How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Babysitter These Days?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Babysitter These Days? By popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

The other day, in the comments on this post about phone calls, an interesting side-conversation about babysitting started up. It got me thinking about the current state of babysitting.

At our house, we haven’t had to hire a babysitter in ages. Instead, our kids have become babysitters themselves. Maude and Olive babysit for other families regularly — and they have for years. Beyond local babysitting, Maude was an Au Pair in Paris for a year, and Olive has traveled with a family during their spring breaks (to Mexico one year, and DisneyWorld another year) as the nanny. Oscar started babysitting this year too. Little kids LOVE hanging out with Oscar and he’s a really fun babysitter. Betty just turned twelve last month, and I imagine she’ll start getting asked to babysit as well.

That leaves June, who just turned 8 years old, and probably has no memories of any babysitters beyond her siblings. : )

Babysitting in the Bay Area typically pays $10 to $15 per hour depending on how many kids are involved. Maude has one family in the city who pays $20 an hour. That’s a higher rate than I’ve heard in other areas, and is definitely reflective of the insane cost of living here. As Oscar started babysitting he offered a discounted rate for the first few times because he wanted the practice.

In order for our kids to start babysitting, we’ve required them to take a Red Cross Babysitting course (which includes CPR), and to practice changing a diaper. That was easy to do for our older kids, because they had younger siblings to practice on. But it’s been harder to figure out how to help Oscar or Betty practice diaper changes. We started with dolls.

What are responsibilities while babysitting? Mostly it’s playing with the kids and keeping them off screens. My kids say one of the best strategies is thinking up or introducing new games. Or adding new stuff on to basic games — like you play soccer but every time you get a goal, you have to run around the net twice. I know Maude will often teach the kids how to play guitar. And if she’s in a walkable neighborhood, she’ll take them on outings to the library or park. Oscar likes to bring a babysitting bag with stickers and coloring books and other activities.

Beyond keeping the kids active and entertained, the next priority is feeding. Our kids expect to make dinner (or heat up the dinner the parents have made), and take care of snacks throughout the day. Cleaning is more flexible. Olive says she generally cleans up dinner if she made it, but might not clean the kitchen if it’s already messy when she arrives. For her, It depends on the kids and how much attention they need — giving the kids attention takes priority over cleaning.

Oscar (age 13) doesn’t have a cell phone yet, and Olive didn’t either when she started babysitting here in Oakland. Most families they babysit for don’t have a landline, so that can be tricky. Olive has a cell phone now, and Oscar has an iPod (an old phone without a sim card), that he can text with if there’s wifi. Once in awhile, we’ve sent them with one of our cell phones. And sometimes, the parents of the house they’re babysitting at will leave a cell phone.

I’d love to discuss the current state of babysitting with you. These are the questions I’m curious about when you hire a babysitter:

– At what age would you let your kids babysit for hire? And what age is the youngest babysitter you’ve ever hired? Do you trust young teens to watch your kids, or only adults when you hire a babysitter?

– If you don’t have a landline, or your sitter doesn’t have a cell phone, how do you handle communication?

– How much are babysitters paid in your area? Do you feel like it’s a fair rate? Do people pay cash to hire a babysitter? Write checks? Send payments via Venmo? (Our kids have received all three.)

– Is it hard to find sitters where you live? Do you have a regular babysitter that you rely on? If you have a full or part time nanny while you’re at work, do you hire them to do other babysitting too? Like date night or over the weekend?

– Are you uncomfortable with sitters altogether and basically only let your parents watch the kids (and rarely that)?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

96 thoughts on “How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Babysitter These Days?”

  1. Oh, I love this post. I used to babysit a ton when I was a teenager! I started when I was 11 and nannied even in college and after. Now, I’m a mom to a toddler and it’s so interesting being on the other side! We usually pay college age sitters $10/hr, but for high schoolers $8 or $9 and if we have to pick them up/drop them off (before they can drive) $7. I also have a couple 11 year olds who are mother’s helpers while I’m at home getting other things done and I usually pay them $1-2 an hour. We live in the midwest so not sure if that affects prices. And I know friends who pay more than we do, but we’ve never had problems finding sitters! I was more comfortable with college kids when my daughter was little, but now that she’s two I feel like high school or younger is fine. What’s odd to me is that I would feel comfortable leaving the 11 or 12 year old home with my daughter for a short bit (while I ran to the grocery store down the street), but their parents aren’t comfortable with it. So interesting to me!

  2. This is a great post. I live in So Cal and feel like price per hour for babysitters is about the same $10-$15/hr. I have 2 kids, 10 and 4 with no grandparents in the area, so we struggled to find reliable sitters. My best method was to advertise at a nearby Christian college at the starting rate of $10/hr and I have found some pretty good babysitters that way. The problem is they leave for vacations and I have to work around their class schedules.

    I appreciate that your son Oscar was willing to work at a cheaper rate when he was getting started. When I was desperate for babysitters, I gave a middle school girl a try but her mom wanted me to pay her $10/hr with no experience. I talked her down to $8 but it didn’t end well.

    I always interview my sitters before I hire them so they can meet us and I can meet them. I prefer the college girls as they are more responsible and can drive, so I don’t have to do the pickup and drop off. It’s been a challenge over the years and I’m glad my kids are getting older so that hopefully I won’t be needing a babysitter as often now.

  3. I have one 1.5 year old and live on the Peninsula. We’ve had to find our sitters via UrbanSitter and other websites, which probably means they’ve skewed older and very experienced: early 20s, one 50+ sitter who disappeared after the first session. They’ve always had their own smartphone so communication hasn’t been an issue. We started paying $20 an hour but now we pay $22. It’s really steep, but otherwise we’d have no sitter at all. :/

    I’d happily hire a teenager if they had experience with babies and diapers, but I don’t know any in that category around here. Heck almost no one in our friend group know which end of the baby to hold, let alone having their own kids of babysitting age…

    I did babysitting training and first aid at age 13 and started sitting a bit after that. The few families I sat for were people my parents knew through church, and the kids were all out of diapers. I’d be fine with my son babysitting around the same age if he’s inclined, if there are still other children to babysit in the bay area by then!

