All parents need a break. Whether you’re running errands for an hour or going out overnight, it’s easier to get things done without kids underfoot.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have willing (and free!) family or friends nearby, your best bet is to hire a babysitter. But there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer to the question of how much you should pay your babysitter. It heavily depends on the individual situation.
Finding a good babysitter can be tricky. Trusting someone with the most precious things in the world to you is tough. Qualified babysitters cost more than your teenage neighbour who has no experience with kids or your nan’s elderly friend who hasn’t held a baby since 1987.
What are you expecting from your babysitter?
Being responsible for someone else’s children is a tough job. Keeping children safe and happy, following any rules you set for them, dealing with meltdowns or misbehaviour, and trying not to trash the house too much is a lot for some people to deal with. It’s always in the back of a babysitter’s mind that, if something goes wrong, they will be held responsible. Other people’s kids, pets and homes are completely in their hands.
Adding multiple children, children with additional needs, or even pets to the equation can complicate things. As a parent, you know how difficult it can be to deal with your children on a day-to-day basis- it’s harder for someone who isn’t as familiar with your kids.
Consider what you’re expecting from the babysitting job. Will the sitter be required to feed your kids? Escort them to or from school or activities? Bathe them and put them to bed? Supervise other kids, like your kid’s friends, or supervise children in a pool? Are you expecting them to tidy the house, cook or walk the dog in addition to caring for the children? Additionally, will this be a regular job or an occasional thing? If you’re seeking a nanny, you’ll need to pay them as a nanny, not a babysitter. All of these things should be taken into account when you consider how much to pay your babysitter.
It’s also important to consider the length of the job. A few hours isn’t a lot, but it is a few hours the sitter could be spending doing other things like homework or chores. It gets even more complicated when you hire a babysitter for an overnight job. This is a big responsibility, especially for a young person, and may involve them needing to organise a house or pet sitter for their own home. Consider what the sitter may be sacrificing to take the job.
Keep in mind that you aren’t just paying for someone to spend time with your kid. You’re paying them for the “what if”. You’re paying them for their time working, in someone else’s home and keeping someone else’s child safe, where they may need to make difficult decisions on the spot. Care work is often undervalued, but remember that these people are caring for the most precious thing in your life.
How much experience do they have?
Will your babysitter know what to do in the event of a disaster, fire, or medical emergency? Do they know what to do in the event of an allergic reaction? Would they prioritise the children in an emergency, or panic and run out of the house, leaving them stranded? Would they pay careful attention while crossing the road or out in public? Would they bring friends over, people who may not be trustworthy?
Some babysitters may not respond to misbehaviour the way you would, especially if they’re not formally trained. You don’t want to find that the babysitter has smacked your kid or punished them in a way that goes against your ethics. Paying a babysitter who has CPR training, WWCC, police check, experience, and knowledge about childcare and child development means you must pay them accordingly.
Generally, “pay them accordingly” means around $25-35 an hour. This seems to be the accepted going rate for a trustworthy babysitter. It will cost more, but it will save you from the nightmare of hiring the cheapest option and regretting it. And finding a babysitter you and your kids love and trust is priceless.