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How Much Should You Pay the Babysitter? Ouch.

By Heather Turgeon |

Babysitting costs going up

How much are you willing to fork over?

My husband likes to joke that he has very reasonable standards for babysitting: those who take care of our son should be highly-qualified, experienced, preferably holding a medical degree or a Ph.D in child development (we’re not picky), yet for some inexplicable reason, not be otherwise employed.

Especially for those of us who don’t live close to family, hiring a babysitter is a fact of life. But in Los Angeles, as in many other cities, having a sitter is basically like taking the cost of your night out — dinner, drinks, movies — and doubling it. And it’s painful to hand over so much cash to someone who could quite possibly have spent the last 4 hours updating her Facebook status from your couch.

An article in the Los Angeles Times asks the question: Are babysitting prices getting outrageous? I’d say they are, but sometimes you have to get crafty.

First of all, with a babysitter we love and trust (and pay over $15/hour when my son is awake) we negotiated our fee for night times so that she charges less after my son is in bed. Even a few dollars and hour adds up.

But last year, when my son was a toddler, my mom’s group arranged a babysitting co-op, in which each of us would rotate every week taking care of the kids. The set up: 2 moms would take 4 babies for 4-5 hours on a designated day. With 7 moms in the group, that worked out to roughly 1 day off and 1 babysitting day every 2 weeks for each mom. Coordinating it was tough at the beginning but it worked really well. We always talked about doing it for nighttime as well, but didn’t get around to it.

Another strategy that has worked for us: we alternate with our very close friends, taking our son to their house and putting him to bed in a pack-n-play (sometimes we leave him and pick him up in the morning). Next time, it’s their turn to drop off.

Babysitting fees seem to vary a lot by city. For example, the average rate for a babysitter in Detroit was listed at $10/hour. Meanwhile, I’ve heard from my friends in Manhattan that babysitters go for $20/hour, plus the cost of a cab ride on top.

Do you think babysitting costs are prohibitive and have you found any ways around it?

Image: Flickr/Kretyen

More from Heather Turgeon:

CDC Report: If it’s Green and Leafy, American’s Aren’t Eating it.

Genetically Modified Salmon: Why I’m Not Afraid of the “Frankenfish”

Stop Telling Me to Co Sleep

Do it Now: The Perfect 10 Minute Mediation

Teen Trends: Gastric Bands for Obesity?

50 Amazing Naptime Ideas

Concussions and Cars: Why Parents Worry About the Wrong Things.

Why Kids with Language Delays are More Aggressive

Top 10 Pediatric Myths

Non Stick Chemicals Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Kids

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “How Much Should You Pay the Babysitter? Ouch.

  1. JG says:

    Wow! Our babysitters only charge $3-5 an hour, depending on the sitter. Of course, we live in a small town in the midwest, but $20 an hour for a babysitter? I realize they’re caring for our children, but I find that to be a ridiculous amount.

  2. michelle says:

    $13-$15/hour in Chicago. Yes, ridiculous. We too have been doing a little babysitting swapping with friends, but for those times when we need something last-minute, we have a stable of sitters to call, most of whom work in childcare and/or have been background checked. Luckily, the cost of dinner, show and/or drinks in this city is also such that the $$$ we hand over for babysitting at the end of the night looks like nothing in comparison.

  3. JG says:

    I suppose that’s the best part of living in a small town. Costs, in general, are lower, and things like background checks are unnecessary because everyone knows everything about everyone else. Of course, that last bit is also the worst part of living in a small town…lol

  4. Andrea says:

    I wish that there was more understanding that nannies and babysitters aren’t magical Mary Poppinses who just hate to have to charge anything to watch your little darlings. It’s their job, they’re not volunteering, and it’s perfectly reasonable for them to charge what they can earn, even if it’s $20/hour, because as much as you’d hope to have someone who enjoys and has affection for your kids, that person also probably has friends, hobbies, generally their own lives.

