In an ideal world, it would be great if you came home and found your babysitter had cleaned your entire house from top to bottom. But that's not really a realistic expectation. Which cleaning tasks and chores should you expect your babysitter to do, and which might be a bit unreasonable?
Do babysitters wash dishes and do other chores? To some extent. It might be unreasonable to ask your babysitter to mop your floors or dust all the surfaces in your house. But in general, it's fair to ask them to clean up any messes made while they're working. This includes cleaning up any messes or spills, washing pots and dishes after preparing dinner for your kids and putting away toys.
In this article, I'll discuss whether a babysitter should do any cleaning. As well as what types of cleaning you should and shouldn't expect them to do, as well as how to adjust a babysitter's hourly rate to account for extra chores and tasks they complete.
Should A Babysitter Clean and Do Chores?
A lot of babysitters feel that their only duty is to watch your child, not anything more or less. They'll supervise your kids, engage and do activities with them, discipline them, dispense medicine, cook meals, and get your kids ready for bed. But when it comes to cleaning tasks, some babysitters draw a line in the sand.
While keeping your kid engaged, safe, happy, and well fed is quite a task by itself, there's usually room for some minor cleaning duties too.
It's important to communicate your expectations to your babysitter in advance. If it's unclear what tasks you want your babysitter to perform, there could be frustration from both sides.
What's my opinion? I try to compare babysitting, especially part-time babysitting by teenagers, to similar other jobs they could be working instead. That includes things like being employed at a fast food restaurant, a cashier at a clothing store, or working behind the deli counter in a supermarket.
Being a babysitter is a pretty cushy job for a teen when you think about it. Yes, watching a child is a lot of work and responsibility. But babysitters typically make more per hour than their peers working other jobs, and arguably for less work.
Babysitters don't need to constantly deal with angry customers (except the child-sized kind.) They don't have to scrub public toilets, or wipe down tables after every customer. They don't have the pressure of a constant line of people waiting for their burgers to cook.
So as someone who has both watched kids and also worked a part-time job as a teen, I think that babysitters have it pretty easy. That's why I think a little cleaning shouldn't be the end of the world for your babysitter.
What Kinds of Cleaning Tasks Are Reasonable For A Babysitter?
At the most simple level, I think it's fair that a babysitter should be responsible for cleaning up any mess made while they were working. They should leave your house about as clean as they found it when they arrived. Not any cleaner, and not any dirtier.
Cleaning and tidying up messes is just a part of caring for kids.
Ideally, you want to discuss any cleaning tasks you'd like completed by your babysitter at the time of hiring, so you both understand how the arrangement will work. It can be a lot harder to add extra cleaning tasks to a babysitter's duties later on, especially without an increase in pay.
Some cleaning chores that might be reasonable to ask your babysitter to do include:
If your babysitter will be working over a meal time and preparing food for your kids, it's fair that they wash any pots and pans, plates, dishes, cups, or cutlery that become dirty in the process. If you've got a dishwasher it's not really that much more work than just putting them in the sink.
Doing crafts is messy. It's great that your babysitter is willing to do arts and craft activities with your kids. But part of doing crafts is tidying up any mess created in the process. That includes picking up any scraps of paper, wiping glitter off the table, and cleaning up any paint that got on the floor.
As a parent, you already work hard enough, and you shouldn't need to come home and spend 1-2 hours cleaning up after the messes that your babysitter helped create.
Cleaning Up Spills and Messes
If your child spills something or gets sick on themselves or the carpet while the babysitter is watching them, it seems fair that the sitter should clean it up. If not for any other reason, simply because leaving a spill sitting will likely turn into a stain that could've been avoided by dealing with it right away.
Putting Away Toys
Your sitter should help your child put away their toys once they're done playing with them if your kid isn't yet old enough to do it themselves. Having clutter and toys strewn all around the house can be a tripping hazard, plus it just looks messy.
It's a good way to teach your kids to put things back where they belong. Plus it's not a huge task and should only take 5 or 10 minutes at most, no matter how far your child has scattered their toys across the house.
If your babysitter is giving your kid a bath, it's only natural that the floor around the tub is going to get a bit wet. But your babysitter should be putting away all the bath toys and shampoo once they're done. As well as using a towel to wipe up any leftover puddles or bath bubbles that made their way across the bathroom, and throwing wet towels into the laundry.
Basic Baby Stuff
If your child is still in diapers, your babysitter will need to change them. They should know how to properly dispose of used diapers, or the proper protocol to follow if you're using cloth diapers instead.
They should also do any cleanup associated with preparing bottles, as well as rinsing out bottles and putting them in the dishwasher after your baby is fed.
What Kind Of Cleaning Tasks Are Unreasonable For A Regular Babysitter?
You generally shouldn't expect your babysitter to clean up any mess that was already there before they arrived.
That means stuff like cleaning up a sink full of dirty dishes that you've left from the day before.
Basically, you want to limit the cleaning that's required of them to light housekeeping and cleaning up any mess that was the direct result of their babysitting.
You can make an agreement with your babysitter for them to do any cleaning task you want, but it should be agreed ahead of time. The more tasks you add, the more you blur the line between a regular babysitter and a dual role of both babysitter and housekeeper. Outside of the basic tasks you'd expect from any babysitter, you should be financially compensating fairly for any additional work they do.
A babysitter might be able to cover some smaller cleaning tasks, but if you need a significant amount of cleaning to be done, you're probably better off hiring a professional housekeeper to come and clean your place a couple of times per week instead.
How Much Should I Pay A Babysitter Who Also Cleans?
Most babysitters probably don't want to take on a lot of extra cleaning duties. But some sitters might enjoy cleaning enough that a bit of extra money will make it worth it for them.
