Should You Pay Your Child To Mind Siblings?
Finally, at long last, the clouds have parted and the skies have cleared: our oldest of three daughters has reached that elusive babysitting age. She has even taken the Babysitting Course, and displays the certificate proudly.
My brain rushes ahead of reality, and I’m daydreaming of the freedom that is coming my way: gone are all of those awkward phone calls in which you need to speak to some teenager’s mother or worse, incoherent teenage brother who grunts he will pass on the message and then never does. Gone are those times we couldn’t take advantage of last minute hockey tickets or last minute anything because we didn’t have childcare. Gone is the need to halt at one glass of wine so that we could drive the babysitter home. Gone is the need to dole out a king’s ransom to pay the babysitter at the end of an already expensive night…
Whoa, not so fast on that last thought. Like so many other parenting expectations, this one has not unfolded as planned.
It turns out my enterprising daughter has other ideas. While she is keen to babysit other children for the cash infusion, she is not so keen to babysit her own siblings in return for rent and board. So we have sweetened the pot and caved to her demands for payment; a slippery slope from which there is no return. Did I mention she’s eleven?
We’re paying her half what we paid our other babysitters, so there are still savings to this mighty convenient arrangement. And arguably it’s money we would have spent on her eventually – she is using the growing sum of money to buy luxury items for herself that I wouldn’t usually let her buy, but may have caved for in the long run: another hoodie for her extensive collection, songs and shows on iTunes, hairbands and scarves and multiple trinkets that end up displayed on her dresser. A whole world of pink is appearing before my eyes in the chaos of her room, and her desire to mall crawl is spiking.
However my siblings were never paid for babysitting – it was just expected, in return for all that my parents did for them. And most people I poll report the same findings – when they babysat younger siblings, it was expected no cash would change hands. It was like setting the table: something you complained about, but did it while mumbling under your breath.
I fear we have shot ourselves in the foot on this one, and missed the free-child-care-at-last boat. The precedent is now set, my nine year-old daughter only two years away from her golden ticket. Eleven years of paying the piper for a few hours of freedom, how many more to go?
Were we wrong to cave in and pay our child for services rendered, or has a new day dawned, where it is perfectly normal and expected to pay your own child?