  4. We pay $15/hour for 2 kids. I did have one person ask for $20/hour once. These are occasional sitters (high school aged) not a regular schedule/after school situation. I’m not sure what the rate per hour would be for an adult sitter (one who would drive my kids to activities, etc.)

    There aren’t a lot of available sitters so underpaying isn’t a good way to get them to say yes the next time.

    I babysat regularly as a teenager, for 3 different families as my “main gigs”. I was busy all the time. I charged $4/hour.

    1. Ooh – wanted to add that for a long time we did not use teen age sitters because my oldest had food allergies and we didn’t feel comfortable leaving a teen with the responsibility of using an epi-pen, etc. It even made family a bit nervous.

      My younger child is 9 and she demonstrates that she has what it takes to babysit at an early age. We live in an apartment so if someone in our complex wanted her to babysit in a year or two, I would feel comfortable knowing I was nearby. But I don’t think I’d be ready for her to be across town until she 14 or 15 years old. My older child shows NO inclination that he wants to babysit, ever.

  5. Back in the 80s when we needed a sitter, we paid minimum wage plus an additional dollar per kid per hour, and man, did we get flack for that! Everyone else around us expected babysitters to watch their children, feed, bathe, put kids in bed, and keep the house clean for a buck.

    When we interviewed the sitter (another shock for those around us) we told them what we expected, mainly keep the kids alive and happy until we get back! House cleaning wasn’t part of the job but we expected the house to be in the same shape as when we left. If the kids were asleep and the sitter wanted to load the dish washer or whatever, we gave them a bonus. We told our sitters they were watching and playing with our kids, who were the most important people in the world to us, this wasn’t playtime for the sitter – it was a huge responsibility!

    Back then no one had cell phones, so we relied on landlines and made sure if a sitter came over, his or her parents were also available that night for an additional emergency contact because we lived in a very rural area where neighborhoods were at least 30 minutes from town.

    For me, I would rather pay the $20 per hour and feel secure that my kids were being tended well, rather than go cheap on a kid who is just sitting *with* my kids. Accidents happen, and they certainly did when our kids were little, but I think paying a *dependable/knowledgable* sitter helps ease that fear of leaving your kids.

  6. My 15 year old started babysitting when she was about 12. Here in Boston she makes 15-20 an hour depending on the number and age of the kids. She has some regulars who also hire her to take in packages etc when they are away but she tries to refuse payment for that stuff saying it’s being neighborly.

    I started babysitting in that Bay Area when I was 12 and I made ONE DOLLAR an hour! (in 1079!)

  7. I’m curious, Gabby, do you pay your own kids when they watch their siblings?

    I babysat a lot as a kid. I grew up in a small town and the going rate was $1/hour per kid, maybe an extra dollar per hour thrown in if the family was generous or the kids were tough (this would have been the mid to late 90s). I don’t have kids yet, but have heard friends and family paying $10-15/hour here in the Midwest.

  8. My dad told me that some people have the knack for how to respond in an emergency and others do not and it’s not a function of age. (I would add preventing the emergency is a needed skill as well) I babysat at a young age and would have happily hired young teens but didn’t find many on the market. I found that high school aged kids were so busy that they were hard to catch as well.

    We paid $15-$20/hour but we generally hired folks through the daycare or church so they really needed the income. For high schoolers I’d usually pay about $12.

    I find the experience is very different for high-school aged kids. Many 16-year olds have had very little experience.

  9. We live in Minneapolis and pay anywhere from $5-$18/hour for our two kids – age 5 & 3. My niece is newly 12 and just started babysitting. We pay her $5/hour and she is currently our best sitter. She is great with the kids, cleans up the toys and puts the dishes in the dishwasher. I feel comfortable having her since I know my sister is just a few minutes away. We also have a high schooler who lives down the street that we pay $8/hour and we pay our daytime nanny (an adult) $18 when she works evenings and weekends.

    I started babysitting when I was 10 (hard to believe!) and made $2/hour. I remember when I started making $4 towards the end of high school and I thought I had hit the jackpot.

    I love that you make your kids practice diapering. We have had MANY backwards diapers from babysitters. :D

  10. I live in Kansas City, and we pay $10-15 an hour.

    My expectations are pretty low—keep the babies happy. BUT. What sets a sitter I’ll call back from the rest is cleaning up behind the kids. Putting dishes in the dishwasher, cleaning the Mac and cheese pot, etc. I don’t expect them to clean up preexisting messes, but the babysitters I call back or round up the check for are the ones who leave the house the way they found it. It shows me that this is a real job to them that they take seriously, and makes me trust that they are present with my children when I am away.

  11. Wow, I thought $15-20 was standard and I live somewhere with a lower cost of living than the Bay Area (or so I thought!) Maybe because I’m usually hiring college students or older?

  12. My daughter and family live across the bay from you. Babysitting there, if you can find one, starts at about $25 an hour. A round trip ticket from my home to their home costs about the same as an evening of babysitting, so I frequently end up with a ticket for long weekend to visit. It’s a win/win. I get to see my grandkids, the parents can do their thing without worrying about what’s going on at home, or worrying last minute changes in plans or traffic escalates the price of the sitter at home. In their area, sitters are actually quite hard to come by. And when you have very young children, bringing unfamiliar babysitters in can create so much drama it makes a night out not worth it. When big work things come up, I definitely get the call (and the ticket.)

    1. Alexis Giannini

      Same here! I live in a part of the country with a very low cost of living – the MidSouth. But $15-$20 is standard. I have one sitter who is younger – we have to pick her up and take her home – that I pay $10 an hour with tip. Honestly, my kids love the younger sitters the best because they really do love playing with the kids!

  13. I started babysitting at age 10 (1991) and made $2/hr. By the time I hit high school I was more selective and had three families that kept me very busy and I made $8-10/hr (1997-2000).
    We have a 5 year old and live in a mid-sized mountain town. When we had a full-time nanny (35 hours/wk), she requested $10/hr and we paid her $12/hr so she was getting what is considered a living wage in our area. After six months, we gave her a raise to $15/hr because she was doing more than childcare – she was grocery shopping and meal prepping, etc. She was amazing.
    For date-nights, the going rate here for one child is $12-15/hr and nearly everyone we use is a nursing student from the local college. We don’t expect them to do anything but hang out with our daughter and keep her safe.
    I would be comfortable using a teenager if I could find one! Most seem too busy with extracurriculars to add in babysitting.

