Bwog’s Internal Editor Britt Fossum is passionate about chemistry, Discworld, and taking care of your children. In this edition of In Defense Of, she tackles the stereotypes of being a babysitter while in college.
I usually like to stay close to campus on weeknights. I get a bit anxious if I’m too far away from Butler and my books when I still have classes to study for the next day. But every so often, I’ll get a text invitation that I just can’t turn down. I drop off my backpack in my room, grab my subway card, and hop on a bus for the night. My destination: Marymount School for the afternoon pick-up. Or a ballet studio, or robotics practice.
I am a junior in college and I still babysit about once a week, mostly for the children of two families. One moved with me from my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska; the other is the family of one of my professors. Sometimes I pick up their children from school, other times from activities. Sometimes I have to stay all the way until bedtime and fall asleep playing with the family cat, while on Mondays I’m just the designated subway chaperone for a two-hour round-trip. I’ve been a babysitter for my own siblings since I was in middle school, and all through high school I tutored and babysat plenty of family friends and younger students from my K-12 school. I didn’t expect that it would ever be something I would be judged for.
I’d honestly rather spend a Thursday night hanging out and watching a couple of very sweet, very smart kids whose parents I know pretty well. I don’t know why some of my peers act like it’s something shameful to make a bit of extra money doing something that is — for the most part — fun and not at all inconvenient. When I answer a request to go out by saying that I’ll be taking one of my charges to Irish step class and then home for the night, people respond with confusion followed by eye-rolling. When they hear it’s for my professor’s daughter, the judgement increases exponentially. I get one of two comments; either I’m asked if I feel like I’m being taken advantage of or wasting my time, or if I can give them the contact information of any families looking for part-time nannies.
My response to the person giving me the side-eye: no. I am paid for my time, pretty generously. What other part-time job fits into the schedule of a busy college student so well? I already TA for classes during the week, take a science-heavy course load, and do research in a chemistry lab group as often as I have the time.* I am not wasting my time by taking 2-5 hours per week to help out a family. I might as well ask some of my classmates if they are wasting their time by “working” one day a week at an unpaid startup, or if they think their work-study job is a waste of time. I also wonder if the judgement I get for admitting to babysitting is because it’s a job that is so heavily associated with middle and high school girls. What these naysayers don’t realize is that it’s also something that requires a lot of trust on the part of the parents, and responsibility on my part. I have to be trusted with keeping a couple of elementary school girls safe in New York City.
To the person asking for contacts: maybe if you ask nicely. I can’t deny that part of the reason why I babysit is because I can make money from it, but that is not the entire reason. I feel like I have managed to build relationships with the families I work for in ways that are pretty much impossible otherwise — for example, I know about my professor’s debate over whether or not to get a family dog. Seek out people for whom you would like to babysit — maybe a post-bac in one of your classes has a family at home and could use help some nights, or maybe a family friend has just moved to the city and is looking for someone to help out on the weekends. There are even some on-campus groups associated with sororities that put alumni in touch with current students.
And finally, for full disclosure: you probably won’t get a job if you’re a dude. Parents need to trust their babysitter and guys are just fundamentally less trustworthy than girls.
*Editor’s Note: Britt is also a first-rate Internal Editor. This takes a lot of work and time, all generously donated. -Taylor Grasdalen
Britt via Wikimedia Commons.