Fat and Not Afraid

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I Overpay My Babysitter

January 14, 2014

While my mom is out of town in Mexico avoiding all the snow, slush and now ice, I needed to find another sitter for Kat during the day and Gabe after school.  With my sister-in-law out of comission due to pregnancy I gave a distant cousin a ring (the aforementioned Maddie of the Round Like Me post) and she happily agreed. She and the kids had a great few days together and I was happy to pay her a decent wage, almost minimum, for the work. I'd like to pay more but I can't afford it right now.

Ten bucks an hour doesn't seem like much but it's a LOT for babysitting. Half of that is about the norm, so about five bucks an hour. The thing is, I value that someone wants to take care of my kids, to basically step in for me when I'm at work. Babysitting is traditionally a girl's job, this surrogate parenting, and I did my fair share of it before I got my first 'real' job.

This work, and it IS work, isn't valued the way it should be. Five bucks an hour was ok 15 years ago but it's not ok now. Doing the whole dinner, bath and bedtime routine can be the hardest part of the day, and changing poopy diapers and wiping snotty noses isn't a treat, especially if it's not your own kid(s). Basically from the time the parents leave to the time they return, the babysitter IS the parent; they're 100% responsible for the health and wellbeing of their charges, and they get paid shit for it. Doesn't that seem odd to you? Being a babysitter is mostly thankless work, and I think it's partially because culturally we still have this idea of Rosalyn from the Calvin and Hobbes comics, doing nothing but talking to her boyfriend on the phone and sitting around while the kids sleep.

What Liss at Shakesville has said over the years about valuing women's work has stuck with me and I share it here in part to encourage you to pay your sitters well:

     "Women's service work, whether it's mothering, elder care, volunteering, philanthropy, social work, employment in any "pink collar" profession, or social advocacy, is gravely devalued, frequently to the point where it is unpaid work altogether.

And when I don't ask that my work be valued by the community, I'm feeding that narrative; I'm implicitly saying, "It's okay to expect this from me. It's okay to feel entitled to the product of a woman's work for nothing in return."—and that makes me feel even worse than asking for money does, because it's counterproductive to the work we do here every day. It's antifeminist."

I try to be anything but antifeminist, so I pay my babysitter as much as I can afford. I want the people who watch my kids to know that I think they're awesome, that I trust them, and that what they do matters in a big way.

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