Recently, my favorite country radio station asked listeners if they thought you should have to pay your parent(s) to babysit their grandchildren. Many listeners said that the grandparents should be happy for the extra time with their grandchildren and that no payment is necessary. But, as a frequent baby sitter for my 4-year-old nephew, I have a different opinion.
Should childcare from relatives be free?
I am no stranger to babysitting. As the oldest of four siblings (okay, okay, I’m only three minutes older than my twin..but it still counts) I’ve been babysitting and helping my mother with my siblings since I was in my early teens. I was never paid to stay home with my siblings, unless you count my weekly chore allowance. I was expected to help with my siblings as needed and I wasn’t required to babysit more than once a weekend or even every two weeks.
My little brother is now 16 and while I still help drive him around to his billions of sports practices and games, I thought my babysitting days were long over. That all changed when my nephew began sleeping over at my dad’s house two to three nights a week. My Dad has been expecting me to watch my 4 year old nephew for free as well and, on many occasions, make him breakfast and drive him to daycare (which is 45 minutes away) the next day.
Both my father and my stepmother work full-time, so when they come home with the baby they are tired and rely on my siblings and me to help. My stepmother will come home, go up to her room, and leave the baby downstairs with us for hours at a time. This can be irritating because we have not been asked or agreed to babysitting. My nephew is a pretty rowdy 4 year old and he can be hard to handle. While I don’t mind helping out once in a while, it’s started to become a nuisance. My stepsister and I aren’t very close, and while I’ve talked to her about the inconvenience of the situation, she has never made an effort to make any changes. Technically my Dad and stepmother are babysitting, so she doesn’t see the problem. Like many others, she feels her parents should be happy spending time with the baby and it should be free care.
Since I primarily work from home, my Dad sees me as having a lot of free time. I have three different jobs, so I do work all day and am as tired as anyone with a full-time job…I just happen to work from home. While I love spending time with my nephew, it’s becoming overwhelming and is affecting my finances. Recently, my Dad asked me to turn down a paying babysitting job to help him. Because of this, and the frequency that I’m expected to babysit, I’ve started to put my foot down about doing it for free. What do you think?
lisa valente says
No you shouldn’t be forced to babysit especially if it affects your actual job (s). Maybe you can compromise? My brothers never paid my mother a salary for baby sitting but they paid her in other ways. They bought her stuff for herself or her apt. Example? My sister in law re did her bathroom. Bought curtains, towels, and all the other accessories. My other brother would buy her clothes. Maybe something like that can be exchanged?
@lisa valente ~ The difference is that your family appreciated your mother for babysitting. Unfortunately, Dacia’s father and stepmother take it for granted and expect it.
bargain babe says
@lisa valence I agree, this system of favors can work well for some families. It has for my sister and mother. I sense that dacia needs something more concrete and less ambiguous, however.
@Dacia ~ This will resolve itself if/when you REALLY move out (as opposed to what you did in college). Currently, your dad and stepmother do not see you as an independent adult, largely because you’re not.
bargain babe says
One factor that is creating this situation is working from home. Your family sees your work from home as flexible – you can do it *right* after you run this errand for me. As someone who has worked from for several years, it is very frustrating. Just because you do not leave for work doesn’t mean you are not working! Unfortunately, The easiest solution is to start leaving for work. You don’t need to pay for coffee at a coffeeshop, just head to the local library for free wifi. With you out of the house, your family will see that you are actually quite busy with work. You could even post your hours so everyone realizes that during those hours you are not available for personal calls, errands, or favors. It’ll take some time to “educate” your family, so be consistent, polite, and firm.
Unless someone is financially secure and insists on babysitting for free, they should be paid for babysitting – no matter what the circumstances . It is very selfish and manipulative to expect someone to watch your children just for the “joy” of being with your children.
Bargain Babe says
@Patricia I’m not sure I agree entirely. I don’t think babysitting should always be compensated. There are plenty of instances where it makes sense to not be paid. Some caregivers truly don’t want to be paid. But both parties must be able to discuss their needs and wants openly.
I often offered my sibling free daycare when I was living in my parents home. As my parents provided me with free shelter and utilites while I was there. I think this is just part of being a family unit and contributing. If you dont like the situation, I would suggest you get your own place. I think asking for money for babysitting seems silly. This just seems like the babysitting is you paying your parents for subsidizing your living expenses.
Bargain Babe says
@jen That sounds like a great tradeoff and way to pay it forward.
I owe you guys an apology — I replied to this post via twitter which only allows me a few characters to express my thoughts; I should have come here where I don’t need to seem so curt.
My response to this article was such disappointment! I have 2 babies and clicked, hoping to get some answers for my situation. The post began with such promise, an introduction that sucked me in. But as I kept reading I learned more and more about the writer’s tough situation (which seems to have more to do with personal boundaries and self-worth than child care) than etiquette. After reading I felt like I’d read a journal entry instead of a helpful article.
None of this would be so bad if I hadn’t come to love bargainbabe.com as a resource for information on how to live my life to the fullest in practical ways. No need to reply, I don’t want to start an argument or make anyone feel rotten, I just wanted to feedback. Perhaps this is a “dear abby” sort of forum, and if so, forgive me — I am mistaken and this post fits right in. Or maybe there’s something else I’m missing.
Bargain Babe says
@Bethany We appreciate your thoughtful feedback. Sorry to hear you were so disappointed. Yes, this post was more of a debate about Dacia’s particular situation than an overall guide to what to do in this situation.
Your idea for a post that gives etiquette advice about when to pay relatives for childcare and when not to is a good idea – though I suppose each situation has many unique factors, such as the relationship the parent(s) has to the caregiver, how many children there are, family financial history, etc. It would be a challenge to give guidelines that applied to all. But that’s a challenge we could take on!
Finally, I wanted to say how thrilled I am that BargainBabe.com is your “resource for information on how to live [your] life to the fullest in practical ways.” Wow! I’m truly humbled. And I’d love to hear your ideas for other money topics and situations we can tackle. Drop me a line any time at julia at bargainbabe dot com.
@Bethany/BB ~ Bethany’s post and BB’s reply made me think this could be a new and separate feature of the overall Bargain Babe blog, as the freebies are. Such topics would involve money but, like Dacia’s post which generated these comments, invite readers’ feedback. You, BB, used to do this in earlier days. I’m recalling a post about a vacuum cleaner that was returned to BB&B well after the return deadline, another about tipping a server at a restaurant, and quite a few more. More recently, we (who chose to participate) dealt with Dacia’s slow-to-pay-back friends. Readers, of course, could contribute their own monetary situations for ideas on what to do.
Bargain Babe says
@Diane We love to debate issues and decisions that involve money on BB. We try to come up with one every week, but it doesn’t always happen. Please share your ideas – and I know you have them – by emailing us at julia at bargainbabe dot com. Thanks!