Wouldn’t it be amazing if you came home and found your babysitter had cleaned your entire house from top to bottom? As nice as that would be, it’s not 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? It's fair to ask babysitters to clean up any messes made while they're working. This includes tidying up and wiping up spills, washing pots and dishes after preparing dinner, and putting away toys. However, it is unreasonable to ask them to mop your floors or dust all the surfaces in your house.
In this article, I'll discuss whether a babysitter should do any cleaning. We’ll consider 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?
Many babysitters feel that their only duty is to watch your child, nothing 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 some babysitters draw a line when it comes to cleaning tasks.
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.
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 on both sides.
What's my opinion? I compare babysitting, especially part-time babysitting by teenagers, to similar jobs they could be doing instead. For example, teens might be employed as a cook at a fast food restaurant, a cashier at a clothing store, or a sales assistant behind the deli counter in a supermarket.
Babysitting is a pretty cushy job for a teen when you think about it. Yes, watching a child is a lot of work and carries considerable responsibility, but babysitters typically make more per hour than their peers working other jobs.
Babysitters don't have to 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.
As a teen, I did both: I watched kids and I also worked a part-time job. I can say with authority that babysitters have it pretty easy. That's why I think a little cleaning isn’t too much to expect from your babysitter.
What Kinds of Cleaning Tasks Are Reasonable For A Babysitter?
It’s fair to expect a babysitter to be responsible for cleaning up any mess made while they are working. They should leave your house about as clean as they found it when they arrived. Not any cleaner, and not any messier.
Cleaning and tidying up messes comes with 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 awkward 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 mealtime and preparing food for your kids, they should wash any pots and pans, plates, dishes, cups, and cutlery that become dirty in the process. Loading a dishwasher is almost no more work than putting used dishes in the sink.
Doing crafts is messy. While it's great that your babysitter is willing to entertain your kids with arts and craft activities, tidying up any mess created is part of the process. The babysitter should pick up any scraps of paper, wipe glitter off the table, and clean up any paint splatters.
Parents already work hard enough without spending hours cleaning up the messes the babysitter helped create. Who needs that after a long day at work or a relaxing night out?
Cleaning Up Spills and Messes
If your child spills something or gets sick on themselves or the carpet while the babysitter is on duty, the sitter should clean it up—if only, because a simple spill could turn into a serious stain if it’s not dealt with right away.
Putting Away Toys
Your sitter should help young children put away their toys.Having clutter and toys strewn all over the floor can be a tripping hazard, plus the mess adds stress to busy parents’ lives.
Toy tidying isn’t a huge task. Five or ten minutes at most working together and it’s all neat and orderly.
It’s only natural that the floor around the tub is going to get wet during bathtime. Babysitters should put away all the bath toys and shampoo, wipe up puddles, and hang up wet towels or put them in the laundry hamper with any dirty clothes.
Basic Baby Stuff
If your child is still in diapers, your babysitter will need to change them. Tell them how you’d like them to dispose of used diapers or the proper protocol to follow if you use cloth diapers.
They should do any cleanup associated with preparing bottles, as well as rinsing out bottles and putting them in the dishwasher after your baby has been fed.
What Kind Of Cleaning Tasks Are Unreasonable For A Regular Babysitter?
You shouldn't expect your babysitter to clean up any mess that was already there before they arrived.
For example, expecting a babysitter to clean up a sink full of dirty dishes that you've left from the day before is unreasonable.
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 an agreement should be made 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.
If you ask for additional tasks beyond the basic cleaning requirements of babysitting listed above, you should pay extra. A babysitter might be able to cover some smaller cleaning tasks, but for larger, regular housekeeping jobs you're probably better off hiring a professional to 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 be willing if there is extra money to make it worthwhile.
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.
A separate housecleaner would probably cost at least another $10 per hour.
So should you pay a cleaning babysitter double? Well, not quite. They won't be able to devote a hundred percent of their time to cleaning. Their main job is looking after your children; cleaning just fills in any gaps and downtime.
If you 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. That’s around 1.5x what you'd pay a babysitter who doesn't clean.
The extra on top of their babysitting rate means 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.
My 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 is taken up by your kids.
For example, it's not reasonable to expect to come home to a spotless house if your babysitter is watching a newborn baby who needs to be fed and changed every couple of hours. In contrast, if you have only one well-behaved seven- or eight-year-old who can entertain themselves, your babysitter might be able to focus more time on cleaning.
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. Feeding all pets (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 not to 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 cleaning staff who needs to be compensated fairly for all their extra work.
Prioritize. If you have a seemingly never-ending list of chores and tasks that need doing, make a prioritized list so your babysitter knows what you want them to focus on. Detailed directions will help ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
Try to give your babysitter simple tasks that are easy to check off, instead of in-depth cleaning jobs that will take an hour or more to complete.
Make a schedule. If you don't provide a schedule or timeline of what things need to be done while you're out, some babysitters will default to doing nothing extra. 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 or written agreement. It’s helpful to create a Cleaning Task List that the babysitter can use to check off each job as they go. Clarify that they will receive a higher hourly rate (e.g., 1.5 x the base rate) if the jobs are completed. The base hourly rate applies if they choose not to do them or they don’t have time.
Outline the types of chores you expect them to complete each time they watch your kid and on a weekly or monthly basis. Or create a list each time that reflects what you need. Remember to keep these tasks small and achievable. They are your sitter, not your housekeeper.
When it’s time for the babysitter to leave, you can go through the cleaning task list together and inspect the work to make sure it’s done to your satisfaction. If everything is fine, pay the babysitter the agreed higher rate. If the tasks have not completed (or completed so poorly you’ll have to do them over), pay them the base rate. Having the written agreement and task list make this process less subjective and a little easier.
While technically you can get your babysitter to do all the cleaning tasks and chores you want, it's not recommended.
When most people decide to be babysitters, they aren't signing up to be your cleaning staff as well. Some babysitters might be more open to 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 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 a few times a week, rather than offloading 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’s time to have a talk with them if they're always leaving your house looking like a tornado just passed through. Clarify your expectations. Explain that it would be easier if they cleaned throughout the night 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. Consider phrasing it as a learning opportunity for your kids. For example, ask 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 two or three can start helping to put away their own toys and books. They can even wipe up spills.
- By age four or five, kids can start to make their own bed, clear the table, and unload utensils from the dishwasher.
- At six or seven, children can sort laundry, set the table, sweep floors, and keep their room tidy.
- Around eight or nine, kids can vacuum, help make their dinner (with supervision), put away their laundry, and take pets for a walk.
- At age ten 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. In some families, parents 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.
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