The Babysitters Club Now Has a 401K

Hear that? It's the sound of a babysitter getting her pay docked.

I just found out that babysitters get paid around $10 an hour. I’m shocked. Happy for them, but it’s just another example of how kids today will waltz through life in $75 Holister jeans and when they land their first job and it’s not waiting tables at a Howard Johnson’s they’ll go, “What?”

Ten dollars an hour? That’s about $9 more per hour than I got when I babysat. Inflation notwithstanding, I am pretty sure I was getting ripped off in the ‘70s when I watched a 4-year-old and her 9-year-old tormenter for more than four hours on a Friday night and went home with a couple of ones and some change, and a homemade shank.

Babysitters are now getting paid more than the girl with the headset who folds clothes at the Gap. I know that’s how it should be - babysitting is a much more important job - but let’s face it, those cotton tees deserve better.

Babysitting used to be the pie in the sky that every teenage girl yearned for. Being allowed to babysit was the most exciting thing that happened to us after we got our own bottle of Bonne Belle and before we got our driver’s licenses. We were allowed to stay in someone else’s house without our parents being there and we were put in charge of the little kids.

Because I lived in a dream world, I used to pretend that the house and the kids were mine. (I never asked the kids to call me Mom, and as far as I know I didn’t cause any childhood psychological trauma. I am Facebook friends with the wife and daughter of one of the little boys I babysat for, and I’m pretty sure they would tell me if he was permanently scarred by me. At the very least they would block me or defriend me.)

My favorite babysitting jobs were for my high school teachers. I not only got to play house, but I got to peek in on the private lives of my teachers. And walk out of there with $4.75 in my pocket. Score!

Babysitting taught me more about modern man than Mr. Sostaric’s biology class. I once babysat for a family who had nine or 10 kids. I’m not sure how many there were and I wasn’t sure at the time how many kids there were. I walked into a bedroom to get a blanket and found a baby sleeping in the crib that I had not even known was there. I guess the parents were in a big fat hurry to get out of the house that they forgot to tell me they had birthed another baby since I had been there last. I can’t imagine what their rush was. I let the kids fall asleep on the pool table in the basement. They seemed fine. The ones I was aware of, anyway.

I babysat for another family who would have me come over an hour early, so the parents could go upstairs and “meditate” before they left. I sat in the kitchen and awkwardly stared at the baby in the high chair. I was 15 and not fully aware of what meditating was or how long it might take, until they would scram and let me start being the mom.

“Could you please sort the Legos by color after Robbie is finished playing for the night?” one woman asked me. My Control-Freak-o-Meter was at Code Red and rising, but I sorted the Legos and chalked it up to experience.

I learned that different families do things differently. Not everyone was like my family. One of my babysitting families stored their potato chips in their oven because the pilot light kept them toasty warm. (This was true. They had the best chips I had ever had.) Another of my babysitting jobs was in a house heated by some kind of wood burning fireplace, which I had to tend the whole night or the kids and I would freeze to death in a moderate Ohio winter. (Some of the wood I brought in was infested with hibernating wasps, which came to life once they were in the tepid house. That wasn’t a good night.)

I was a good babysitter and was in high demand because I a) played with the kids, b) never had my boyfriend or friends over when I was babysitting, and c) washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen before I conked out to sleep on the couch.

My kids and their friends couldn’t be less interested in babysitting. Even at $10 an hour. I once saved up my babysitting earnings to buy my mom a spice rack for Mother’s Day. Teenagers now not only don’t want to buy their moms spice racks, but if they need a spice rack of their own, they’ll get it handed to them by their indulgent fathers.

I don’t know how they’re supposed to learn that other families aren’t like us. But at $10 an hour you’d think they’d at least want to see where other people store their chips.

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