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Author Topic: Babysitting Wages
Javert Hugo
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quote:
I don't think kat's premise that the care of children and family is devalued by low babysitting wages is entirely correct; I think that most people don't look that deeply into the subject to make that connection, so it's not a considered conclusion.
I don't think it is conciously planned or decided, but I think the conclusions are inescapable. There is definitely a disconnect between how it is purported to be valued and how it is actually compensated.

In other words, if we actually believe that as a group, why the reluctance to put our money where our mouth is?

quote:
Here's what concerns me about babysitting: that many people, especially in church groups, knowingly take advantage of girls under the premise that babysitting is a teenage girls' responsibility to members of her community, and that pay is either definitely too low, or non existent. I think the market generally takes care of such cases, but may not always.
I agree with this completely. The market doesn't take care of it because 1)there is collusion between the parents of the teenage girls and the parents of the to-be-babysat, and 2) the teenage girls do not have sufficient resources or savvy or power to make the reasonable demands necessary to make the market work.

The market can create fairness in price, but only if it is really free.

-------

"strident"? What does that mean?

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Dagonee
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quote:
In short, Dagonee's answer is too capitalistic for my comfort, and kat's is too strident.
My answer is not capitalistic. Rather, my answer is grounded in individualism (again, I would happily babysit at 1/5 the hourly wages compared to what I could make mowing lawns, and this opportunity would not have been available to me at the higher price, at least with my biggest client).

I am in favor of intervention in the market - say by the babysitters' parents - to force higher wages than the market itself would provide in situations where it's truly exploitative. And, if the parents aren't looking out for their kids in this way, then I think there is a problem. But it's a different problem than the one being addressed. It's a problem with educating children to assert themselves appropriately.

As a general matter, I think this far too often taught poorly or not at all. And one of the consequences of this not being taught well is that our society often expects other people to treat teenagers in a more paternalistic fashion. Sometimes in ways that requires second guessing what the teenager actually says he wants to do.

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Scott R
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quote:

"strident"? What does that mean?

It means I think you're judging people who disagree with you a bit unfairly.

quote:
I think the conclusions are inescapable. There is definitely a disconnect between how it is purported to be valued and how it is actually compensated.

Except that the jobs being evaluated are nothing alike in terms of degree.

quote:
why the reluctance to put our money where our mouth is?
Because money is dirty, and if you put it in your mouth, you'll get canker sores. [Smile]
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Javert Hugo
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[Smile] The flippancy is funny, but it doesn't address the issue. This issue really bothers me, and I think the traditionally low wages and low value placed on the work really subverts the messages sent in church. I actually believe the messages sent in church, but I believe them in spite of the traditional way girls are treated. It would awfully nice to be able to believe them because of the way girls are treated.
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Scott R
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If you don't want to address the flippancy (I don't blame you), address the topic-- that babysitting != daycare != parenting, and thus, is not subject to social strictures of equal compensation.
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Javert Hugo
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I agree that parenting is different from the other two, but day care and babysitting look the same to me.
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Scott R
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Daycare, to me, implies a certain level of accreditation-- CPR, education, etc. It also implies length of time of the activity, quality and frequency of the experience, and a higher maturity level of the individual taking care of the children.

Babysitting implies a casual, non-educational experience, by a trusted, untrained individual.

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Javert Hugo
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It looks, then, that you're defining the two activities as different because they are done by people with different qualifications, not because the work itself is different.
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Scott R
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Not at all. I mention frequency of the experience, quality of the experience, and length of time of the experience.

Those imply that the work the two individuals are doing is different.

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Javert Hugo
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Could you share some details as to how the work is different?
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Scott R
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Frequency:

Daycare: Care is given a daily, or scheduled basis

Babysitting: Care is given as requested

Quality:

Daycare: Daycare providers are typically expected to provide both age appropriate educational and entertainment opportunities to children; they are required to have their own facility and equipment meeting state-mandated safety standards.

