older siblings "babysitting" younger siblings ... long - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was sure there was a thread on this topic before, but can't seem to find it. Sorry.

So, I sometimes leave the house and do errands, leaving my three children (oldest - dd - 13) at home. Usually it's because they don't want to come with me, so they ask to stay home without me (ages 13, 8, 5). They're usually engaged in something they don't want to interrupt. Two hours is probably the longest I've been gone, usually within a 1-mile radius of our home, with cell phone.

I do, however, pay babysitters from time to time to stay with them for longer periods. Dh has said, "why can't you/we just leave them with dd1?." Dd1 is willing to stay with them most times, but 1) I was left with my older sibling and two younger siblings A LOT as a child, and it was no picnic for any of us and 2) I think she should be paid or otherwise compensated for taking on that responsibility, since we would be paying someone else to do it, and he's talking about asking her to do it vs. her volunteering to do it.

Dh thinks it's weird to pay your own child to help out with the family.

This IS a home learning issue, because she wouldn't be available at all hours if she weren't at home.

So - I'm looking for input. Those with older kids and younger siblings - what do you think? what do you do? what have you done?

TIA

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#2 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 07:40 PM
 
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I don't think it is weird at all. I know I often felt resentful and used having to babysit my younger siblings all the time. I couldn't even do after school activities like sports because I had to be home with my little brother. Once my sister was old enough to babysit then it was better but I was still "expected" to babysit him often while my parents went to night classes etc. I think if they had paid me I would have looked at it differently. It is one thing to be asked once in a blue moon to babysit while I ran to the store to buy a few groceries etc, but if it was becoming a more regular thing I would pay her either with money or with that new pair of jeans she has been eyeing etc.

I get my oldest to "watch" the youngers in the car for me if I am running in to pay for gas etc, because I dfo this fairly often to avoid dragging 4 kids into the statione tc I reward him with little things like a lollipop, or a video rental etc as a thank you for being so responsible. HE enjoys it and looks forward to helping me out in this way.

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#3 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 07:42 PM
 
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When we first started asking ds1 to babysit, we would pay him if we were going out for our own entertainment. OTOH, if I was going food shopping for the family and the kids just didn't want to come, he'd offer to watch them in return for not helping with the foodshopping. There were other times, for instance, if I had a dentist appointment, and ds1 would just say, "You can leave him home, I'll watch him." So looking out for his little brother became pretty much like any other family contribution, but I wouldn't insist that ds1 babysit if he didn't want to.

Now that my youngest is older, his care isn't so intense--(he really just needs someone to be around in case of emergency) so it's less like a babysitting arrangement and more just that the kids are staying home.

I understand the argument that you'd be paying a sitter, so why not your own child...otoh, we don't pay for chores or other things the kids do as family members, and this is sort of the same thing. Frankly, I wouldn't have been able to afford to pay ds for all the babysitting he's done.He knows that, and he definately likes the responsibility and being able to help out.

What does your dd think?

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#4 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 07:48 PM
 
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I consider "babysitting" to be outside the normal expectation for household contribution. So, I pay dc#1 to babysit if I have to go out for a meeting in the evening, go to knitting club, or if dh and I go for a date. If it is so I can run to the store for something, or go pick something up somewhere that takes less than 1 hour don't usually pay him.

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#5 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your replies, mamas.

SagMom - dd says she would like to be paid, not for short, errand-running trips necessarily, but for longer stretches when I would normally hire a babysitter. She is willing to do it without pay, but would be very happy to receive money, jeans, books, whatever we agree on. I do think she likes the responsibility and being happy to help out (that's why she volunteers), and I like that the kids feel comfortable just hanging out at home together playing/working on stuff (is there a difference? ), but if I were to go out with dh for several hours in the evening and she needed to supervise dinner and getting ready for bed (which she sometimes does anyway when I'm here), then I think she would appreciate something that more acknowledges the increased level of involvement/responsibility. Did that make sense? : (headache )
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#6 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:21 PM
 
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Dh thinks it's weird to pay your own child to help out with the family.
Tell your dh that the two of you made the decision to have kids, not your dd. Caring for siblings should not be her responsibility. Helping with the house? Sure - everyone lives and works in the same building, therefore should all help out to the best of their abilities. Providing a free nanny service is not within those realms of housecare.

Supernanny just did a show that made me feel so sorry for the children in the family. The two older girls were homeschooled via an online charter program, AND they were told to look after their siblings during the day while the parents went to work. If there ever was a poster ad for not using older children as free daycare, this would be it.
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#7 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:26 PM
 
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I think that if your dd needs to help out in a pinch, she should do so without being paid.

