I Would Never Hire a Teenager Babysitter

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When I was in eighth grade or so—you know, back when the earth's crust was still cooling—I used to babysit for my next door neighbor. They paid for me to take a CPR class, they were right across the street from my mom if I needed help, and oh yeah, they had a toddler and a baby.

Literally the only thing I can remember about those evenings was the one time I curiously snooped around in their bedside drawer. Did I actually find anything? That memory, like the memory of how I handled caring for a small child and an infant when I was all of 14 or 15 years old, has been lost to the ages.

If you're thinking I seemed awfully young to be in charge of a baby, you're not alone—these days, the trend has dramatically shifted away from using teenagers as babysitters. Most parents are far more likely to hire an adult to care for their kids, and I'm no exception.

Now that I'm a parent with two children of my own, I would never in a million years let a random 15-year-old babysit my kids. That's with a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old—the chances that I would hire a teenager to care for a baby are even more remote.

It's not that I think all teens are irresponsible, really. It's more that the insane amount of work and patience required to parent a baby (when I was 30+ years old!) is still fresh in my mind, and I just can't imagine outsourcing the job to a kid, even for a few hours.

According to this article, many parents worry that high school students are too obsessed with their cellphones to adequately pay attention to a child. ("Huh, the baby's been crying for an hour ... oh well, time to check Facebook.") Others say there are simply less teens available, since students have become more involved with extracurriculars due to the increasing competition for college admissions.

The crappy economy also means there are a plethora of experienced adults who are willing to babysit. Websites like SitterCity.com make it incredibly easy to connect with older people who may even be sporting early childhood education degrees or be parents in their own right. These folks typically cost more than the kid down the street, but for families who don't know any awesome kids down the street (hi!), peace of mind is worth paying more for the occasional date night.

In fact, SitterCity is exactly how I found our long-term babysitter. She has a daughter of her own, and she came with a list of glowing reviews from other happy families she'd worked for. Was I willing to pay $17 per hour for a responsible adult with a reliable vehicle? You bet your ass I was.

I might be open to hiring a teenager now that my kids are older, if I knew person very well. I have a family member whose daughter would be a perfect babysitter; the only problem is that they live 280 miles away in Eugene, Oregon. That's a really long way to drive your babysitter home, you know?

Still, I'd never put a teen in charge of a baby. I'm not saying it's right to think that way, I'm saying that's how I feel. Have we all become overly anxious and paranoid—or do we just have more options than parents did when we were kids? I honestly don't know, but it may be that the time of teens earning money by babysitting is coming to an end.

Would you hire a teenager to take care of your baby?



Image via Flickr/yourdon

childcare

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Melis... Melissa042807

If it were an older teen that I knew and trusted, maybe. But I don't know anyone like that right now so it's kind of a non-issue. We have plenty of adult friends and family who are willing to babysit. 

nonmember avatar zizz

It's ageist to say teens are too obsessed with their phones to pay attention to a baby. I see moms and dads all the time shushing their kids so they can tap away on their phones too! Anyhow, I was a teen babysitter and I was an excellent one. Lots of my friends baby sat too, and they also were committed and responsible. No one is as good as a parent as taking care of a kid, but baby-loving teens are energetic and usually focused on proving themselves as worthy care givers. I'm sure there's plenty of crappy teen (AND crappy adult) baby sitters out there, but it's not hard to find a good one either!

tis.u... tis.unnatural

My fiance has 11 and 12-year-old nieces who adore my 15-month old and BEG to baby-sit. They're definitely too young right now, but even when they're a bit older I still wouldn't be comfortable leaving my kids alone with them. Not that I don't trust them; they're wonderful with my son and I'm fine having them watch him while I'm home (as a mother's helper-type thing). But I remember being a teenager and I'm much more comfortable leaving my son and soon-to-be second child with an adult. And luckily we have a lot of family in town so it hasn't been an issue.

TKsMo... TKsMommie

I was a teenage babysitter and I have used two different teenagers.  A good friend's daughter and one of her best friends.  My kids love the girls and they love them back.  Both have had training and a lot of experience.  Both girls are amazing with my kids so I see no reason not to use them.  


That being said my kids had spent a lot of time with both of them before and the girls had taken care of them when I was around, so I was much more comfortable leaving the kids with them!

kebrowni kebrowni

Only if I knew the teenager. I wouldn't hire some random teenager who put an ad in the local paper. My friend's 14 year old daughter watched my son when he was 4 months old and when I came home he was happily playing on her lap and she said he didn't make a peep. These days I'll have my friend and her husband watch him; they're expecting a baby soon and they claim it's "good practice."

nonmember avatar Lori

Yes. We're lucky to know a family from our church with 3 daughters who have been babysitting for our kids for years. They're very responsible and the kids always have a great time. Plus, when I call the house, one of them is always available. \We do have to pick them up and drive them home, but we only pay $10 per hour, and they don't live very far. Before we found this family, we had a 12-year-old across the street watch the kids for the occassional night out -- her Mom was always home in case of an emergency, so I never worried. Our situation is different than yours since we were lucky enough to find some teenagers we know and trust. But, I'd be much more comfortable letting them watch our kids than a random adult I found through a service.

nonmember avatar Megan

I was a teenage babysitter - an excellent one - and I have used teenagers. Only for my daughter though. I think my son (8 months) is too young. And only for easy evenings - I would use an adult for a full day. Or when i have had teens here for the day, it has been more of a "mother's helper." I am here supervising. But that is because they are young and I am grooming them so that I can leave them with two kids. I make it easy for them - dinner is something she likes, we have a movie ready and maybe a new game and we let her stay up a little later so it is easy for the sitter to get them down.

nonmember avatar Susan

I babysat very often for children, toddlers, and small babies, many, many years ago--about 50! I remember once sitting for a new baby, only a few weeks old, plus 3 other children in the family. Even then I was amazed that the parents would leave a teenager with all those children and a baby! I think they were desperate to get away. On the whole I was a very responsible sitter as a teen, but I never used teenage sitters for my own children. I was fortunate to have my mother and sisters around when I needed someone.

nonmember avatar Trina

We use a teenager (almost 18 year old) who is the daughter of our preschool teacher. She livesdown the street, is CPR certified, brings a bag of "fun stuff" for her and the kids to do. She was raised by a woman who has over 20 years of early childhood education experience. She treats my kids exactly like her mom does. If it was for all of that, I wouldn't ever hire a teenager to watch my kids. I live 3 blocks from a high school and those kids scare me. :)

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Are you serious? Way to generalize to all teenagers. I've actually seen more parents with kids playing with their cell phones than teenage babysitters out with kids playing with their cell phones. Teens are more responsible than people give them credit for. And do you know what happens when you treat a teen like they're irresponsible? They're going to be irresponsible, because that's what you expect. I wouldn't think twice about leaving my children with a teenager, so long as I knew that teenager and my children felt comfortable with him/her (though that's a requirement no matter the age).


I babysat my younger siblings as a preteen, and then babysat the kids in my neighborhood from the age of 12 through college. I even went on vacation with one family at 15 (*gasp!*) and watched not only that family's child, but the children of the other parents on the trip. I was well-versed in childcare and babycare by the time I was 17. And without that, I never would have had a college major...I chose education as the result of my immense childcare experience. My families loved me because as a teen, I had more energy and was more creative in my approach to the job--the kids also connected with me more than their other adult babysitters because I was young and closer to their age; less "grown-up" and more "kid."

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