Posted by: Genny Colby | June 7, 2012

Times…they are a changing…

How many of you baby sat when you were younger?  I know I did.  And not just for my brother and sister, but for neighbor kids, family friends from church, and on the recommendation of those I did baby sit already.  Want to guess how old I was when I started babysitting?  I was about 12.  Yep, 12 years old and not only did my mom leave me home alone with my sister (who would have been 9) and my brother (who would have been 8), but other people left their children in my care.  Including, gasp, infants!

I loved babysitting. I loved hanging out with the kids.  I loved feeling responsible.  And if things got rough, I could always call my mom for help, since about 90% of my babysitting jobs were in our neighborhood.  I also worked as an assistant to our family friend in her family day care.  I watched kids outside, helped plan activities, and even took the older kids to the pool in the afternoon.  All before I turned 16!

I learned so much from babysitting.  First and foremost, I learned I liked having my own money!!  Yes, I had to save a portion of my earnings, especially those I got working at the family day care, but then I always had money to buy what I wanted.  Books, earrings, nail polish, candy bars, soda, etc.  But I also learned to be responsible, thinking about others besides myself.  Making sure that the kids were safe, entertained, and in bed at the right time.  Heck, I even learned to cook a little on those rare occasions I was babysitting over a meal time.   Just about every Friday and Saturday night I had a babysitting job.   And during the summer months, I was much busier.

And I am guessing I was a pretty cheap…since all of my friends and I made less than $5 per hour.  But hey, we thought we were rich and loved making our own money!  It makes me wonder how things have changed in the past 25 years (yes, I know I am dating myself here!).  Would anyone consider leaving their kids alone with a 12-year-old?  At what age would you consider leaving your child home alone?  Does anyone know what the going rate for a babysitter is these days?  It is right around, if not HIGHER, than minimum wage in most cases.

Maybe some of the issues come from the fact that we don’t know our neighbors in the same ways.  Since we don’t know our neighbors, it is harder to trust some younger person with your child.  But there also seems to be a lot of fear about leaving kids home alone, leaving kids to watch others, even their siblings.  I mean, so many parents won’t even let their kids walk the 2 blocks and wait for the school bus by themselves!  Or walk those same two blocks home from the bus stop.  When did we stop teaching kids to be responsible, caring, capable people?  When did we start acting like our children can’t do anything on their own without parental oversight?  And what does this change mean for our kids as they enter the work force, college, or even just go away to summer camp? If we don’t give kids the skills now…when will they learn them?




  1. I’m speculating because 12 is 8 years down the road for me. It will depend how mature my little midget is at that point. If we’re in the same house, with the same neighbors, yup, I’d let him stay home with his 10 yo sister for an hour or 2.

  2. Depends on the 12 yr old and how mature they are. I can honestly say I have left my 10 yr old at home with my 3 yr old while she naps or is still sleeping while I go to hockey at 6 am. She is responsible, and sometimes I feel she does a better job than I do, because she knows if she things go wrong she will be held accountable in the law of the parents. lol

  3. I certainly hope they’re old enough! As you say, I was – good experience!

  4. I hear you. I still remember the first time I was left at home by myself while my mom took my siblings to the grocery store. I was 10. It was exhilarating, being “on my own” for that whole hour. Less exhilarating were the hours upon hours I spent babysitting in the following years (I guess I started at 12?). But I was very competent and responsible, largely because I was expected to be, I think. We often live up to others expectations (good or bad)…

  5. I am fine leaving my kids with my husband’s little sister who just turned 13, but that is only because I know her well and trust her, I know what she is capable of, and she is familiar with how our household runs. But I didn’t leave my son with her until he was over 1. And I probably wouldn’t hire another 12 yr old to watch my kids. I pay her $6 an hr for my 3 kids and she is always thrilled with that. I still don’t understand how people trusted me with their children, even infants, when I was 11 or 12. Most of them didn’t know me and got my name from a friend or neighbor. Times sure are different!

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