  14. I love reading about babysitters. We prefer a babysitter over family for date nights or events because there is less guilt when we arrive home and the sitters follow our preferred rules making the next day easier. Our main sitters actually started at 15 which is young but their dad is our pediatrician so there is hat safety next. I have also started younger girls age girls as Mothers helpers so they are ready to be with the boys in a few years. I do have 3 full of energy boys…

  15. Interesting post. I have one child, now 9 and live in South Carolina. We pay our sitters $10/hour plus provide dinner if appropriate (and always “round up” if we are gone, say, 3.5 hours). (Note that this is for evenings out, not daytime/summer care.) We live in a college town and always have used college students. I probably would not use a child younger than 16 to babysit. We don’t have a landline, and I would not be comfortable using a sitter who doesn’t have a cell phone.

    If my son wanted to babysit I might allow him to start doing that around 14 or 15 (I started sitting at 12!). But my comfort level has always been with a slightly older student who hopefully would exercise good judgement in an emergency.

    I agree that my favorite sitters are ones who clean up the dishes and pick up the playroom!

  16. Can I just say I will be SO GLAD when my kids don’t need baby-sitters anymore? It’s expensive enough to go out, and then add $50+ of baby-sitting and a lot of things we’d love to do just don’t end up feeling worth it. :-( My mother-in-law stays with us overnight once every six weeks or so (she lives 2 hours away) so we get 5-6 nights of free baby-sitting a year, but for anything else we have to hire a sitter.
    My kids are currently 6, 3, and 2 months. Before the baby was born I was fine letting teenagers (as young as 15) watch my older two kids. Now that the baby is here I’ll probably stick to older (17+) sitters until she’s at least a year old. There is a family in my neighborhood that has 3 girls age 19, 17, and 15. It’s great because I just text them on a group text and they battle it out over who gets to watch my kids for date nights! We pay them $10-$12/hour depending on whether the kids are awake or have already gone to bed by the time the sitter comes over (my kids are in bed by 7, so we often try to go out after bedtime).

    I work part-time for home so I also have a regular sitter who watches my younger kids for 15-20 hours/week. She’s my neighbor (so convenient) so part of that time she takes the kids to her house and the rest of the time she comes here. When she’s at my house she also does some cleaning There is no set list of chores for her to do, but she generally sweeps, does the dishes, wipes down counters and sinks in the bathrooms and kitchen, and folds laundry. I pay her $15/hour. For where I live that’s a steal, as most nannies charge more like $20/hour. I hope that the convenience of being able to walk across the street to work makes up for the fact that I can’t swing $20/hour. She also speaks only Spanish, which I think is a barrier for her being able to get some of the higher paying childcare jobs. We’re very happy to have her and as business picks up I’m hoping to be able to pay her more. I rarely ask her to baby-sit for date nights just because she’s already with my children so much I figure she needs a break, and because, honestly, it’s cheaper to hire a neighborhood teen for date night. But we will hire her for date nights in a pinch.

    When my son is 12 his little sisters will be 9 and 6. I think that’s the age at which I’ll be comfortable leaving them alone for short periods of time during the day. That’s about when I started watching my younger siblings, and my son is shaping up to be pretty responsible. I think it really depends on the kid. 13-14 is probably when I will let him watch his siblings at night and let him get his CPR certification and baby-sit for other families if that’s something he wants to try.

  17. I am one of your older readers/fans and my earliest babysitting memory was getting paid .50/hour to take my neighbor’s twins, Nick and Dick (age 2) and their brother Jack (age 4) on a neighborhood walk. The mom would load the stroller with the twins and snacks and tell me not to come back for two hours. I was ten. When I returned, she’d up the ante by offering to have me scratch her back with a back scratcher for another quarter. (I declined.)

    I babysat through college but by then I made a whopping $3/hour.

    When I had my own young boys in the Bay area, we paid teenage girls $10/hour and they mostly read while providing overarching supervision of the boys playing on their own. When we discovered the magic of a boy babysitter who not only played with the boys but did dangerous things like catch bees in jars, our world changed. The boys begged for us to go out more so they could play with Leif.

    Now I happily babysit my grandchildren. While their safety and happiness is number one, I often tell them as I clean up after a meal or have them help me tidy that this is part of the babysitter’s job. I remind them that it wouldn’t be nice for their parents to come home from a date out to see such a mess. I like that they learn to help tidy after we’ve had fun. And it’s also funny that invariably the parents text to see how it’s going when my entire babysitting career was conducted without any communication whatsoever.

  18. Chicago suburbs with teenagers. My daughter gets about $10 per hour for 1-2 kids, more for more kids, but she’d rather walk dogs than babysit. She started in about 8th grade. Her younger sister hasn’t started babysitting yet @13, but I would let her.

  19. When our children were younger (3 and 5), we often did a babysitting swap with another young family. The deal was to get the kids in bed (or ready for bed) and then go out on a date – leaving one of the other parents here at our home. We were students so babysitting was free. We just picked a weekend and each couple got to go out on Friday or Saturday.

  20. So much to say! I babysat constantly when I was young, starting at 10! I find that crazy now that I’m on the other side – hiring a 10 year old to leave my little kids with?!!
    We live in south Florida with no family nearby. My husband has always been fearful of leaving our 2 kids with anyone so we initially only went out when my parents were visiting and could watch them. Now we have a trusted sitter (24 yo daughter of a close friend) and we get a out a bit more often though still not that much :( We pay her $12/hr (with a check) and I always throw in a bit extra for gas money since she lives almost 30 minutes away (that seems like a lot but here that isn’t so bad!). My kids adore her and constantly ask when she’s coming again. And she always helps them tidy up their rooms which is such a nice thing to come home to.

  21. Jen in Denver

    Wow I have four kids and don’t pay as much as some with one! We always have our baby in bed and the other three are awake for only 30 min- an hour tops so we pay $10-$12/hour. I appreciate someone being there, but they are mostly getting paid to watch tv after kids are in bed ;)

    When I babysat starting at age 10 (and later nannied) I always cleaned up- emptied the dishwasher, wiped the counters, swept etc. I know the parents appreciated it and it was a nice surprise. Plus, I was more likely to be invited back.

