Saturday, May 24, 2014

Babysitting

No one ever babysat us.

It has come to my attention that the going hourly rate for babysitting now ranges between $10.25 and $16. Our children are our future, and no expense need be spared to ensure their safety and well-being. Modern children, that is. All kinds of expense could be spared when we were kids. We really weren't any of us worth that much. In the nicer neighborhoods, it was considered sufficient to hire someone to keep us from jumping off the roof or bursting into flame, and you could get that for pocket change.

Fifty cents an hour was the going rate when I was deemed old enough to babysit, and that was not very old. Nowadays a prospective sitter is subject to interviews and background checks. Nobody gave us background checks. We weren't old enough to have backgrounds. Parents would readily entrust their legacy to a neighborhood girl as soon as her top front teeth came in. I was in some demand as a babysitter, but not out of talent; there were just too many babies. Some parents just stapled them to their crib blankets and headed on out, but our community was upscale enough that parents were made to feel remiss if they didn't assign a sixth-grader to the task.

Teeth in: ready to go make some money.
I can't remember anyone explaining to me how to operate a diaper. The subject didn't come up for a while but at some point I was dealing with an infant that I couldn't hear the TV over, and when I investigated, I could sort of tell that the problem was in the diaper vicinity. I was just wise enough to examine how the thing was folded and where the pins went before removing the old, but I didn't have a clue what to do with the reject. The only instruction I had was a phone number for the doctor and I didn't think the situation merited a house call, quite.

Seemed like most of the time I was in charge of babies, and they were already in bed by the time I showed up. It wasn't so bad. The pot was always sweetened with a bag of potato chips and Coca-Cola in the refrigerator, both items that were not available at home, and some of the people had color TVs, too. Hours would pass by, I would fall asleep on the sofa, rumble awake when the key turned in the door, and get driven home with a snappy buck-fifty. Lest anyone think that this was real money back then, it was not. Even in comparison with no money, it didn't seem like a lot of money. It was crap money even then. Minimum wage was $1.40. I'd have to work a dozen gigs to get enough coin to buy a crummy blouse. From Lerner's.

I'm supposed to BE the baby.
I'm not saying I was worth it. Girls are supposed to like babies and want to play with them. I didn't. If I had had children, I would have farmed out their care to a prepubescent girl for shit wages, too. There's nothing I've ever owned that I'm not happy to let someone else take care of.

So paying up to twice minimum wage is standard fare for babysitters these days, but it can be boosted beyond that. Evidently it's now normal to expect CPR and first-aid training. Neo-natal nurses go for a premium. Also a background in early childhood education or nursing. Sitters over 21 command more. Ditto if you want some housework done, or have lots of kids. You probably have to fill out forms to get Social Security taken out.

It was straight hourly rate back then, though. One time I babysat for five dogs whose owners had learned that it was cheaper in the long run to hire company for them than to leave them to their own devices. Five Great Danes. Five extraordinarily flatulent Great Danes. Generally I enjoyed dogs but my eyebrows never did really grow back proper. Another time I was left in charge of a grade-schooler who was in bed preparing to vomit. Being anywhere near a vomiting person was my personal nightmare. I don't think fast on my feet, but I managed to locate a wastebasket for her. No clue how to go about cleaning up. I believe I mopped up with an entire box of bedside Kleenex and may have contributed to the wastebasket myself.

The parents felt bad when they came home. Real bad. Buck seventy-five bad.

45 comments:

  1. I'm from that era, too. WE didn't have soft sand under our playground equipment either, like these wusses that are being raised today. We had hard concrete. And the sliding board was metal, not plastic. And very, very high up to a kid. Go down one of THOSE on a scorching hot day when you're wearing shorts -- YOW! And play dates?! Kids today have a more active social life than their parents! They don't need a baby sitter -- they need a personal assistant. I shudder to think what all this coddling is going to make of them. They are raising a generation that will grow up thinking they are kings and queens of the world. They are in for a rude awakening when they hit puberty. I'm all for making kids feel loved and important. But NOT like they are the most important thing in the universe. Ooo... don't get me started, Murr!

