Were the Childfree Bad Babysitters?

Running across a post by Sue Fagalde Lick on a babysitting jello fiasco brought back memories of my own babysitting days. I have some babysitting stories to tell as well…Babysitting was the first “job” I had and did it as a teen.  I grew up to have no children by choice, so did that mean I was a bad babysitter earlier in life–I must have not liked kids, right?  I was actually a good babysitter, well, except for the time I wrestled  a kid (about 8 at the time I think) named Paul to the ground to get him away from the freezer.

He was hyperactive (maybe diagnosed ADHD today?) and his mother was adamant that he was not have any ice cream before bed. But boy, did that kid try everything in the book to get at it.  Wrestling him to the floor was not my best moment, but after that he relinquished, and I could say in full confidence to his mother when she came home that Paul went to bed without having any ice cream that night (I was told that not all babysitters were successful).

Maybe I was good at it because I have a younger brother, and helped my mom with him when he was very young, and babysat him too. In any case, if I was good at it, I must have liked it, right? Wrong. I can’t say that I disliked the kids; it was more that I did not enjoy most of what was entailed in watching over them.

Most of the time I counted the hours until the kids had to go to bed.  I counted the days until I turned 16, when I could apply for other jobs. Not long after my 16th birthday I got a job as a hostess at a restaurant and was thrilled that I could make some money another way!

Babysitting was a gift, however. It was one key way I learned early that raising kids was not going to be for me when I grew up.  I am not unlike a lot of childfree women who babysat.  You might be surprised how many say the same thing–that it was one way they learned they did not want to become a mother later in life.  Call it an internship, a very valuable one, to see if you wanted the job called parenthood.

Childfree out there, if you babysat, were you good at it? Like it? Have a babysitting story (ies) that influenced your decision to  have no children later in life? Do tell…

29 thoughts on “Were the Childfree Bad Babysitters?

  1. I was told I was a good babysitter. I was also told many times I would have made a good father. Be that as it may, from my other posts y’all know by now some of my reasons for having zero interest in procreation in these times.

  2. I was always getting offers to babysit because I was mature and sensible as a child, but my response was always “no way, I hate children.” And yet my mother is surprised that my opinion hasn’t changed to this day!

  3. Laura, thanks for the mention of my Jell-O story. I liked kids, but I was always more interested in other things–which is why the Jell-O explosion happened without my noticing until it was too late. My babysitting career was blessedly short-lived.

  4. I did not babysit when I was young, but I was a day camp counselor for two summers furing my college years and that was key to my becoming childfree. I probably would have been childfree anyway but that day camp experience sealed the deal for me!

  5. Babysitting was my first job too! I actually really enjoyed it (and still do from time to time). I don’t know how big a hand it played in my childless/childfree status now but I think it definitely prevented me from glorifying or romanticising domestic life with children and made me immune to the seductive image of motherhood in advertising!

  6. I actually really liked babysitting and really liked kids when I was young (14-20). Children would even gravitate towards me sometimes. I think because I’m petite and have a big inner child (still a big fan of Muppets). I studied abroad when I was a senior in college and our department head’s daughter who was four decided I was her best friend and I was fine with it. Although, throughout my babysitting experiences I never had any thoughts that I can recall about “someday when I have kids…” As I’ve gotten older my feeling towards kids has changed. For the most part I don’t like them, but in a way that I don’t like all 31 flavors of ice cream. And I still have no desire to have children of my own.

    1. I have talked to lots of childfree who say the same–that kids Like Them. And many, many they like them back…kids of all ages. The cf just don’t want to raise them! The myth that the cf hate kids remains a popular stereotype. As I say in one of my vlogs (on stereotypes the CF have been subjected to most)–Just because we don’t want to raise them, doesn’t mean we hate them!

  7. Long-time lurker, first time poster.

    I didn’t do much baby-sitting in the traditional sense when I was young, but I was exposed to an even more realistic “parenthood test”: younger siblings. As the oldest of 4 sisters, I often played the role of parent, including “babysitting”, chauffeuring, etc. That’s not to say that my parents played no role, but I certainly had a good bit of responsibility for my younger sisters. This was particularly the case considering my youngest sister is 12 years younger than me. Not only was I not too fond of the job, but now I feel like I’ve been there, done that and don’t feel a need to repeat the experience with my own children.

    It would be interesting to see data, if there is any on how many childfree have one or more siblings, particularly younger siblings.

    1. From many I have interviewed and talked with over 10+ years, I’d say most Do have sibs, but there is a good share of “onlies” as well. I hypothesized at one time that they are more likely to be the “oldest” but I don’t see this trend…thanks for posting, you long time lurker ; )!

  8. I didn’t babysit tons of kids – usually only one family at a time (or one stint in the church nursery), but I was always told that I was great at it and that I’d ‘make a really great mom someday.’ Which, kids or no – I’ll still take as a great compliment 🙂

  9. I’ve never “sat” on anybody’s anything – baby, dog, cat, iguana, whatever! (LOL) Family and neighbors knew not to ask me because I’m not into kids and no amount of money could change that. Luckily I never had anyone try to sell me on the experience as “practice” for when I had my own kids. If they had I think that would have made me ‘worse’ as a babysitter than my natural aversion to people under age 12. The assumptions and social pressure probably would have made me more uncomfortable than just the prospect of having to deal with a kid one-on-one for longer than 5 minutes.

  10. I was the “in demand” babysitter in my neighborhood. People booked me weeks in advance. And even though I was told I was a great babysitter, I never once thought about taking that “skill” and using it to become a parent. I considered going into early childhood education for a time but ultimately did not do that either.

  11. I never babysat as a teen. My first job was working summers with my dad in his home remodeling business, carrying tools, setting them up, carrying materials, holding things, sweeping up the job site at the end of the day. I never had any desire or inkling to babysit, but there were also no opportunities to do so.

