Mo (mofic) wrote,

Babysitting - then and now

When I was a high school babysitter (1970-73) the going rate where I lived (West Hartford, Connecticut) was fifty cents an hour, and a dollar after midnight. When kids turned 16 and could get "real jobs" working retail part-time, they often stopped sitting, because minimum wage was $1.65.

Now my teenage son prefers babysitting to a job flipping burgers or whatever, because he get $8-$10 an hour sitting and minimum wage is $5.15. Plus some of that time is typically spent literally sitting - once the child is sleeping he watches tv, reads, talks to his friends.

I almost never use a paid sitter anymore. I rarely go out without kids when they're with me, planning my no-kid events for when they are with their other mother. And only Zara really can't be alone at night, anyway. When I've needed someone to stay with her (e.g. I had to pick her sister up late at night a couple of weeks ago) I've had one of the big kids stay with her (Doran in that case, obviously). Up until about two years ago, I used to occasionally hire a teen sitter for the girls so Doran and I could go out. Lately he and I just go out occasionally to dinner and a movie on a night when the girls are with their other mother. When last I did use a sitter I think she charged $7 an hour.

That seems to be the range of going rates for kid sitters here (Park Slope, Brooklyn) - somewhere from $7 on the low end to $10 or $11 on the high end. Adult sitters are more.

I'd like to think that the change in relative wages between babysitting and minimum wage from my adolescence to my son's reflects a greater value put on caring for children than there used to be. I fear, though, that it just demonstrates the erosion of the minimum wage.

I lived on the minimum wage for several years in the 1970s, putting myself through college on part-time minimum wage work during the school year and full time during the summer. I did similarly in library school, although I borrowed some money for tuition then. Even leaving out tuition costs (I did my undergraduate degree in Canada, where higher education is very highly subsidized by the government - I paid the same tuition at McGill in the 1970s as my mother did at University of Manitoba in the early 1950s), the prospect of someone living on part-time minimum wages eight months a year and full time minimum wage four months a year seems pretty bleak. Now, I did live pretty much in squalor :-). I was in cheap rental apartments with second hand furniture and very little in the way of luxuries of any kind, but I sheltered and fed and clothed myself and even occasionally went to the movies.

I think working at minimum wage at the level I did then (15-20 hours per week during the school year, 40 hours a week in the summer) would gross someone around $6000 a year now. So, $500 a month. I can't imagine anyone managing to live on that in New York City!

Anyway, I realize not everyone on my flist is a parent (or a former babysitter) but if you are one or the other or both, please weigh in:

1. If you were a babysitter, how much money did you make an hour? Where and when was this? Was it more or less than minimum wage?

2. If you are a parent, how much do you pay sitters? Does it matter how old they are? Do you pay more for more kids? Do you pay any extras - transit fare home or money to send out for dinner?

3. Where do you live? Do you feel what you pay (or are paid) is representative of what's generally charged/paid in your area?

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