Call me old-fashioned, but when I come home from date-night with my husband—or working a booth at a school function—I expect the kitchen to be cleaned. I'm not talking shiny clean, but at least not a mess. And I expect the babysitter to do it.
I have had babysitters trip over messes and sail past dinner plates (dinner that I had prepared, or they had to, you know, microwave) on their way out the door. These are babysitters who I had just paid between $20 and $30 per hour. (No, I'm not joking about that $30 an hour.)
I hire my sitters off of a popular online service, which does background checks. That's way more vetting than any parents ever did on me back in the day when I used to babysit. I also did way more than any of these babysitters ever do in my house. They pretty much only, you know, babysit.
Let me explain a few things about what I would do when I was hired to watch kids (starting when I was 10, at $5 an hour):
I cleaned the kitchen, I ate a lot of food in their cupboards, I vacuumed sometimes, I peeked in photo albums and, yes, I would clean their living room—especially when I could tell the mom didn't have a regular cleaning person. I don't remember my mom ever telling me to do this. I don't remember the moms who hired me every asking me to do this. I just did it.
I don't remember the moms who hired me ever asking me to do this. I just did it.
When I asked a good friend of mine what she remembers about babysitting when she was young, she has the same memories. She babysat at a young age and cleaned. I moved around the country as a young kid, so I've babysat in Texas, Connecticut, South Dakota and Iowa. When I started at 10, I was taking care of a baby. A real live baby. And the mom would leave. The house.
Sure, my mom was a phone call and a few blocks away. And damn if I didn't love taking care of that baby.
Now as a grown woman, as a mom, I have employed a nanny from time to time. I did not pay her $30 an hour, I assure you. She always cleaned my kitchen.
So what's up with the babysitters, now, these days? All the sitters the online agency sends me are millennials. Is that what's going on here?
If my own daughter ever babysits, I will tell her to clean up the kitchen.
I emailed a few of my friends for their thoughts on the subject. Here's what one mom, who was raised in the South, told me:
"I started babysitting when I was 11 years old. I would sit for 1 to 4 kids at a time for maybe $3 an hour. I think, at some point, it went up to $5. I would absolutely clean up everything! The kitchen, the living space, the bedrooms, AND I would leave little notes for the kids to find in the morning. I guess it was my idea of playing house, and I loved it (THEN!). PS: I am friends with the kids I used to babysit.
"I have two boys, 5 and 7, and we pay our babysitters between $15t o $20 an hour. The 'service' ranges— the youngest sitter we have, who really only charges $10 but we always pay $15 (for some reason!!!!), does not clean anything, not even after herself. It should be noted that I have never asked her to clean, which I think is all it would take. Why do I feel so awkward asking when I am paying her? Our favorite babysitter cleans up after herself and the kids, so that is great."
Another friend, who grew up in California, said, "I never expect teens or college kids to clean, although sometimes I wish I would come home to a picked up house! I figure, you get what you pay for (and I pay teens much less than a nanny-type to watch my kids). I don't hire the ones who won't clean up anymore."
If my own daughter ever babysits, I will tell her to clean up the kitchen. Hey, it's in her favor. It might earn her a tip and, definitely will stack the odds in her favor for getting hired again and again and again.
Because that's just it, millennials, babysitters and nannies: a clean kitchen means everything.