If, however, you and you dh decide to go out for dinner and movie and you leave the kids with dd, she should be compensated the same way you would any other babysitter.

dm

ETA:

Quote:
Providing a free nanny service
This and asking a sibling to help out with babysitting are not one in the same.
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#8 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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I don't think it's weird at all. I think that it is only appropriate that your daughter get paid for babysitting her younger siblings.

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#9 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:30 PM
 
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I haven't read the responses yet. I think that it is never ok to expect someone to be responsible for the life of someone else. Yeah, they have to help out around the house, clean their messes and do a chore here and there, but that's not the same as being responsible for a living breathing person. It's only fair to pay her if you request it of her and give her the option of saying "no."

If you didn't give birth to them or adopt them, then you should never be required to be responsible for them. IMO Your children aren't your other children's responsiblility.

So, yeah, I think you're right on this and maybe you should let your dh read this thread
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#10 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For the record, in case it wasn't clear, dd1 does not currently babysit her younger siblings unless she volunteers to do so (and they agree) when I need to run out for errands and no one wants to come with me.

ETA: Am I paranoid, or does that sound defensive? Anyway, thanks for your input, everyone. It seems like we're pretty much on the same page. As we've only just brought this up at home, I'm not sure how strongly dh feels about not paying, so ... we'll see. I'm certainly not going to leave her with her sibs unpaid if she doesn't want to watch them just because dh thinks it's a frugal idea!
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#11 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:41 PM
 
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I'm the second of 6 kids, and my older brother was away at school from about when I was old enough to be left alone with the others, so kind of like the oldest. Yes, I babysat a LOT. No, my parents never paid me. Then again, my parents did supply all my needs/most of my wants. There was one year when my mother was working three part time jobs and neither parent came home until after 7. The little kids (sister age 11, sister 9, twins 5) came home at 4; I (13) got home from school at 5:30. My sister was responsible until I got home and then I was responsible until a parent came. You know what? We were really all fine. It's part of being part of a big family -- you get the pros of having lots of sibs to have fun with and, as you get older, to share life with, and you get the cons of wearing lots of hand-me-downs and taking care of each other.
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#12 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:47 PM
 
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Well, like my DH says, free labor is one more reason to have children!! He was homeschooled and he remembers his mom having them do all kinds of odd jobs, mostly to keep them busy, and not getting paid for it. But for some reason they got paid to read books???? :.

I wasn't homeschooled, but as oldest daughter with 6 younger siblings, you can bet I watched the younger kids a lot. I was paid for anytime my mom asked me to sit the kids. But it was $1.oo an hour, so not much of a payment. It really inspired me to think very hard about becoming a parent, as I had first hand experience witnessing the craziness of changing diapers, taking care of babies, playing with toddlers and keeping the boys in line. Good life experience prep., and it's too bad more older siblings these days don't learn to take care of their younger siblings, paid or not.

I think you've got an array of ideas from PP. I second the idea of compensating your daughter for babysitting, however you feel is appropriate. And saying Thank You and spending time with her one on one doing something fun together will help her feel she is still your daughter, and not just hired help. Our wonderful husbands will always be looking for a way to get free labor...

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#13 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 08:50 PM
 
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I like what a pp said about paying her for babysitting that requires over an hour of care.

If you're just running to the market and the kids are engrossed in something at home, then that seems to be just part of the deal with homeschooling and being a member of the family.

But, for entertainment and longer stretches that require work, like preparing dinner for the younger kids, getting them ready for bed, etc., then I would definitely pay her.

I am seven years older than my younger sis and I had to watch her for free all of the time. I was resentful sometimes, but usually I enjoyed it.

HTH!

ETA: By the way, I think it's great that you're here asking how to be fair to your dd. No wonder she wants to help out, her mom sounds very respectful of her!
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#14 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 09:20 PM
 
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My oldest daughter is 12. Our other daughters are 11 & 9.5 and our son is 22 months. I go to the gym six days a week and my oldest watches the rest (okay, really it's the older two.) Occasionally dh and I do groceries and oldest stays home to watch the younger ones as well. We don't pay her for those times because to us its it's just another job you do being part of a family.

If we are going out on a date or for any other situation where one would normally hire a babysitter we ask her first and then we pay her what we would pay any other babysitter. We don't want to use her like the "live in babysitter" everyone comments on us having. The nice thing is there are times she asks to be paid in chocolate instead of money so that works out well.

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#15 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 10:04 PM
 
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It's strange to me that people say that siblings should never be a child's responsibility. It feels very unnatural to me to think that family members have no obligations to one another and shouldn't be expected to look out for one another.

