I was 12 years old the first time I babysat someone who wasn’t family. It started with my Mum’s boss who had three children five and under, including an infant. By that point, I had already been babysitting my brother and a family friend for a couple of years.
I soon moved on to families from church and neighborhood kids, and before I knew it, I had a pretty good business going.
I loved babysitting.
I loved seeing the inner workings of each family. I loved the pizza dinners and watching Arsenio Hall and Saturday Night Live once I put the kids to bed. I loved seeing what other people had in their snack drawer. I would have babysat for the snacks alone.
Many nights I would fall asleep on the couch only to be woken up once the parents’ key hit the front door when I would pretend that I had been awake the whole time. I was never a night person.
It was a great way for me to make a little extra money before I was officially old enough to have a job. It was also a great way for me to make connections within my community all while helping out local families.
It was a win-win situation.
When I started searching out after school care for my kids, I read about after school clubs, daycare centres, nannies and everything in between. Never once in all my research did I read about plain old student babysitters.
What happened to babysitting?
In my research, I found after-school programs that promised healthy snacks, help with reading, and math tutoring. Some programs offered sport options or arts and crafts. They were run by licenced daycare providers, ECE instructors, or qualified teachers who were all trained in CPR and had background checks.
Most programs had long wait lists and each and every one cost almost as much as my mortgage.
The thought of forking out that kind of money for my kids to spend one hour after school until we could pick them up didn’t sit well with me, but I found myself wondering if my kids would miss out by not being a part of these enriched programs.
Has my generation ruined it for the part-time babysitter?
Are we so worried that our kids will fall behind that we feel like we must pay a small fortune for specialized after-school clubs? Do the long wait lists and high prices convince us that they are the best and we must have the best for our children?
I decided that my kids don’t need an after-school club or private centre. They don’t need more time with friends or specialized instruction in a second language for an extra hour a day. They learn a lot each day in school. They build friendships during school hours. The extra-curricular sports they play help them learn about winning and losing and keep them active and fit. They don’t need any more of that.
What they need is some down time.
They need to come home from school and rummage through the snack drawer because they are starving after a long day of learning.
They need to plop themselves on the couch and watch a little TV.
They need to play board games and colour and play with their friends next door.
They need to be unstructured.
I soon discovered that there is in fact no shortage of students looking for babysitting jobs. What might be missing is parents who are willing to leave their kids with someone who isn’t ECE certified or who may not have a background check.
It didn’t take long for us to find a wonderful babysitter who my kids adore. She plays Sorry with my son, paints my daughter’s nails, and makes them peanut butter sandwiches for snack.
She is wonderful, and I don’t have to remortgage my house to pay for it.
And you know what? I don’t think my kids are missing out on anything.