For many Wellesley students, one of the principal complaints they have about college life is the fact that living and working on campus is vastly different than a home environment. But for students who choose to seek employment as babysitters, their work offers them the chance to be in a home setting, interact with children and experience life in the town of Wellesley.
Babysitting as a job is difficult to categorize due to the enormous variety in both time commitment and responsibilities. Although the basic definition of caring for children is the same, the day-to-day responsibilities may change dramatically based on the age of the children involved.
“A lot of the responsibility changes depending on how old the kids are. If a baby falls and hits its head, it’s going to be a lot worse than if a 12 year old who you’re only babysitting because they have to get to soccer practice hits their head,” Ellie Chalphin ’19, a babysitter, pointed out.
For some student babysitters, the commitment is a weekly one, and they are responsible for babysitting anywhere from one to four days a week. One student, Kele Alfred-Igbokwe ’19, babysits every Thursday night and sometimes Tuesday nights, when she is responsible for picking up a seven year old from school, bringing her home, making dinner and other routine evening tasks.
Other student babysitters only work on weekends and on a much more sporadic basis, essentially as often as the parents want to go out. Such is the case for Chalphin, who finds flexibility one of the biggest benefits of this job.
“It’s more manageable for me than having a different job would be because I can always say no. I’m not going to get fired if a family texts me and they say, ‘Hey would you come over Saturday night?’ and I’m like, ‘No I have too much work,” Chalphin said. “Because you’re an independent contractor you can make it however much or however little you want.”
Although babysitting in Wellesley usually pays well, Chalphin clarified that babysitting sporadically is different from having a job that offers a fixed income.
“Unless you have a standing babysitting job, which I did last spring, but I don’t have now, you don’t know that you have the consistent flow of income like you would if you were working on campus and you had set hours,” Chalphin explained.
Joanna LaPierre ’17 also used to babysit for a family in Wellesley with two children about once every other week. For her, the commitment was also fairly easy to balance with schoolwork because it did not affect her class schedule and even allowed for some time to do homework.
“For me, since people usually need babysitters in the evenings it was usually all right with class. And since I could do homework after the kids went to sleep it interfered less with schoolwork than some other jobs would,” LaPierre said.
Though the weekend schedule might hamper some students’ social lives, it can also be possible to fit socialization in around a night of babysitting.
“A lot of families are like, ‘If you can get here by four or five we’ll be back by ten or 11,’ so if I want to be able to spend time with friends or go out on a Friday or Saturday night I can,” said Chalphin.
Even Alfred-Igbokwe, whose babysitting schedule is much more regular, doesn’t find it a challenge to coordinate her job with classes or activities.
“I thought I would find it a challenge, but I don’t have any meetings on Tuesdays or Thursday nights,” Alfred-Igbokwe said.
For some students, finding a way to get to their clients’ houses proves a problem, especially without car access. But for others, the chance to work in the town of Wellesley draws them into the community outside of campus.
“Usually when I go [into town] I borrow a bike from bikeshare, or I pass through the town on the bus, the Peter. So I’m pretty removed from it. I can see some of it from the window, or I just speed past on my bike,” Alfred-Igbokwe said. But when she walks through town for her job, she observed, “I notice the things around me and the people on the sidewalks and the lifestyle. It’s not that far off campus, but it’s totally different from being with all people my age, and here it’s pretty quiet. And I see more demographics there.”
For some Wellesley students, babysitting is more than just a job. It allows them to put their own identities and experiences into perspectives.
“I know how to deal with kids’ challenges, like tantrums, pretty well. But the thing that makes me most uncomfortable or that I had the most growth in was dealing with parents that were a lot different from people that I babysat back home. Definitely a different socio-economic class,” LaPierre said.
Chalphin has also found the parenting style in town to be different than what she experienced. “The kids were being raised in a different environment, and they’re also being raised with a completely different set of values, and you are apart from it,” she said.