably would with a friend.
I am surely not the authority on babysitters, but I have been one frequently and have engaged them often (and find that it's a little different in each place) now that I have my own children. Ask your friends about rates where you are. I hope this helps.

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answers from Provo on

I agree with the last comment. It is inappropriate to expect a babysitter to do anything outside of babysitting and general care for your child unless it's previously communicated. When you hire your sitter (even if it's your friend), I feel it's important to discuss what your expectations are, and to have them listed where she can easily see them. If you don't want to come home to find a messy home and the sitter in front of the TV being a bum, make sure you communicate that before you leave the house. It would even be good to put together a schedule of the toddlers activities. For instance, nap time, book time, adult supervised playtime outside, 15 minute max time in front of TV, and so forth.
I'm sorry if that all sounded so preachy. Lazy babysitters really drive me nuts!

It appears that we both live in the same town. In my area there are lots of eager teens wanting to babysit. I will occasionally hire them to watch my kids. When I first moved here, I asked my neighbors what they usually charge. It often depends on the age of the sitter, younger teens usually get 1-2 dollars per hour, per kid. Older ones get a little more. If they are really good at interacting with the kids and do more than watch TV, a few bonus dollars can be added on.

Before doing research, I made the mistake of offering my 15 year old niece $20.00 to watch my toddler for 2 1/2 hours and of course she jumped on it. I later found out that this price is way too high and that all my neighbors would be mad if I continued to pay so extravagantly (and if the word got out).

I used to live in Sandy and to help a neighbor out, I watched her kid 2-3 times per week for 10 hour days. I was given $300 dollars per month as a flat rate (which ended up being around $3.00 per hour). At first I was expected to provide the food for the 12 month old, but asked the mother to bring age appropriate food for her son each time. The low rate of pay plus the long hours of watching this kid started to wear on me. The little boy was a good kid and played well with my toddler daughter. The fact is that it's easy to get burned out. Having a couple different babysitters to rotate through can help prevent your babysitters from burning out.

It might be helpful to contact a local daycare center and find out what the normal rate they charge for each child. It can be helpful in determining how much you will want to pay a good adult babysitter.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

If your paying her $6.50 an hour just to babysit your paying to much! I'm a daycare provider and I have 3 daughters who babysit all the time. By all means ask her to do something else around the house. Otherwise if you need nights or weekend or summers check out responsible teenagers looking for extra cash. My girls watch kids at my house for $3.50 per child per hour and $3.00 per hour @ their house and they always clean up and play games with the children. It's all about responsibility and helping others.

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answers from Provo on

I am a thirteen year old babysitter. Personally, I charge $2.00 per hour unless the people I'm babysitting for feel I should get more. I clean the house as well as I am able, usually while the kids are sleeping, and ALWAYS at the very least clean up the mess the kids and I made while I was babysitting. Most of my friends charge $2.50 per hour per kid and don't clean at all. I think that's unfair.

I would ask your friend to at least clean up the mess she makes with your daughter. I'm only 13, and have therefore never hired a babysitter before, but I babysit weekly and I feel like, if someone is being paid to do a job, they should do it well. Especially if she's getting $6.50 per hour for an easy job.