Brooke A. Rogers

Editor's Commentary

What your baby sitter won't tell you

You leave them in charge of the most prized people in your entire world, but have you ever wondered what the baby sitter is doing and thinking after you left the driveway?

Most baby sitters want to feel comfortable when they come to your house, and they want to feel comfortable around you. I don’t know about you, but certain things bother me when I go to someone’s house to baby-sit their children.

I wish you would tell me your child is sick before I arrive. I would prefer to lose the income rather than risk my health. Chances are we baby sitters would rather not take care of your throwing up child, especially while you’re out watching “This is 40” in an attempt to make yourself feel better about being 40.   

If your son or daughter ends up getting sick, double-check with your sitter before she gets there. I don’t mind taking care of kids if they have a cold or runny nose, but anything more than that warrants a courtesy call to me so I can make a decision.

Please clean your house for me. I don’t expect a house with kids running around in it to look as if it was just photographed by Better Homes and Gardens, but it shouldn’t be filthy. When your sink is filled with a crusted-over lasagna pan, and Play-Doh is grounded into the carpet, I feel as if I need to clean your house so I don’t break my foot on a Lego.

Worse is when parents seem to expect a sitter to do major cleaning on top of minding the kids. I’m a child care provider, not a cleaning lady.

When you work for a large company, requesting a raise is nothing personal. But baby sitters, especially the full-time kind, often are closer to their employer. We have a better knowledge of your financial situations, which can make approaching the topic of a raise a little nerve-wracking.

After many years of working for one family, I would rather stop working for you than ask for more money. If you’re wondering what you should be paying your sitter, rates average about $10 an hour.

Baby sitters are actually superheros

I wish you would come home when you say you will. Do you think my time is less important than yours? That’s the message you send me when you come in late without much of an apology. An extra half-hour feels like an eternity when I’m waiting to go home.

I sometimes wonder how a parent would feel if I were to show up randomly 10 or 20 minutes late while they were waiting to leave for their date or for work. Sometimes my plans have been scrambled because I thought I would be finished at a certain time.

Keep in mind that a teenage sitter most likely has schoolwork and a social life of her own. When you’re running more than 15 minutes late, call the sitter to apologize and let her know when you’ll be home.

Canceling at the last minute is rude. How would you feel if your boss called right now and told you to take the rest of the week off—while he docks your pay accordingly? Calling off a baby-sitting date on the same day is similar.

If I have a week or even a few days’ notice, I can usually come up with alternative income for that time, but when it’s on the day of, and I was looking forward to that baby-sitting money, there isn’t much I can do now. Parents should realize some of us baby sitters are college students who rely on this money from baby-sitting, for more than just going out.

I’ve heard parents sometimes leave a chores list for their baby sitter. It’s standard to ask a regular sitter to do the kids’ laundry and dishes or clean up their toys and prepare simple meals, but, parents, you have to think about the fact that the more additional tasks you pile on the less time I have to focus on the kids. Having me do your huge load of laundry, for example, is probably not the best use of my time. Nor is cleaning the kitchen using a different kind of spray for each type of surface.

Your sitter needs to eat, too. Make sure to tell a new sitter she is welcome to help herself to your snack cabinet once the kids are in bed or to include enough dinner for her if she will be preparing one for the kids. I know I wouldn’t raid your fridge unless you give me a clear invitation.

It’s so thoughtful and appreciated when a parent says, “Help yourself to anything.”

With these confessions I hope I kept you entertained enough to understand my point of view. Quite a bit goes into baby-sitting. We’re not “just the baby sitter.”