To Pay or Not To Pay
October 2, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Do people usually pay a relative for babysitting?

We are having my 20 year old niece over this Saturday to stay with our kids for a few hours while my husband and I go to a wedding. I'm not sure if we should pay her not. Do people usually pay relatives for babysitting? We've had her do this before...it was only a couple of hours and we gave her $20 because we weren't sure if she was expecting it or not but we wanted to show our appreciation for her time and keeping our kids entertained. I'm worried about insulting her though by assuming that she would want to get paid for coming and spending time with her own cousins. On the other hand, I know people her age have better things to do than spend their Saturday night with their younger cousins. The other thing is it's not really a lot of work. Only one of our kids is really young and the older ones can help look after him too. She has 2 jobs and is not really needing the money. What I really want to know is what other people do in this situation when you have a young adult relative such as niece, nephew, cousin, stay with your kids. Thanks. :)
posted by daydreamer to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: When I've done similar things in the past, I don't expect to get paid unless my friends/relatives have specifically asked me to cancel my plans or rearrange my schedule in order to take care of the kid.

However, I would totally not worry about insulting her. She's 20. Extra cash is always welcome at that age, even if from your perspective she doesn't need the money. If she's accepted payment in the past and is still willing to help you out, clearly she wasn't too mortally offended by your gesture of appreciation. If you can afford to pay her, do so. If not, don't worry about it.
posted by Phire at 8:56 AM on October 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes. Always offer. If they don't want/need it, they can always refuse. But not offering is insulting if they were expecting otherwise. Better safe than sorry. And you aren't paying a babysitter for the level of strenuous work they do. You are paying them to keep your kids safe, which is worth a lot.
posted by greta simone at 8:56 AM on October 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I would expect to pay anyone other than a grandparent, aunt or uncle.
posted by ubiquity at 8:56 AM on October 2, 2012 [34 favorites]


I wouldn't make any assumptions about her finances based on the number of jobs she holds. I'd do $10 an hour for 2 kids.
posted by chiababe at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


Pay your niece. She's doing you a favor. Especially since you've already established the expectation of being paid.
posted by royalsong at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


  • Grandparents: no.
  • Aunts and uncles: no.
  • Anyone else: yes.

posted by asnider at 8:59 AM on October 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


If you asked her to come babysit, I would definitely pay. If she asked if she could come spend time with her cousins, and you scheduled it for this convenient time for you, I might offer anyway - but it's not necessary.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I probably wouldn't pay a relative who was roughly my age/same generation or older/senior generation (sibling, parent, e.g.) but I would definitely pay a relative who was younger than me/younger generation. Whether you pay someone for providing a service is not dependent on whether they need the money.
posted by drlith at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


My cousin sits for us and I pay her....She's saving for a wedding...I don't pay grandparents but I always provide dinner and rented movies...
posted by pearlybob at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager I babysat my younger cousins frequently and was always paid for it. Now, as a mom, when we have grandparents/aunts/uncles babysit our son we will usually buy them dinner as a way of saying thank you for sitting, if the sitting is incidental to them visiting (as in, they are around anyway and we did not specifically invite them just for the babysitting). I did pay my brother a good chunk of change once when he babysat specifically because we asked him for sitting so we could go to an event- but that involved him driving a couple of hours each way and sacrificing most of a Saturday for us, I wanted to at least cover his gas and meals. I figure if you are counting on someone showing up so you can attend a previously scheduled event, you should offer to pay anyone other than a grandparent.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2012


That was my main job for some parts of high school and college. Yes, please pay her.
posted by xingcat at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2012


Doesn't having two jobs usually mean you do need the money? Not many people choose to take a second job just for fun.

Anyway, I agree with the people who say anyone other than cousin, aunt, or uncle would usually get paid.
posted by purplecrackers at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Pay her.

She's 20 and working 2 jobs, so she "doesn't need the money"? I don't follow your reasoning there! Sounds like she does need the money. Why else would she have 2 jobs? Very few 20-year-olds would be indifferent about picking up some extra cash. If she doesn't urgently need money, she at least needs to save up.