I finally figured out what makes me soooo different from a lot of people at MDC. I think that other people have much more libertarian ideas than I do. I simply don't subscribe to the idea that we're all out for our own bliss and that it's unnatural or disrespectful to expect reciprocal relationships. To me, that seems like the most natural thing in the world, even given the (oft-overblown, imo) "power imbalance" between adults and children.

Anyway, I don't mean for that to be my soapbox. I just can't imagine living in a family and telling my family members that they have to pay me to care for the family ... whether I am an adult or a child.

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#16 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 10:23 PM
 
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I've left my kids home alone from the time the eldest was 12 (at which point they were 12, 9 and 7). I've never paid her. That's because I was not asking her to assume an "in loco parentis" role. I was asking her and her siblings to behave in an appropriately responsible manner, to work together in ways that would make the experience safe and enjoyable for all of them. Obviously if there was a serious safety issue or unresolvable conflict, she would have to exercise leadership commensurate with her age, ability and role in the family, but I was not asking her to "act as the parent" to her younger siblings. There's not really an authority-based paradigm at work in my family anyway, so I wasn't saying "Erin, as the oldest, you're in charge." Instead I was saying "you three need to work together so that this is safe and enjoyable for all of you." My kids have inter-sibling relationships such that this was never a burden and she would never have expected to be paid.

That's very different from what I would consider a baby-sitting situation, which I would describe as putting one person in a position of authority over others. If I was expecting my then-12yo to feed a baby and change diapers, or supervise an impulsive, high-energy, unpredictable 3-year-old sibling, she'd need to be in a position of authority, and yes, I'd consider that a different role, an "in loco parentis" role, and I'd pay her for that.

Those who hated babysitting younger siblings when they were teens themselves have described missing out on after-school activities and social time (not an issue for homeschooled kids) and the burden of supervising annoying younger siblings (not an issue for my kids who have the kind of warm relationships with each other that seem common in homeschooling families). I don't think that what my kids do compares to that ... and they enjoy time together being responsible for themselves.

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#17 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 10:29 PM
 
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I've never paid her. That's because I was not asking her to assume an "in loco parentis" role. I was asking her and her siblings to behave in an appropriately responsible manner, to work together in ways that would make the experience safe and enjoyable for all of them.


dm
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#18 of 36 Old 01-15-2008, 10:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, moominmama, to everything you wrote. This pretty much describes what we're used to.

Questions: When your youngest was 7 (and my youngest is 5), did you ever leave the three of them home alone for 6-8 hours to, say, attend a workshop or drive some distance to visit a friend? Would you have left the three of them home (at the ages you mentioned) to work a part-time job? These are the kinds of things for which, in the past, I have hired an adult or older teenager to come and hang out with my kids, and which dd1 has suggested she could handle (in a leadership capacity) without a "sitter."

dm - I think some of the attitude on which you commented has to do with families living in isolation, without community or extended family, in a me-first, entertainment-oriented, stimulation-demanding society. Rely on one another, outside of a pay-for-service relationship? Weird idea. I'm not suggesting this characterizes all MDC families. It just seems to be the experience of many contemporary urban and suburban familes, unfortunately.
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#19 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 02:40 AM
 
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Questions: When your youngest was 7 (and my youngest is 5), did you ever leave the three of them home alone for 6-8 hours to, say, attend a workshop or drive some distance to visit a friend? Would you have left the three of them home (at the ages you mentioned) to work a part-time job?
Hmm, those lengths of time don't often come up for us. My elder three are perfectly fine for that length of time now, but I'm not sure it would have been something we'd have done with younger kids. Dh takes call for our reasonably quiet rural ER from home, so even if I'm away for 8 hours, he's usually home for at least a couple of short snippets of time over the course of that stretch, and only 5 minutes away even if he's not home. I have a part time job but it's just 5 hours once a week, and sometimes if dh is busy then I do leave all four of my kids (now 13, 11, 9 and 4) for 4-5 hours. My work starts early in the morning by teenager standards and my 13yo is usually asleep almost the whole time I'm gone, so it's really my middle two kids who are most in a position of responsibility.

As I think about it, I realize I have a sort of "half day threshold" for leaving my kids with their youngest sister (who is now almost 5). I know that my youngest can amuse herself pretty easily for 2-4 hours. But she likes interaction and direction after a while, and that might begin to feel like a burden to my older kids. So if it's going to be longer than 4 hours, I tend to take her with me or get grandma to drop in part way through the day. She loves to come with me and is a treat to tote along most places (I just got back from a 2-hour orchestra rehearsal that she quietly listened to and loved), so I tend to do a lot of that.

I guess every family and every situation is different, and it all changes as they go through various ages and stages.

