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Should you pay those who babysit your children? This is a debatable question, and it has different facets to look at. Please know I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad by writing this. I just feel like this is a subject worth commenting on, as well as opening up a conversation about for more feedback.
My friend and I have had this conversation throughout the years, both tending towards different views. Since I was single for a long time, I was often asked to babysit. To me, there are two categories of the people you ask to watch your children, with a possible third. The payment for each category will differ.
1) Your parents (family)
This is going to differ with each family and how they feel about it, but I would say, in general, grandparents are your nonpaying group. They are the ones you call up, feel completely comfortable with, and are almost doing each side a favor. The grandparents get to spend time with their grandchildren, and you get some needed time away from them, for whatever reason.
But please don't abuse this. It is possible to take advantage by calling them up too much, so there must be open communication to if they are really wanting to do it this time around. If the kids are over there so much that it becomes a job, perhaps you should consider paying at that point, or at least help with costs incurred, such as food, activities, etc. In general though, grandparents seem like freebies to me. Grandparents, feel free to weigh in with opinions on this.
This is where it gets tricky in if you should pay for babysitting. There are differing opinions, but I am of the opinion that it should never be a question if you pay. It is an obligation, and you actually should insist that they receive payment. Some people are too nice. If they keep refusing, then you're free to not pay.
My thinking behind this is that you are taking away their time and freedom, even if they aren't doing a whole lot in order to babysit. Perhaps you've made a deal to have their kids another time as payment; that's fine too. But please do pay your non-family babysitters. If you are getting paid to go to work or if you are out having fun on the town, it reflects badly on you if you refuse to share the love with your babysitters.
And a note on how much to pay: There, of course, is no set rate that you should pay, but please do not insult your babysitters. Consider minimum wage per hour as a going rate for a few hours time. If you have money to go out, you must set aside babysitting money as part of the cost. Do not act as if they are the ones that are benefiting from the babysitting by offering a five dollar bill after four hours of babysitting. That is distasteful, and not considerate of their time.
One other little tidbit to consider when asking for a babysitter: I never actually liked babysitting. Some people love it. Don't be offended if someone that has free time doesn't want to watch your kids. It is their time, and they don't necessarily hate your kids just because they don't want to watch them.
And, now for the possible third category:
3) Family that isn't your parents
We've all babysat for nieces and nephews. I personally really enjoy it, and do not want payment. But maybe your family is different. Please ask before assuming. This category, though, should consider sending money along with the kids for activities or food if they are going out. Grandparents are more apt to foot the bill, but extended family can be different. Just be considerate, and at least ask. Most times, this falls into the first category.
To end, please just be considerate of your babysitters. Pay them appropriately, be on time to pick up your kids, don't make your babysitters do the driving to get or drop off the kids, and, most importantly, make them feel appreciated.