The verdict is out.
Momlogic's Jenny: When I was 13, I babysat all the time. I would babysit for infants, toddlers, and even kindergarteners. Either my mom would drop me off at their houses, or their parents would come and get me. I would stay for a few hours -- at night-- sometimes the kids would be awake and we'd play (and watch TV), and other times I'd pretty much just housesit and wait for the parents to come home while the kids slept. It wasn't a tough gig, though hard during temper tantrums and diaper changes. And frankly, I was pretty good at it-- the kids loved me and at 13, I was quite comfortable in the role of the caretaker.
However, as a new parent myself, I am not so sure I'd be willing to hire a tween or teen to watch my toddler. In fact, when I think of the time that a baby I was sitting for fell off the couch because her older sister pushed her -- because I happened to turn away for a second to get the older one juice -- I am almost certain that I would not hire a teenager. I'm not even so sure I'd even feel comfortable having them "sit" while the baby sleeps. Is a teenager equipped to handle an emergency? When the baby fell, what did I do? I called my mom for help! But perhaps there are teens that are cautious and capable to watch my son. One of our staff members with a teenager of her own says her daughter babysits all the time and that she's quite good at it -- and of course can be trusted. Another mom said, "I used a teenage babysitter from across the street -- she was 13 years old -- for my 2-year-old. But only for a couple of hours, during the day and ONLY when the girl's mom was at home."
So should I only consider using a neighbor? Certainly, using a teenage babysitter is a lot cheaper than hiring a "real" nanny. But is it worth it? Does a teenager know how to not only physically handle a baby but also how to react to a crying baby, a teething baby, a hungry baby? Should I wait until my son is older to entrust a teenage babysitter? One mom on our staff says she's had a 14-year-old babysit her 5-year-old but would never have a 14-year-old babysit her 5-month-old. "For my 5-year-old, a babysitter is in many ways a playmate ... and our neighborhood babysitter always has energy and enthusiasm when it comes to playing Barbies or American Girl dolls."
Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson believes it's really a personal decision. "It depends upon the babysitter and the parents too. It is more important that your babysitter is engaged with your children and watching everything. I had one 19-year-old at my house who texted her friends all night long -- she started before we even left the house! The next time we hired a 15-year-old who was MUCH more focused on our kids -- and made us feel a lot more comfortable."
Clearly, deciding on who will care for your child, whether it's a nanny, relative or even school is a personal and big decision. But should there be an age requirement?
Tell us your thoughts!