But how much of a pay increase beyond your basic babysitting rate is enough?
If you're in the US, you probably pay anywhere between $10 and $16 per hour for a babysitter.
If you wanted to hire a separate housecleaning staff, you'd probably pay at least another $10 per hour.
So should you pay a cleaning babysitter double? Well, not quite. Remember that they won't be able to devote 100% of their time to cleaning. The main part of their job is still looking after your children, and cleaning just fills in any gaps and downtime.
If you'd normally pay your regular babysitter $11 per hour, I'd pay a babysitter who is also willing to do a significant amount of cleaning more like $15 or $16 per hour. So around 1.5x what you'd pay a babysitter who doesn't clean.
That way you're getting most of the benefits of both jobs, but you only need to hire one person and it will cost you less overall.
Our article: The complete guide to babysitter pay can help you decide on an appropriate pay rate for a babysitter who also cleans.
List of Cleaning Tasks Your Babysitter Might Be Willing To Do
It's important to remember that your babysitter's job is watching your kids first and foremost. The amount of time they'll have left over for cleaning will vary a lot depending on how much of their time gets taken up by your kids.
For example, it's not really reasonable to come home to a spotless house if your babysitter is watching a newborn baby that needs to be fed and changed every couple of hours. In contrast, if you only have one well-behaved 7- or 8-year-old who can mostly take care of themselves, your babysitter might be able to focus a lot more time on cleaning with only minimal supervision required.
Some cleaning tasks your babysitter might be willing to do include:
- Washing dishes, loading and unloading the dishwasher.
- Pet-related cleaning, like cleaning the cat's litter box or picking up dog poop from the yard. As well as feeding all pets including dogs, cats, fish, and others (be sure to specify the amount or show them the first time).
- Doing laundry, folding clothes, and ironing.
- Changing bedding.
- Vacuuming and dusting.
- Wiping down and sanitizing counters and appliances.
- Taking out the garbage, compost, and sorting recycling.
- Cleaning the bathroom, including the toilet, shower, and sinks.
- General de-cluttering and cleanup.
It's best to be reasonable and not expect your babysitter to do everything (or even most things) on this list. Be aware that the more items you add to the list, the closer your babysitter moves to becoming full-on cleaning staff and really needs to be compensated fairly for all their extra work.
Prioritize. If you do have a seemingly never-ending list of chores and tasks that need to get done, make a prioritized list so your babysitter knows what you want them to focus on. You can only reasonably expect your babysitter to do what you expect if you give them detailed directions.
Some cleaning tasks might be well overdue and you want them to be done immediately. Others might have just been done a couple days ago and only need to be completed once a month. Try to focus on giving your babysitter simple to-do tasks that are easy to check off, instead of big in-depth cleaning tasks that will take an hour or more to complete.
Make a schedule. If you don't have a schedule or timeline of what things need to be done while you're out, some babysitters will just default to doing nothing. This is especially true in the era of social media and web surfing where a babysitter can be perfectly content sitting on the couch with their phone for hours.
It's not unreasonable to lay out instructions and a schedule of tasks that need to be completed by your babysitter while you're gone.
Have a contract. The more responsibilities and tasks you assign to your babysitter, the vaguer their actual job title becomes. Especially when their time is split between looking after your child and cleaning.
Outline the types of chores you expect them to complete each time they watch your kid, as well as chores that need to be completed on a weekly or monthly basis.
While technically you can get your babysitter to do all the cleaning tasks and chores you want, it's not necessarily recommended.
When most people decide to be babysitters, they aren't signing up to be your full cleaning staff as well. Some babysitters might be more okay with cleaning than others.
Small tasks like tidying up might not require any extra pay. But if you're asking your babysitter to do a significant amount of extra cleaning work, you should adjust their hourly rate to make sure they're being compensated fairly.
If you find you never seem to have the time to clean (or really just hate it) and have the money to pay for it, you might be better off simply paying an actual housekeeper to come in and clean up a few times per week, rather than trying to offload those tasks onto your babysitter.
Cleaning is only one of the benefits of having a babysitter, see many more in our article 41 Benefits of hiring a babysitter.
What if my babysitter always leaves my house looking messier than when I left?
It might be time to have a talk with them if they're always leaving your house looking like a tornado just passed through. You need to be more clear about your expectations for them. You can explain that you think it would be easier if they cleaned a little bit throughout the night as they went, instead of leaving it all for you to clean up when you get home.
You can even offer a slight pay raise to cover the bit of extra effort they'll need to put in. You can also phrase it as a learning opportunity for your kids. For example, get your babysitter to make sure your kid is clearing the table and putting away their own toys if they're old enough. If you have a clean-up song or some other way to make cleaning up into a game for your child, make sure to share it with your babysitter.
What chores are reasonable to start giving my kids?
Here are some age guidelines and examples of chores that kids can begin doing at different ages.
- Kids as young as 2 or 3 can start helping to put away their own toys and books, and even wipe up spills.
- By age 4 or 5 kids can start to make their own bed, clear the table, and unload utensils from the dishwasher.
- At 6 or 7 children can sort laundry, set the table, sweep floors, and keep their room tidy.
- Around 8 or 9 kids can vacuum, help make their own dinner (with supervision), put away their own laundry, and take pets for a walk.
- At age 10 or older, kids can do most of the chores that adults can, like folding their own laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and even babysitting younger siblings if there's an adult in the home. See our article What age do you stop needing a babysitter for mored details on this.
What's a reasonable allowance to give my kid for doing chores?
Some parents don't give an allowance at all. Others give a fixed amount per week. And other parents will give a per-task amount for each job completed like mowing the lawn, doing laundry, etc. The most common allowance figures are either $0.50 or $1 per week for each year of your child's age.