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#20 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 11:10 AM
 
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I would say no to payment if she was watching the younger ones because mom had a family errand to run or needed to take another sibling (or self) to an appointment or such. If it was to go out for entertainment then she should get paid.

I have an almost 15 dd and almost 14 dd and an 11 yr old dd. Now my oldest has mild CP and can't really chase the smaller kids (we have 5 younger) around, but my other 2 older dds help out a lot, especially with dh working out of town all week.

My older dd had day surgery recently and the other 2 older girls watched over the little ones almost all day, including the almost 1 yr old because there were no other children allowed at the hospital. They did not get paid for it because as a family I believe it is our responsiblity to help each other out in these situations. I hope as they get older, get married and have their own families that they will continue to do things for each other when needed and not expect pay.

I figure when I get to be a grandmother (hopefully many years from now ) they will get me back, and I will be watching over my grandchildren w/o pay.
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#21 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 11:21 AM
 
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DD14 has only been old enough to babysit since DD7 and DS 11 were fairly self-sufficient. So my rules are: 1) she is allowed to say no if she has other plans and 2) I make it worthwhile for everyone to babysit/put up with big sis by ordering pizza, renting a video, or some other treat that costs me less than a babysitter but makes the event fun for everyone. That's what my mom did for us, since we were so close in age, but I was more responsible than my older brother. I also realize that when DD14 is in charge, the house will not be as clean, and the little one is not likely to go to bed on time, so I keep that it mind.

Also, if it is during the day for a short time, I put on a video for dd7, and tell dd14 she just needs to rescue her in case of emergency or whatever, and let life go on as usual without me (and no one gets paid).

Also, dd7 will be expected to babysit for dd14's kids one day for free!
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#22 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 01:17 PM
 
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Our oldest is 12.5 years and she is a great babysitter! Not only does she babysit for me when I need to run errands, but she also babysits for DH and I on date nights. We don't pay her for when I'm out running errands, but will periodically pay her for our date nights. She doesn't expect to be paid, so when we do its like a bonus for her! Most of the time the kids are alright with being left with her when I need to run errands or do grocery shopping. Sometimes they want to go and I still say no (other times I say yes)....because lets face it....being a homeschool mom I'm with them 24/7 and if running errands for a couple hours a week by myself keeps me sane, then so be it!!

Babysitting has helped her become a very responsible young lady. Not only is she great with the other girls, but she knows how to take charge and get things done. Many times when I'm running errands, I'll leave a little list of housework for them to do while I'm out. That way, we can all relax and play later. ETA: DD understands (and I think my 8 yr old does, too) that its more efficient for them to finish up some housework while I'm out grocery shopping, rather than having to make an extra effort later.

Having said that, this DD is starting to get other babysitting jobs with our friends and neighbors that she gets paid pretty decent money on. I've NEVER prevented her from babysitting for them so she could stay home and babysit for us. In fact, I told DH that we probably need to shift our date nights around to another night so that her weekend nights will be free for having fun with her friends or other babysitting jobs.
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#23 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 01:50 PM
 
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DD#1 is only 7 so I'm no where near leaving the two girls at home by themselves. I'm curious how old your old dd/ds were when they started babysitting their younger sibblings. I've left the girls at home in the morning when I'm finishing up my run (dh is usually home with them, but sometimes he has to leave for work earlier and I have 2-3 miles left for my run). I run by the house every mile (<10min) and they know to wait in the front yard for me if they need me (we have a gate in the front yard).
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#24 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 03:25 PM
 
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My oldest is 13 and I don't leave her alone to babysit the youngest, for two reasons: She has not demonstrated good judgment (in fact, she is not allowed to stay home alone at all for this reason) and she and her little brother have a conflictual relationship. So I think it depends more on who your kids are than their ages.

We have, once before, left oldest dd and her extremely responsible older friend home with the little kids after the little kids were in bed for the night. We paid them with pizza, soda, and a movie (their requested form of payment). It was a win-win situation: dh and I got time out together, and dd and her friend got a fun evening.

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#25 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 04:09 PM
 
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I'm curious how old your old dd/ds were when they started babysitting their younger sibblings.
My oldest started staying home alone when he was about 9 or 10. When he was 11 he was babysitting his brother, who was 2 at the time. I have another child who, at 13, doesn't babysit at all because she has no interest in doing so.

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#26 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 04:18 PM
 
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My HSed son (age 10) "babysits" the 2 year old 2 times a day for about 20 minutes each while I bring and then get their siblings at the school around the corner. I put babysit in quotes because usually she's asleep in her crib. I don't compensate him for this because he really doesn't have to do anything except stay awake.