Babysitting: Culturally, few expectations of educational opportunities. Babysitters are typically expected to keep the children safe.

Length of Time:

Daycare: Anywhere from 2-12 hours.

Babysitting: Typically less than 8 hours.

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Jhai
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In one the caretaker is an important part of the child's life, and is expected to help foster learning in the child, as well as presenting the child with novel experiences that expand his understanding of the world.

In the other, the caretaker is a substitute for the parents for a short time, and is only expected to look after the child's physical needs & keep the child entertained for a short amount of time.

To give an example: if they have them, parents typically relax their rules about TV and/or video games for babysitters; most daycares are expected to show no television to the children.

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Javert Hugo
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quote:
Daycare: Daycare providers are typically expected to provide both age appropriate educational and entertainment opportunities to children; they are required to have their own facility and equipment meeting state-mandated safety standards.

Babysitting: Culturally, few expectations of educational opportunities. Babysitters are typically expected to keep the children safe.

These are an example. I don't the other examples as arguments for paying less than minimum wage. Because something is done infrequently is not a reason to pay little when it is done. In fact, the irregularity of the work means it should pay more because of the uncertainty inherent. If you call my dad's shop and request a one-off job, it'll cost at least $130 for a set up fee and then probably a dollar a so a part. If you say you'll bring in ten boxes with a thousand parts each for three months, then it'll be pennies a part.

It looks like in babysitting, the goal is to have children that are alive at the end of the evening and that's it.

Housecleaning shouldn't be included, because housecleaning by itself doesn't pay so little.

However, if the goal of babysitting is nothing but keeping the children alive and possibly not burn down the house, then parents shouldn't take advantage of the "this is practice for parenting" rhetoric that makes paying so little possible, because it clearly isn't practice for parenting.

If parenting is qualitatively and quantitavely different from babysitting, then you may as well try to pass off maintaining a website as practice for parenting.

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Scott R
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quote:
if the goal of babysitting is nothing but keeping the children alive and possibly not burn down the house, then parents shouldn't take advantage of the "this is practice for parenting" rhetoric that makes paying so little possible, because it clearly isn't practice for parenting.

Agreed. It's like sticking the newlyweds in charge of the nursery (young children's ministry) in order to "Give them experience with children."
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
if the goal of babysitting is nothing but keeping the children alive and possibly not burn down the house, then parents shouldn't take advantage of the "this is practice for parenting" rhetoric that makes paying so little possible, because it clearly isn't practice for parenting.

Agreed. It's like sticking the newlyweds in charge of the nursery (young children's ministry) in order to "Give them experience with children."
I have always been willing to suck it up in order to get a job done that needs to be done. However, I have finally gotten to the point where I am unwilling to collude in the rationalization farce to make less of myself.

Call it what it is. I'm being asked to do something in order to make other people's lives easier and that doesn't really benefit me in some magical, spurious way? Fine. But let's both acknowledge it up front, and we can both remember that when it comes time for future negotiations.

Nothing pushes my buttons like feeling coerced to choke something down for my own good when it isn't for my own good, it's primarily (or at least in good part) for someone else's good. I don't mind the work, but I do mind the mass soothing delusion.

[/er, still kinda bitter, apparently [Mad] ]

---

Edited to add: One of the best pieces of professional development advice I ever got was that a mentor should always acknowledge up front what his or her vested interests are (and there are always vested interests). This is relevant for those seeking mentorship and those giving it -- at this stage in my life, I occupy both roles. The only worthwhile thing to remember from that conference, but it stuck.

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Javert Hugo
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quote:
Nothing pushes my buttons like feeling coerced to choke something down for my own good when it isn't for my own good, it's for someone else's good. I don't mind the work, but I do mind the mass soothing delusion.
Claudia Therese, this is it exactly.

I really think it would be better to just admit that it's expected as service and that the teenagers are being used.

