Adventures in Babysitting: What It's Like to Care for Kids as an Adult

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 4, 2021

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Mother dropping her toddler off with a babysitter

Image source: Getty Images

Many of us babysat as teens. Here's what it's like to do so as an adult for extra money.


Key points

  • Babysitting is a popular side hustle for teenagers and adults looking to earn extra money.
  • Babysitting as an adult could be more challenging than you think if you also have kids of your own.

As a parent of school-aged children, I know how to handle kids, and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. I'll also gladly help my friends out in a pinch by watching their kids when something comes up. But I also have to be honest in that if I needed a side hustle, I think the last thing I'd do is sign up to babysit for somebody else's children.

A friend of mine has been giving it a go since September. Now that school's back to in-person learning, my friend has her own children in school during the day. To earn some money for her family (she doesn't have a full-time job), she's been caring for her neighbor's young kids, who aren't yet school-aged, three days a week while that neighbor works from home. Here's what her experience has been like.

A tough day of parenting and babysitting

The thing about babysitting when you're a teenager is that you don't have kids of your own who drain your physical and mental energy. When you're already a parent, it becomes more challenging.

My friend's husband works long hours, so in the morning, it's on her alone to get her kids fed, dressed, and off to school on time. That's a hectic two hours. Then, on the days that she's babysitting, she immediately darts over to her neighbor's place and dives right in.

The children my friend babysits for are ages 2 and 4, so they really do need to be watched at all times (especially the 2-year-old). Usually, she spends the morning on the floor, as she puts it, playing games, building things, and reading books when the kids are willing to sit still enough.

Then she gets to feed the kids lunch, and that's not such a treat. Apparently, both kids are quite picky and messy, and so she often ends up having to change at least one child's outfit after that meal is done.

From there, she gets a bit of a break when the 2-year-old goes down for a nap. But then the 4-year-old still wants her full attention, so it's another two hours of game-playing, puzzle-doing, and crafting.

By the time she's done with her babysitting gig, she has just enough time to fetch her own kids from school, at which point she's thrown into a four-hour whirlwind of activities, homework, dinner, showers, and bedtime (I know that whirlwind quite well). All told, by the time her kids are in their rooms for the night, she's utterly exhausted.

A mixed bag for a side hustle

My friend is happy with the hourly rate she's being paid to look after her neighbor's children (though she preferred not to share what that rate is, she insists it's a lot more than what a teenage babysitter would get). But she admits the job may not be the ideal gig for her.

Since she spends her entire day chasing somebody else's children, by the time her own kids get out of school, she admits she has less patience and energy for them. And for this reason, she's thinking of getting herself a different gig to earn money.

My friend's goal is to get a job that doesn't require her to have to pay for childcare for her own kids, because she doesn't want that to eat into her limited earnings. Her current gig is perfect in that regard, because her client is flexible with the hours she works. But the work itself is draining, and for that reason, she may opt to find something that's a better fit.

Trial and error

If you're thinking of getting a side hustle, there's nothing wrong with trying out different gigs and seeing which works best for you. And if you're thinking of babysitting as a side gig, know that it can be tough work -- especially if you also have kids of your own, because in that situation, you really don't get a break all day.

That said, these days, a lot of parents are desperate for help with childcare and may pay generously to get it. If you're able to manage a side gig that has you minding someone else's kids, you may have a great opportunity to pad your bank account nicely.

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