Do you feel like you're using a babysitter too often, but you're not sure? If you don't have many other parents to bounce ideas off of, it can be hard to get an idea of what's considered "normal."
How often do you use a babysitter? The majority of families will need to hire a babysitter between once per week and 1-2 times per month. Some parents don't use a babysitter until their baby is a couple of years old! It depends on your family's individual needs and there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer.
In this article, we'll discuss how often you should use a babysitter. Including how often is too much, and the much lesser-asked question of how much is too little! We'll also look at alternatives like nannies and daycare.
How Often Should You Use A Babysitter?
The answer is basically as often as you think you need one, within reason.
A family with a stay-at-home parent will likely not need a babysitter nearly as often as a family where both parents work or one parent owns a business.
How Often Is Too Often To Get A Babysitter?
As long as you aren't using a babysitter frivolously, like leaving one with your kids so you and your partner can go out to the bar every single night, I don't think it's a problem.
You shouldn't feel bad about getting a sitter when you need to go to an appointment, help out an elderly family member, or even have the occasional date night. That might even mean needing a babysitter more than once a week for some families.
The average American family spends around $1,000 on babysitting per year. That's about two hours worth of babysitting every week. Some will be a lot lower than that, and some will be a lot more.
What Isn't Often Enough?
When I looked through parenting forums to get an idea of how often other parents are using babysitters, I was shocked to see how many of them have a child that's 2 or 3 years old and they've maybe used a babysitter once for an emergency. Or never at all!
I don't know why the numbers that people share on forums seem so under-represented. Maybe they're exaggerating as a way to brag about how self-sufficient they are, or maybe they're not including all of the times that they had a friend or family member watch their child.
In a recent national survey in the US, a third of parents said they hire a babysitter 1-2 times per month. 1 in 6 parents hire a babysitter on a weekly basis. Those numbers are more in line than what I'd expect.
You Deserve a Babysitter Every Once in a While
Parenting is hard, non-stop work. You and your partner deserve time away from the baby. You absolutely shouldn't feel bad about taking some time for yourself. I'd encourage every couple to set some time aside and get a babysitter at least once each month. After all, Mommies and Daddies still need romance too! If you have worries about the cost, you can always try to get a family member to watch your child.
Why You Should Use A Babysitter
You could be anxious about leaving your baby with a sitter and think they're all secretly axe murderers. But having a babysitter watch your child every once in a while can be good for both you and your child.
Here are some reasons why a babysitter is great:
You set the schedule. If you use a babysitter (especially if you have contact info for a few different sitters,) you can book them for the exact day and time that you want. You don't have to work out details with friends or family and see what days work well for them.
It teaches your child to bond with others. You're always going to be your child's favorite, but it's important that they learn to bond and interact with other people too. You don't want the first day of kindergarten to be the first time your child spends time with someone who isn't related to them.
Your child will learn independence. This is related to the last point. Basically starting to leave your child with a sitter from an early age lets them know that they can still be okay when you aren't there and that you'll come back.
Less drama compared to relatives. You can tell the babysitter exactly what you want. You won't have a mother-in-law second-guessing your instructions or parenting. If you tell your sitter to give your child a specific amount of milk or food, they will. They won't argue that your bedtime or naptime is too early or that isn't how they raised their own child.
No idle chit-chat when you get home. When you get back, all you have to do is ask your babysitter how everything went and pay them. They've probably had enough time at your house and just want to go home, not catch up on the latest family drama.
It's probably safer. The majority of babysitters know first aid, CPR, and know how to use an Epi-Pen. When was the last time your Aunt or Mom had a CPR refresher course?
You need time to take care of yourself. You need to be able to go watch a movie, take a yoga class, or some other hobby that helps you to relax and unwind. Letting out extra stress and feeling more rested will make you more patient during the time that you're around your child.
It's crucial to still spend time with your spouse and nurture your relationship as well. You need to still have fun and have real conversations that don't just involve your children.
Is A Nanny A Good Alternative To A Babysitter If You Need Frequent Childcare?
If you're considering a nanny instead of a babysitter because of the cost, you should know that it almost never works out being more cost-effective.
You won't get a better daily or weekly rate for using a nanny because you're buying their time in bulk. Even if you hire one full-time.
That's because a nanny is more than just a professional babysitter. It's more of a full childcare service. They have a lot of other responsibilities and duties besides just watching your children. They might help with cleaning the house, dishes, and laundry. As well as preparing meals, and even driving kids to and from different activities.
If you're wanting to pay for a house cleaner, chauffeur, cook, and babysitter all in one then a nanny can be a great option. But that's well outside what the average family can afford.
Is A Babysitter Or Daycare Better For Day-To-Day Childcare?
If you and your partner are both busy all day, you might want to consider daycare instead of paying for a babysitter for 8 hours a day.
Daycare Pros and Cons
Daycares provide kids with something critical that a babysitter can't. That's daily social interaction with other children, which is important for your child's emotional and social development.
Daycares usually have trained professionals like teachers who know what children need. They also have multiple staff members. Whereas if your babysitter gets sick or is late, your whole day's plans can be delayed or ruined.
They're also almost always cheaper than paying a one-on-one babysitter. Since daycares are usually looking after four or more children, the cost is split between several families.
On the downside, daycare centers have higher turnover rates, so your child might develop a bond with one adult at the daycare and they could be gone the next month.
While the social aspect of daycares is important, it also has some downsides. Your child might come home with bites or bruises from other kids since it can be hard for staff to constantly keep an eye on everyone at all times. Accidents and falls are also more common for the same reason.
Daycares also expose children to more bacteria, germs, and viruses that cause cases of flu and colds. Your child is more likely to get sick more often and bring those germs home to you too. Although being exposed to dirt and germs might be a blessing in disguise and help strengthen your child's immune system for the rest of their life.
Can I pay my babysitter a flat weekly rate?
You could try to save money by buying your babysitter's services "in bulk" or offering them one per-night price you're willing to pay. But most babysitters are unlikely to go for that. If that's your agreement, there's a big risk that you could end up being a couple hours late and they won't be compensated for that extra time.
See our Complete guide to babysitter pay for more details.
Can I ask my babysitter to do extra tasks like help kids with homework, do laundry, and transport children around?
You can speak to your babysitter and see if they're willing to help with additional duties besides just watching your kids. But they'll likely want their pay to be adjusted to reflect those added responsibilities.
Learn what kinds of cleaning tasks babysitters generally agree to.
If you're interviewing potential babysitters read our interview guide first and make sure you ask the right questions to identify if they're willing to do these extra duties from the start.
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The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder