We have yet to hire a babysitter outside of our family and regular daycare providers. We don’t go out a whole ton but we are fortunate that my parents or brother typically say yes when we need a babysitter. This is mostly a cost-saving measure as well as a way of ensuring our kids get some quality time with their grandparents or uncle. However, if and when we do hire someone outside of family I don’t know that I have a particular age in mind as much as a particular level of responsibility and trust-worthiness. I really believe there is no right age for a babysitter.
There is an interesting story from a reader submission on iVillage Australia where a single mother with her parents lined up to watch her kids while she attended a work function ended up in a jam. Her parents got the flu and couldn’t come over so she tried calling around to her friends to see if anyone could help her out. After exhausting all of her options, she turned to an 11-year old girl who lived across the street. The girl had previously told her she would babysit for her if needed and she already knew the children and got on well with them. The problem was that she was only 11 and the mother was wondering if that was too young to leave with her three and five-year old children. In the end, she had no choice and left the girl with instructions, phone numbers and the comforting knowledge that the babysitter’s parents were right across the street if she needed them. In the end, everything was fine and the girl did an excellent job but the mother still felt guilty for leaving her kids with such a young babysitter and questioned whether it was the right thing to do.
I have to say- I don’t know that I would allow someone that young to watch my kids at nighttime but the fact that her parents are right across the street does make it a little easier to swallow. I know I started babysitting as young as 10 years old for my brothers and then around 11 or 12 for other families and I was very trust-worthy and had good judgement for when I needed to call my mother for advice. I can speak from my own experience and also, from seeing my daughter and how she is with small children. She is only seven so we are a ways off from considering it but I can already see by her personality and the way she is with her young cousins and our neighbor’s kids that she will make an excellent babysitter at a rather early age. She is patient, kind and has good judgement. If we had another baby right now, I would fully trust her to keep an eye on things while I shower or run to the mailbox. I think age is only one factor to consider when choosing a babysitter and responsibility, good judgement and maturity are all far more important. I know plenty of older teen girls that I would never consider as a baby-sitter and several 10-13 year old kids that would probably do a great job. Age is really just a number, in my opinion.
That said, I am not sure when I will feel comfortable allowing my daughter to babysit for other families and I am also not sure when we will ever hire a babysitter outside of our own family. I do know that when the time comes, their age will be among the things I consider in our selection but it will not be the deciding factor.
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