  22. When I had a 4-year-old and a baby, I started using a boy down the street as a babysitter. He was tall, and I didn’t realize he was only 11 until he turned 12! Ha. At that point, he was watching the boys while I was home. But very quickly, he became our go-to babysitter (for years one of his parents or aunts would be home when he babysit and we were out). He was a VERY responsible 11-year-old who was very into kids and had lots of experience from live-in younger cousins. At that point, he wanted to be a preschool teacher when he grew up. He was fabulous, even good with diapers, and I liked that our boys had a boy as a babysitter (we called it “rent a big brother”). Now he is at college and we are using his sister as a babysitter. I pay her $12/hr and round up. We are in Berkeley where things are expensive. In fact, I should probably give her a raise. She is an occasional babysitter for us. I’ve also paid $15/hr for older teen sitters before. Our regular once-weekly adult nanny gets $22/hr for a combo of childcare and cleaning (I have her come earlier than I need her for my sons to clean). She started with us at $20/hr. I have had other adult sitters that also charge $20/hr, that’s not at all a surprising rate for an adult sitter here.

    I love that I can now leave my boys home alone for short stretches (they are 11 and 7), but I still wouldn’t leave them without a sitter for a longer stretch or at night (they wouldn’t want to yet). Of course, the other day I left them home alone and we had a small earthquake. I was about 10 blocks away, but 10 blocks can be a lot in an earthquake! Luckily, this was just a small one. I also have a lot of close neighbors that I know my boys could go to in an emergency.

    We do have a land line phone still but my son uses Google Hangouts on the iPad to message me when he’s home alone. The phone is really just in case he needed to make an emergency call.

    1. P.S. I do find that the teen sitters, even the very responsible ones, are a lot less likely to do clean-up. And the kids are more likely to still be awake when we get home (though quiet in bed).

  23. I live in Gainesville, GA (small city one hour from Atlanta) and the going rate for a college kid is $13-15/hr. We have personally never had a sitter in our home…my parents watch our daughter at their home or ours occasionally. I have also become really comfortable taking turns babysitting with my close friends. Our children are close friends, so its a real treat for the kids, and we all benefit from free babysitting from people we trust and know our kids well. No one has taken advantage of each other yet, but I have heard of friend circles making up “coupons” that you earn when you babysit and spend when you leave your kids with someone. I think thats kind of ingenious and a really fair way to do it.

    I babysat a ton as a kid/teen/college student, but I have met very few teens that I would trust, unfortunately. I’m sure they are out there, I just haven’t met them. We haven’t felt a MAJOR need to get out by ourselves much the last couple of years…all of our friends bring their kids with them and our town has a family-friendly event nearly every weekend, but we have baby #2 coming in a couple of weeks and I remember needing more time away the first 2 years. We may have to reevaluate and find a trustworthy teen.

  24. I live in Portland, Oregon (with both sets of grandparents and three aunts in town) so we haven’t had to “hire” a sitter yet. I almost feel bad because that was my main gig in high school. This was the early 2000’s and I made $7/hr. At the same time, I see high schoolers now and can’t fathom leaving my precious baby with them. Jk, I’m sure they’d be fine, but high schoolers just look SO YOUNG now.

  25. We live in San Francisco and share a nanny with another family. We have had our nanny babysit in the evening for us twice since our daughter was born 2 1/2 years ago (the only nights we’ve both gone away from her for the evening..), and our nanny charges $20/hr in addition to her salary. Needless to say, we’d love a date night, but cringe at the cost; family is 3000 miles away…

  26. I live in Berkeley, CA.
    I have a four year old son and we have found sitters on urbansitter, nextdoor and from friends.
    I have hired high school and college students mostly but occasionally someone older.
    I like college students the best because they are the most affordable but also more comfortable then high school students I have hired. I pay somewhere between $15-18/hr. High school students were about 10-12.
    I use cash a lot but prefer Venmo.
    I live near UC berkeley, so it has been really convenient! I have not hired anyone younger then 14.
    I would love to hire your children as babysitters! I’m always looking to add to the list since students tend to leave the area frequently.

  27. I live in Utah and while I don’t have kids of my own, from what I’ve seen on ward/local Facebook pages the going rate is $2-5 per kid per hour for a high school-aged babysitter. Honestly it makes me kind of furious. I pay way more than that to the teenagers who look in on my cat while I’m on vacation! I get that when you have a bunch of kids hiring a babysitter can get expensive, but we’re sending the message to girls (because it’s mostly girls that do the babysitting) that their work is not valued.

    Speaking of girls doing the babysitting, I’ve noticed that when it comes to church assignments (in my area) it’s always the Young Women and never the Young Men that are asked to provide babysitting. I’d love to advocate for both the males and the females to cover this responsibility, but I get the feeling that many mothers are not comfortable having a teenage boy care for their children. There is the perception that teenage boys are less responsible, more likely to sexually abuse children, etc. I’ve love to see statistics and hear comments on this topic.

    1. I totally agree with this, but I also know my mother would have NEVER let me have a male babysitter (of any age) for the fear of molestation.

    2. Agreed on the pay! We pay our high school babysitter $10 per hour… and she’s our favorite babysitter out of the 4 we have (2 young adults, 1 grandma type).

      I’ve been thinking about asking the boys down the street to be mother’s helpers (they are ages 8 and 11). I’m comfortable with them because I’ve known them since they were babies and I know they are very well-adjusted kids. But, I wouldn’t let an adult male I met post-kids babysit my kids. Especially if they offered! They could be perfectly nice, or they could be predators. I’m especially attuned to this because my wife and I are gay, and predators often seek out kids without a dad in the picture (classically, the harried single mom).

    3. Mel, are you furious for the $2-5 per kid per hour being not enough to pay a sitter? That would be $8-20/hour for my 4. I have been paying usually about $10/hour for a teenage sitter, and I usually hire someone who is 16-18 years old. Now that my youngest is a little older and can talk, I would be more comfortable with a younger sitter, but I felt like 4 kids including a baby could be a lot for an average 12 year old to handle.