If it's presented as service, though, teenagers are able to feel like they are part of community and become more invested in the community itself. That's a very different result from what happens when teenagers (and by this I obviously mean myself) realize that they have been taken advantage of and ripped off by the very people who teach and pretend to believe something quite different.

However, presenting it as service would also require giving up a little respect and gratitude. $3 an hour is juuust enough to feel like an employer instead of a fellow-community-member but not so much that the person receiving it deserves any respect.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Javert Hugo:
I really think it would be better to just admit that it's expected as service and that the teenagers are being used.

Yup. And we (as a community) owe them a lot for it, including the respect you mentioned. That sacrifice should be acknowledged as social capital, and it should be able to be drawn on. It is a debt that is owed to them. That debt can be repaid in many ways -- mentoring, assistance in getting an education, facillitating their own vacations, and/or money, of course -- but some people fool themselves into thinking that they are doing the teenager a favor. Under these conditions, it isn't a favor -- or at least, it surely isn't just a favor to them, but they are doing at least as great a favor to those who employ them.
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Dagonee
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quote:
but not so much that the person receiving it deserves any respect.
When I received inflation-comparable amounts to $3 and hour (less, actually) both I and my employer felt as if I deserved respect - and they treated me that way.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
but not so much that the person receiving it deserves any respect.
When I received inflation-comparable amounts to $3 and hour (less, actually) both I and my employer felt as if I deserved respect - and they treated me that way.
I wonder if the respect issue may have gender trends. I don't think there is any way to conclusively determine that, but it would be interesting to ask around informally.

---

Edited to add: I suspect that when girls work for a low wage, it may be expected of them, and it may be generally taken for granted that they should be not only willing but happy to do this.

A boy working for the same wage at certain jobs might -- might? -- get more social strokes for even being willing to do it.

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Dagonee
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As a general rule, I suffered in the respect issue based on being male. Some parents refused to hire me - one couple canceled their date when I showed up and they realized I was a boy (I went by "Bobby" then and they had only heard my name spoken, not met me).

That's not to say I didn't sometimes benefit from being male in the respect department. I don't know either way with respect to my clients. I do know that the boys I babysat had fairly strong feelings about having a boy babysitter - possibly because their previous babysitter had refused to play Masters of Universe with them. [Smile]

I definitely benefited from being assertive.

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Javert Hugo
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No kidding, CT. The example of how a teenage boy is treated is not evidence in the question of how teenage girls are treated.
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Eaquae Legit
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I usually got paid 5$/hr, through the 1990s. Usually I was with only one or two children, and I asked a bit more if there were more kids. The exception was a close family friend who had five of the most delightful and well-behaved children I have ever met. I loved being there and I knew they didn't have a lot of money, so I was quite content with 5$.
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BannaOj
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Javert Hugo,

I think one thing that may need clarification is that you are approaching it from specificially the LDS Church, cultural-ish (not doctrine) experience/expectations, that do somes seem to be in contrast with the doctrine.

I think that the LDS background needs to be stipulated when you say "church" because I don't think it can necessarily be generalized to a variety of different denomominations or church cultures. It also appears that sometimes the geographic "social-secular" culture (like in SoCal) does morph the expectations compared to what might be generally acceptable in many other parts of the "church culture".

I also think that the secular culture may accept similar ideas the less urbanized that secular culture is, because the supply - demand - tenager - parent - babysitting - finance dialouge tends to be radically differently arranged in a less urban environment than in a more urban environment.

AJ

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Dagonee
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quote:
No kidding, CT. The example of how a teenage boy is treated is not evidence in the question of how teenage girls are treated.
I'm sure you could find an all-girls forum somewhere to discuss this if you want to limit participation by the boys.

Moreover, it's certainly evidence concerning attitudes about the type of work. It's also evidence that more than the amount of money is relevant.

You'll also note that I didn't say that it refuted. You've posted your personal experiences as relevant to the discussion. I'll continue to do so as long as they are relevant.

