Why I Pay My ‘Baby’ Cousins to Babysit

After I was awarded my very first teaching class, I threw my all into developing my teaching. And after a month, I received my payslip.

My eyes widened.

“Wow! I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”

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Yes, those words actually left my mouth. In public.

You see, I was grateful. I was grateful to have a full time job but most importantly, I was grateful that I was getting paid to do something I loved – to pursue a burning passion. So I didn’t question or check or compare the numbers.

Which meant I didn’t realise that my tax code was wrong and I was getting taxed an extra £200 a month until my friend looked at my payslip and screwed up her face and said:
“We should be getting paid the same. Why does yours look like that?”

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I was always taught that if I enjoyed the work I was going, then I was benefiting.
And I know that this, on a level, is true. But it also meant that because I considered myself to be benefiting, I felt damn lucky to be paid because any money is better than no money, right?

I once spent a whole weekend working for some family members till it was dark. I thought I was lucky enough to be able to get a free lunch. And when they did give me money, my mum sent me back over to say thank you. (So you see where my gratefulness comes from).

I come from a lovely big chosen family. And one thing in common with all of my family members is that they love children. Like, adore them. Will happily pluck them out of your arms to coo over them for a while and play games.

Normally, I’m bustling about somewhere close by so I don’t really think about it. But after one piped up “If you need us to look after them [while you pick up the dregs of your life in the aftermath of having a child], let us know!” I popped my head up like this:

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And sat them down and said, “Let’s talk about how this is going to work.”

It might seem weird to be so formal, but I think it’s super important that they learn to discuss and negotiate how much they’ll be paid in exchange for a service.

And to make sure they understand that, as much as they love the job, and as much as they like me (‘cos I’m awesome), if they are providing a service for someone else when they could be hanging with their friends, watching TV or youtube or looking for a job, they damn well better be getting something in exchange for it. Ennui is not a good enough excuse to be taken advantage of.

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For me, in most cases, the easiest, simplest thing to exchange is money. It could also be a reference, or a chance to meet some other people in their chosen industry (ho ho, if only I had such power) or even ‘professional’ work experience that they can put on their application forms.

What I’m trying to do is get them to understand the process we go through to get to their wage amount as well as their expectations of the value of their service vs. how much they’re to be compensated to be at a certain standard.

Me: Does £5 an hour sound alright? Two hours?
Them: *Excited at the prospect of an easy tenner* Yeah!
Me: And how are you getting here? The bus?
Them: *Suddenly remembers how much a bus pass costs and how much money that’d leave them* Oh, er, actually….*+
Me: Right….

The conversation is bound to feel awkward. But talking about money always is, so might as well develop the skills for that conversation now, right?

So yeah, they’re inexperienced and don’t have any qualifications, that’s going to be a part of the negotiation discussion. When they gain more experience, they know that they can use that with ‘new’ employers to negotiate better terms. That way, when an ‘Aunty’ asks if they can walk the 2 miles to her house to babysit the triplets and last time all she gave them was a lollipop and a lecture for 6 hours work, they might decide to be busy doing something else they feel to be more worthwhile.

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Because if they’re not available then you know Auntie is going to have to hire someone else, like a childminder. And pay them in money, not sugar.

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Getting that gig with the family friends was awesome when I was 16. I happily went back summer after summer to work hard, knowing what to expect from the job, that I’d get paid and that I could use them as a reference.

As a parent, I know looking after the Hatchling isn’t the easiest task, despite that loveable gummy smile. And I know that my female cousins especially are the ones who will get the brunt of expecting to do hard things for free because they love it.

And then we send them into the workplace and are surprised when they are taken advantage of or don’t know their worth or work for free the chance to win a job!

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What would I be teaching them about how much their time is worth if I, an adult who ardently adores them, refuse to acknowledge its value?

Nah, they’re getting paid. I’m hoping that once someone shows them that they’re willing to pay them a reasonable wage for their time and efforts in a welcoming work environment, they never forget that feeling – and that they carry that expectation with them for their working lives.

Image credit – Pexel.com

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