      All of that said, I thought I was paying pretty decent. I make sure they come into a clean home, if it is during a meal time, I have already prepared food (or have something delivered), and most don’t even bother to clear the table, and definitely don’t do any dishes. Rarely have I even had a sitter put kids to bed, but I recently found that I am on the lower end of the pay scale.

      I can’t compare what I made when I babysat because that was 25+ years ago, but I did a whole lot more work than the teens I have hired in the past few years. Out of probably 15 different teenagers I have hired, two have done anything more than pull out electronics to entertain my children.I stopped giving the password to computers (which were meant as last resort) because my kids would be plopped in front of them to watch movies. Still, without access to our computers, the babysitters themselves end up getting out their tablets or phones and having kids watch videos. Yes, my children’s welfare is important to me and valuable, but there are people working minimum wage jobs and putting in far more effort than sitting on a couch texting while my kids watch TV. Maybe that’s the best I can get for the pay?

  28. Jill Peterson Henry

    When we lived in San Francisco 2015-2016 we couldn’t find anyone for less than $20. And our nanny left us when she found someone willing to pay $25+. In San Mateo it wasn’t much cheaper. The cost of child care was unfortunately one of the main reasons we left the Bay Area.

    Everyone talks about saving for college. Child care and preschool costs are just as much as college these days and it’s just as stressful to get your young child into a consistent child care situation prior to school age years as it is in getting your child into college. We signed my child up for a wait list for a Montessori Preschool in SF when I was 6 months pregnant. We finally got a slot in the preschool when my son was 2.5 years old and the school was $2600 month. It just shouldn’t be this way.

  29. Luckily I don’t have to pay a sitter too often anymore. But I always left my kids with 12-14 year olds. I’m the youngest o 9 and am not a worry wart at all. And most often did babysitting trades with neighbors or my nieces because it was hard to afford babysitting. But I’ll be honest I have a tough time paying a 14 year old more than $10 an hour to play with my kids when my nieces get paid about that as CNAs in rural Utah and the work is much more demanding and requires a whole lot more training. But I’ve always been known as a cheapskate. I do feel bad for my nice who only
    Gets $6-7 an hour and has to drive the kids around with her own gas money. She probably should ask for more, but is far too shy.

    1. And minimum wage is $7.25 in Utah so I do think that’s a reasonable wage for a 12-14 year old if they aren’t incurring additional expenses.

      1. I’m in Utah also, and frequently use sitters from a family of girls. The youngest of the sitting-aged girls (13) comes most frequently (the older two, 17 and 18, have gotten jobs now) but we call them often and they keep coming back! We pay $7 per hour for our 5 kids. They walk over from a few houses away, and she’s too young to get a job at this point so I THINK it’s working. That seems to be the going rate in our neighborhood for the younger aged teens not yet driving and without responsibilities of getting kids places etc. I usually ask the babysitter if they have a going rate and only one girl has ever given me a number. I usually rely on word of mouth from my friends as to what they are paying. The one girl who did give me a number was a senior in high school and was driving, and she thought $7-8 was fair for my kids. This post has me feeling cheap though! Counting down the days until our oldest can babysit for sure!

        1. Having an oldest child to babysit is nice. However, as the oldest of a large family, I babysat my siblings a lot growing up. By the time I went to college, I never, ever wanted kids of my own because I was so done with childcare.

          As a suggestion, please extend the same courtesy to your child who is babysitting as you would to someone else’s child you hire to babysit—schedule your child’s time in advance and pay them. please.

          1. I don’t ask my daughter to babysit often and she is fine with volunteering her time. Every family is different and this arrangement works for us.

      2. Plus it’s $10 an hour CASH without taxes, etc. taken out. I think that’s more than fair, especially when, like someone commented above, they seem to do nothing besides keep the kids alive. House is a mess when we get home, dishes sitting out, and nearly always I can tell they did nothing but watch TV while I was gone, regardless of what time of day it was.

        I will say, we have two neighbors that are sisters who put in way more effort to entertain the kids at least, but unfortunately those awesome girls are also awesome athletes and are NEVER available!

    2. I’m in the Midwest and don’t need a babysitter for my family now that my oldest is almost 13, and I am comfortable leaving her with her brothers (9 & 4) for a couple hours. I don’t pay her, but it’s her only chore, and she doesn’t babysit often. These comments are giving me sticker shock, and I’m wondering how the rates jumped so high above minimum wage. For parents who want an affordable night out there are parents night out programs offered at churches and non profits that are less expensive than a sitter coming to the house and then you can have a relaxing night at home.

  30. We live outside Seattle and pay $15-20 per hour for college students to babysit our 6 year old and 2 year old. When my daughter was 3 years old before my son was born we paid $10 for a 13 year old but I didn’t feel like she could handle things once my son was born. I’m paying an 11 year old $10/hour to be a mother’s helper and play with the kids this summer so I can work (I work part time from home).

  31. I started babysitting when I was 11, which is CRAZY to me now. Crazy crazy. I still remember the first time I had to change a diaper, which was on a mobile toddler, haha.

    I expected to be the kind of parent who gets a babysitter for a date night once a month from when my baby was just a few months old, but I just couldn’t do it. We mostly took our son out with us or rarely made use of our parents (rarely because they don’t live nearby). I don’t think I hired an actual babysitter until our son was at least 18 months old, and that was my boss’s daughter who I knew was extremely experienced and responsible. Even though we had to drive her back and forth 30 minutes each way! I just had a really hard time leaving our son until he was old enough to communicate with us if something happened.

    Now we have a babysitter who lives just two houses down. Lucky us! It seems all the sitters in our area charge $10/hour.

    I won’t hire a sitter under 16.

    I hope our son babysits! Both my husband and I did it a ton as teens. I’d encourage him to start around age 14. I just don’t think kids younger than that have enough judgement (I know I didn’t).

  32. I started babysitting when I was 12 and now it seems crazy I was left in charge of 2-3 kids at that age. I would be nervous for my 12 yr old son to do that and he’s responsible. I think I generally made $5-$7/hr in the Houston suburbs in the ’90s.

