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

126 comments:

HPB said...

everyone is going to ask for as much money as they can. That's why you see ridiculous run down apartments listed for sale at close to $2000 a foot. You can tell the sitter your budget and see if s.he complies. there's a recession going on and I am sure there are people eager to make some undeclared cash.

Anonymous said...

pshh, those rates are ridiculous. i'm sixteen, sort of pretty, love little girls and can handle little boys but i'd never charge $20 an hour! i'd charge like $10 an hour no matter how many kids. eh, maybe it's because i live on long island?

Elena Schilder said...

Hi Adelaide:

I came across your blog and think it's smart, entertaining and useful to other moms. I am a producer for a television production company working on developing an online video show geared towards parents. We'd love to talk to you about your experiences as a parent---it seems like you'd have a lot to offer us.

Please contact me to discuss the web show and the possibilities of being featured in an episode. My email address is elenaschilder@gmail.com.

Thanks!
-Elena

NYCity Mama said...

Ah yes...we had a sitter...not too long ago. She charged us (we negotiated) $15 an hour to care for my two toddlers. College student. The thing is, we would always buy pizza, for her and the kids, though she always refused, we would schedule our date nights so that it was a least an hour before they went down for the night AND we would give her cab money to take back to campus (City College, we live in Washington Heights). Then she started canceling. And canceling. And we still wonder if it was because of that one time the kids wouldn't go to sleep right away and she actually had to entertain them for a bit. Hmm....

qtpiestevenson said...

I am in the same boat. I only have 2 granted, but they are the quiet easy type too. I looked into a babysitter for our Anniversary recently, and found similar pricing. For 2 kids I am looking at at least 10 an hour, closer to 15. So basically I discovered that for a dinner and a movie type date, we would spend the same amount of money as we would have for dinner, maybe even more. Do not get me wrong, I do not think child care should be free, and I know you get what you pay for, but when my kids can do almost everything for themselves, it seems stupid. The place we lived before we moved here had many teenagers all willing and begging to babysit. I felt like I underpaid them sometimes, but I still paid more than most of the other parents. Apparently teenagers here do not babysit, or so I keep getting told.

Oh and I should throw in there that when searching on Care.com, I noticed a girl who was listed locally with a price range from 10-50 dollars per hour per kid. What would ever give someone the impression that they are worth 50 an hour per kid? Even better, WHO can afford that??

Utah Mom said...

Do NOT tell the girls on my street how much they pay in NY. We're very cheap in UT. (I just found your blog. Love it.)

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