No, please, just take the money
December 29, 2012 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out how to pay a babysitter who doesn't want to be paid.

I have a 10-week-old son who is totally awesome, except that we still would love to have a bit of time to ourselves every so often. However, we live on a different continent than any family, which makes finding that time somewhat difficult. The saving grace, however, has been our babysitter, who has been taking our son once every two weeks or so for an afternoon. These afternoons have been godsends and I want them to continue.

The problem is that she completely refuses any payment, and I feel really bad about that. She is quite insistent in her refusal and I haven't been able to force her to accept any money. I would like to find some kind of non-monetary recompense that she will accept, but when I ask her, she just says she doesn't want anything. I think if I can make a suggestion myself, or simply do something that we can plausibly pass off as something I would want to do anyway or that is "no big deal" then she will accept it and I will feel a lot better. Problem is, I can't think of anything that I can give as an ongoing sort of thing: I don't bake (and I don't think she likes sweets), I don't have a lot of time (due to the aforementioned baby), etc. I'm hoping some of you will have some ideas.

A few additional details:

- She is a former honours student of mine and currently works about 15 hours a week as my lab manager (I am a professor). This is one of the major reasons I don't want there to be any sense of obligation on her part to do this. She has no intention of continuing on in my field, and is shortly starting a PhD in a quite different topic, so there are no conflicts of interest in that sense.

- She was the one that offered to babysit in the first place. She honestly loves babies and I think misses them a great deal (her children are 10, 13, and 16). After every time she babysits she is the one to ask when she can see my son next. She is also the one who suggested that we make this a regular fortnightly thing.

- She is older than me (early 40s, I am mid-30s) and we get along well. We aren't close friends, partially because of the supervisor/supervisee dynamic, although that dynamic is waning fast now that she is not my student. Plus, with her being an actual mature adult we probably equally often seek each others' advice about things: her asking me about career stuff, me asking her about kid/family stuff.

- I would love it if she stays a part of my son's life. Because we don't have a large extended network here, having another adult who cares about him would be a great thing.

So... thoughts about this? I am mainly looking for suggestions of things I can do for her on an ongoing basis, that she will accept, that will serve as some sort of repayment for the invaluable babysitting she is doing. But if you think I should continue letting her babysit for free (or, conversely, if you think I am taking advantage of her and shouldn't have her babysit at all) then please tell me so. The situation makes me slightly uneasy but we really have nobody else that we trust who so consistently and happily wants to babysit. I'm hoping that if I can come up with some sort of "pay" that she will also accept, then everyone will be happy.
posted by forza to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I walk my cousin's dog twice a week and she gives me a coffee gift card once a month. I love dogs and would do it for free but she insists on giving me something, so I accept the gift card.
posted by xyzzy at 7:25 PM on December 29, 2012

Can you give something to, or do any favors for, her kids?
posted by ecsh at 7:28 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been in this situation from the babysitting end with our neighbors and I felt as uneasy about taking their money as you do about not giving it. What I told them is that they couldn't pay me but I could say "no" anytime I wanted to. It sounds weird but it worked for me.

If I were you, I'd grab some sort of food she likes when I'm at the store next time and give her that. You know, something yummy and sort of decadent. Or a bottle of wine.

Really, she just wants to smell that new baby smell and hold him while he sleeps. I would do that for no money every two weeks.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

On preview, another thought: she probably enjoys being your go-to parenting expert. It's nice to have someone ask your advice, you know? Let it be if she doesn't want money and just get we something nice.

Ooh, another one more thought: a museum or theatre membership would be pretty cool. Or something she could do with the kids, like movie tickets.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:33 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Maybe you should take her at her word - she does not want to be paid. You said yourself that she loves babies, and you want her to be a part of your son's life. Well, you have a great situation right now as it is. Maybe you should just be happy with it.
posted by barnoley at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yeah, as much as I'd appreciate the sentiment behind receiving a gift in this situation..I'd still be uncomfortable with it. I wouldn't want you to feel like you owe me or that I'm only doing it because I expect something in return.

