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What To Do If Parents Are Late Home? (4 Tips For Babysitters)

What To Do If Parents Are Late Home?

25 Sep 2019

 Matthew James Taylor

Written & Illustrated by
Matthew James Taylor

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In any job, you might have to work a bit later than expected sometimes. But what if the parents you babysit for are making a habit of continually getting home late?

What should you do if parents are home late when babysitting? You can avoid most issues with parents coming home late by communicating your expectations upfront. If parents are running late, you can call and get an idea of when they'll be back. If they refuse to pay for your extra time, strongly consider not working for them again.

In this article, you'll learn how to deal with parents who come home late when you're babysitting, and more importantly, how to avoid running into this issue in the first place.

How Should You Handle Tardy Parents When Babysitting?

If you don't mind staying a bit late and don't have anywhere else to be, you might not mind parents who repeatedly arrive home later than planned, at least not if you're getting paid for the extra time that you work.

But babysitters live busy lives outside of their work. You may have early classes the next day, an exam to study for, friends to meet up with after your babysitting job is done, or even kids of your own at home to tend to. So this article will mostly assume that you don't want to be stuck babysitting later than you agreed to on a regular basis.

Here we aren't talking about parents who are only occasionally late by 10 or 15 minutes, every few months of babysitting or so. You should have a bit of flexibility because there are always issues with traffic, appointments running longer than expected, and other things outside of their control.

However, if you have parents who are chronically late getting home, here are four tips to help deal with it in the future.

1. Communicate Your Expectations Up Front

Let parents know what you expect in terms of punctuality when you're first starting to babysit for a family. Parents rightfully expect babysitters to show up on time, so it's not that unreasonable to expect the same in return.

You can find more delicate ways to phrase it, instead of just saying you expect parents to be home on time though. For example, you might use the reasoning that you don't want to worry if they're late, so you'd appreciate them contacting you if that's going to be the case.

There are actually several valid reasons why you might want to know when parents plan to arrive home. If you know they'll get back at 9 pm, then you can schedule in some cleanup time at 8:45 so the house will be tidy when they walk in the door.

Whenever parents leave you to babysit their kids, you should have some information at a bare minimum:

  • What time they plan to arrive home.
  • Where they will be (Is it an appointment with a set time, or something more open-ended like a dinner party?)
  • If there's a chance they'll run later than expected.
  • When they'll call to let you know if their timeframe has changed.
  • The absolute latest they plan to arrive home (As in, past this time, you can start to worry and reach out to your emergency contacts if you can't get in touch with them.)

Where should you record all this information? In our parent details form of course!

Parent details form

Download Our Parent Details Form

When arriving at a babysitting job, ask the parents to fill out their details in this handy form so all their contact information, plus important details about the children, is in one place.

Put it on the fridge or kitchen table so you know exactly where it is in an emergency. After the job, keep it in your babysitting binder for future jobs with the family.

Free Download

(parent-details-form-v2.pdf 36kb)

Also, see our other handy babysitting checklists.

When arranging times with parents make sure that you discuss specifics, and avoid general statements that could lead to confusion later on. For example, many parents might say something like "I won't be home late." But to some parents that means 10 pm, and to other parents it might mean midnight. Even if they can't give a specific hour, a rough timeframe or range is better than nothing at all.

Parents might wrongfully assume that you as the babysitter have nowhere special to be after you're done working. So, be sure to let parents know if you have any plans after the babysitting job, or if you need to go somewhere else by a particular time. You might need to get home to study for a test the next day, or you may even have multiple babysitting jobs scheduled back to back.

So as a general rule, assume parents will think you're flexible to work later if needed unless you specifically tell them otherwise.

The more that you and the parents you're babysitting for can set expectations upfront, the less chance there is for misunderstanding later on.

Another difficult conversation you'll need to have with parents is agreeing on an hourly rate. Check out my article How To Negotiate A Babysitting Rate (9 Tips: Preparation & Strategies) to make sure you're getting paid what you deserve!

2. Don't Be Afraid To Call

When parents are enjoying their time out away from their kids, they can sometimes lose track of time. If it's already 20 minutes later than the parents told you they'd be home, it's entirely reasonable for you to call to see how things are going and get an updated estimate on when they'll be home.

Some parents might have legitimately just forgotten when they said they'd be home, so calling might prompt them to come home right away, instead of waiting another hour or more for them to realize on their own. Or they might tell you that there's been an unexpected delay or something has come up that means they'll be later than anticipated.

Ideally, you'll have communicated with the parents in advance and they'd take the initiative and phone you in advance when they know they're going to be late. But if not, don't be afraid to give them a little nudge. It doesn't feel nice having an indeterminate amount of time to wait, so calling will at least give you some idea of when they'll be back.

4. Get Compensated For Your Time

If you're babysitting and parents do run late, then it's totally fair that you get compensated for your extra time. If they've booked you for a 5-hour job but actually were gone for 6 hours, then they should expect to pay you for the extra hour.

In reality, most parents will be quite apologetic when they're late and will even offer you a tip or pay you a higher overtime rate for the extra time. Most babysitters are actually pretty flexible and okay with staying late if that's the kind of accommodation they receive from parents.

The problem is when you feel like you're being taken advantage of or disrespected as a babysitter. In rare cases, some parents may just ignore the fact they're late and not offer to pay you anything extra or even apologize.

Depending on your age, experience, and other factors, you might act differently when a family is mistreating you and not valuing your time.

If you feel confident enough, you can call the parents out on it and ask to be compensated for the extra time you've worked.

But if you don't feel safe confronting parents about them being late, that's understandable too. In that case, I'd recommend just accepting the lost pay and refusing to take on babysitting jobs for that family again. Sometimes it's not worth starting a big fight over $15, so you'll have to read the situation and decide what's best for you.

How Do You Handle Parents Who Come Home Early While You're Babysitting?

Sometimes, parents coming home too early can be just as annoying as when they get home late. You might have turned down other jobs for that night. So if they said they'd be gone for five hours and come home after two, it can really feel like they've wasted your time and potential earnings.

Parents should be paying you for the amount of time they originally booked you, even if they come home earlier than that. To avoid running into issues, you can let parents know when they book you that you've got a 4 hour minimum for babysitting jobs. That way they have to pay you for your time, even if they're home early or cancel at the last minute. Your time is valuable, and you don't deserve to lose your earnings for the night just because their plans changed without warning.

Here are some other questions that you should be discussing with parents before you even start babysitting for them! What Should Babysitters Ask Parents? (20 Important Questions)


Sometimes unexpected situations arise that cause parents to get home late when you're babysitting. If it only happens once and a while, it's probably not a big deal, especially if the parents are apologetic and pay you for your extra time.

Feel free to call and get an updated time of when the parents plan to get home if they're more than 15 or 20 minutes late, especially if being late is out of character for them.

Communicate your needs in advance to avoid running into problems. If you let parents know that you can't be flexible on a particular night because you have something important to do after you're done working, the majority of people will be understanding and work with you on that.

But if one set of parents you babysit for is continuously running late whenever you work for them and they don't seem to value your time, it might be time to drop them and find another family to work for.

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