Babysitters - how much should we pay them and would you book one on an app?

How much do you pay your babysitter? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How much do you pay your babysitter? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis asks if we are paying too much or not enough for babysitters these days.

The internet watched on in fascination over the weekend as a babysitter launched a scathing attack on a parent.

Why? Well it appears this anonymous mummy dearest completely forgot she'd have to actually (shock horror) pay someone to watch her cherubs. The gall of it. Someone actually wanting to be paid for working.

'I wasn't aware payment was involved. You got free ice cream and a day of fun. I'm sorry for the misinterpretation,' Mum allegedly messaged to Babysitter, only to be shown a text where she actually set and agreed $16 (£12) per hour.

Asking for the correct amount, the next alleged response to Babysitter was: 'Well you're acting kind of stuck up aren't you? Can we compromise at $20?'

At $108 less than agreed Babysitter was obviously not satisfied but was promptly blocked by Mum. What a furore!

And it got me thinking about how babysitting has changed, even in my lifetime. This is how it worked back in my day. You'd get to an age where your parents flat-out refused to fund your 'luxury' lifestyle anymore. You know, the copies of Smash Hits, the bags of sweets, the make-up. They'd sit you down and tell you now was the time to show some initiative and earn a bit of cash. It was all for your own good, they'd say.

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I must have been 12 when I first embarked on a babysitting job. It turns out there's still no defined legal age for babysitting, although the responsibility remains with the parents if a sitter is under 16, and NSPCC guidelines say children under 13 shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. Oh dear!

My friends and I would cycle about, putting notes through neighbours' doors and pinning signs to newsagent noticeboards…something along the lines of 'Polite, honest girls able to babysit. Available Friday and Saturday nights'.

There were patch wars during those days. I remember some girls undercutting each other to bagsie jobs at the 'posh' houses.

My best job was looking after twin boys around the corner and basically being paid to watch Friends and Beavis and Butthead while my friend and I gorged on crisps. Easy money.

I also remember haggling with one family (who offered a measly £3 for an entire evening's sitting) up to a fiver and feeling quite the entrepreneur.

Can you imagine trying to pay a babysitter £5 these days? It's essentially one of the oldest forms of zero hours working. No benefits (unless there are snacks). Unpredictable working patterns. The fear of being sacked when their eldest doesn't need looking after any more.

Currently the average family shells out about £6 to £8 per hour for childcare from a non-professional. But it's something we don't really discuss isn't it? Nobody wants to say how much they pay their babysitter for fear of either appearing stingy or of finding out they've been stupidly mugged off and paying over the odds for years.

Personally we use a family friend, who recently turned 16 and is very trustworthy. We give her around £20 for a few hours or £30 from 8ish to midnight. I don't think that's bad going but am I being measly?

How much do you pay? How much is too much?

The 'Uber' of childcare

Would you book a babysitter through an app? Because thousands of parents are doing just that with several online babysitting booking services having established in recent years, from Yoopies and Sitter to the newest – Bubble. According to the Bubble website the service (which they are very careful to describe as a 'marketplace' not an agency) allows babysitters to tout their time, with parents able to leave reviews and see whether their friends have recommended a certain sitter.

Sitters have an online ID check and another check against watchlists and can be interviewed in person or via Skype but they do not have to have an enhanced DBS check.

Will it take off to the point where the majority of parents book babysitters in this way? I'm not sure, but if you'd told me five years ago people would be getting into strangers' cars in the middle of the night after booking through an app I wouldn't have believed that either.

What do you think? Email me at

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