When I was 13, I had a long-term babysitting gig for a single mother in my neighbourhood that took place every Thursday. I would walk over to my not-so-close neighbour’s house for a 5 pm start time, so I could make dinner for the kids and myself—usually pasta and a jar of sauce. I would then serve the kids the meal, cleanup, play for a bit, then bath them, read to them, and put them to bed. After this, I crashed on the sofa until the mother came home around 11 pm. Even though she may have been drinking on her evening out, many times she would hop in her car and drive me home while her kids slept upstairs alone until she returned.
How times have changed.
My daughters have been of babysitting age for a few years now, and like many things, almost everything has changed since my child-minding days—many things for the better. There would be no walking over to their house in the dark, and most often, no cooking. My teens are barely able to even cook for themselves, let alone in a stranger’s home for their small children. Usually the children have already been bathed by their parents, activities have been planned, movies have been chosen, and a pre-paid pizza delivery is on the way.
But not everything has changed for the better.
As the parents of the babysitter, we’re also often on the clock when our kids are out looking after other children. When I babysat, my parents were nowhere in the equation. The hiring parents took care of me, making sure I was transported to and from their home. Nowadays, we as the parents of the babysitter are usually responsible for delivering our child to their home and then picking her up so that the hiring parents can go out on the town. I suppose they figure that if they are already paying for a sitter, all they need to do is make their own way home—they don’t want to take on the added responsibility of delivering home the teenage babysitter!
I find it amusing that all negotiations for the evening are often between the other parents and my teen, even though I’ll likely be a part of it too.
It’s common for the parents to text one of my kids directly to make arrangements, unbeknownst to me, or my husband. We usually find out later—the day before if we are lucky—that we are part of the equation, driving our teen to the job and/or waiting to be called to pick them up. By no means do I want someone else driving my child while under the influence, but I still think that it is the hiring parents responsibility to get our child home safely.
It wasn’t long ago that we were the parents hiring sitters, and we may have crossed some of these boundaries with the babysitter’s parents too. It is a very short window between being a parent hiring a babysitter to being a parent of a babysitter—and both is equally as worrying for the parents.
In this century, being the parent of the sitter is an extension of the job.