When my girls were very little, and I had very little in the way of help or support, I was insanely jealous of my friends with older children. Sometimes I’d offer to bring their older kids along with me to theme parks or the mall, just so they would stand with the stroller outside the restroom and I wouldn’t have to drag the entire entourage in for a quick pit stop. There is no such thing as quick with a 3-year-old and a newborn.
But now my world is very different. Even though I have a preschooler at home, I am able to go for a jog, run to the grocery store and even attempt date night. I have my older children to thank. The question is, do I pay them for the babysitting duties they perform?
When my husband and I first started to talk about whether we should pay our older daughters to babysit, he was adamantly against it. He was of the opinion that this was just “family responsibility” and the way that we all chip in. Helping out is a family expectation, after all.
I disagreed. Our oldest is paid to babysit other people’s kids. Why should she choose to stay home with sibs when she could earn cash elsewhere? Our kids have lots of responsibilities and chores — from helping with clearing the table to sorting laundry and changing the kitty litter. I could imagine resentment building between the older kids and younger ones (note: I am the youngest in my family and never had to babysit) because of the additional burden on the older kids to frequently babysit.
I also believe that if we want our older kids to do a good job babysitting the younger ones, we have to offer them some sort of reward. There ain’t no free lunch! That can be cash, a frappucino, or an offer to drive them to a far-flung friend’s house for a sleepover the following night.
When my older girls know there is a reward for babysitting, they are conscientious about watching their sibs. They play games and paint with them. They read them stories. When it is an unrewarded imposition? They are likely to park them in front of a tv “until Mommy & Daddy get back.” Back to squabbling, disgruntled teens and zombified toddler. No thanks.
If I’m gone for an hour or more I try to reward my older kids for babysitting. I genuinely appreciate it. I still remember what it was like to not be able to pee!
What do my kids & husband think now? The answer might surprise you! Here’s what my family had to say about babysitting and being paid.
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