Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reason #168 to hire 13-year-old babysitters

When she comes down with 101 degree fever the morning she's supposed to babysit, as she lies shivering on her sickbed, she will text her 13-year-old best friend. Her 13-year-old best friend has no plans, because she's 13, so she will happily say yes. Oktoberfest plans for tonight are still on!

Some other reasons to hire 13-year-old sitters?
Reason #137: She will call you Mrs. [Last Name], even if you live in the urban northeast where teenagers typically call adults by their first names at best.
Reason #89: Because she's only 10 years older than your kids, your introverted and mom-attached 3 year old son will develop a crush on her, making mom and dad's departure very easy.
Reason #174: Her own mother is still protective, since she's only 13, which means mom will drop her off, come in to say hello, and be home nearby and on-call throughout the night. Effectively, I have an energetic 13 year old PLUS her mother who has already raised 3 good children.
Reason #2: Because babysitting is one of a few jobs she's old enough for, she's more than delighted to have a job and will approach it seriously, with zeal, freshness, and respect. She plays with our children better than any sitter we've had.
Reason #1: She costs at least 30% less than late-teenagers... it's like buy 2 hours get 1 free.

God bless you, Sarah, and all the other dear young sitters out there. Thank you for your sweetness, and for helping us keep the fun and flame in our marriage.

Now go call your 13-year-old sitter today!


Kat said...

Love it! We also have a date tonight, and are looking forward to it!

Right Said Red said...


Enjoy your evening!

Charlotte (Matilda) said...

#174 cracked me up! When I was 13, my mom had to come "rescue" me during several babysitting jobs. She would come, help quiet down the fussy baby, help put the littles in bed and then leave before the parents came home! They really should have paid her!

Mary Alice said...

I could not agree more. 13 year old babysitter has changed my life - she comes weekly so that I can go for a run, that six dollars a week has done wonders for our home life!

paranoid? said...

Since we're on the topic of babysitters...
My dh and I are very picky about who can watch our children (almost 3 and 4 mos.) How do you screen your babysitters, especially teenagers that you may or may not know very well personally (initially at least), and what are the criteria? We have my dh's side of the family nearby, but it is small, so not a bunch of older cousins or siblings available to babysit. I have single professional friends who offer, but they have a life, and paying them is a little awkward. Are we being paranoid by not wanting even a teenager from a good family to babysit? Often, when talking about date nights, it's often approached like, find a sitter, any sitter, so you can go out. What gives?

Anonymous said...

I'm a young, single, Catholic woman who has read your blog for sometime, and I felt like now was the perfect opportunity to comment. I was that young 13 year old once. Except I would have cried when I got sick and had to let someone else babysit for the families I had become so protective over. Most importantly, it taught me some very valuable lessons that have carried me well through adulthood.
1. I stayed younger longer. I was less in tune to the worldly things my friends became obsessed with in middle school. I spent quality time with babies and children, and thus found that I was more comfortable in the world of innocence than trying to be something I was not.
2. I grew to admire strong, Catholic mothers who inspired me, nurtured my maternal instinct and empowered me with trust in caring for their most prized possessions. That trust empowered me to do so many things, and their confidence in my abilities strengthened my confidence in myself, which as a teenage girl can be incredibly hard.
3. Responsibility and rule following. There is absolutely nothing that teaches it like babysitting. I always followed the parents exact instructions.
4. Creative and ingenuity. I have never had to think as hard as I did when trying to keep little ones entertained, engaged, learning and having fun.
5. The preciousness of life. Holding a baby not only teaches you to respect life it teaches you how hard it can be as well ;).

As a result of babysitting, I now know I want as many children as God is willing to bless and entrust me with. And, I often wonder if when I'm a mother someday I will be able to leave my own precious little ones with someone as young as a 13 years old. Then I remember how babysitting enriched my life and I cannot imagine not giving another young girl that lasting gift.

B-Mama said...

JM, so glad that you all are going out tonight! Have a great time!!! I share in your excitement as we are also heading out for a sushi date with a couple from our church. Too fun. How I wish we were all meeting up together at the Oktoberfest. Cheers.

My only question for you all--do you think 13yo's are able to handle the # of young children we have? I just started feeling comfortable leaving them in the hands of a senior in college, who is awesome and I'm so grateful for. She costs more, but I'm willing to pay her for my peace of mind. I'm even hesitant to hire high-schoolers. Am I being overprotective? Paranoid?, I share your anxiety.

Kat said...

B-Mama, we've had similar reservations about babysitters being able to handle the kids, and at this point we don't have a sitter that we think can put both kids to bed. Fortunately, Maria goes to bed by 7 so we can have the sitter come after her bedtime and still go out to dinner afterwards. Our 15 year-old babysitter is great, but I also don't think she can handle both kids in the house for more than an hour at a time. This is mostly because Maria is very active and gets into all sorts of trouble right now, but this is just a stage and will probably pass soon. We canceled afternoon plans because I didn't feel comfortable leaving the kids with the sitter for a 3-hour period. Once the weather is cooler and they can be outside, it will be much easier. I do think that the younger kids are great for evening babysitting, especially if one or more kids can be in bed already, but in the end it just comes down to what stage your kids are in!

Caroline said...

May I offer a suggestion?
As the mother of a 13 yo who babysits, what works best for her is to have the kids brought to her.
She has a weekly babysitting job in which the parents bring their 3 children to our house. She is still completely in charge, but if the need arises, I am here to help.

She does babysit for our next door neighbor family at their house, but I am only a few feet away if she needs me.

Joanne said...

I am a big believer in going out with one's husband, especially if one is a SAHM. We have either my parents (half the year, while they're in town) or a young babysitter (13/14 years old). I agree with everything you say, they are great! Some issues have come up, of course, but we never go very far, and we tell her to call us for anything. We also usually call to check in at least once, so she is comfortable that we can be reached.

