Widgets Magazine

Oct 6, 2011

The Babysitter

You know my yesterday’s post was about how my family had a philosophy that if someone asks you to work for money, you work, regardless of the pay or the horrible conditions? I’ve been thinking about that all day and trying to remember when that first happened for me and I guess the way I most allowed myself to be taken advantage of was when I was babysitting.

Grandma had a dear friend who lived across the street and she had three kids. Mike, the guy who saved me from drowning in the irrigation ditch, Kathy, who taught me to ride a horse (I’ll have to write a post about her soon), and Kerry. Kerry was the oldest and she and I were good friends. OK, I was probably just an annoying little kid and she was very patient.

She married a guy named Mike (funny, huh?) when I was eight. Not long after, she had a baby girl and they named her Stephanie. I started tending Steph when she was slightly less than one and I was slightly less than 9. We bonded right away. I loved that little girl and she loved me! Kerry was sweet and generous and often looked for an excuse to have me over just to watch the baby.

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It was the summer of 1975 and I was 10 1/2 years old. Steph was three, the same age as my little sister. Kerry had gotten a job and they were looking for full-time childcare for Steph during the summer. My parents were worried about me taking on that kind of responsibility at such a young age, but since they just lived around the corner and my family would be close by, we all agreed to give it a try. They offered me $20 a week and that seemed like a fortune although if you calculate it out, it comes to exactly 50 cents an hour.

Even at age 10, I was not a morning person, but I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 and showed up on their doorstep at five minutes to 8:00. Steph was wide-awake and ready to play. We spent that first day watching TV, playing with her dolls, and reading stories. I made her lunch and we ate Popsicles. We straightened up the house and washed our few dishes. By quarter to four we were waiting patiently for Kerry to show up. After she arrived, I ran straight home; feeling satisfied and pleased that I had survived my first day.

The next morning I arrived again, right on time, but this time it wasn’t my sweet friend, Kerry, waiting for me. It was Mike. He was a bit of a hothead and I tried to avoid him if I could. It became obvious that he was there on purpose. In his hand was a piece of paper and in a not-so-nice voice he demanded that I sit with him at the table. That paper contained a weekly calendar with chores he expected to be done on each of the days, along with watching Steph. He wanted the kitchen floor mopped every day. There was vacuuming and scrubbing and bathrooms. I was to be more like a slave than a babysitter. When I questioned him on that, he yelled at me and told me I was lucky to have this job and if I didn’t want it he was sure he could find somebody else who would be more grateful. Then he left for work.

I pondered my fate as much as any ten-year-old could and thankfully, Kerry came home first. I left their house, but instead of running home, I passed by my house and headed for Grandma’s house. Grandma always had good advice. She was washing dishes when I came in, but she sat with me at the table so we could have a good talk. After I spilled out everything, she looked at me with that silly little smile of hers, the one that meant don’t argue. “Well,” she said. “You can go there every day and bring home $20 a week, or you can sit around the house watching TV and have nothing by the end of the summer.”
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That was it. You know what I did. I took the job. She was right, I had money and I blew it all on candy and junky toys and crap and by the end of the summer I had nothing. Sadly, the only thing I really learned from the experience was that at 10 years old I could work really hard and it meant nothing and I was worth almost nothing. I still have issues with this and tend to devalue my own work…wow, maybe I need to get a therapist or at least a healthy dose of blog friend sympathy.

How about you? Do you tell others what you are worth or do you let them tell you?


StylinMom said...

wow what a guy he was...it is amazing that things from the past can still do to us...I have a whole set of my own issues....ughghhg

M-Cat said...

I imagine poor Kerry was highly embarrassed by her husband, but secretly grateful for the work that was done.

The main lesson I have tried to instaill in my sons is: You teach people how to treat you.

Just last night we discussed the break up of my middle one with a girl that he was quite serious with. In hindisght, he can see that their relationship was doomed based on how she treated him. Hopefully, this is a lesson in standing up a little stronger for himself and knowing his own value.

Diana said...

I want to go back in time and just give Mike the what for. Of course, I'd only be 9 1/2 then so it wouldn't do any good. If you only knew then what you know now, you could negotiate.

Silver Strands said...

