The Moneyist: I earn $13 per hour babysitting two boys, but their mother wants to hire another girl and pay me half my hourly rate

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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.

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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 Petrillo 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 spend my summers offering to mow people’s lawns and tend to their gardens. One woman said, “I would like my garden tended by a 20-year-old man.” I was a kid and 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.

Know your worth. Too many young boys are told they’ll be king of the world by their parents and too many young girls are told they are little princesses.

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 not nearly enough.

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I tell you this story because many young people want to keep busy, especially during the summer months. Summer jobs 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 yet summer jobs are on the decline among teenagers in the U.S. because many can families can afford to pay for extracurricular activities. So 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.

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Young women today 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 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, a survey of 10,000 families by BusyKid, an app that tracks such payments, recently found. Parents paid boys a $17 bonus on average, while girls received $15.54.

What strikes me as particularly egregious about your summer offer: One woman is telling another 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. Think about it. If you were working at a fast-food restaurant and your employer said, “I’m hiring another female worker, so I’m going to pay you half your hourly rate for our all-male clientele,” what would you do? You would probably hang up your paper hat and apron, and walk out the door. It’s an unreasonable ask.

Too many young boys are told they’ll be king of the world and too many young girls are told they are 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.

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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 every week and make the mother of these boys 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. #TimesUp on that. You’re paying for my time and, like yours, my time is valuable.”

Think about it: One woman is telling another that she will pay half her usual hourly rate, less than the minimum wage, to take care of her two boys.

A postscript to my paperboy story: I wanted to leave, but they insisted I stay on for another week so they could find another paperboy to take over my route. I reluctantly agreed. On that final route, I decided to try something new. I stuck the newspapers in gates rather than mail boxes. I had seen other paperboys do this on American TV, and it was one way to speed the proverbial plow. But my 11-year-old self didn’t account for the Irish weather. It rained and they blew all over the neighborhood. I may have been paid a penny a paper, but they never forgot me after that.

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance—including some you might not see in these columns—to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.