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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