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5 Reasons You Should Babysit

by Annique Bolliger

Are you wondering which kind of student job will get you some money, but not steal much of your precious study time? Wonder no more – babysitting is the answer. Read how Annique has used babysitting to her advantage during her studies.

The fact that I have babysat over 30 different children (and can’t even remember all of them) is in part a mystery to me. I wouldn’t say I am the biggest fan of kids in general, but for some reason I work and get along with them really well… at least in most cases.

Although my first babysitting jobs started when I was about 15, I only began to babysit regularly after getting my driver’s. You get the families that end up becoming your regulars, and then you get the odd once-off jobs, or families that hear about you by word of mouth and need someone for a special occasion or during their stay in South Africa.

If you are in Matric or studying, babysitting can be a great way to score some pocket money! It won’t keep you above water, but a few babysitting gigs each month can be helpful to cover a grocery shop, or fill up your tank, or fund that one night of partying that ended up in somewhat of an excess…

Here are 5 reasons why babysitting rocks as a student job:

1. You get paid for sitting on your butt and studying

In most cases, parents will need a babysitter at night so they can go out for dinner or a concert, and simply enjoy an evening of child-free delight. So unless you are watching a baby or tyrant, the procedure is quite simple.

In general, you will sit with the kids for dinner, help them with some homework, make sure they brush their teeth, and maybe read them a goodnight story before it’s lights-off. From my experience, bedtime is around 19h30 and 20h00, so by 20h30 you are basically free to do what you want.

It’s the perfect time to study!

Take your textbooks with you, work on your essay draft, or do your readings – this works especially well if you don’t have access to their Wifi or decent TV programmes – less distraction, less procrastination.

2. Free Wifi, yo

If you do have access to the family’s Wifi, use it to do research and get sources for your essay. Or if you are going to spend the night on YouTube, then at least watch one or two videos related to your topic – sometimes they can make for good references too.

Note, before you drain their Internet data, just ask the family if their Wifi is unlimited or not.

3. You learn responsibility

Babysitting can be a breeze, and in most of my experiences, it has been very easy and straightforward. But sometimes kids act up, or don’t want to fall asleep, or generally demand more time and attention.

At the end of the day, parents are trusting you and paying you to watch their little ones. That is the priority. So if you are in the zone and find yourself in the middle of an academic epiphany, and the kid calls you because of the monster under the bed, then unfortunately that monster is going to have to come first.

Taking care of someone else’s kids is a big responsibility and teaches you to adapt to the needs of individuals. Some kids will need you to be comforting and gentle, while others need a stern and authoritative figure. Dealing with children can teach you a lot of patience and compassion.

4. You get treats

Most of the time, families will tell you to just help yourself to the fridge and kitchen contents, or make as much tea and coffee as you like. Sometimes they will prepare enough dinner for you to join in, or order you something. Obviously you aren’t going to ravage and binge away on their food and drinks (I hope), but if they offer for you to help yourself, then you might as well enjoy a delicious dinner and score a tasty dessert.

Often times I have arrived at babysitting jobs with a little chocolate or bowl of biscuits waiting for me. Too bad I’m not a sweet tooth. My point is, a lot of families are very generous and spoil you with snacks or treats.

5. It gives you insight into the world of having kids

Not that this applies to your current short-term life goals, but getting a glimpse of what it’s like to have kids can be quite an interesting experience, even if you only want to have children much later in life, or not at all. In fact, doing a fair share of babysitting will probably make you value your youth and freedom a lot.

I think it’s a valuable experience to have, being in the situation in which you are temporarily responsible for a little person’s wellbeing. You can learn a lot about yourself too. For some people, watching and interacting with small children might feed into their natural parenting instinct and make them feel fuzzy and warm – for others it functions as a very effective contraception.  As long as the kids you watch are relatively non-demonic, it’s worth experiencing.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How do I get a babysitting job?

There are many ways. The easiest is to put yourself out there and directly contact families with young children who might need an occasional babysitter.

You can also register with an agency, or advertise yourself. Some of the jobs I received were because of flyers I hung up at various kindergartens.

Once you have one or two families, things tend to just happen by word of mouth. If the kids like you, the parents like you. If the parents like you, they will recommend you.

  • What is the going rate?

It depends a little on your experience and age, and also on what the families can afford.

Assuming you have a basic competence for childcare, or a fair amount of experience with babysitting, the going rate is around R60-80 per hour for locals. If you are babysitting for families from abroad who come to SA with a very nice exchange rate, you can ask for more.

It’s not set in stone. Sometimes you can also increase the price depending on how many children you need to watch. Babysitting 1 child is evidently less exhausting than babysitting 3 or 4.

You can also ask for a bit more if you have a long travelling distance. Petrol chows! And you want the job to at least be worth your while.

  • What if I don’t have a license or a car?

If you can’t get to the family, and you don’t have anyone that can give you lifts, then generally there are two options:

You can ask the family to pick you up and drop you off, or you can ask them if they would be willing to cover taxi costs.

This doesn’t always work out, but it can. So don’t worry. If you live relatively close to the family, give it a try. Sometimes a calm, child-free evening is worth the extra expense for them.

  • Can guys also do babysitting?

Of course. When I was younger, our neighbour’s sons used to babysit us. I still feel sorry for those guys, because my sisters and I were a handful. Being male certainly doesn’t prevent you from taking care of another human being, does it?

Babysitting does tend to be associated with girls and women. I think the main reason is because it’s seen as an unusual job for a guy to have, and women are more willing to do it – not sure why? I’m also not certain to what extent this stereotype influences the next reason, but I guess there is a general fear of abuse from babysitters, and women pose less of a threat. If the family knows and trusts you, however, it shouldn’t make a difference.

Essentially, it really doesn’t matter what your gender is in order for you to do babysitting.

  • What if things go wrong?

If things go wrong, you need to call the parents. Don’t even think twice. The worst ting you can do is try to handle a disastrous situation on your own out of fear to be reprimanded or blamed.

Part of what allows parents to enjoy their evening is knowing that if there is a problem, you will let them know. This doesn’t mean calling them because the child is throwing a small tantrum or wet the bed. But if the child is choking, or gets badly hurt, then yes – call them immediately. Knowing what to do in a bad situation is a combination of responsibility, common sense, personal discretion, and good decision-making skills.

Here are some scenarios I have dealt with previously, where things didn’t go as planned:

  • toddlers wetting their beds and pooing their pants
  • babies vomiting all over me and refusing to stop screaming
  • crazy boys running around, then accidentally breaking a window and cutting a wrist
  • a toddler taking off and obliviously driving into the road with his mini car
  • watching a toddler grab and swallow a piece of unpeeled apple and almost choking
  • paging through a story book and asking a toddler to point out the monster – just to have him point at me!

Does it make me a bad babysitter? No. Just ask any parent how many scary situations he or she has had to suffer through because of their kids. What it comes down to is your ability to act adequately when things go wrong. If that means having to call an ambulance, so be it.

EduConnect 2cents

Don’t be scared to make a fool of yourself. Kids go crazy for funny faces, squeaky voices, and general silliness. Plus, no one is there to watch and judge you, so just do what you gotta do to entertain the minions. Also, kids can be brutally honest. Grow a backbone. They might comment or ask questions that you find awkward or unexpected. It happens. A lot.

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