    We’ve had grandparents nearby in both places we’ve lived so rarely did we need a sitter. Our next door neighbors had two daughters who were good babysitters but they had such busy schedules that they were rarely available. My boys are now 9 & 12 so now I can do things in the day and feel ok with leaving them at home. We also have some close friends who will help out with an overnight trip.

  33. Oh my gosh I am so jealous of these rates. We live in Washington, DC and pay babysitters anywhere from $18-25/hour to watch our three young kids. Many of them are working on or have advanced degrees, but that’s not why we hire them; that’s just reflective of the pool. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to babysit, and I’d probably let the oldest do it around 12, but that’s because I know he’s a cautious kid.

  34. I babysat for all the neighborhood kids in Junior high and high school. My most memorable experience is when we baked cookies and I didn’t realize the oven was on broil and the cookies caught fire! I got the kids out of the house and to my house across the street while the fire Dept came and made sure everything was safe (luckily the fire was just contained to the oven), and the parents talked to the fire chief on the phone and didn’t even come home. I babysat for them for years after this too.

    Now I have two kids (with two more on the way!) and I’m lucky enough to live a mile from my MIL. She watches my kids while I teach full time, but when we both get the summer off my husband and I try to take date nights as much as we can. During the school year we don’t because she already has them so much. My kids have had one babysitter who wasn’t family, and even then it was one of my best friends, so we’ve been really lucky. Part of me feels weird having students in my home to watch my kids, so we haven’t reached out to them yet. Maybe when our kids are older?

  35. Love this post! We have a 3 yr old, 1 yr old and another on the way. Until recently we rarely left our kids with anyone because we live far away from family and the stress of leaving them plus the cost of a sitter and the hassle of finding/getting comfortable with someone was just not worth it. The stress of this season of life has gotten to us though and we now see the value of getting out on our own occasionally. I also have had someone come over while I’m at home to entertain the kids while I work on a project without distraction (painting a room for example). I’m a SAHM, btw.

    We have found a few neighborhood girls (age 15-20) who we feel comfortable with and the kids love. We pay $10 an hour, mostly because that’s an easy number. We’ve been told it’s generous but seems reasonable to me.

    The first few times we had someone come over I was very much a helicopter mom about it, but I’ve since relaxed a bit. I guess I’ve realized that she is there to hang with the kids for a night and give us a break. If the rules and routines aren’t followed exactly, whatever. As long as everyone is safe and she is engaging with the kids, I’m happy. Our girls have mostly cleaned up after the kids go to bed, sometimes not totally.

    Something I do wonder/worry about is phone use. I of course want her to be focused on the kids, but I also worry about taking and sharing photos of my kids on social media. I have no idea if this had happened and I’ve never brought it up. I’m not sure what to say without sounding like a weirdo.

    1. Interesting point you bring up about taking photos of your children. I work as a nanny and often take photos of the children, either because they’re doing something cute/funny and or the child will actually ask me to take a photo of something they’re doing. For families that I babysit just occasionally and don’t know very well, I would never post on social media (and often don’t take photos of those kids anyway) but for a family that I nanny regularly if I wanted to post something, I’d ask. Two families I’ve nannied for in the past were high profile and I specifically remember when starting with one of the families if I was allowed to take photos/post on social media. The mum didn’t mind but appreciated me asking. In saying all that, I rarely post photos of children anyway but I have hundreds of funny photos/videos that will probably just stay on my phone and never be seen again haha (but also :( because they’re so cute). Often I send some photos to the parents but sometimes I forget to send it through.
      Also, if a parent ever brought it up and asked for me to not take photos and/or not post to social media I, of course, would respect that and wouldn’t think it was weird at all so definitely don’t feel like a weirdo if you do decide to ever bring it up!

      1. Social media and posting photos of your kids is a valid concern! Even our public school asks permission to post children’s faces. If it’s a concern for you ask your sitter not to post faces (if you let them post at all). There are too many creeps out there to let feeling a bit weird stop you from protecting your kids!

        1. I say something to the effect of “By the way, please don’t take or post any pictures of my kids. Thanks!”
          We also have a no screen rule for others phones, tablets or tv unless mom and dad are around. We do have designated shows (with a limit) they can watch while we are away. I have a 7 & 5 year old. I’m very protective of screens and i’m not ashamed to be forthright with others about it.

  36. I live in Sydney and have a 12 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. I occasionally leave the 12 year old home alone while I take the 7 year old to gymnastics, but I would not allow him to babysit until he’s at least 14. I have a local babysitter who is 16 who I use regularly and pay $16.50 an hour (her rate). I also have an adult who will clean/iron for $25 an hour or babysit/clean/iron for $30, so lately I’ve employed her on a Friday or Saturday night so we can go out and – bonus – come home to a clean house! The kids are easy going and I prepare their meal and offer the same to whoever is looking after them.

  37. We live in Berkeley and regularly pay $20 or $22 for two kids. This is very normal here. All our sitters are college age or older and they drive and have their own phone. I would have a hard time if they wouldnt. I feel comfortable knowing I can check in and they can drive in case of an emergency. I wish we could have sitters for $10-15 but I understand that might mean they would be much younger and without a car/phone.

    1. We don’t even have a car- so I don’t expect my sitters to have one (we’re in Oakland). Sitters have arrived by Uber or by bus or walking. And in emergency, those are what I’d do too (well, actually we’ve biked to the ER at Children’s in Oakland). I do let the sitters know they are allowed to use our bikes.

  38. Love this post! I generally feel more comfortable with a younger babysitter if I know their parents or they’ve been referred to me by someone I know. If they didn’t have a cell phone, we would probably leave them one of ours, but also make sure they saw the note on our fridge that has our neighbors’ names and info in case they just needed to run next door. Some of our experiences:
    – I babysat at age 10 or 11 for 2 neighbor kids who were under 5. Their mom was never far away (she mostly just needed to run errands) and my mother was a stay at home mom, so there was back-up nearby if needed.
    – When I was 14, I babysat an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old and earned about $10/hr, which was generous at the time (15+ years ago) in San Diego.
    – In Seattle, we pay a 20-something experienced teacher from daycare $20/hr when my daughter is awake and $15/hr when she’s asleep. We had the 14-year-old granddaughter of a friend babysit two summers ago while she was in town two years ago for $8/hr. We rounded up to $10/hr because she was fantastic (she cleaned up after dinner, put away all the toys, tracked our daughter’s bottles/diapers in detail, etc).
    – To save money, we typically try to trade with someone in our parents’ group since we all live fairly close to each other. This worked better when we all just had 1 kid.
    – In Lisbon last year, we paid 10EUR/hr for a minimum of 4 hours through a service called PrioVida Kids for a 20-year-old student who spoke fluent English and was great with our daughter. There was no additional fee paid to the service and they run background checks, so I’m assuming the actual take home pay of the babysitter was something less. This was the only non-cash payment – it went through PayPal
    – In Paris this year, we paid 15 EUR/hr to a friend of a friend who was getting her master’s degree.