The ease of doing the work is not the only factor — you also have to consider the opportunity cost to her (that is, by babysitting, she's giving up her freedom to be where she would otherwise want to be). Also, the benefit to you is reason enough to pay her.
posted by John Cohen at 9:03 AM on October 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


If she has two jobs, she needs/wants to make money. Paying her is the right thing to do.
posted by smirkyfodder at 9:03 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I was paid about $10 an hour for two kids about 12 years ago. You may wish to look in to the going rate in your area.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:03 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with the idea of paying anybody younger, but I wouldn't sweat the exact "going rate" (which could be $15/jhour for two in my area!) as there is still a family component to the arrangement. Something round but in the ballpark.
posted by acm at 9:06 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Bleh, I meant grandparent, aunt, or uncle.)
posted by purplecrackers at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2012


I would expect to pay or be paid in this situation.
posted by jeather at 9:09 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


We don't pay our parents or siblings (none of which have their own kids) for watching our kids. They won't take payment if we try. Occasionally we have friends come over after the kids are asleep and just be there in case they need attention (which almost never happens), and we don't pay them either, except maybe in beer or baked goods or something small. They just do homework or watch a movie or do whatever they would have done in their home but in ours instead.

Like others have said, if we really leaned on someone to help us out in a pinch and they had to cancel plans or something we would find a way to thank them with money or something nice.
posted by look busy at 9:09 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely pay her the going rate- and don't take no for an answer if she tries to refuse it. She's 20, she works two jobs, she needs the cash.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:12 AM on October 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


I try to slip my younger cousins money whenever it makes sense to do so. I pay for or cover stuff for the young 'uns even if I wouldn't for a relative my own age. I would definitely pay a niece for babysitting (uh, not that I have kids). And I wouldn't expect my sister to pay me for babysitting.
posted by mskyle at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It kind of sounds like you're trying to find reasons to avoid paying her. She's 20 and works two jobs, she would probably like to have that free time on a Saturday night and is doing you a favor by watching your kids.

How many kids are there, and how old are they? There is the younger one, and you say "the older ones" can help. 3+ kids, for the length of a wedding? $20 may not be enough.
posted by troika at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yes. I am 21 and until I moved recently, I babysat for my cousins all the time. My aunts and uncles always paid me. Especially for a wedding, which is probably going to be a lot more than an hour or two. Depending on where you live, the rate might be different from what I got paid. If your niece babysits frequently, you can ask her what she's usually paid. Otherwise, $10/hr would be reasonable.
posted by raeka at 9:17 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would absolutely pay her, and attempt to insist she take the money if she tries to decline. Depending on the number of kids and the length of time, 20$ could be insultingly little! People seem to forget that just because they are family doesn't mean they are free labour. It just means that you know them, they know you, and they likely already have a relationship with your children. I very very strongly feel you should treat her as you would any other babysitter. She may decline payment (though I doubt it since she took money last time), and if she does it is your call what to do from there, but I would work hard to make sure she got the money.

She is doing you a big favour. She is 20 and giving up her saturday night to watch your kids, and she works two jobs so her free saturday nights are probably few and far between.

And really, your logic that "because she works two jobs she likely doesn't need the money" is mind boggling for me. She works two jobs likely out of necessity. No one works two jobs because "Ehhh, I have nothing better to do." They work two jobs because they have to and because they need the money.

Pay your neice.
Jesus Christ.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:23 AM on October 2, 2012 [25 favorites]


Another vote for paying her at least $10/hour. And please insist that she take the money...don't make a phony gesture of offering to pay her with the hope that she declines. She is providing a valuable service.
posted by murrey at 9:25 AM on October 2, 2012


I'm worried about insulting her though by assuming that she would want to get paid for coming and spending time with her own cousins.

Yes, absolutely pay your niece. She's 20, for chrissakes, and any 20 year-old needs extra cash. If she's working two jobs it's unlikely she'd turn away more money. I'm sure she loves her nieces and her family, but most people this age would still rather be out with their friends.

Also, and maybe I'm biased as someone who still babysits to make it through grad school, but you should definitely be paying her more $20 for over 2 hours of work! This isn't a 12 year-old mother's helper who's watching TV with your kids while you run to the grocery store. $15/hr seems like a fair rate to pay a babysitter that you know loves your children and is working super hard.

