By Cork mum MAEVE O’KEEFFE
WHEN Daddy-O and I had a night out leaving daughter in charge, I expected anarchy.
Like The Simpsons episode where Bart freaks out when his responsible younger sister is left to babysit, I similarly imagined sparks might fly. Junior and his bigger brother would no doubt protest at the injustice of their sister’s elevated status and undemocratic appointment. However, they took it like men, with one caveat.
“Don’t pay her. It’s not fair if she gets money for sitting around doing nothing and watching TV,” grouched 11-year- old.
“Yeah and it’s not babysitting,” insisted Junior, lest there be any misconception regarding job title, “We’re not babies. She’s childminding.”
“OK, brush your teeth and go to bed when she tells you,” I cajoled before scooting out the door.
The house was still standing and PlayStation shut down on our return. The boys were asleep, daughter was remunerated and I was already planning another night out to celebrate this new- found freedom.
Shortly afterwards I ran into a former work colleague with children around the same age as ours. We compared notes on how much homework, sports, etc they were doing. I mentioned our in- house babysitter, sorry – childminder. “Oh you pay her?” he exclaimed, scandalised. “My 13-year- old hasn’t twigged that yet and I’m keeping quiet!”
OK, it’s a token stipend. Our gal is well able to ensure she’s not taken for granted. So there I was, bragging about our on-hand babysitter — but are adult children any better?
Do young to middle-aged parents expect their elder relatives to be equally available for childcare? One lady I know emphatically warned her still single daughters: “Don’t expect me to mind your kids when you have them. I intend to be busy!”
It sounded harsh but understandable. Divorced, she’s done the baby stuff, reared her family and now wants to enjoy life. Knowing her, though, should that day come; she’ll be the very one volunteering to babysit.
Whatever about the older generation called upon for free babysitting, the younger ones quickly grasp the concept of employees’ rights. The problem with paying an older sibling the going rate for childminding is that imbursement is henceforth expected. This habit could lead to claims of payment for everyday chores.
Whatever happened to “Sit down there Mum, and I’ll do the dishes” without ruthless negotiation for services rendered?
The prospect of doing unpaid tasks for mother during the summer holidays doesn’t appeal to daughter, who has hinted about finding work elsewhere.
“There’s nothing stopping you applying to places or putting up ads for babysitting,” I encourage, “a job isn’t going to walk in the door and land on your lap!”
She’s still too young to be legally employed. Although in her impatient eyes, any kind of waged work is better than the paltry pocket money from mum! or worse still, being an unpaid childminder to her younger brothers.