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ClaudiaTherese
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(edit added as above)

---

[Edited to add for context:]
quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
As a general rule, I suffered in the respect issue based on being male. Some parents refused to hire me - one couple canceled their date when I showed up and they realized I was a boy (I went by "Bobby" then and they had only heard my name spoken, not met me).

That's not to say I didn't sometimes benefit from being male in the respect department. I don't know either way with respect to my clients. I do know that the boys I babysat had fairly strong feelings about having a boy babysitter - possibly because their previous babysitter had refused to play Masters of Universe with them. [Smile]

*nods

I bet there are a majority of parents who wouldn't hire a boy to do childwork. But when someone is willing to hire it -- i.e., when the transaction involving the kid's own time and resources is put on the line -- there may well be a lot of additional appreciation, respect, and social credit that comes with the money. (This sounds right to me, but my little ranting-self bias is admittedly quite skewed.)

*grin

Which is, of course, as it should be for everyone anyway.

---

Also added:

quote:
I definitely benefited from being assertive.

For sure, and it's to your credit. I think that's a hard lesson for most kids to learn, regardless of gender. I also think there are certain socialization norms in place that may make it a lot harder for girls (especially in particular contexts) to do it, thought that may make the lesson al the more important to learn.

But as long as someone else is deriving measurable and significant benefit from offering those girls the "learning experience," I think the details of the transaction (and all the unstated assumptions that come with it) should be kept as thorough and transparent as possible.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Edited to add: I suspect that when girls work for a low wage, it may be expected of them, and it may be generally taken for granted that they should be not only willing but happy to do this.

A boy working for the same wage at certain jobs might -- might? -- get more social strokes for even being willing to do it.

I have two older sisters whose experience is very similar to mine.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
Edited to add: I suspect that when girls work for a low wage, it may be expected of them, and it may be generally taken for granted that they should be not only willing but happy to do this.

A boy working for the same wage at certain jobs might -- might? -- get more social strokes for even being willing to do it.

I have two older sisters whose experience is very similar to mine.
Awesome. I'm glad that as far as you know, two girls did not get the thinner edge of the wedge. [Smile]
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ClaudiaTherese
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That sounds snarky, especially with the smiley! But I meant it sincerely.

I don't think that rules out the possibility that girls in general [which is more what I meant than categorically "the set of all girls," but I should have been more precise] suffer from this, or that girls in other families/subgroups/contexts might. Of course, that isn't what you are claiming, and of course, I am very glad your sisters seem to have had good experiences. That is, indeed, fantastic.

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MrSquicky
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Are people talking a lack of respect other than the low wages? I have problems seeing parents who care leaving their kids in the care of someone they didn't respect.

Also, on the babysitting doesn't equal parenting thing: I agree that it isn't anywhere near equal, but it does (or at least could) provide some valuable experience and practice. Experience A doesn't have to be the exact analog to experience B to prepare someone for it - The Karate Kid taught us that.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
Are people talking a lack of respect other than the low wages? I have problems seeing parents who care leaving their kids in the care of someone they didn't respect.

Mmmm, might be different uses of the term "respect" here.

I'd be using something more like "thinks is admirable for going above and beyond what the general community should be expecting of him/her, and doing it with good grace" rather than "a nice kid who is capable of making sure my kids are kept safe."

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MrSquicky
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If I understand you, you are saying that babysitters should be praised or looked up to for what they do?

It's hard to say, not having done it myself - except on a non-paid basis for family members, but it doesn't sound like a big sacrifice. I'm not sure why babysitters would deserve more than other teenagers who do responsible work.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Originally posted by ClaudiaTherese:
That sounds snarky, especially with the smiley! But I meant it sincerely.

I don't think that rules out the possibility that girls in general [which is more what I meant than categorically "the set of all girls," but I should have been more precise] suffer from this, or that girls in other families/subgroups/contexts might. Of course, that isn't what you are claiming

Thank you for getting that. I think focusing on the money aspect sells a lot of kids short and paints too broad a brush across a lot of people who hire babysitters. I realize you weren't focusing on money.

