The History of Making Money as a Babysitter

Ever heard someone say, “Can you watch my baby for a bit. I’ll PAY you!” It sounds amusing, but there was a pair of parents back in the day paid someone to watch over their children. And that is how the world discovered babysitting. Interestingly today, where other worker wages are stagnant, babysitters enjoy decent wages, comfortable hours and a happy pat on the back.

Professional babysitters have solid rates, great work ethic and an amazing sense of childcare. They also boast expertise in other areas of childcare like nutrition, cooking, baby grooming, etc. However, babysitting as a profession has significantly evolved, and the term ‘babysitting’ was not even common. Before it was coined, it used to be referred to as the profession of ‘child minders’ and ‘neighborhood helpers’ to help ‘mind the children’. 

Origin of the term ‘babysitter’

We dedicate a word to something that we normally see happening. Like it or not, ‘selfie’ is a word now, and so is ‘millennial’. So, when did the term ‘babysitter’ become a norm? Oxford English Dictionary gives us a fair idea of when a word became public knowledge. The dictionary first published the word ‘babysitter’ in its 1937 edition. 

In English language, the verb normally comes before the noun. But the verb ‘babysit’ did not become common until many years later. The dictionary tells us that the word is as old as 1937, but the profession is even older. Babysitting is one of the oldest professions in the world. The concept of ‘nannies’ has been around ever since humans lived in tribes. A nanny or nurse used to take care of the children along with their birth mother. 

The older generations trusted adults more to look after their children. With age comes maturity, and our ancestors deemed maturity as one of the most important aspects when hiring a babysitter. Some nannies also moved in and became full-time caretakers of the children. It was only ladies who signed up for the job, which is not the case today. 

Motherhood in the 1920’s

The 1920’s was a new and different time for all the mothers. Women finally got the chance to vote, and also started coming out of their houses to earn. The concept of a traditional family became so much more for women than childbearing. Even stay-at-home moms became too busy with their daily chores. Electrical appliances made their way into houses, and children started attending private education. In the midst of a busy routine, mothers started looking for someone to watch over their children while they took a breather. 

Co-authors of the book Wholesome Childhood state that finding an eligible babysitter with good qualities became a trouble in the 1920’s. Hiring a babysitter with a wholesome personality and a cultural background wasn’t easy, according to the authors who published the book. Girls of all ages were prime candidates for the job. 

Later, children of immigrants tended to this job and even worked on meager wages. Immigrant families passed on the duty of taking care of siblings and babysitting to their elder daughters. Some of these girls also earned a living by becoming ‘baby walkers’ for Victorian families, babysitting in the sub-urban localities. 

A study of high school girls in Indiana found out that only 5 percent of girls earned their spending money. Rest of the girls got their pocket money from parents, and they were mostly kept away from working a job. However, these girls wanted to spend money on movies, magazines and clothing. 

An allowance was not enough to cover their newfound interests. Overall, babysitting was a concept that boomed in the suburbs in the 1950’s. This is the era when baby boomers were born. The parents worked multiple jobs and the teenagers needed money, so the consensus was to pay someone while they were out working. 

While parents were cautious about letting their girls babysit, the girls were up to the task. It was easy money and the work was not as tedious. Sometimes, it was just about walking to the neighbor’s house to take care of their child. Hence, babysitting became the main form of employment for young girls.

After the 1950’s, male babysitters also became popular. Many women preferred boy babysitters based on their professionalism. College-going boys’ groups also came up with their babysitting services to bring more professionalism to the job. The rates were as high as 35 cents an hour, and discounted rates could be assigned to friends and family.  Before and after the War, boy babysitters got strong support from both parents and clients. The 1947 Ad Life Magazine went as far as to call boy babysitters ‘hard-working, ambitious and reliable’. 

Babysitting as a profession

Post 1947, college students started coming together to create sitting unions. Those efforts are reflected in the babysitting culture of today. These unions came up with working hours, terms and contracts. These changes came about to change employment conditions for post-war workers in the US. 25 to 30 cents an hour until 4 PM and 35 cents after, was the demand of all professional sitters. Babysitters also urged parents to not make them work after 11 PM as it affected their school and work. Anything that superseded the terms came with an additional price tag. 

Making money as a babysitter today

Finding a qualified babysitter is still tough today. Parents want complete transparency and credibility from the sitter. Internet services like Craigslist help by providing trusted resources and determine hours + money. Two-earner families are eager to pay more for a trusted babysitter rather than experimenting. 

Just like post war America, today’s college student is also looking for money to pay for rent, tuition and food. The trend is coinciding with the weak job market that urges even recent graduates to take up this job. Teenage sitters quote $10 an hour whilst grad students charge as much as $17 an hour. Here is how you can become a pro babysitter. 

  • The Council for The Awards in Care, Health and Education offers a range of courses for babysitters. You can receive certification in Caring for a Child after the age of 14. 
  • You can join an agency or create a freelance portfolio. Social media profiles also work, because they are closer to parents who use these websites.
  • Start with people you already know, to grow your customer base. Get some good recommendations and the word of mouth will follow
  • Join online groups or communities doing the same work in your area. Online communities are a good place to introduce yourself and find new clients
  • Create your own working hours, terms and packages. Services like cooking should come at an additional cost, so you can learn those to earn extra bucks
  • Offer your services on weekends and if someone is having a party. Be flexible and always keep a smile on your face
  • Sign up for Amazon services. Babysitting is also one of the services that you can provide through this platform. Of course, you’ll need to be patient as your profile gradually gains visibility amongst searchers. 

Final Thoughts

Despite all the changes that professional babysitters have gone through and adapted to, the profession now stands at a stable point. The most important thing for a babysitter today is reporting. When the parent or guardian comes back, give them a detailed report of events. It builds trust and shows your diligence in the job. Never sign up for anything you are not comfortable with and say no if you need to. 

Babysitters have been around since the beginning of times, and it is honorable work. The more virtues you uphold, the better it will pay off for you.