The Moneyist: I earn $13 per hour babysitting, but the mother wants to pay me half of that for the summer

Dear Moneyist,

I’m a frequent babysitter for two boys. Their mother pays me $13 an hour, which I am very content with.

This summer I’ll be watching them everyday for 8 hours WITH another girl my age. I’m not sure why there needs to be two sitters but I was OK with it.

We have to take the boys out to the park, pool, museums, and to eat. I’m also planning on giving them homework to do. She informed me that I would be paid $260 a week for 40 hours (that’s what I’m guessing) which is approximately half of what I am was paid before.

Is this a fair price with two sitters?

Thank you so much. I’m not sure if I should ask for a raise, I’d really like to hear your opinion before I do.

Babysitter

Dear Babysitter,

Let me tell you a story, Sophia Petrollo style. Picture it: Dublin in the 1980s. There was a recession and there were no jobs for children who wanted to work. I used to go spend my summers offering to mow people’s lawns and garden. One woman said, “I would like my garden tended by a 20-year-old man.” I was heartbroken. Also, 20 seemed really old back then. I ended up delivering papers for “The Southside Express,” a local paper. I loved earning money. It gave me something to do once a week, and a sense of accomplishment.

I enjoyed being part of something that seemed so much bigger and important than my little world. Every time that I saw the papers stacked on my doorstep, ready for delivery, I felt honored to be part of the newspaper chain. You might say it was my first job in newspapers or, at the very least, the newspaper business. I almost forgot to mention: I was paid a penny a paper. Yes, one penny. It wasn’t long before I thought, ‘Wait a minute. That’s a lot of time for very little reward.’ I listened to that voice and figured, even for the 1980s, that was too little money.

Recommended: I asked my son to buy a condo unit with me as an investment—now I want my money

I tell you this story because many young people want to keep busy, especially during the summer months. Summer jobs are on the decline among teenagers in the U.S. because many can families can afford to pay for extracurricular activities. They allow young people to earn money, but they also give teenagers a sense of purpose. We can learn a lot about our neighborhoods and other people by working jobs that pay very little. And I appreciate that you would take the time to email the Moneyist with your dilemma. It’s never too early to know you’re worth.

Also see: My father wants me to co-sign on a $300,000 mortgage—what should I do?

Young women face even higher hurdles than paperboys in days of yore. Not only do women in America get paid less than men in most jobs, they face a whole series of challenges that men don’t face when they become parents. The world’s gender pay gap won’t close for another 100 years, according to some estimates. Boys earned an average weekly allowance of $13.80 for their chores, while girls earned just $6.71, according to a survey of 10,000 families by BusyKid, an app that tracks such payments. And parents paid boys a $17 bonus on average, while girls received $15.54.

What strikes me as particularly egregious about your summer offer: A mother is telling a young woman who wants to earn extra money that she will pay her half her usual hourly rate, which is less than the federal minimum wage, to work 40 hours a week, taking care of her two boys. If you were working at a fast-food restaurant and your employer said, “I’m hiring another worker, so I’m going to pay you half your hourly rate,” what would you do? You would probably hang up your paper hat and apron, and walk out the door. It’s an unreasonable ask.

Also see: Hiring a nanny for summer child care? Don’t forget a W-2 form

Know your worth. Too many young boys are told they’ll be king of the world and too many young girls are told they’re little princesses. Listen to your instincts. If you start now, you will hone those skills. You will need them when you’re sitting in a college class, trying to get your voice heard. You will need them when you are negotiating a salary for your first job. You will need them when you are asking for a raise. Taking care of someone’s child is one of the most important jobs in the world. You are someone this family can trust. Halving your salary is not the way to reward you.

By all means, check out the hourly rate for babysitters in your area online. Make sure exactly what kind of hours you will be expected to work a week and ask the mother of these boys to spell out what she would be paying you per hour. I caution you against any cut in your hourly rate for doing the same job. Tell this mother, “I love this job and your boys are a joy, but I would be doing myself a disservice by accepting $6.50 for doing the same job, even if it’s with another girl. You’re paying for my time and, like yours, my time is valuable.”

I’ve received all kinds of letters about inheritance and divorce and tipping and family drama. But this is one of the most important letters I have ever received. Thank you for writing in. Talk to your parents about your plan of action, and tell them what you told me. And let me know how you get on.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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