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    1. Too late! Well, I kind of thought the same thing a while back, but I'm pretty impressed with the 20-40-year-olds I meet now. It's a pretty good crew. They're kind of horrified if you tease them, because they were taught to be nice, but they're tolerant and smart and make a dang nice cup of coffee, too.

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    2. The slide was very high up, blazing hot when school started and again the next spring, AND we wore dresses. I remember snagging one of mine on the metal.

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    3. I don't know if anyone else ever did this, but we rubbed wax paper over the slide to make it slidier.

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    4. We actually had our VERY OWN metal slide, arranged quite conveniently just off our house's balcony! You just reminded me that my Mom (of all people: my rather timid-seeming Norwegian Mommy!) did, indeed, show us that we could do that with wax paper... I'm not sure people even HAVE wax paper in their houses, these days, much less metal slides!

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    5. We had a swing and a sliding board. No balcony. That would have upped the ante for sure. And I have wax paper in my house! I use it to slide under cakes whilst they are being frosted, and one or two other things. Anyway, I need it.

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  2. Children babysitting babies wasn't a big thing in Australia, so I never babysat until I was 16-17 and even then only a handful of times. When I was married with my own kids though, I did child minding in my own home for mums who wanted to go back to work, (in the days before certification was necessary) and sometimes did an overnight minding for couples who wanted an evening out. One time I got ripped off by a woman who came to enquire about hourly rates vs an overnight stay, we agreed on a price and in due course she arrived with her child AND three siblings. all of them uncontrollable and refusing to listen or go to bed, those buggers wrecked my house and several of my kids toys. I never did overnight again. But my daytime mums were so happy with the care one of them doubled my payment voluntarily. With four kids of my own, that money was very welcome.

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    1. Four incorrigible kids overnight in my house. Kill me now.

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    2. My own four were stunned and took themselves to bed early to get away from them.

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    3. I was always astonished when I saw out-of-control kids. My folks had control over us so early I don't remember how they did it.

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  3. I had a baby sister at 11 and a baby brother at 13 so I was in high demand as a babysitter. Never got rich, though. My daughter pays $17.00 dollars an hour PLUS tip for her three children!!!

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    1. Does she pay YOU that? We volunteered to look after the cute kid across the street in an emergency, but it never occurred to me someone might pay me for it.

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  4. I was of the 50 cents an hour crowd, too. I liked babysitting for this one family who always had a huge freezer full of ice cream. I made quite a dent in it, every time. Made up for the cheap wages. :-)

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    1. Yeah! You'd know them as the Ice Cream people, or the Potato Chips people, or the Pepsi people...can't remember the kids' names.

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  5. I didn't like babies either when I was 12 and did everything I could to keep from helping out with my baby brother. Never babysat for others, not even once. It came as a huge surprise how much I immediately loved and enjoyed my own when they were born. Now, I am the most obnoxious, child-worshipping grandma you can imagine.

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    1. I've come around too, but it took almost sixty years.

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  6. Never sat until I was 16 and then was paid .50 an hour also. I don't remember sitters myself. My Brothers were older. When they were also out of the house I was fine at home alone at probably 11.

    The coddling of kids today I don't mind so much, but I do wish they had some manners and respect. Apparently Barney is not able to teach "Please and thank you, these are the magic words" all by himself.

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    1. But there is a lot of emphasis on sharing and being nice to people. What I notice is not so much emphasis on the old standards of behavior, like sitting quietly in a restaurant or not interrupting adults when they're having a conversation. So it's a mixed bag. Get off my lawn!

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  7. The rate must have been fifty cents for two generations. I began babysitting about 1954, and my fifty cents always included the supper dishes. No dishwashers back then, and backup was my mom if someone was injured. That happened once.

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    1. Whaa! I guess I started about ten years later, and the rate hadn't gone up? Humph. I can't remember doing any dishes, though.

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  8. These days it costs young parents a fortune to go anywhere. And more if they go somewhere decent. Just to go to a movie, by the time they pay for tickets, a treat, gas, and a babysitter, you're looking at a hundred bucks. For a young family that's a pretty pricey date.

