babysitterIt's a hard and fast rule of parenting. When you find a good babysitter, you treat her (or him) like gold. But I always thought that meant a good tip for making sure the kid's room was clean and their pick of the prime leftovers in the fridge. The State of California, on the other hand, may soon say your babysitter deserves breaks. Every two hours. And you'd have to bring in an alternate caregiver to make it happen.

Geez. How about diamonds on a platter while we're at it? Caviar? A Ferrari to drive around?

Assembly Bill 889 has already passed the state's Assembly and is moving through the Senate. It will apply to all “domestic employees,” including nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers age 18 and up (unless they're a family member -- so feel free to treat your niece and college-age son like they were born to do your bidding). Parents will be required to pay at least minimum wage. They'll also have to "provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers' compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck."

Are you getting this folks? Not only do you have to do the impossible of tracking down a responsible college kid to hang with your tot on a Friday night so you can actually sit down for one meal where you don't have to cut up someone else's food. Now you have to find TWO of them. And the second one will have to agree to just show up every two hours for 15 minutes at minimum wage. AND you're going to have to explain to your 3-year-old why Miss Madison has to get up from the rousing game of SpongeBob Memory to go outside and take a break while this other guy comes in ... for 15 minutes.

If it didn't make me want to cry, I'd be laughing hysterically at this one.

Apparently it's been a long time since any of these legislators hung out with some children. Or God forbid, had to actually track down a sitter for date night.

At its very core, the bill has some merits. My babysitters stick with me because I treat them like family, but I've heard horror stories. The woman who wanted them to babysit all day every day in the summer, and all she thought they should get in exchange was meals at her house during the day. And certainly full-time domestic help should not be in the same boat as the college kid who comes over to play Wii with your kid every once in awhile.

But that's just it. Your standard babysitter is not on par with a full-time housekeeper. Not only are they not working for you on a consistent basis -- making all that paperwork difficult to put together -- but theirs is a job that can't be planned out to the letter. My main sitter spends all day with my daughter. She eats with her. She plays with her. Sometimes she naps with her. Her "breaks" are on my kid's schedule, just like her meals. That's the nature of childcare.

We have dozens of jobs in this country that don't afford the worker these kinds of perks -- because they would interfere too much with the job itself or because they're too punitive on smaller employers. Legislators in California need to look at the job and look at the employers in this case and get some common sense before this bill makes it into the law books.

Can you imagine giving your babysitter a break every two hours? Would this mean no more date night ... ever?


Image via Arild Langtind/Flickr