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Part-Time Sitter, Full-Time Pay


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February 24, 2006

Part-Time Sitter, Full-Time Pay

Toddi Gutner

There eventually comes a time when every child enters school for a full day. When that happens, every working parent thinks that they can finally save some money on childcare. My advice: Don’t even think about it.

We’ve employed a few part-time sitters over the past 2 years (since my nanny debacle that I wrote about last week) and I think we’ve hit on a strategy that works. The secret: Treat your part-time childcare provider as though she were full-time--with the same perks and salary guarantees.

Set a Reasonable Salary: Definitely don’t skimp on the hourly wage. When we had a full-time sitter, it cost us $500/week (obviously, weekly salaries vary depending on where you live)—that worked out to be about $8 an hour for a 66-hour work week.

We now pay our part-time sitter, Laura, $15 an hour –nearly double the hourly rate that we paid our full-time nanny. At first $15 hour seemed steep, but we are totally convinced she is worth that amount. There is the tangible work she does: the grocery shopping and other errands; making dinner for the family; supervising the homework; doing the kid’s laundry and shuttling the kids to their daily activities. But there is also the intangible: sitting my son down after a hard day at school and getting him to tell her why he was so down; negotiating the border skirmishes between my two sons; and baking and decorating the most beautiful birthday cupcakes for my son’s birthday. We had two part-time sitters prior to Laura and we paid them less. Guess what? You get what you pay for—neither of those sitters was as effective with the kids or industrious around the house.

Guarantee Weekly Income and Hours: Similar to a full-time employee, part-time workers need to be able to rely on a certain amount of income. We assured Laura when we hired her that she will work at between 16 and 20 hours a week. We also guaranteed regular hours—at least four hours a day 3-7pm, Monday through Thursday. As a college student, she worked her class schedule around my needs so the least we could do was reciprocate.

Give Benefits: Even though Laura is paid by the hour, we give her paid vacations. That means she gets paid for four hours a day even when we go away or have a day off from work. The only time she isn’t paid is when we must pay another sitter to cover hours she is unable to work. We also gave her an annual end-of-year bonus of two weeks salary.

Find A Second Job: Laura is happy with the 16 to 20 hours a week we give her, but the part-time sitter we had prior to Laura needed more hours. So, we found her another job to supplement her income. That showed we valued her enough to try and find a way to keep her.

All told, with the morning program we pay for before school, plus the cost for Laura, we’re nearly paying the same amount as a full-time sitter. But it’s not about the money, right?

03:12 PM

Childcare

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the article by toddi gutner really hits home with our family. her advice about treating part time sitters with the same respect and attitude that one treats a full time sitter makes a lot of sense. so glad to hear that toddi has found a baby sitting solution that works and has shared it with us. a million thanks toddi.

Posted by: debbie sadoff at February 25, 2006 01:31 PM

Good advice, much of which I currently adhere to, but I have another problem: how/where do you find high quality part-time nannies? Since my youngest entered pre-school and my awesome full-time nanny had twins and moved back to Ireland (after 8 years with us! Sob!) I have had 4 different part-time nannies, three of those just in the past year and a half! Pretty traumatizing for a family that had the same nanny for 8 years. My current part-time nanny is a college student and we pay her a competitive rate for our area. She's a gem (though she doesn't do all the chores you listed, Toddi) but she will eventually graduate and move on. I have found most of my nannies from college board job postings and "sittercity.com" but am wondering if coughing up the cash for a nanny service is a better way to go. Thoughts? (P.S.: Love the blog...stumbled upon it last week and have added it to my RSS feed).

Posted by: Kristin at February 27, 2006 08:59 AM

I completely agree with Toddi Gutner about paying a reasonable salary. There is no place I would rather spend money than on the person who safely brings my son home from school and helps him wind down from his demanding days. Thanks for your smart and realistic advice, Toddi.

Posted by: Hannah at March 1, 2006 10:17 AM

We have agonized over this issue for 2 years ever since my youngest started elementary school full day. Should we keep our fulltime babysitter who has been with us for 5+ years? We would paying her for the entire day even though she'd actually only be with the kids for 5 hours. But she needed a full time job and finding someone part time to come in at 7:00 am, drive each child to different schools at different times and then come back at 2:30 pm to pick everyone up was next to impossible. She drives the kids to after school activities, does their laundry and keeps the house picked up. So she is still on board. And we pay the premium because she is so reliable, has a great relationship with the kids, and if there is a snow day or a school holiday we can't take off, we are worry free. Another friend is also going the college student route for the afternoons. Her kids are older and can walk 2 blocks to middle school. She told me she is paying a little more for her part time babysitter to help create some early good will and loyalty. So far so good she says.

Posted by: stacy at March 1, 2006 05:04 PM

Thanks for the smart advice, Toddi. I'm looking forward to the next column.

Posted by: Hannah Leider at March 2, 2006 09:45 AM

Brava Toddi! My friends don't think twice about paying a cleaning lady $15/hour [minimum going rate in my neighborhood]...and happy kids are worth a lot more than shiny floors and folded laundry. You are right in thinking about paying your nanny not just for her time...but for her VALUE.

Posted by: Penny Peters at March 2, 2006 12:28 PM

Great information. I hadn't quite thought about it in that way . When my kid goes off to school, I'll definitely take your approach - yet another instance of getting what you pay for!

Posted by: Christal at March 2, 2006 01:16 PM

Dear Toddi,

How we wish that all employers are like that. You are a great person! You are right that in order to keep your nanny you must treat her well by providing the necessary and right pay that they deserve. To be a nanny isn't easy. Taking of the children and doing multiple tasks with less pay are stressful which couldn't even compensate your hardship.It doesn't mean that if you are paying the nanny with the amount which is not even compensable would make her super woman or robot or machine that could tuckle all the work that the ordinary human being could do. They should remember that nannies are still human being, therefore by being paid right or with some benefits, as the employer may wish to give, will ease their tiredness. I grew up with two or three nannies but I never saw my mom maltreat them. She always said that in the future if we will have a nanny we need to make sure to remember that she is a human being. To keep them is to treat them fairly especially in terms of money.

Hope employers will follow your way of thinking.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Posted by: Phoebe at January 9, 2007 11:30 PM


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