With that being said, I understand where you're coming from as well because I like to give gifts to others in these situations (even though I don't like receiving them!).

So, give her things like books, store bought desserts, and nifty items like a set of gloves and a scarf, yarn for knitting or something to support her hobbies and interests, and occasional gift cards for gas or groceries but just a small amount like $25 or less. Don't do this on a bi-weekly basis. Instead, do it every 1.5-2 months or so.
posted by livinglearning at 7:37 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there something from your home country you could give to her kids like a local t-shirt, music or something that a local to where you are now teenager would want from your home country they cannot get or get easily?

Maybe just write her a long note/letter telling her how much you appreciate it, how you love to have the comfort of knowing there is another adult who cares about your child with your family so far away, and name her your child's local Auntie.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:39 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

We give away our honey to friends and coworkers. They love it and some of them really want to give us money for it. We do not want money for it because accepting money would turn it into a business transaction, and we do not want to make this our business. It is just something nice we do, for people we like, when we want to do it.

I think your babysitter is thinking like this. Accepting money makes it a "job" and she doesn't want that job. Stop offering. But keep eyes open for a favor you can do for her. And yes to yummy and decadent food that she wouldn't normally buy for herself. Gourmet cheese, local honey, stuff like that. (I vote "no" for gift cards - they have a very specific money value and to my mind are no different from giving cash, just harder to spend.)
posted by evilmomlady at 7:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There will come a time when there's something you can do for her, and she'll appreciate it.
posted by bleep at 7:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

My upstairs neighbor does this for me. I take her out to coffee when I can, and for Christmas gave her a calendar full of baby pictures, which seemed to go over well.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2012

She doesn't want to be paid. Respect the words coming out of her mouth and don't pay her. If you do, you'll be making it weird. Don't. Accept the gracious gesture gracefully and treat her with the dignity and admiration you would any equal.
posted by Catchfire at 7:50 PM on December 29, 2012 [13 favorites]

I occasionally babysit for friends' children, and feel weird taking money, so they buy me things like concert tickets (which we then go to together)--it usually still saves them money and I feel way less weird about it. Maybe there's something similar, where you could treat her?
posted by leesh at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2012

Sounds to me like she's repaying YOU for being a wonderful teacher and friend. Repay her by always treating her reasonably and by making sure that she always has what she needs to take care of your tot. :) What a nice lady!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:09 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

She sounds lovely. I wouldn't keep trying to pay her, but I'd take her out for a coffee every so often and gift her something nice- jams, cheeses, specialty foods. It might be also be appreciated to leave something on the fridge with a note, like a gift certificate to the museum or ice cream parlor, so she can treat herself and the kids.
posted by flying_trapeze at 8:15 PM on December 29, 2012

One of our neighbors nannied for our youngest for a while, and I paid her for that. But now when she minds one or more of the kids for a bit, she refuses payment. So I leave her little presents - a bottle of wine or a pound of good coffee (she's a single mom and money is tight so these are treats she wouldn't get for herself), things like that. You might consider doing something similar.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:38 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

She's not a babysittedr. Stop thinking of her as a babysitter. She's a person you know who digs your kid and likes spending time with him. She's an aunt, in all but blood. So treat her like an aunt; let her take care of the boy and give her slightly better birthday/Christmas presents than you would normally.
posted by Etrigan at 8:38 PM on December 29, 2012 [21 favorites]

I'm not surprised she didn't accept the money-- she already has a job and doesn't want this to be a job. The typical solution would be reciprocal babysitting but since that's not an option, I think gift certificates to activities (movies, restaurants, museums) would be great, if you don't want to go the "little luxuries" route as suggested above.
posted by acidic at 8:57 PM on December 29, 2012

Have her (and her family) over to dinner, and start putting her in the friend box instead of the student/babysitter box (since it sounds like she's not your student any more? Not clear on the supervisory relationship vis a vis her being your lab manager).
posted by leahwrenn at 9:16 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you know her well at all, give her some spendier form of a regular or needful indulgence, on a regimented basis... if she likes coffee, a pound or so of good coffee, if tea, a week to two week's worth every week and a half. If chocolate, ... hrm... you'll have to observe her carefully for a while...then gauge your dosage.
For people who are recalcitrant to monetary repayment, I just inure them to a sort of work-a-day gift regime, a little here, a little there until lo and behold, i've covered their last month of coffee. or chocolate or what have you, and we all feel better.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:27 PM on December 29, 2012

Okay, I am getting the message. If nobody thinks I am taking advantage of her generosity by accepting her free help -- and in fact may be being rude in not accepting it in the spirit it was intended -- then that relieves my worries significantly. I think a lot of my reservations stemmed from the fact that she is also my lab manager, leading to the worry that she might not feel like she can say no (even though I've told her many times she can, and she doesn't strike me as the sort of person who would be unable to do so).

I really like the idea of having her as a "local Auntie" to my son and sneaking in random gifts or taking her out to coffee when I can. And also including her and her family more in our lives.

First thing I'll do is send her a few pictures of my son! I think she'll like that.
posted by forza at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you really want to give her something, make it something babysitting-related. She already sees it as rewarding to spend time with your son, so give her a nice experience with him every now and then. You could get tickets for something your son enjoys (a musical or theatre for kids, a theme park visit, something like that), or take her to a short trip or activity where she isn't solely "the babysitter", but part of a family activity as "the aunt".
posted by MinusCelsius at 11:01 PM on December 29, 2012

Extending on the pictures, another good idea at some stage is to take some photos of her with your kid, together. Print em up, frame em. She'll really love it, and she'll really love seeing that you have the same picture displayed in your house, if you're the picture-displaying type. Knowing how much you value her presence in your child's life would be the best gift you could give her.
posted by smoke at 12:30 AM on December 30, 2012

A probably irrelevant anecdote from the other side of this sort of situation:
I have worked in IT support for many years. I am happy to fix the PCs of friends & members of my church in my free time. They are generally very grateful, feel beholden to me & wish to pay me. I do not wish to be paid. I do it because I like the people, have a useful skill & am happy to share it. So years ago I came up with a solution which seems to make everybody happy. My 'friends & family rate' is 1 Mars Bar (widely available, single serving chocolate bar) per PC repair. They get to feel like they have given me something for my trouble. I get a chocolate bar that I like & the value of it is so small that I am still comfortable. Result - everybody is happy.

Of course, in your case, you would need your friend to come to my conclusion too. But my point is that I really don't want to be paid, but needed to find some way to alleviate my friends' discomfort at feeling beholden to me.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 1:10 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

If she has a charity/cause/organization she is a part of/interested in/passionate about, maybe you could make a donation to it (maybe in her name?). You could do that as part of a present to her or just in general as a sort of general paying it forward thing.
posted by NoraReed at 6:06 AM on December 30, 2012

Agreeing with everybody above - as a mother, she knows how important the afternoons off are for you and she feels great to be able to do it for you (plus she gets to spend time with your perfect baby!). Taking money would turn it into a transaction and would not be as rewarding for her.
posted by davey_darling at 1:44 PM on December 30, 2012

My mom's friend babysat us quite often when we were little. She didn't have a washer and dryer at her house, and every time she babysat she'd bring over all her clothes to wash. The actual cash value of this was pretty low for her, but it was definitely more convenient than going to the laundromat, and it made my parents feel as though she was getting something out of watching us. Is there anything you can do to make this woman's life more convenient?
posted by town of cats at 6:56 PM on December 30, 2012

As well/instead of foody gifts to take away, make sure to leave her a plate of delicious snacks when she's babysitting - not necessarily home baking, can be shop-bought, but just some nice treats of the kind she wouldn't necessarily buy herself (I'm thinking of smoked-salmony nibbles as I type this - mmm).
posted by penguin pie at 7:00 PM on December 30, 2012

I reckon she'd love for you to be friends. As far as some kind of recompense to show your gratitude goes, maybe a subscription to a magazine she really enjoys would be a nice thing to do.
posted by h00py at 12:33 AM on December 31, 2012

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