When Andrea Owen, a life coach and mother of two from North Carolina, wanted to hire a babysitter for the summer, she realized something about all the young women who came before.
Not one of them could name a price.
In a Facebook post, Owen described her frustration in realizing how rarely babysitters, who are usually female, feel comfortable to actually name their own prices for the important service they are providing.
“Had a conversation with the hubs yesterday about finding a babysitter over the summer. I met a teenage girl yesterday whom I thought might work, I got her number and will call her this week.
Jay and I started talking about how much babysitters charge, and I told him I like to ask them first what their hourly rate is. My experience in this is usually the girls say, ‘Whatever you want to pay me is fine.’
NO. THIS IS NOT OKAY.
This starts at home. Parents, teach your children, ESPECIALLY your daughters, to name her price and stand confidently in it. ‘I would love to babysit your children and I charge X per hour.’ It’s just one sentence. Practice it with her. It may sound crazy, but as girls, we are not encouraged to ask for what we’re worth. Babysitting is commonly a first job for girls, we need to help set them up for success in future jobs and to not be afraid to ask for what she deserves.”
When I came across Owen’s post while scrolling Facebook one day, I was struck by the truth of her words. I started babysitting at the age of 11. I was responsible for four kids, which looking back seems completely irresponsible and rather dangerous. But at the time, I remember being wide-eyed at the $10/hour they presented me. (Although I deserved every penny, as one of the children was fond of running away and hiding in trees until I was crying and calling the cops.) But not once in my career as a babysitter did I think that I had the right to name my own rate. I think of our babysitter, a young woman that my kids and I adore, someone who has saved my life as a work-at-home mom in ways she will probably not realize until (and if) she has children of her own someday. And despite knowing she is worth gold, she did what I and probably thousands of other teen babysitters have done when talking about the price, offering up a wave of the hand and “Oh, whatever you think is good.”
But is it? Is that good enough?
Owen doesn’t think so and perhaps even more importantly, she believes that teaching our daughters (and sons, of course, when they take on the role of babysitting) to name their prices for something that seems so simple actually has a long-lasting impact on their lives.
She explains that she was actually inspired to write her post by an experience she had with hiring a tutor for her son. She chose a woman with an impressive background as a first-grade teacher who clearly listed her pricing on her website, yet when it came time to actually discuss how she wanted to be paid, Owen recalls that the woman became visibly uncomfortable. “There was eye contact averted and she waved her eyes around and was like, ‘Oh, whatever you want, I just don’t even like talking about money,'” Owen remembers. “This happened in front of her 5 year-old daughter and my 6 year-old and I just got this sick feeling like, this is what we are modeling for these young girls?”
In her work as a life coach, Owen is well-versed in the difficulty that many women express when dealing with financial topics, especially when it comes to being clear about their value as an employee. “Money is a hard conversation, especially for women, and I’d like that not to be the case,” she explains. “All of these little things like being able to negotiate a salary, name a dollar amount, ask for a raise, or learn how to make money work for you, a lot of these things we don’t learn, especially as females. It’s about having hard conversations and it’s about teaching women to speak their truth and that is difficult for a lot of women.”
And even though women may find talking about money, whether that be negotiating a raise or simply naming a price to babysit for a few hours, Owen is insistent that we need to realize that it’s not something to be intimated by. “These are just sentences,” she says firmly. “We are not asking each other to jump through hula hoops that are on fire. This is just conversation.”
Owen’s post struck a chord with many people, especially women who know what it’s like to struggle with naming a price when it comes to money. “Thank you, Andrea!!!” wrote Rachel Sara.”This is a huge problem I have been working on for a long time. And you’re exactly right, when I was younger it helped to make me feel less worthy. Whenever I go to a job interview I always thought, ‘I better take whatever I can get because I may not be able to find another one.’ That also translated into men, ‘I better date this guy who likes me because no one else may like me ever again.'”
It may seem like a far leap from summer babysitting to dating, but Owen points out that it’s really not. What we are instilling in our girls now — even for something as simple as talking about a price for babysitting — really sets the precedent for women being able to set boundaries.
“It’s about what we will tolerate and not tolerate and what’s OK and whats not OK,” she explains. “The more we can teach girls to set boundaries the better off girls will be when they get into intimate relationships or relationships with their friends. It might be hard but it’s important to learn how to set those boundaries and to model, especially as mothers, in our marriages and in our friendships what’s OK and what’s not OK from a very healthy point.”
Whew. Who knew babysitting was such serious business, right? Gone are the days when I was happy just to get free frozen pizza after I had successfully made it to bedtime. And hey, now that I think about, my life hasn’t changed all that much has it?
But moral of the story: Parents, if your kid is a babysitter, have them name their own price, raided freezer pizza not included. It may be important than you realize.