Dear Dr. Yael,
I read the column about babysitter neglect with interest. See, I am also a babysitter and I know of at least four other women who have the same issues your letter-writer discussed.
For some reason, the families who employ us think we are their cleaning help. They think that being in their home automatically guarantees laundry services, cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, etc. – which is besides any work related to their kids. That could include picking the kids up from school, taking them to private lessons, cooking, doing both Hebrew and English homework with them, taking them to the park, playing with them – all for below minimum wage. Some of these kids have behavioral issues – again, our problem to deal with.
In your response, you said that the women in the family feel overwhelmed by working both inside and outside the home. You said that they have no time for household tasks and don’t hire cleaning women because the expense would be very high. While I’m sympathetic, I don’t believe it is the sitter’s job to do the housework. It is not her fault they have a large family. Assuming that a babysitter will do all the work I mentioned above is to take advantage of her.
Of course, it is a great idea to have a talk with your sitter before you hire her and to even lay out the specific nature of her job in a contract. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. When there is a problem, it is the babysitter who loses out as the parents just look to hire someone else.
In my case, I left a frum family because they were paying below the official rate in New York, and acted as if they were the most generous people on earth because their friends were paying much less. Additionally, they wanted me to do everything! Yes, I did volunteer to do some of the organizing and straightening up because I couldn’t work in a disorderly environment. I wanted to be busy and didn’t mind helping out when I could, but then it became an expectation.
Dr. Respler, the majority of sitters or nannies I know have worked for very affluent families who live in fancy homes and can afford vacations. They seem to only get stingy when it comes to paying us.
In addition, there is a total lack of mentchlichkeit. If you don’t need the babysitter one day, and cancel abruptly, you should offer some compensation. She is committed to work for you for a certain amount of time and can’t take another job. This is someone you trust to be around your children, to keep them safe, to make sure your house stays kosher – appreciate how important that is.
When I was in this situation, I had plenty of discussions with the parents and when I thought I was doing way more than what I should, I left the job.
I agree with the sitter who wrote to you about looking for work on non-Jewish sites. The pay is higher and the workload is lighter. The parents are more considerate and they do not abuse you! Yet, I am apprehensive about working with a non-frum family and it’s a shame that I have to do so!
Not Your Schlepper
I feel for your plight and know that this is a challenging situation. I am sorry you had such a hard time in your last job. It sounds like you were treated unfairly. Please know that not all frum families act this way – many are very caring and generous to their babysitters.
As always, it is prudent to discuss the parameters of any job before agreeing to take it on so that your responsibilities are clear from the beginning.
I wish you hatzlocha in your future endeavors!