What a relief it was to Dave and I when Heath turned 11 and we felt comfortable leaving him to babysit his siblings. We suddenly had an extra $100 a month wiped out of the budget. We didn't have to worry about finding a babysitter and picking up a babysitter. We didn't have to worry whether or not the babysitter was going to be trustworthy and kind to our children. We knew Heath knew the routine and could handle an emergency situation. We knew the younger kids knew the rules of the house and could be trusted to help him babysit. Now with Kirkham having reached the ripe age of 11 too, we know we have reached the penultimate stage of parenting: semi-independence.
We don't pay our kids to babysit at home, it is their responsibility to help out the family, but we do reward the kids with activities like an on-demand movie or a Wii game rental while their babysitting. We expect the house to be as good or better than we left it. This becomes a really big deal if they ate while we were out. Nothing is worse than coming home to warm wasted food on the table and kitchen counter! And we expect that the kids followed the regular routines, including chores, bedtimes and taking care of the dog. If all of this is done they are rewarded with . . . .(drum roll) . . . . GUM! Yes, can you believe that the kids will do anything for their own pack of gum!! I am so blessed. So that they will continue to do this great service for us we are careful not to abuse the babysitting precedence and only go out about once a week and try not to be gone too long.
Shortly after Heath turned twelve we started fielding babysitting requests for him. This was very exciting for him because these people actually paid money! He had safety training received through scouting and plenty of childcare and housecleaning training from me. We reviewed the most important aspects of babysitting: how to change a diaper, playing with little kids, what to do when the kids go to bed.
Now that I have a son babysitting I often get asked how much people should pay their babysitter. After being payed in gum for a year Heath is really happy with anything. I usually suggest using the $1 per child per hour rule with a minimum of $3 per hour. Pay an extra dollar an hour (at least) if there is an infant to be babysat. If the babysitter is expected to fix a meal or put kids to bed that too should be extra. And lastly if you get home and the kids are in bed and the house is spotless and all the food is put away that should earn them a little more too.
So using this formula and my family minus 5 years here is what I would pay for a night of babysitting. We'll say that my husband and I are leaving the house at 5pm for dinner and a movie and we will return at 10pm.
3 kids (ages 8,6 &4)-----------------$3/hour
1 kid (1 year old infant)-------------$2/hour
make and feed kids dinner----------$5 extra
put kids to bed---------------------$5 extra
house is clean when we get home---$5-10 extra (depending on how messy it was when we left)
Total for the night about $40----we usually didn't go on long dates like this. A more typical date night was thus: we would feed and put the kids down for bed and THEN get the babysitter. We would go out to a movie or ice cream or to a friends house and come home within a couple hours. This usually put our total at about $10-$15.
(I am a firm believer in early to bed bedtimes for kids so it was never a problem putting them to bed before leaving for the 7:30 show. Perhaps I'll give you an earful on bedtimes in a post another time.)
The toughest part of hiring a babysitter is finding a babysitter in the first place. We have usually found our babysitters at church or they have been Dave's students at school. We always made sure we knew their parents and the kind of home they came from. We wanted someone who was trustworthy, responsible and level headed. If possible we would ask other families what they thought of that babysitter.
The first time we hired a new babysitter we would always go out on a short date, kinda like a trial run, and quiz the kids in the morning about their experience with the babysitter. If the house was a mess, or the kids had a bad time (or too good a time), or we just didn't feel good about the sitter we wouldn't rehire them. When we found a good sitter we would hire them regularly and pay them well, ensuring we would always have a sitter when we needed one.
I sure am glad I don't need one anymore!