7 Truths that 7 Years of Babysitting Has Taught Me

Some of us grew up with unbeknownst nights when our parents would leave us for what seemed like forever and we would be stuck dealing with some high schooler as we clung to their ankles and bawled our eyes out for Mommy and Daddy to come home—I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Babysitting has been around ever since our parents had other stuff to do and money to pay someone else to take care of us. Movies and TV shows have glorified babysitting and the babysitter's role to the point where it seems like babysitters have no control, or lose it when kids find ways to rebel against the ignorant babysitter in efforts to get their parents back. Adventures in Babysitting, The Babysitter, The Pacifier, and The Babysitter’s Club, are some movies to name a few. While I can’t say everything is entirely wrong with some of the cliched depictions of us “unruly” caretakers, seven years in the business has taught me a lot and I’ve discovered what babysitting is and isn’t.

 

I have especially felt stigma with babysitting over the years: that it’s not a “real” job, you don’t do anything, that a young person can’t be trusted, we shouldn't be paid more than minimum wage, etc. I’ve heard and thought of it all during my years throughout the process. I started when I began sixth grade and was a “mother’s helper,” meaning I would watch the kids while the mom stayed home and got work or chores done. I was paid $6 and thought it was cheap for how much I had to calm these three energetic kids down in the middle of a huge couch fort. Now that I’m a sophomore in college, I’ve developed many relationships with families in my town that I’ve networked with through my mom’s preschool, proven my caretaking and childcare abilities, and have really grown with every family I’ve worked with and have gained much real-life experience as any other job would give me, except childcare isn’t something everyone is capable of doing.

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1. Working with kids is definitely a learned skill and it takes patience.

I think a lot of my nurturing qualities come from my mom, since she is always worrying about the wellbeing of others, and I find myself doing it too. However, I never really understood what it took to connect with kids as much as my mom can with her preschoolers. I admire her for her ability to just completely flip the switch and cast smiles on their little faces whenever she enters a room. I’ve learned how to understand the other personalities of kids and what makes them laugh, tick, or just downright bawling on the floor.

Some kids take more time to open up to you, obviously because you’re a stranger, so it really takes strong skin and heart to work with kids and be patient on the first time you meet a new family. A lot of it comes from your own personality and amiability. You need to be open with kids and tolerant of all behaviors. You have to learn different routines, schedules, and consider the varying lifestyles of others: specific nighttime routines, carpooling, allergies, age differences, and everything in between that matters and you have to understand that and be willing to cooperate with it.

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2. You have to know how to adapt to different families.

I’ve babysat a diverse range of families and there really haven’t been families I’ve said no to. I have accepted all the opportunities I’ve been given and have had a mostly positive experience. You are going to bond with families and some you might not click with as much. I’ve learned the routines of many families, so when I watch them it feels almost first nature and the relationships flow well and we can develop growing respect and understanding. In one light, you get to experience some other family’s life and get paid for it.

 

There’s one family that I’ve been watching for almost five years now and I’ve almost become a family member because of how much I’ve seen their kids grow up. They also had a new baby that I’ve gotten to see walk for the first time. Moments like that are the sweetest and are one of the reasons I love what I do.

 

3. Working with families is just as professional as working with a business.

Some people don’t realize that babysitting is just as crucial and serious as any business. The parents are your bosses and they pay you for a service—making sure their kids are safe and sound and looked after. You have to learn, too, how to stand up for yourself professionally and discussing money is never a comfortable thing to talk about, but it is obviously important.

 

Know your worth as a caretaker and understand that the job is as serious as any other. Communicating with moms and dads is also crucial and proper email and text etiquette when you are reaching out and contacting families needs to be considerate, respectful, and professional. Since I have been watching some families for a while, the conversation is casual and relaxed, but first impressions are always important and so is common courtesy.

 

4. You say “yes” a lot.

I’ve done a lot for kids and have gone an extreme mile for some. You need to be willing to do a lot for families—that’s just part of the job. From small tasks to washing dishes, walking dogs while watching kids, changing diapers, to overnight babysitting, I’ve been through it all. You don’t get many opportunities to grow when you constantly say no to challenges, even if its changing dirty diapers. `

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5. You will screw up.

You are going to arrive late to jobs, forget to show up to some, get your keys locked in your car and have to call the police to help break into your car, almost lose a kid, and every bad situation you could think of happening might. People understand that you are human and make mistakes, just learn from them and continue to show up.

 

6. You make bank.

It’s true—I’ve made $20 an hour. I’ve also made only $6 for a babysitting job before. It just depends. You aren’t guaranteed a set amount for every family you watch, but it’s good to know the industry and how much parents are paying and nannies are charging these days. Quality care comes with a price and babysitting for so long and being a genuine caretaker is worth the lot. It’s the best job for college students in my opinion as opposed to fast food or retail. It has its perks and the pay is one of them.

 

7. You don’t just “sit on their couch and eat their food." 

While it seems like all babysitters do is sit on their phones when the kids are asleep, it’s definitely not all we do. We are responsible for these kids lives and parents are trusting us to make sure that they’re taken care of and looked after. The job is not just sitting around late at night and rummaging through their pantry for the old Halloween candy.

I’ve had to take kids to costume parties, take them to swim lessons, feed a baby that would wake up twice during the night, manage to entertain five kids at a time, wipe bodily fluid off the walls, walk and feed their pets, bathe the kids, brush their teeth, and so much more. Yes, I’ve been able to have some downtime when the kids are all, hopefully, asleep and can get some homework done. However, I’m on the clock the minute when I get there until the parents get home.