I find that young babysitters also do what I say, which is unlike my sweet parents. :)

I have friends who never go out, who never 'trust anyone!' with their babes, and while I understand the feeling behind it, I think it is to be fought. With all these little kids around, I feel like I have to fight to maintain a loving relationship with my husband. I don't want us to feel like roommates who are raising a child together. So out we go! We usually put the kids to bed and then go out, because it's hard for us to wrangle three of them under four, I know one person would have a hard time of it.

Anonymous said...

I started babysitting when I was about 14 and have since worked as a full-time nanny and now as a pre-school teacher. I ditto everything that was said about about the opportunity it gives girls to develop life skills and begin to appreciate the wonders of authentic womanhood and motherhood and to think about her own goals and dreams for her life. I was an only child who absolutely loved babies and I am so grateful to all the mothers who trusted me with their little ones.

As a general rule, I would say that a responsible high-schooler with experience babysitting and/or younger siblings can safely handle 3 children. For 4 or more, I think you're wise to pay more for a college student.

Juris Mater said...

Anonymous/single/former babysitter, thanks for your GREAT thoughts from the perspective of a young babysitter.

Bmama and Paranoid, I think Kat and Joanna hit the nail on the head. We basically use the 13 year olds for a job that could be done by a responsible 9 year old: we put the 18 month old in bed before going out, because she's wild and can get into trouble/danger. We have our 3 year old and 4 year old fed, bathed, and ready for bed. We leave around 7:30pm. The babysitter's job is to play with them and read to them until later than usual bedtime, until 9pm or so to be sure they're tired, then put them down. I wouldn't be comfortable having a 13 year old putting all three kids in, or even feeding and bathing them, because of safety. The snacks I leave for them are total non-choking hazard type snacks, and I usually leave some safe and new activity to keep them excited for the hour and a half that they're awake. We also stay within about a 20 minute drive and leave 6-7 emergency phone numbers and all emergency information. I assure the sitters that we would like to hear from them if they even have simple questions.

I still think that 13 year olds can be remarkably responsible and very diligent problem solvers. Because they appreciate the job and are especially attentive, I think in many ways the kids are safer. In light of that, I don't even know if the extra precautions are necessary, but they give me peace of mind.

Another big factor for us is we know these families by now. We're entering year 4 in this neighborhood, and all the families are good people, members of our parish, accountable to one another and to our relatively small community. It would be more difficult if we had no idea who they were and what kind of 13 year olds they were raising.

And one more thought: I know we've talked before about how a house full of young children can become wild quickly and we worry about the sitter's ability to control the children. I always assure my sitter beforehand that we are strict ourselves and are comfortable with her disciplining the kids, that we will support her even if they tell us later "Miss Sarah told us we couldn't do x if we didn't do y, and she's mean." I have found that that's important in giving 13 year olds confidence to manage the situation. Oh yeah, and we have the kids call the sitter "Miss Sarah", "Miss Catherine" just to distinguish who's in charge.

Mary Alice said...

I have had younger sitters when my kids are awake, but they are girls from a large family and during the day two of them (14 and 12) might come together. This can be a great help. I had a mother of 10 once tell me that her best babysitting combination to send out was her 15 year old son and her 13 year old daughter, they keep each other accountable and help each other out.

However, I often have a 13 year old sit for ALL SIX of my children. As JM recommends, I try to have the toddler and baby in bed already and the others ready for bed, and they get some Lego time and then stories and off to bed. They do beg for extra stories and she often caves, but that is about the worst that happens.

I think it helps alot if you know the parents.

If you are nervous, a great way to start is with a mothers helper. Have the 13 year old come while you are staying home. You can get a ton of stuff done while she plays with and gets to know the kids, and once she knows your home and your routine it will be easier to leave her alone with the kids.

Also, the tighter your own routines are, the easier it is to have any sitter. The kids, even three and four year olds, can understand and follow the usual bedtime routine with others.

Make sure that blankies are in place, this can cause minor crisis at bedtime in our family!

"H" said...

I loved babysitting as a 13-year-old! I loved holding a baby, and playing with the older kids. I paid for my voice lessons through high school by babysitting. It kept me busy and out of trouble on weekends in my teens. Most of my babysitting charges then lived on the same block. (When I got to college the experience allowed me to get jobs as a summer nanny in neighboring towns for elementary age kids.) I'm glad to see some people still hire 13-year-old babysitters! No one I know does, which is a shame because I think it's such great experience for young people. And it sounds like it's a good experience for your families, too.

Anonymous said...

I am a 13-yr old babysitter myself. I find that these comments are very true, except for the one about the 3 yr old developing a crush on the babysitter, which hasn't happened (yet). I started babysitting when I was 10, but basically all I did was accompany my sister when she went to babysit, and occasionally when she couldn't, I would babysit the whole time. Now, we babysit regularly for a lot of our neighbors, and gladly the youngest is almost three, so there are (usually) no poopy diapers. One thing 13-yr old babysitters hate is having to change a poopy diaper. We think, "Eeeeewwwwwwwwwwww, this isn't my kid, I'm only 13, why should i be learning how to change a diaper?" and when we're done, "what if i did it wrong, will they not call me back to babysit?" However, the older siblings of the youngest one are 6 and 8, and they like changing the diaper, and pretty much don't let me do anything. If there is one time that neither me nor my sister can babysit, the kids tell me the next time i come that so and so wasn't very nice, she just did her homework and let us play. Most young kids like to play with the babysitter, including stealing her phone (which is in a case so they don't break it); another reason slightly younger babysitters are good. It also helped me get a "job" ($2/hr) at a summer camp as a junior counselor