What your sitter wants you to know
“Snacks are nice — but don’t go crazy.”
Allison Boxshall, a 23-year-old sitter from Winnipeg, loved it when she’d arrive at noon for a daytime sitting job and was invited to sit down with mom and the kids for lunch. But most sitters we talked to say free food is, well, gravy. “I don’t expect perks,” says Leopatra. “I don’t usually eat the food at people’s houses; I feel weird going through their cupboards.” Broadbent once worked for a family who always left a newly rented DVD plus money for pizza, and they encouraged her to use the Internet and the telephone. That was fun, she admits, but for most jobs she eats before she comes, or brings her own food.
“We have fun when you’re gone.”
Perhaps there are some slackers out there, but the sitters we talked to work their butts off to keep their charges amused. Gallant shows up with her own bag of tricks for crafts and games. “I like to come prepared and keep them busy,” she says. Boxshall has her own secret: “Thirty minutes outside is the greatest thing ever.” Even if the weather’s not great, she finds kids who have been outside behave better and nap well.
“But the TV is still a godsend.”
“Sometimes it turns into a movie day — I’m not going to lie,” says Boxshall. “If it’s one of those days, I put something on and let them watch it for an hour.” To chill kids out before a nap or to turn chaos into calm, the sitters we talked to all found the boob tube did the job.
Other sitters have their own tricks when things get wild. “When I get frustrated, I usually just walk away,” says Broadbent. She cools off and keeps an eye on the kids from a distance. Gallant confesses she’ll bribe her charges with chocolate. But she times it right. “If you give them chocolate too long before their parents come home, they’ll be hyper for you.” Leopatra, however, resists slacking off, no matter how hard it gets. “Babysitting is a job; they are paying me. Even if I don’t feel like doing it, I do it,” she says.
“It’s not just about the money.”
Babysitting has kept many a teen in pocket money, and even helped pay for tuition. But for many, it’s a job they love. “The kids become part of our lives. If I never saw those kids again, I’d be devastated,” says Boxshall. Gallant feels the connection too: She recently moved away from the Ontario town of Owen Sound, and when she goes back to visit friends, she’ll babysit for her old families.
The sitters we spoke to want respect and they want parents to trust them to do their best. But mostly, they wish everyone knew just how passionately they feel about their job and the kids they care for. “Babysitting is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done,” says Boxshall. “If I didn’t get paid to do it, it wouldn’t matter.”