Doctor Love: Not Free

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Readers email your question to [email protected] Your letters are edited solely for grammar, spelling and length.

Dear Doctor Love,
I’m sixteen years old and I used to babysit my younger brothers and sister without any pay. They are old enough to stay alone now but my mother’s two younger sisters have four young children. My mom always tells them that I’ll baby sit while they go shopping or socializing for the evening. She doesn’t ask me if I have something planned and they don’t want to pay me.
I do babysit for other parents and sometimes I have to give up money to look after my cousins.
I would like my mother to ask me first and I would like to be paid. My mother says family doesn’t pay for babysitting. She reads your column every Sunday and she will listen to you because you are fair.
/s/Not Free

Dear Not Free,
The eldest child is normally expected to mind their younger siblings as you did, without pay. The question here is whether that generosity extends to other family members.
In one camp is the idea that children get a roof over their heads and all of their needs taken care of. In return, they do chores. When they become teens, these chores become responsibilities that include babysitting.
The other camp holds with the realization that babysitting is a way for a teen to earn extra money and not have to ask parents for an allowance while learning responsibility.
As a child, your time was managed by your mother. As a teen, you begin to manage some of your free time to do activities you enjoy or allow you to earn some spending money. Your mother hasn’t realized it is time to treat you more like an adult.
Your mother shouldn’t volunteer your services without talking to you first. The Doctor says “volunteer” because your aunts do not pay you. Discuss this with your mom. It is a matter of respect. Your mother should respect the importance of your commitments to other people.
You make money by babysitting and giving up those jobs to mind your cousins without payment is unfair. Sometimes it is unavoidable, an emergency arises, or a sitter just cannot be found. In those cases, it would be generous to look after the children.
If your aunties want to go out for an evening. they should not expect free child-care. But as they are family, you could discuss a discount with them. As Solomon offered to split the baby, you should offer to split the babysitting fee. Or have them send you a pizza. It would go over nicely with the youngsters as well as the babysitter.

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