Lastly, it may be the case that her parents, presumably one of which is you or your husband's sibling, is telling her to not accept payment, and that's why she seems awkward about the money. Please ignore this and pay her.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:26 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


She can always refuse.

Also, it is my understanding that having a good, trustworthy babysitter is pretty valuable, and by offering to pay her you're insuring that you will continue to have her available to you.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:33 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pay her. She is doing a job. Coming over to hang with her cousins is when you are there too and she can sit and have a cup of coffee while the little ones run in and out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2012


Oh yes, please pay her.

You may think your kids are a barrel of laughs, but at 20, even if they're relatives, they ain't that fun.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm strongly in the "pay your niece" camp; while it may be true that she doesn't mind watching your children, you are leaving her in a supervisory position. The onus of running things smoothly is on her -- whether she needs to intercede or not -- and she ought to be compensated for her trouble.

I mean, geez, I paid a co-worker twenty bucks just for taking my dog out twice while I was out of town overnight, and it may've required thirty minutes of her time, including transit, total. I didn't pay for the labor, I played for placing demands on her otherwise free schedule.
posted by mr. digits at 9:38 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Wow, let me clarify my mind boggling statement about the 2 jobs thing before someone chews the rest of my head off. She goes to school and has one job that she needs and the other one is because it was something fun that she would enjoy...it was something that came to her that she didn't really need but it was a good and fun opportunity. Also she lives at home and her parents are able to provide her everything she needs...I KNOW THAT IS ALL BESIDES THE POINT. The only reason I brought it up in my original statemen/question was to give as much info as possible because I thought it would be helpful in answering the question. THANK YOU everyone who helped me to know what to do without getting critical and chastising. I will definitely be paying my niece which I never had a problem with...I just didn't know if I should...if that's what other people did.
posted by daydreamer at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2012


Another vote to pay her. My 21 year old cousin lives with us and we always pay her when she watches Toddler theBRKP.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a friend/relative is older, has a job and has actively offered to babysit (like "Hey, I can totally babysit for you, I like your kids"), then I wouldn't pay them. If I was asking someone to babysit, I would offer to pay them; they might decline the money, their choice.

My SO and I do babysit my niece for free, but that's done with the recognition that her guardian (my mother) can't afford to pay me and that this is our way of helping her out. But we're 35, not 20, and she's our niece, not our cousin. I was paid well to look after my cousins when they were little and I was younger.
posted by jb at 9:52 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other thing is it's not really a lot of work. Only one of our kids is really young and the older ones can help look after him too.

You might think so, but more kids pretty much always equals more work when it comes to babysitting. $10/hour is not enough for more than two kids. Will she have to make them dinner? Put them to bed? Corral some unwilling kids into the shower? All that takes work.

Also, I wouldn't expect a tip from a relative, but most people tip. So, if you paid her $20 for two hours, she made at least $10 less than anyone else would have paid her. (And you're only going to be at a wedding for two hours? Really?)

(This is based on my baby-sitting experience in Boston six or so years ago)
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes. Definitely. $8-10/hour. And revel in the feeling that you have a loving, trusted family member watching your child.
posted by amanda at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2012


Response by poster: So, if you paid her $20 for two hours, she made at least $10 less than anyone else would have paid her. (And you're only going to be at a wedding for two hours? Really?)

No, when we had her watch our kids once before it was only 2 hours. This time it's for a wedding and it will be longer than that and we'll definitely pay her more.
posted by daydreamer at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2012


A lot of parents think that their kids are special and that other people enjoy them as much as they do. This is usually not the case - they are just being polite. I don't see any reason why a 20 year old would want to spend time with small children as opposed to going on a date or spending time with her friends. The girl works two jobs: she doesn't have a lot of free time - and she's spending it to look after your infants. You should definitely pay her something for it.

Also, $20 is pretty cheap - in fact, you're paying her less than minimum wage. Most babysitters would charge you double that.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd pay her $20 and enough cash to have pizza delivered while you're out, but that's just me.