    I’d be interested in how people negotiate fees with babysitters – do you typically say what you’re willing to pay, or do you ask what the babysitter charges?

    1. In reference to negotiation fees, as a babysitter/nanny, if I get work with a new family I simply tell them what I charge when we first make contact, whether by calling or text. If what I charge is too high I’m fine with them not asking me to do it. I know I’m good at what I do, I have loads of experience and I get plenty of work (it’s also my only income and has been for years). No one has ever said to me they pay lower so that’s all they can pay me but if they did I’d just say that’s fine but I won’t be able to do the job – maybe it would be different if I just did babysitting on the side and it wasn’t my main income. Some parents state it to me before I bring it up but it has never been lower than my rate so it’s never been an issue.
      From what others Seattle-area based parents have said about what they pay their babysitter it seems like what you pay is right so if you want to bring it up when asking someone new I’d just say ‘we pay x amount per hour, I hope that’s ok.’ or something like that. At least if you state it, it doesn’t make it awkward.

  39. – At what age would you let your kids babysit for hire?

    At 12-ish after taking the Red Cross course. I was required to take it also when I was younger.

    – And what age is the youngest babysitter you’ve ever hired?
    13.

    – Do you trust young teens to watch your kids, or do you only hire adults?
    Either. If the kids know the young teen well, we’re ok with that.

    – If you don’t have a landline, or your sitter doesn’t have a cell phone, how do you handle communication?
    There are 2 of us, so we give the sitter one of our phones unlocked (I know that’s not great). We’re getting a landline before the oldest starts sitting so we don’t have to get her a cell phone.

    – How much are babysitters paid in your area? Do you feel like it’s a fair rate? Do people pay cash? Write checks? Send payments via Venmo?
    We’re in Oakland, too, so you know that rate. It seems fair-ish, but with 3 kids, it adds up. We have done cash and checks. I like checks because I always forget to go to an ATM.

    – Is it hard to find sitters where you live? Do you have a regular babysitter that you rely on? If you have a full or part time nanny while you’re at work, do you hire them to do other babysitting too? Like date night or over the weekend?
    We have regular sitters that we vacillate/rotate through. We’ve had a full time nanny/sitter in the past. But we got different sitters for evenings. This summer a 14 year old is going to do a week of full time for us because she wanted to make up a “summer camp” for our kids.

    – Are you uncomfortable with sitters altogether and basically only let your parents watch the kids (and rarely that)?
    My parents are states away. We have no local family, so it’s only sitters.

    We’re at a stage of when to start letting the kids stay home alone. I was allowed to babysit my siblings at 11 without the Red Cross course, but had to take the course to sit for other families. Our oldest is 10 and is on the cusp of babysitting. We’ll see how this goes.

  40. This is really interesting to read, as an American now living in a suburb of London I would say there is not a culture of babysitters here.

    I grew up babysitting from 11 or 12 both for my family and for others. We have used my husbands god daughter on occasion and pay her around £6 an hour which is a 1/3 more than national minimum wage for 16-17 year olds (there is an age related minimum wage until 25 in the U.K.) and what the few people I could ask said was the going rate.

    To be honest most of the friends and family we know rely on family members or friends for “babysitting”.

  41. My oldest daughter started babysitting last year at 12 / usually makes $10 per hour cash (no matter the # of kids) here in the Midwest. She does have a phone & I personally would not be comfortable sending her to sit without it. So few have landlines. She only sits for families she can walk or bike to, though I’m sure that will slowly change. Currently I’m sending next daughter (age 11) with her as a free bonus :) to get her the experience.

    I quit using sitters once my oldest (son) was clearly hanging out with the sitter rather than being “babysat.” :) About 12. I think every mom just sort of knows when she is done with sitters? We do not live close to family so have used many & various young teens as sitters. I agree that they are harder to find as they are involved in more activities in HS!

    I feel like all kids should babysit if possible. It’s an immediate eye-opening dose of responsibility, a guaranteed problem-solving experience, and the joy of $$ you earned. No downside! :)

  42. I live in Los Angeles, am a Native Angeleno, which I think matters because not a single person that I know, nor myself uses a babysitter. Everyone either has family or as friends, we use each other occasionally, kind of like a trade off.

    Also, I have never concidered hiring a babysitter and would only trust an adult. I do find it strange that not a single friend or family member that I know has ever used a teenaged babysitter. Many of our friends and family are of Mexican and Filipino culture and I think that might be why. Culturally babysitting isn’t something that’s done.

  43. This is a very interesting discussion for me as in Australia it’s pretty unheard of for 11/12yr olds to babysit other kids.
    Our regular babysitter is 21yrs old and we pay her $25/hr. My friends with kids pay babysitters between $15-$25/hr.

    1. Not sure where you are in Aus but I think $25 is fair for a someone 21+, especially if you’re in a well-off area in a capital city. That’s what I charge (and I know a lot of my friends charge the same) and parents seem to be fine with that. If I went back to my small hometown though I don’t think parents would pay that, simply because most peoples income is lower everything is cheaper etc. I think I’d be lucky to get more than $15.