I think much of this relates to teaching childen to be assertive - something many parents don't do well for their sons and many do even worse for their daughters.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
If I understand you, you are saying that babysitters should be praised or looked up to for what they do?

It's hard to say, not having done it myself - except on a non-paid basis for family members, but it doesn't sound like a big sacrifice. I'm not sure why babysitters would deserve more than other teenagers who do responsible work.

For what they do, given what they get back for it? Yup, I do.

Certainly YMMV, and I am not troubled by that. (Nor are you, I suspect. [Smile] )

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Javert Hugo:
do parents ever end the day and think "Today I was a parent. Yay! Today was a good day." or "Today I was a just a babysitter. The kids are warm, fed, and alive, but no real parenting took place. Today was a pathetic day."

I wouldn't put it in precisely those terms, but YES!

quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
Also, on the babysitting doesn't equal parenting thing: I agree that it isn't anywhere near equal, but it does (or at least could) provide some valuable experience and practice.

Agreed. No one ever paid me less for babysitting "because it was good practice" (nor would I have stood for it if they did), but it was part (a small part) of the calculus that helped me determine that I would start taking babysitting jobs. Wanting to make money and not having any interest in most of the alternatives was a much bigger part.




I don't understand why separating out the "paid job" aspects and the "kindness (or service, if you prefer) to others" is such a big deal. I try to keep kindness to others in mind in all my activities, paid and otherwise. And I doubt any of you are suggesting otherwise. When I was a teen babysitter, I had a second (lower) rate for kolel families. (Since kolel families are primarily living on a small stipend, money tends to be considerably tighter.) No one demanded -- or even asked -- that I do this, but it was common among my friends who babysat regularly.

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beverly
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quote:
If it had ever been presented as flat-out service, then I wouldn't mind - service is fun, and I was a fan of the community. When it was presented as my duty as a girl to be paid half of what my brother got paid to do his duty as a guy, it looked like flaming hypocrisy and treating girls' labor like second class.
This is an intriguing thought. I have a really hard time asking a teenager to watch my kids for free. If I felt comfortable doing that for things like temple trips and other church service, I might be more willing to pay higher wages for fun time with Porter. It never crossed my mind that it might be more insulting to the babysitter to pay her something meager than to pay her nothing at all.

In the LDS church, women are strongly encouraged to not work out of the home. This usually means less wages and less money to spend on childcare of any kind. It has always made sense to me that such a culture would pay less for babysitting because they can afford less. That the youth are willing to do it for less is a part of the "service" and being part of the community.

I don't think it places a lower value on childcare so much as it allows better childcare to happen in the first place (moms in the home.)

[ November 20, 2007, 02:41 PM: Message edited by: beverly ]

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BannaOj
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Again bev, maybe everyone already knows but I don't like assuming so, and think a clarification adjective such as "LDS" would be useful when you say "the church".

quote:
In the [LDS] church, women are strongly encouraged to not work out of the home.

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BannaOj
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I think rivka's post illustrates how it might be looked at differently from different religious standpoints as far as "service" goes.
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beverly
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quote:

I really think it would be better to just admit that it's expected as service and that the teenagers are being used.

I'm OK with the first part of the sentance, but not the second. Does someone being expected to serve equal being used? That makes me very uncomfortable.

Yes, in the LDS community the young women are typically expected to babysit in at least a partial service capacity. This is only unfair if there is no similar expectation on young men.

Do Boy Scouts in the church typically give the same amount of unpaid service time as young women in the Personal Progress program? I don't know enough. I could make a case that we expect more unpaid service of our young men than young women, seeing as the young men are more likely to participate in home teaching, church set-up, fast-offering collection and the like. What sort of message does that send? Men ought to serve without any monetary compensation, but young women should be compensated at least a little because that is typical of the norm?