When you say the other kids are older, do you mean your teenage daughter? Because at 15, I would think she could handle the babysitting herself, without having the niece come in at all.

[For the daughter, I would just do the pizza thing in lieu of payment. The idea there is that she is helping you out, just as you'll be helping her out when it comes time for her to learn how to drive and get her license, etc.].
posted by misha at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, let me clarify my mind boggling statement about the 2 jobs thing before someone chews the rest of my head off. She goes to school and has one job that she needs and the other one is because it was something fun that she would enjoy...it was something that came to her that she didn't really need but it was a good and fun opportunity. Also she lives at home and her parents are able to provide her everything she needs.

OK, but the fact remains that a working 20-year-old has every reason to want some extra cash. It might not be ideal for her to be living with (and off) her parents. It would be better for her to be earning more of her own money by working for it. You seem to be taking an overview of the current situation and concluding that everything's just fine. However, even if she has plenty of cash for this month, she could certainly use some extra money to save up for something in the future, like moving into her own place. Bottom line: sooner or later, she's going to need to do something that involves a financial struggle for her. If she gets paid now, she'll have a slightly easier time with that thing (whatever it is) in the future.
posted by John Cohen at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: misha, just wanted to answer your question...we could leave the kids alone since our oldest just turned 16, but frankly we're not ready to leave them alone at night just yet. They get skittish and we just feel more comfortable with having someone else there with them. We'll probably start leaving them in another few months or so.
posted by daydreamer at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2012


i wouldn't take money from a lot of my family for babysitting because it would be a favor for a family who couldn't afford it. if you can afford it, pay her.
posted by nadawi at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2012


I get why you asked this question, as I know some relatives could be offended if you offer to pay for babysitting (particularly grandparents), but I think it is fine to pay your niece.
posted by Area Man at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just want to add that sometimes when a younger person says "I don't mind babysitting" its like casually asking you to keep them in mind for future "job" openings at your kid employment center. It doesn't mean that they want to do it for free.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


When it comes to family, even if it's really easy or she'd do it anyway, paying her is basically an excuse for older people with more disposable income to subsidize younger people who are just starting out, which is the familial thing to do. My partner does simple stuff on his mom's website and she "pays" him by getting plane tickets for us. He'd obviously do it anyway because she's his mom, but by paying him she helps him out and makes it clear that she appreciates his time and effort. It makes everyone feel like they're helping each other, and that's a nice feeling to have.

So that is why it is a good idea to pay family--there are good feelings for everyone when different generations are able to help each other.

Some of this might be cultural, too, so it might be worth asking a friend from a similar cultural background.

If something changes and in the future if you feel weird giving her cash, consider asking her parents about anything she needs for school or a present she'd especially like (a gas gift card can be really handy, for example).
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:06 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the best rule of thumb is, "If someone lower than you on the totem pole is helping you out, you absolutely need to compensate them."

The metaphorical totem pole here isn't just a ranking by amount-of-money-in-the-bank. Adults outrank kids. Especially, older relatives outrank younger ones within a family. In a school, more advanced students outrank less advanced ones. In a company, higher-ranked employees outrank lower-ranked ones (duh). Among people who look like equals, relatively successful or stable ones outrank people who are going through a rough spell or struggling financially or whatever.

If someone higher up the totem pole offers you help — your mom helps out with the kids; your boss proofreads a report you wrote; your successful, financially secure older brother gives you his old car when he gets a new one — you can offer to pay or "owe them one" or whatever, but they're allowed to refuse and it's okay to let them.

If someone lower on the totem pole does it — a younger relative helps out with the kids; the new guy at work volunteers to proofread a report you wrote; your big brother who's fallen on hard times moves someplace he can't have a car and offers you his old one — then you have to repay them, if not with money than with a favor of the same magnitude, and you should be very reluctant to take "no" for an answer.

(BTW, I think this was a fine question and it sucks that people are jumping on you for it. I'm not offering this answer as a lecture or a bit of implied criticism or whatever. Just, you know, FYI, next time this comes up, there is a pretty standard rule of thumb here and you can just stick to the rule and not worry about it 99% of the time.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 AM on October 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


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