    I was lucky to have good folks to babysit for. And good babysitters. No complaints here :)

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    1. Seriously. I don't think anyone ever babysat us. I'll have to ask my sister. My parents never went anywhere.

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  9. I too belonged to the fifty cents an hour crew. With cleaning duties thrown in.
    And quit, permanently, when I was reprimanded for not cleaning the house sufficiently well that the attar of urine disappeared.

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    1. Doesn't the Attar Of Urine sound like the chief poo-bah of some odd kingdom?

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  10. I was almost 11 years old when my brother was born. Don't talk to me about free babysitting!

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    1. Oy. You didn't have a chance. I wonder if my sister who was five years older was the one who babysat me? I didn't have much of a grasp of what other people did. I thought clothes appeared folded in my drawers by magic.

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  11. I was 11 when I took over care for my two younger brothers, and the housework while Mom was away in hospital for several months. So once she got back, I was much in demand as a babysitter. Yes, I got housework, too; feed the kids supper, put them to bed, clean the kitchen. 50 cents to a buck per night, depending on the parents' generosity.
    The draw for me was books; they always had something to read that I didn't have at home. Something ho-hum, something interesting, maybe; and sometimes I struck pay dirt, stuff the family wouldn't have admitted to, mind-boggling stuff. Who cares what they paid me??

    Besides, I did like kids, and I got out of washing dishes at home. My brothers had to do them. :) (What's the smiley for "evil grin"?)

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    1. Gee. I just watched TV. It's a wonder I can read at all, when I think about it.

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  12. I started babysitting when I was in 6th grade, so about 12 years old. Luckily all my little charges were too old to be in diapers, because I don't think I could have handled that. In fact, I still don't think I could, and I'm pushing 60, too.

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  13. I remember babysitting for 50 cents an hour at first when I was 15. Mom would not allow me to babysit before that. I often babysat for a single father just 4 houses down from us and mom always popped in to make sure all was well. When I turned 16 my rate went up to $1 an hour. I often babysat for 2 different families! I was making a lot of money...for back then! I was always popular as the kids loved me. I would bring along crafts for them to do! We also played games and sang songs and I told stories...I was very creative! I eventually worked as a preschool teacher, an aide in an elementary school and did daycare in my home! I liked kids.

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    1. Obviously. In contrast, I was the babysitter from hell. I wanted everyone to take care of ME. I still do.

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  14. When I was little, being babysat meant going to sleep in the bed with all the coats while my parents played bridge at someone else's house. When I babysat, the best thing was the family that introduced me to jazz and always had groovy new stuff to listen to. We are talking the forties and the fifties respectively.

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    1. Oh, the old hauled-along-and-tossed-on-the-coat-bed trick! I've seen that done. It wasn't done to me. Sounds comfy though.

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  15. Babies... I still babysit for a living-never have gotten over loving Babies. Now - kids--that's another story altogether. Once they start walking and talking it becomes a new game and I don't want to play it.

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  16. This cracked me up and those pictures are priceless. I'm guessing you're the youngest, yes? I can't imagine any other reason why you weren't exposed to the awful truth about diapers, full and otherwise. Of all the Crayola colors, Burnt Sienna is my favorite but I won't go near its cousin, Baby-Shit Yellow.

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    1. Oh, in so many ways you can tell I'm the baby. Still.

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  17. I was the eldest and raised to be a babysitter when I turned 12 my parents raced out the door leaving me in charge of 5 disgusting young boys. Not a penny in payment. To this day.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. Five disgusting young boys. I'm assuming these are your brothers. Your parents may or may not still be with us. But some of your brothers must be. Make 'em pay up, sister.

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  18. Farty Great Danes? Good grief, one is bad enough. But a flatulent quintet (in harmony), however musical, is not going to cut the mustard. Just the cheese. Roth x

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    1. Just my luck, I put your comment in the "pronounce in British fashion" file. And thought, farty Great Danes? No, just six.

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