I realize this is a potentially nosy question, but I’m not talking about what you pay in childcare or how much your nanny costs or anything like that. I’m talking, you and your man want to go out to dinner and you get the neighbor girl, the daycare teacher, or your cousin’s daughter to come over and watch your kids. How much do you pay her or him? Perhaps more importantly, how much do you tip?
The other night, I arranged to go to a cooking class with some friends. Based on my son having school and my usual watchers being unavailable, I realized I needed to move into the babysitter world. I was gone for five hours and got in late. The babysitter fed and assisted him with homework. She cleaned up the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. However, she didn’t make them dinner, organize their closets, or teach them Spanish. My son was asleep for 80 percent of the time. A $50 felt a little steep…but was it?
I typically pay $12-$15 an hour for the sitters I have in rotation. I feel like this is standard for where I live, but where it gets tricky (and expensive) is the tip. One local mom commented: “We have all sorts of justifications for why we need to add more and more onto the base. We tip more on the weekend. We tip more when we get home late. We tip more when she has him in the morning. We tip more when she arrives early enough to have to juggle both kids for a while. And we tip more when we don’t have change. In addition, we tip more when we come home tipsy. In other words, we tip a lot.” I have done that, especially if I was working and received a large tip myself. I do it because I feel I should share it, or if my son is acting up, or if she was able to deal with his issues. I have been forced home on many occasions, as the sitters and my son were not a perfect fit. To avoid an interruption or just knowing that they can handle it makes it worth the extra tip.
I generally like to be generous because I want them to always say yes when I text last minute: “Any chance u can watch the kid’s tomorrow night?” The big, super-important bottom line: I trust them all with my kids, my kids love them and it is a complete non-issue (i.e., no tears, no guilt, and no worries.)
In addition, I wonder if we are setting a higher and higher precedent that, eventually, is going to make going out hurt more financially than it already does. When I was younger, I was always paid well as a babysitter, but I never recall making the type of money I pay out. Although if our children are safe and we trust the sitters, why should we not pay it out? There is nothing like free babysitters. I repeat, if you do not live near family, consider moving! Most of my family lives in Florida, with the exception of my nephew, who lives with me. If it weren’t for him and my fantastic friends, who are willing to help me out at anytime when I want to get away for a weekend, I would definitely travel less.