You've elsewhere compared babysitting to mowing lawns. Do young men in the church sometimes mow lawns for free as a service? Might they even be asked to do so? That ought to be taken into consideration here. Probably people are ashamed to ask young men to mow lawns for free or even cheap because lawns aren't an intrinsic part of LDS doctrine.

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beverly
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Sorry, Banna. Fixed. [Smile]
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Scott R
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quote:
lawns aren't an intrinsic part of LDS doctrine.
...but moving people is. To my everlasting regret as a man.

[ November 20, 2007, 02:53 PM: Message edited by: Scott R ]

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by beverly:
Does someone being expected to serve equal being used? That makes me very uncomfortable.

Agreed.
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beverly
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That's it. From now on, all my babysitters get no wage but warm fuzzies. Thank you, Kat, for making me see the error of my ways. [Evil]
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ClaudiaTherese
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And the clear (implicit and explicit) space to turn down the offer without any hurt feelings, negative judgments about character, or other repercussions whatsoever? Perfect! [Smile]

---

I don't blame the people who hired me as a babysitter for any current bitterness [that's thanks to medical reisdency], as the families were without fail all kind, loving, and very caring of my welfare. I insisted on working for less than was offered, but that's another issue.

They found ways to repay me in other venues, and they did so most creatively and respectfully. Bless them. [Smile]

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BannaOj
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Thank you bev. It's just one of those things, where if Dagonee or Kate Boots says "the Church" I have to mentally insert the [Catholic] church, and if you say it I have to insert the [LDS] church, and if dkw were to say it (though she tends not to use it in as much of a monolithic sense) I'd have to insert the [United Methodist] church... and as the cultures of each are wildly varying it makes a difference.

I think each variety of church has a different nuance of interpretation towards the actual meaning of "service".

I also don't think in the context of this discussion "service" can be interpreted in a wholly secular "community service" dimension either.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Now we need to figure out how to leave warm fuzzies at tips.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
Now we need to figure out how to leave warm fuzzies at tips.

And the clear (implicit and explicit) space to turn down the chance to serve you without any hurt feelings, negative judgments about character, or other repercussions whatsoever? Perfect! [Smile]

(*tongue firmly in cheek [Wink] )

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Javert Hugo
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quote:
From now on, all my babysitters get no wage but warm fuzzies
That would be fine - as long as you told them ahead of time, of course. [Smile]

quote:
That the youth are willing to do it for less
I sincerely doubt that the girls are thinking "My brother gets paid twice this for doing yard work, but since I'm just a girl and I don't get to work later for money, my time now is worth less than my brother's time. $3 an hour for me!"

More like the parents (collectively) thinking: "Why do I have to pay the babysitter minimum wage? She's a girl! Watching [strangers'] children is her purpose in life!"

That is not okay.

[ November 20, 2007, 03:36 PM: Message edited by: Javert Hugo ]

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mr_porteiro_head
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That would be perfect.
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beverly
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Absolutely, CT. On the occasions I have called for a babysitter amongst the young women of the ward, I usually get turned down a lot anyway. It is really easy for a girl to say "sorry, I'm busy." And when she says so, I'm fully aware that she might simply be making an excuse because she doesn't want to babysit. It's like turning down a guy for a date. In a culture where guys do most of the asking, a women's got to learn to say "no" when the goods just aren't good enough.

At least when you are in a culture where low pay is the norm, you know what to expect and you can always say "no." If enough girls decline to accept babysitting, maybe the parents of that culture will raise the wages. Babysitters of Mormon Utah unite! Go on strike for better wages!

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beverly
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quote:
That would be fine - as long as you told them ahead of time, of course. [Smile]
Heck ya! Otherwise I would be pondscum.

quote:
More like: "Why do I have to pay the babysitter minimum wage? She's a girl! Watching [strangers'] children is her purpose in life!"
Ewww. I hope the parents aren't thinking that. That certainly doesn't go through my mind.
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