Teen Babysitters Are Charging $30 an Hour Now, Because They Can
Sitter shortage has parents treating teenagers like VIPs; ‘order anything you want for dinner’
By Rachel Wolfe, May 19, 2022 10:32 am ET
Before the pandemic, Dani Gantcher earned about $15 an hour babysitting in her hometown of Scarsdale, N.Y. Parents sometimes asked her to wash dishes or stay late.
Now, the 18-year-old is raking in $25 to $30 an hour. Moms and dads are asking a lot less from her. And they treat her like a VIP.
“They just thank me profusely, so much that I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I was literally only here for three hours,’ ” she says. “The power dynamics have shifted between the teenage babysitter and the parent.”
After two years of hunkering down at home with their children, parents are returning to their office jobs and social lives and are competing for part-time sitters at the same time. Teens are getting better snacks, doing fewer mundane chores and are commanding top dollar.
In Easton, Mass., 19-year-old Emma Sharkansky is making up to $30 an hour—up from $12 a few years ago. Parents are ecstatic to see her.
“It used to be you walked in and were all shy and saying thank you so much and feeling grateful to get a little spending money,” the soon-to-be college sophomore says. “Now, I’m walking in and they’re thanking me more than I could possibly thank them.”
She still tries to go above and beyond by making up games to play with the kids and staying off her cellphone. “But parents don’t ask anything above the bare minimum anymore,” she says.
Child-care marketplace Care.com says babysitters on its site charged an average of $18.05 an hour in April. In 2020, that number was $14.72.
Emma Sharkansky, 19, is making as much as $30 an hour. PHOTO: EMMA SHARKANSKY
A tight labor market is creating one of the best summer-job markets for teens in years. Businesses facing a pandemic hiring crunch are scouring teen job fairs and offering bonuses and flexible schedules to young people. A daycare worker shortage is leaving parents scrambling to make alternative arrangements. Unemployment among teenagers is at its lowest level in decades.
Moms and dads are in no position to bargain or throw out lowball offers, Kidsit.com, an online babysitting resource, warned parents in a 2020 post: “It’s best to play it safe and offer your sitter a competitive rate up front. That way you minimize the chances of them getting poached from you.”
Some babysitters say they are setting rates, based partly on what they hear from other teens. “In one class, there are four of us that all babysit regularly, and we all talk about it,” says Kate McLaughlin, 17, who lives in a Boston suburb. She now brings in $15 to $25 an hour, up from $10 to $15 before the pandemic.
A classmate told her she is getting $25 to $30 an hour. “Oh my gosh!” Kate recalls responding. “She was like, ‘Yeah, but the kid is a nightmare.’ ”
Ashley Noto, 45, says she never had trouble finding an after-school and occasional weekend nanny for her 11- and 9-year-old sons before the pandemic. In early 2020, she paid her nanny—a college graduate—about $20 an hour to drive her sons to their various extracurricular activities and cook them dinner in the Atlanta area.
Last spring, when Ms. Noto, the chief of staff at financial-technology company Greenlight, checked the same blogs and Facebook parenting groups where she had always found success, she came away with nothing.
“Either I wasn’t moving fast enough, or they were getting snapped up,” says Ms. Noto.
One of the Notos’ most frequent sitters is 15-year-old Liam Gregg. Liam recently raised his rates to $15 an hour, from $10. He is putting his earnings toward a new computer.
Some parents don’t even ask how much he charges, handing him as much as $20 an hour. They will often order him a meal along with food for their kids—and tell him to help himself to anything in the fridge. He isn’t allowed to use the stove.
Bree Steiger, an 18-year-old high-school senior from Longmeadow, Mass., now charges $15 or $16 an hour, up from $9 to $10 prepandemic. She, too, has seen amped up perks, including DoorDash takeout service.
“One family was like, ‘We’ll order anything you want for dinner,’ ” she says. “It was awesome.”
Evelyn Loperfido, 15, has made more than $1,000 babysitting in the past year.PHOTO: MARGARET LOPERFIDO
Evelyn Loperfido, 15, has been making up to $35 an hour babysitting in her hometown of Crested Butte, Colo. Before the pandemic, she charged $10 to $12. She says she has made more than $1,000 babysitting in the past year. She is using the money for clothes and perfume her parents didn’t want to pay for.
She tries not to take advantage of parents who had kids during the pandemic and might not know how much sitters charge, she says. She has even told them they are over-paying her. “But they will sometimes come back after going out all night still kind of having fun or a little tipsy, and they will just give me whatever they have in their wallet,” she says.
In Walnut Creek, Calif., Anar Hooper, a financial-content marketer and mother of three, says that in her area, many nannies are charging $40 an hour, plus benefits. She found a high-school junior who lives next door and is charging $25 an hour. Ten years ago, when her oldest daughter was little, she paid teenage babysitters closer to $14.
“If I were to come up with one word, it’s insane,” she says. “It’s bananas.”
Write to Rachel Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org