The Licensed Babysitter

My almost-11-year-old’s current career ambition is to be a babysitter. She wants to babysit, then be a camp counselor, then one day, work with kids with autism. Or, maybe be a scientist that studies autism. Of course, being an author or a pastry chef are also still very much in the running.

On Saturday, she spent from 9:30 -3:30 in a “Safe Sitter” class, the first step on her professional ladder. Feeling giddy and punch drunk because I spent the day in an arcade with my 9-year-old son, I posted my daughter’s certificate and referred to her as a “licensed babysitter.”

My cousin commented that the idea of a “licensed babysitter” was “scary.” I kind of know what he means, but, I still got snippy. I think sometimes those of us who are more on the “free range” side of the parenting spectrum take our dislike for more protective parenting a bit too far.

Just because we didn’t take babysitting classes before we started babysitting, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. I remember being 12 and being left with kids in diapers and having no idea how to change a diaper. Yes, I figured it out, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have been taught how to do it ahead of time. More importantly, I remember being given a ride home by a clearly drunk father and having no idea what I was supposed to do. They covered that in my daughter’s class. They also covered what to do if the drunk dad hits on you.

They also had discussions on how to set prices and how to communicate those prices.

Two of the reasons traditionally female jobs are often under paid are because the jobs are undervalued and women are often uncomfortable talking about money. That devaluation starts early on. If taking care of kids is something any 11-year-old can do with no training, than why do we need to pay daycare workers decently?

I hope that by telling my daughter before she starts her very first job that she is allowed to set prices, and that her services have value, she won’t be one of those women who accepts any salary offered.

I get it, the idea of licensing kids to do basic things that kids have been doing for centuries is weird and smacks of helicopter parenting. But what if instead we think of it as giving our girls a license to do things differently than the way they’ve been done for centuries? What if instead of a license to babysit my daughter has earned a license to stand up for herself? A license to know her self worth? A license to know the value of her services?

That license may scare other people, but it doesn’t scare me.

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