When I was 12, I babysat an 18-month-old little girl and her 3-year-old brother two evenings a week while their parents worked. I walked from my house — a block away — and then walked home at the end of my “shift”. By the time I was 14, I had a list of regulars who paid me $5 an hour to babysit up to four children at a time. We played games, and I fed them their dinners. I cleaned the house after the kids went to bed and then sat on the couch to watch TV or do my homework. I endured the always uncomfortable drive home with the dad who inevitably tried to start conversations to prove he was still cool without realizing I was not. I put my money in a jar at home and kept a schedule in a notebook. I was a teen babysitter.
The teen babysitter today seems to be a rare find.
I went on the hunt last summer, looking for a responsible teenage girl to watch my children twice a week. The older girls I found were fantastic but with their own activities, were not always available. From cheerleading to life guard duty to showing animals at the fair, they were busy, goal-oriented girls who were rounding out their transcripts all summer long. Melding their schedule with mine was an exercise in frustration.
I asked fellow mommies for recommendations, but they played their cards close to the chest. Apparently the teen sitter of driving age is so hard to find, if you have one, you don’t share. And if you have a really good one, she can demand nanny equivalent fees. My eyes widened at how much some of these women were paying to keep their sitters happy.
I brought the problem to my sister and she told me I’d made a fatal flaw in my babysitter search: I was looking at the older girls rather than their younger counterparts. Apparently, the secret to a good teen babysitter is to catch them young, before they get swept into the almost manically busy life of their junior and senior years in high school.
Still, the idea of a 14-year-old kid watching my kids for an entire 10-hour work day made me question my sanity. But, with summer approaching and Joseph’s childcare in limbo, I looked for a girl who had, perhaps, been CPR certified or at least had experience with rowdy kids.
Finally, in desperation, I took a chance on someone who seemed perfect — someone from a family I know, experience taking care of younger siblings, open schedule, charged a reasonable rate, and 16 years old.
I asked Joseph how the day had gone and was given an enthusiastic two thumbs up. “He’s the best babysitter I’ve ever had!”
I may have figured out an untapped market that is the answer to my problems: the teen boy babysitter.