My 8 y.o. will babysit the 2 y.o. while I'm in the house and I do pay her a very small amount. I offered $2.50 per evening (about 2 hours) but she only wants $1.00 for those 2 hours. I could never afford a full price babysitter and she is fine with that small amount, but I never leave the house while she's babysitting. It's more so I can have a break to take a bath/ use the computer/ unwind.

I try to be careful with this because I have read some horror stories of people who resent having to babysit/ raise their younger siblings. I know one man who was homeschooled in a large religious family, and by the time he was a teen they had him changing diapers and pretty much raising the younger ones. I think a couple hours of compensated babysitting is ok, but expecting the older child to take over parenting responsibilities (sort of like the Duggers do, which is the one thing I really dislike about their family style) is wrong, IMO.

For the OP: I would not leave a 13 y.o. with your other kids alone for more than 2 hours. Personally, I would not travel an hour from home during that time... maybe you have no choice if you live in a rural area, but I don't like to be more than 15 minutes from home if my oldest is home alone. I never leave him alone with the others, other than to go to the school on the corner, but I have sometimes left him alone while I am out with the other kids, but never for more than an hour.

On the other hand. I have neighbors who leave their 8 y.o. DD in the care of their 14 y.o. DS for the entire workday... so maybe I am too conservative.
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#27 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 05:04 PM
 
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I don't think it's weird at all. I think that it is only appropriate that your daughter get paid for babysitting her younger siblings.
I agree. Plus it's a good way to show her how much you respect and appreciate what she is doing, not that you can't do that without paying her, but it always feel good to get paid for a job well done.

meowee - I see what you are saying about being careful about leaving children home for that long. I agree regarding my "own" children, however, not all children are the same. I know for a fact I couldn't leave my 12 yr old home alone for more than about 30 minutes with his younger siblings. He is of the personality type that they can run all over him and wouldn't listen to him for very long. I could run up the road real quick but not more than 30 minutes. But that's my children. All kids are different though.

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#28 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 05:31 PM
 
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I was the 2nd oldest of 12. I suppose in some capacities, you could say that I was a "surrogate parent", but actually, I think most of it was while mom and dad were home. If mom was just getting home from work, she'd usually be feeding the baby, and dad was usually getting dinner ready, so if the 2nd youngest needed a diaper change, one of us older ones used to do it. Or we would each have one thing to cook for supper, i.e. dad would do the meat, then tell me to make the noodles, my older sister would do the veggies, etc.
so really the only thing that changed when mom & dad went out was that they said, "watch the kids, don't let them set the house on fire." and we'd split making dinner among ourselves and suchlike.

We didn't have set bedtimes, so when the little kids got tired, they asked us to help them with a bath (which we would probably have done anyhow) and we'd help them with that and then they'd go to bed on their own, except for the youngest ones who usually fell asleep on us in the living room.

Usually, mom and dad would bring some tasty leftovers like steak or shrimp, which were a treat, or cheddar biscuits (yum!) for us or sometimes they'd bring us dessert. Occasionally, they'd give us each 10 or 20 bucks, but usually it was just leftovers. my older sister and I would line up at the door when they came home and say "Did you bring us food?" :

I think we started babysitting when my sister was 12 and I was 10, and it was usually the two of us who were responsible. We didn't mind, and in fact now I'm *really* glad I did so much of it while growing up. I had basically no learning curve when I had DD except for learning the cloth-diapering thing.
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#29 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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op here.

Thanks for all the replies. It's interesting to see the different ways families feel about/deal with this. I'm feeling good about what we've been doing so far, and dp and I are still discussing the pay thing. Turns out he's not opposed to paying so much as talking through all of our feelings about it vs. setting a family "policy" without due thought/consideration.
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#30 of 36 Old 01-16-2008, 06:58 PM
 
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I am the oldest of three (my brothers are 8 and 11 years younger than I am) and I was made the babysitter for years. From high school through college I watched my brothers from the time they got home from school every day until my parents got home at around 5:45 pm. They paid me $20/week. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, I was a cheerleader through high school and would have to load up the boys to take them with me to the games and I had to watch them there until my parents picked them up. The summers I had to watch them every day from 9 until 5:45 and I still got $20/week, although I think they increased it to $40 when I was in college, just for the summers though. I despised it. I felt like I could not have a normal "childhood" myself because I had two kids. if I wanted to go anywhere I had to take them with me. I know what you are talking about is a totally different thing, here and there for only a short period of time, which is fine, I just wanted to show the other perspective, lol. I think that it is good that you get a sitter, but that you also let the kids stay home together if they *want* to, I think that is the key, they *want* to stay home together sometimes!
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