      And yes, 11/12 sounds very young to me. I used to go to a family friends house from about 12/13 when she had a baby but if she left me alone with him it probably wasn’t for longer than an hour and her mum was just down the road. I was also pretty mature though and looooved babies. I don’t think many of my friends would have been interested at that age and I know none of them actually were babysitting till they were older. I probably started regular babysitting when I was 15 and got $15/hr

  44. I have 3 kids under the age of 4, and thus give their young ages I only hire young people age 17+, who have their own cell phones because we don’t have a landline. I live in the Boston area and usually pay $15 to 20 an hour (I tip the $15/hour babysitter generously). My neice is 12 and wants to babysit, but I’m nervous about it. I’m thinking of starting her out with a subset of my kids, daytime only, that thing. She does have her own cell phone, which helps tremendously. I used to babysit around that age for the kids next door, but my mom was always there so I think that gave them great comfort.

    I have a weird question – how do you handle dinner/meals for your sitters? I sometimes leave money for pizza, or tell them they can have some of what I’ve prepared for the kids. For a sitter we use frequently I’ll buy her a nice salad or something. Some bring their own food. My neighborhood gal’s mom brings her dinner (so sweet). What do you do? It can sometimes feel really awkward!

    1. I would make an easy kid-friendly dinner in advance and tell the sitter to help him/herself. Usually this was a big bowl of cold pasta salad and a big fruit salad. No turning on the stove and very little clean-up. When I was a child my parents would allow TV dinners for the children (a treat only allowed on nights with sitters) and then make a big bowl of popcorn and a big fruit salad for later with the sitter. I’m guessing the sitter ate her meal before coming over.

    2. We almost always order a pizza ahead of time (our local place will let you specify a delivery time and pay online) for a sitter. It’s not the healthiest option, but it makes our daughter feel like she’s getting a special treat.

      If we’re trading with another family, we keep out snacks, but they usually handle dinner since it’s typically whatever they’re eating.

  45. I have been babysitting since I was 12. I took the red cross babysitting course and the first few times my mom came with me to my first gigs. I was thinking the other day that I was 12 and left with a 3 month old. I cannot even fathom that now. She just graduated from high school. As the oldest cousin I had plenty of opportunities to babysit and I started nannying full time during the summers in high school.
    When I tried to get nannying gigs during the summer in Boston, parents wanted early education students, which I wasn’t. By that time I had 10 years of babysitting under my belt, so I thought i was plenty qualified.
    I dont remember how much I got paid as a kid. I never felt like it was too little. Even now I don’t really have an hourly rate, I take what the parents give me. But that can mean up to $100 for 4 hours.
    I have no idea what I will do when I have a child. i think i may miss babysitting and I would love to give an older teenager the opportunity to watch my child but I am not sure if I will be too nervous to actually do that.

  46. My first babysitting gig was in 2004 when I was 10 (!!). It was a family my mom watched one night every week (which I helped with) and our close family friends, but it still surprised me they trusted me! It was only for a couple of hours and they were nearby at the beach, but it was a 3-month-old baby! We were on vacation with them and I’d learned all week how to give the baby her bottle and change her diapers. I babysat every once in a while during the day after that for the next couple of years.

    By the time I was in 7th grade, I was babysitting regularly for a local family with two kids. I think the younger one was probably about 2 or 3 at the time. In high school, I was a highly-sought babysitter for several teachers’ families. I had three families that would fight over me every year for the teachers’ Christmas party. I continued babysitting throughout high school and college. I’d usually get $7-10/hr (the last time I babysat was in 2016 and that was still the going rate in my area for a good babysitter, I was 22 then) though sometimes I’d get a generous bonus from some families. I found that the dads were more likely to pay extra than moms- one of them once told me it took him years before he was comfortable watching the kids by himself and that’s why he thought we should get paid more!

    I always cleaned up any messes we made and dinner plates, etc. if I fed them, and made sure the house was as clean as when I arrived (plus all toys put away) but only did more than that if I was asked to (which only happened once when I was babysitting for the whole week and not-so-close family members were going to be visiting and get there before the parents were back). I occasionally babysat for full days or a week or two in the summer to cover day care while the day care provider was on vacation. For three kids, that was usually $250 for the whole week. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in college, but all of the families I watched had a landline still so it wasn’t an issue.

  47. In chicago, I pay a “career nanny” $17 for 2 kids. A teenage neighbor $12 for 2 kids. When we had a fulltime nanny at our house all the time watching babies, we bought an extra cellphone and left it in a drawer. This was for emergency, if nanny forgot her phone. We don’t do that anymore, but would if we had someone at our house fulltime.

    Difference between a “career nanny” and a teen. The nanny also helps with household stuff – laundry, running dishwasher, helping to remind me of things we need to buy (tp, wipes)

    Now that my kids are older (3.5, 5.5) I feel comfortable with a teen sitter for 3-4 hours. But when it’s a very long day, I prefer a more an older adult that will also keep my house in order!

  48. Here in Orange County we pay between $10 and $15 an hour. I pay my high school sitters $10 – $12 and college age to mid twenties sitters $15 an hour.

    The youngest I have ever hired was 17 years old but I would be fine with 16 or even 15. I started when I was 15 and was fine. I think it is a great way for teenagers to learn about responsibility and other job/life skills. I pay using cash or check. My husband abhors Venmo so I’m stuck until he comes around to the wonderfulness that is Venmo.
    It is hard to find sitters in our area but I have two regular sitters we use every week that are high school students and when they graduate (this week! ahh!) I ask them to find their replacements. So far it has worked for us and they are able to find us people that they know would be a good fit. I also am trying to find sitters through the churches in the area and at the local college. We don’t have any family around so if I don’t find reliable sitters I would never go out and that would be the antithesis of self care in my book.

  49. I just about spit my coffee out, $10-$15 in the bay area?????? I’m in San Jose and this is NOT my experience. Granted, I have a very young toddler so we aren’t comfortable hiring high school students to watch and put our three kids to bed. But, I’m paying a part time nanny $23-$25/hour depending on how many kids are home with her on that particular day. Even hiring a college aged “mother’s helper” is running close to $20/hour. Most of my friends whose youngest is in the 4-5 years old range go with that option. We really don’t have much of a choice since we live here with no family nearby. And we are not hiring the most expensive caregivers listed on Care.com. We’re also expected to pay during vacations and holidays as well-even if they are not working for us in another capacity. Its so hard to find babysitters and nannies here that you basically have to do whatever you can to keep them happy and not leaving to work for another family. Its so so stressful.

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