  5. Em says:

    I’m blown away by $3-$5/hour, even if it is a small town. When I was babysitting 10ish years ago, I was making at least $10.

  6. JG says:

    Andrea, I don’t think anyone expects magical babysitters to appear and watch their kids for free. You have to remember that everyone in the work force (not just babysitters and nannies) have friends, hobbies, and their own lives, and most of them don’t make $20 per hour either.
    To put it in perspective, a CNA makes, on average, $10.57 per hour. An LPN makes, on average, $17.53 per hour. Both of those jobs require school/training and taking care of multiple people on a daily basis. I’d have to say, in most cases, there’s also a lot more stress involved in those jobs than in babysitting.
    It just doesn’t make sense to me to pay a babysitter $20 per hour. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been faced with having to pay a babysitter that much. Who knows, but that is just my opinion, and we’re all entitled to one.
    And Em, I guess I’m kind of blown away by $3-5 now too, after seeing these other posts! Funny thing is, I’ve always let our babysitters set their hourly rate, and most times, I’ve actually given them more than they asked for because I’m so grateful for what they do!

  7. michelle says:

    What’s a CNA or LPN??

  8. bob says:

    Didn’t it used to be that high school girls were primary source of cheap babysitting labor? Maybe something is changing that makes babysitting less practical/desirable for them and is driving prices up. I can think of several possible factors: increased fear of strangers across society, more homework assigned, college aspirations, more sports and other extracurricular activities…

  9. JG says:

    CNA stands for certified nursing assistant, and LPN stands for licensed practical nurse.

  10. JF says:

    I think the idea of co-ops is great, but it’s tough to do unless the kids are around the same age as yours and really comfortable with the various parents. In NYC, where I live, you can get a babysitter for btwn $15 – 20. I totally get the impulse to ask for less while the kids are sleeping, but again, it’s that babysitter’s time. And it’s not just watching TV. It’s being ready to deal with waking children or any emergencies that may come up. I don’t expect my babysitters to be on facebook while I’m out, but I’m certainly okay with TV or coming home to them reading a book. It’s what I do when the kids are down. Why should her time be any less valuable because the kids are sleeping?

  11. Ruth says:

    Speaking as a professional nanny and former babysitter, I’d like to put my two cents’ worth in and say that if any family who wanted me to work for them tried to pay me less once the children were asleep, I would politely ask them to find someone else to care for their children. I take my responsibilities just as seriously whether my charges are awake or asleep!

  12. AM says:

    Choosing to pay your babysitter more can pay off in the long run, too– like when your sitter is deciding whether to work for you the night you want her or go out with friends. When I was in high school, there were families I’d babysit for over going out with friends. Part of that depended on the kids, but part of it was also knowing how well the parents paid. Make your sitter want to pick you when she has more than one option.

  13. Babysitter says:

    As a former nanny and current babysitter, I’d like to respond to whoever brought up the point that someone with more training makes less per hour– they have job security! They work full-time with benefits! I would absolutely take a $10/hour full-time CNA position over a $20/hour, 5 hour a week babysitting position. You pay more for babysitters because they work off-hours (generally weekend nights), they come TO YOUR HOUSE, and they give individual attention to your kids. Also, as a nanny, if the kids were asleep I always found other things to get done– cleaning the counters, emptying the dishwasher, sometimes even baking. I do that in the houses I’m familiar with as a babysitter as well. If I were getting paid less while they were asleep, I wouldn’t bother doing the extras. Luckily, the parents I’ve worked with have valued my time and effort and the fact that I am still the only one around for emergencies while the kids sleep, and I have never even been asked to take lower pay during sleeping time. Skimping on your babysitter is NOT the right option for saving money on your date night.

  14. Marj says:

    I watch a friend’s kid three times a week. He pays me $10 an hour. I gotta say, I might watch a friend’s kid for free every now and then, but not on a regular basis. Especially with two toddlers of my own. The extra cash comes in handy and makes the aggravation of having another demanding infant in my house worth it to me.

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