Without family nearby, babysitters are my lifeline. They’re the only way I can schedule PAP smears, dental cleanings, date nights, and even sometimes sick days. Even though my sitter plays an important role in my life, I find myself uncomfortable communicating freely with her.
Let’s unpack this. I hire this person at a previously agreed upon price to perform a specific task. It sounds like it should be a standard employer/employee relationship, but in my experience that couldn’t be further from the truth. This relationship falls into a gray area that is highly personal, where I have to believe she has genuine affection for my children. It’s also professional, where I expect my instructions to be followed. If I find a qualified person I like, who genuinely cares about my kids and is dependable, I have found a modern day unicorn. No doubt this unicorn has other families vying for their time, which often leaves me feeling insecure about how likable I am as an employer and how “easy” my kids are to babysit.
For all these reasons I find communication to be particularly challenging in the babysitter/parent relationship. I have had several unanswered questions about parental etiquette and reasonable expectations so I phoned a seasoned nanny we loved who moved to Texas a few years ago. She promised to be candid so I fired my most burning questions at her.
Q: What is a fair rate to babysit two children under the age of 5?
Somewhere around $15.00 per hour scaled back if the children are sleeping for a significant portion of the shift.
Q: If the kids go to bed around 7:30 p.m. and the parents come home around midnight, is it reasonable to hope kid related messes would be tidied?
Totally reasonable! I was taught to always leave the home nicer than when I found it.
Q: Do I need to tell the sitter to make herself at home and eat if she’s hungry or is that understood?
I don’t eat the family’s food unless I’ve been invited to do so.
Q: How do you feel about parents who give detailed instructions versus those who let you figure it out?
I definitely prefer more instruction with the understanding that things may not go exactly to plan. I had a family who didn’t give me any insight as to when or what the children would eat, when or how their bedtime usually went…that was not fun from a sitter’s perspective.
Q: How do you feel about accompanying a family on vacation? How do you price that?
I only did it once. The family invited me on a two week vacation. They paid for my flight, my room and all my food. I was expected to “work” from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. every day. They paid me $3,000 for my time but I don’t know how they came up with that number. I’m not sure what I would charge a family if they asked me to come up with a figure.
Q: How do you feel about sitter sharing? When 2 couples leave their kids with you for a double date?
As long as the kids get along I think it’s fine! Sometimes it actually makes it easier for the sitter. If I’m charging $15 for two kids, I think around $20 to $22 per hour for 4 would be fair.
Q: If the parents get home at midnight but the sitter is chatty and stays until 12:30 a.m. should they compensate for the additional time?
No, because the responsibility for care shifts as soon as the parents get home.
Q: Under an ordinary set of circumstances, is it standard for parents to give gratuity?
After our interview, I felt reassured that (for the most part) I have guessed correctly as to what my babysitter wants from me and is happy to provide. Rates can differ depending on where you live, so I asked a good friend who lives in the UK and she said £8.30 per hour is the standard rate to babysit 2 children just outside London. I have family in Croatia who tell me 25-30 Kuna per hour is standard, which works out to about $6.00 per hour.