Loved scrolling through your blog ... NOW FOLLOWING!

Anonymous said...

I babysat and worked hard, only thing of it was I got $35 to $40 per week for 3 boys who thought they could torment me, they could not, I called their dad and he told them if they bugged me badly enough he would give them a spanking mind you one of the boys was 11 years old and I was only I think 13..I always got paid promptly and at the end of the summer I got an envelope with a big bonus a $50.00 dollar bill. I also cleaned for a neat well to do lady I e-mailed you about yesterday..I only babysat one summer to know it was not for me, yes I cleaned up for the Mom she worked 2 jobs for the house payment the husband one full time job and they never drank, smoked, gambled or cursed, adored their boys and made them behave..Not like todays kids with no parent and or parents around and no manners taught at all..just saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Emma Frances said...

Blah! That would not be fun! It is crazy how experiences like that really do stay with us for forever. I don't think that I'm good at telling people how much I'm worth but I'm not sure if mine stems from everything. At least when it came to babysitting I always felt really bad for telling people how much to pay me just because some people can afford the "going rate" and others can't so I always asked them to pay what they could afford. It usually worked out pretty good for me!

Anonymous said...

I see this with a lot of woman. We tend to put ourselves on sale as Susan Orman would sale.

I think I suffered from this until I had my first real job that made decent money. I like to believe I was good at my job and that I was worth the pay - now it would be hard to go back.

GrumpyJaxMomOf3 said...

Wow that is not something I would deal with now, but I probably would have at that age. I still tend to let people tell me what I am worth. I actually still babysit to bring in extra money.... Most of the time the people pay decent, and it is not a whole lot of extra work.

I am sorry that you devalue your own work. I think you are an AMAZING person!! I actually hope we can meet in person one day.... Afterall I think we are only about 1 hour away from each other <3


Lucky Day said...

Even if you just spent the money on candy, you chose to work. That says so much about you. That that family was willing to leave their child with a child and pay you so little and demand so much, says a lot about them. They obviously didn't value their child, or the role of a mother. Poor Kerry probably had to go to work because he couldn't support the family or had appetites that he put above his wife being a mom.

I agree big time with M-Cat "You teach people how to treat you"

Babblin' Brooke said...

Wow! I can't believe that he demanded all that of you. I would have been mortified if I was his wife.

It's hard not let others opinions of you get to your head. But I think Grandma taught you a great lesson.

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Amanda said...

Wow! What a jerk of a guy... did you ever have another run in with him? Did they ever comment on their home? How in the world did you do at 10 years old? It was like you were the babies mom for that summer.. oh boy, I can see the issues that would arise. I think I have a tendency to tell people what I am worth, but I've always been pretty vocal about stuff like that. I can't even remember what I got paid when I used to babysit.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking about the lesson your grandmother taught you - that you aren't worth standing up for. The message in her statement wasn't "work is good, work is the means to an end". It was the man said do it so don't argue with him. Put yourself down that list and do as you are told.

I used to babysit and have hired spring / summer break sitters. The first and only priority is the child. Housework is second to children. The dirt will not improve by my spending time with it. A child will.

Emmy said...

Okay first of all- I can't imagine having a ten year old- even a responsible one watching my kid all day. Wow, I guess times have changed.
And Mike- even though I am not the swearing type- he needed to be told where he could shove his list of chores- that is 100% crazy!!

Anonymous said...

I tell others what I am worth. When I started babysitting I would do that for 7.50 an hour and if housekeeping was included my rates went to 12.50 an hour. And people were happy to pay up. Or at least they all seemed happy. :p Of course those prices are decades after your fifty cents per hour, so I'm not sure how that actually correlates/compares. I just saw Dave Ramsey do his EntreLeadership presentation and he says something I agree with - don't work a job unless you love it enough, have enough of a passion for it, that you would be willing to do it for free. What do you think?

PRINCESS said...

I think he was just helping you "mommy train" and it must of helped! Yeah the pay wasn't good, but you must have loved it, or else you wouldn't have had 12 kids. Yes, the guy needed to say it a bit more nicely, but he was just worried about his family and trying to keep his house,a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a HOUSE OF ORDER, a house of God, yes, he might have been taking advantage of you, but I'm sure he had good intentions


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