Oct 18, 2008

But What if My Kids are Easy?

We used to be in Caribbean nanny land—lovely maternal warm and giving. Our babysitter was beloved by all. I made it clear that I only wanted her to keep my children alive and hold them a lot…so I’d come home and the house would be a mess but she’d be holding my sleeping boy and that was just fine. Diapers would be changed (more often than I’d have asked), milk would be put in (more often than I’d have asked), and hair would be oiled (that was odd…our scrappy blonde boy would be greased into Little Lord Fauntleroy, more often than I would have hoped).

And then I stopped working, and we didn’t need her anymore. We were ready for the college babysitter-type. Someone fun, someone who needed the money, but preferably someone with loads of sitter experience, as there were still vegetables to encourage, pull-ups to manage, bedtimes to negotiate.

Now we’re moving further down the scale. My oldest two children know all the systems. It just seems like a logistical fluke that they, at ages 8 and 9, aren’t old enough to just stay home alone and care for their little sister. We really just need someone who's at least twelve years old. Hannah Montana would be perfect. There's a fourteen year old a few blocks away who my children adore. We need someone to be pretty and fun with my girls and not take offense that my son is going to just stay upstairs reading, watching tv, and playing video games. We need someone to be pretty and fun and welcoming if he meanders downstairs and wants to be included in a game or a project. We need someone who can dial 911 or open the front door and start shouting if anything goes wrong. But we don’t need anyone to do all the hands-on nanny-mommy stuff anymore. Just pretty, and fun, and old enough. And by the way I know the pretty part is harsh--fun is most important, but pretty means my little girl will develop a mad crush, and she's always better behaved when she's flirting.

So do I really need to pay the three-kid rate?

Babysitting rates have skyrocketed since our early days of being parents. Part of it is just that our neighborhood has become affluent (but we’re not), part of it is that it’s nine years later, and part of it is that Brooklyn is still right up next to Manhattan and they always have crazy-high prices. We've had the good fortune to be sort of grandfathered in at the older prices. Like how house cleaners and therapists up their prices every year, but then the rate stays the same forever.

Until now.

A potential sitter, an incredibly dynamic and wonderful woman, just let me know what the current rates are. She said that she was told the rates are $10 for one child, and $15-20 for two, and more for three. This of course, added up to her asking for over $20 per hour. Well technically I have three children. But we pay $15 an hour. We can’t afford much more than that (but that’s a different essay)—but more importantly, is coming to our house and hanging out for 4 hours or so really babysitting THREE children? Is it?

Sadly, 14 year olds aren’t around to do school pick-ups plus commute plus snacks and homework. And that’s what we need. I get it. Commuting on a subway with my three kids and then overseeing homework is substantially more than flopping around being pretty and fun in the confines of my living room. But more than $20 an hour is just too much for us.

And then I started to think about it. This three kid rate. Babysitting thee kids might mean three wacky toddlers, all rolling around in different directions like marbles, with full diapers, and drooly chins. Forgive me for feeling superior, but we're kind of the opposite of that (and that, by the way, should cost like $100 an hour if you ask me). My youngest doesn't even need help wiping her butt anymore.

Our three add up like this. Three kids come in, put their shoes where they go, wash their hands. One child gets to watch unlimited Dora, two children sit down and do homework. After homework, one child disappears upstairs to laze around with various electronic things like Gamecube or Naruto. Leaving one kid to sit and ask thoughtful questions, while drawing or playing solitaire, or making an art project out of stuff in our recycling bin or something. I know that bad things could happen, but our kids aren't at the drown-in-the-bathtub or fall-down-the-stairs age.

So maybe we shouldn't have to pay like the other people with three kids do.

Did I mention? My kids are easy.

Originally posted on nycmomsblog.com