    The first and only time I ever baby sat, I did so for a friend so his wife could have a night out when I was 24, and it was uneventful. The kid, while a chatterbox, was well mannered and behaved. Still, not my idea of a fun way to make extra cash.

  12. I was a decent babysitter. At least, I was always called back by the same people to watch their kids. Early on, when I was about 14, I was asked to watch a group of kids (about 6 of them, ranging from ages 2-7) so the parents of the neighborhood could attend a housewarming party. When it came time to get the kids in bed, one of the girls just threw an all-out screaming/crying fit. And coming from a family that didn’t tolerate it–and thus, I’d never really dealt with it–I had no idea what to do, and essentially had a mental breakdown and had to call my dad over to help me.

    I think that confirmed it for me, at least subconsciously. To this day I deal with (unrelated) anxiety issues, and kids would only complicate it.

  13. I never babysat as a teen either. However, I babysat for my friends once they had children of their own, and yes, I’m a darned good babysitter. I remember taking a friend’s little girl out to eat — she was around five — and telling her, “This car isn’t going *anywhere* until you put your seatbelt on.” Whoa! Where did that “mom voice” come from — me? 😉

    I never charged my friends to watch their kids. I’m part of the village, and I will do my time to help raise our young. Many of those friends were single moms, and I consider it an honor that they trust me to mentor and look after their children. Did it influence my decision to be CF? Not really. I already knew a long time ago that while I liked kids in small doses, I didn’t want the responsibility of being a parent 24/7.

  14. Did any teenagers find babysitting fun? I wasn’t a bad babysitter, but I didn’t really enjoy it. My friend Sheri was also a competent, but apathetic sitter. She’s now a doting (annoyingky so) SAHM and homeschools her four kids. There’s some perspective for you! LOL

  15. I babysat 9 year old twins everyday after school during my first semester at college. I was mature and responsible, but I was not a good care giver. We didn’t do fun activities and I didn’t bond with the children. I’ve worked a lot of jobs, and though this one was easy, it was the worst. At the time, I didn’t realize being childfree was an option. All I knew was that I was going to wait as long as possible before entering into the tedium of parenthood.

  16. I babysat a lot in between 13-16; I never sat for babies, though–it was kids from about 3-11. I liked it just fine because it was a good way to make money. The kids were usually okay and good; I mostly sat for the kids of people we knew at the pool we belonged to. I always felt so relieved when they went to bed. I had about four “regular” families there for a while, and those kids were usually good and rarely gave me any trouble about going to bed or whatever. I remember that I was always very worried that something would happen to them when I was sitting–maybe they’d fall off the trampoline or down the stairs or something terrible, and it would be my fault. (Apart from just not liking kids, I have to admit that the constant anxiety that I see in parents is a good reason not to have kids.) Once, though, a friend of my mom’s recommended me to her new neighbor, and I sat for her three little hellions. All boys under 8, they were loud, rowdy, disobedient brats who made a game amongst themselves of trying to pull my hair and hide my purse. I don’t even remember how I got them to bed. They kept calling me and asking me to babysit again, and I kept making excuses and refusing to recommend any of my friends to them. Finally, I just lost it on the phone and told her that her kids were brats and that I hated them and that there was not enough money in the world to make me ever spend another second with them. It worked; she never called again. My parents thought it was pretty funny, but then again, they were the kind of parents who never would have allowed that kind of behavior from me or my sister, and they agreed that kids like that were brats, too. Despite all of my other good babysitting experiences, though, I really don’t enjoy children and prefer not to interact with or hear them at all. (Oh god the noise! How do people deal with that?!)

  17. I’ve posted here before. I am a little different from most of your readers in that I’ve chosen to have one, and only one, child – a choice I remember you discussed in a previous post. Anyway, I have to say that baby-sitting did influence my choice to have a single child. I realized that baby-sitting more than one child at once literally drove me crazy: sibling squabbles, keeping my eyes on two (or, God forbid, more) kids at a time, and the noise! I much preferred one-on-one time with the children I baby-sat, which I couldn’t really do with more than one child unless only one was awake. So my experiences baby-sitting led me on my one-child-by-choice path. If I ever change my mind, I’ll adopt when my existing daughter gets a lot older and doesn’t need my undivided attention.

  18. I never liked babysitting as a kid. I quickly got a job as a pool lifeguard and swim instructor, although I’d be hard pressed to tell you why. I don’t really like children.

    Now? At the age of 33, I find myself a teacher. I’ve been at it almost a decade. It’s outdoor science, not a traditional classroom, and I get a different batch of kids everyday, but still- child-minding. I’m really good at it. I find it all so puzzling.

    1. Leslie–interesting. Are you saying don’t like the child-minding at work–you don’t like your job? If you like your job it could be that you have found the right “slot” for kids in your life–lots of childfree are in occupations that revolve around children–they like working with them–just don’t want to raise them!

  19. Jennifer, I had the exact same experience growing up. My youngest sibling is 10 years younger than myself, and the responsibilities placed on me as a teen to basically act as the fill in mother were tremendous and dare I admit, UNFAIR! I felt more like my mother’s free babysitter than her own daughter, not to get into some pretty dysfunctional family issues lol, but that entire experience sealed the deal on my wanting to never go through that again. Armed with a general distaste for children and a refusal to partake in pretty much any activity that involves them, I’m embarking on an “adults only” path that only fellow childfree people could ever understand. Like you said, been there, done that!

  20. I hated babysitting, I still hate it and being an adult I can refuse to do it but back in the 70’s when I was a teenager my mother was always volunteering me for it and I didn’t even get paid! I am CF and I really don’t like children at all.

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